Part of our plan all along was to get a working dog when we went to farming full-time. My wife, being a dog person, did the research to find the right breed and personality for chickens. The reason for waiting is that dogs, especially working dogs, need training and attention during their first year of apprenticeship. This is the critical time in development when the dog learns what is and is not acceptable behavior, where its boundaries are and what its jobs are.
If we got a dog now, our fear was that we would end up with a wild animal because we were not able to spend enough time with it upfront. Working dogs are a special breed unto themselves. Because of the decline of small farms, some working class dogs are almost near extinction. The English Sheppard is one of those rare breeds and is known as America's farm dog. Given that all of our losses have come during the day, it made sense to have a working dog to protect and keep the chickens in their individual pens. Locked away at night, the chickens are protected and do not need tending.
We found two breeders in our state. The one breeder is three miles from our farm. Small world or not, it is just another one of those links in a chain of events that you had know idea you were even forging.
We went to the breeder’s house and looked at what was left of the litter. You know how things just fall into place and you find yourself making a decision that (up until that instant) you believed otherwise? A decision already made but with the exception of a series of events; one after another then another until you realize one link follows the next. At times, I believe it is created by divine intervention. We were walking the farm with Carol (the breeder) and I conveyed my concern for the dog and not having the time really needed to train due to my work demands.
We continued to walk the property and watch the mother and father work the farm animals and teach the pups. They were very impressive working dogs, quite intuitive, aware and communicative. The parents would frolic with the pups, but kept an eye on the farm animals. I explained to Carol that I could take two weeks off to train the pup but after that, I would have to go back to work. I explained that I would spend two hours a day (at night) with her during the week and all day on weekends.
However, I still did not think that was sufficient time for a working dog, so young. Telling her I really wanted her approval or better to be wrong and her tell me that. I know what it takes to train a working dog, especially a young one and I was concerned. At one point, I stated directly, “So, you do not think we should buy a dog?” Her answer was what I had expected. She said “No”.
The tour continued. Watching the parents was amazing. We have been to dog trials before so we know what working dogs are capable of, given proper training. This was not our first time around working dogs. At one point in time, she said, “You know, because you are so close, why not drop the dog off during the week for a few days and come back and pick it up for the weekend”. She went on to say we should spend the first two weeks with the dog bonding. After the two weeks, she was willing to take the dog back and continue to train her during the week. We would then pick her up on Friday and work with her over the weekend.
We finished the tour, which in and of it self, was impressive. Carol is strongly entrenched in bringing back nearly extinct heritage breeds. You name the animal type she had a heritage breed she is raising. Her farm and animal husbandry was just amazing to us. We thanked her and went home to think about the decision; we still had some apprehension about being able to meet the dog's needs. Then this past Saturday I twisted a knee trying to catch an arrant chicken.
See what I mean about things taking place in the right sequence and at the right time, linked one after the other? Before you know it you have a complete chain and the last link is whether you decide to accept these signs or you stick with the original plan. A friend reminded me of a saying, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans”. Well, we decided to purchase a female English Sheppard and we named her fer Coadee. This is her stretching before morning workout.
fer Coadee is Scottish for protector, which is fitting because her main job will be just that. English and Scottish sheppards brought these dogs to the new world. An animal as noble and hardworking as an English Sheppard deserves a dignified name.
She will end up being called Coadee but she will always be introduced as fer coadee "the protector".
Buy Local: The more you source your food the healthier you will eat.
p.s. today we found one of the 15 lost layers, from two weeks ago, a live. Coadee has paid her first dividend.