Our two old backyard dogs take it very seriously that they believe they are the first line of defense for the farm, particularly after last Tuesday. They tell us to never mind about the huge livestock guard dogs we have in with the goats. They are the true defenders, not those big dogs, they say.
The oldest backyard dog is a half Rottweiller half terrier who looks like a fifty pound Rottweiller, cutest ol’ feller around, who is also quite prickly. We blame this on the feisty terrier that was his daddy. He now has cataracts and his hearing isn’t what it use to be and he’s looking a bit bowlegged, but he backs down from nothing.
The second old backyard dog is a very small beagle in the shape of a very fat sausage. Not only is he round, he’s uppity too. His eyesight, hearing, and particularly his nose are in excellent shape. He can really pick up a trail and follow it. And, is he ever mouthy. He barks and bays at quite a bit of stuff. Nothing gets by this fellow. One oddity with him is that he very much dislikes Lee, ever since Lee live trapped him for me years ago when he was running the road and starving. Well, he’s not starving now.
Prickly Chester, the Rottweiller/Terrier, has a tendency to growl at you if he doesn’t like something. The whites will show around his eyes, his teeth will show, and a growl will just rumble through that mid size body until you quit whatever it is he doesn’t approve of. Oh, he never bites, he just shows his teeth, the whites of his eyes, and rumbles at you. And, for heaven sakes, don’t say “Tick” in his presence. That really sets him to rumbling. He hates having ticks pulled off and he has learned the word “tick” and knows exactly what you are up to, and if you stare too intently at his body, he knows you are zeroing in on something, even if you aren’t saying, “Tick.” We just ignore him and let him complain, though it might unnerve others. He just feels better complaining while we are checking him.
The one amazing thing about Chester is that he knows how things should be on the farm. He never wastes a bark. If Chester barks, you’d better go and see what he is concerned about. You can always trust that he is right when he barks. One time he kept barking and I stood outside with him trying to figure out what was going on. In the distance I could hear a goat hollering strangely. I went to the field and there I found a yearling with her head caught in the woven wire fence, the rest of the herd were out of sight, grazing, leaving her stuck, but a livestock guard dog sat there with her to protect her. Now, he never would have come to me to say he needed some help with a goat, it was Chester who knew something wasn’t right and barked for me to go and check it out. If Chester barks, we pay attention.
The little beagle, Buddy, well, he wastes plenty of barks, but sometimes there is a reason. It might be that he has just spotted that dastardly Lee walking around the barn. He always thinks Lee is up to no good, such as trying to live trap another beagle. Buddy keeps a close eye on Lee. I can do anything with Buddy, but forget it if Lee calls him. He just sticks his nose up in the air and walks away, or stands there and barks at Lee for daring to call him.
At night, those two old backyard dogs make sure we know if the coyotes are howling nearby or prowling around. They hear the livestock guard dogs barking and immediately go on the alert and join in the barking. All the dogs get very angry when they hear the coyotes, which is quite frequently around here. Once, in broad daylight, Buddy escaped through an opened gate and headed up our country road. I happened to look up to see him hurrying back up our driveway with a coyote trotting behind him. Evidently, the coyote thought Buddy looked like very a tasty sausage. When the coyote saw me, he took off, much to Buddy’s relief, though he stood beside me yelling at the coyote, “You’d better take off or I’ll give you what for!”
Now usually the coyotes do their barking and howling during the darkest night. Last Tuesday, something very different happened. At 7 p.m., still daylight, and with Lee and all the livestock guard dogs and a herd of 90 does were at the back of the place working on cutting firewood, a pack of coyotes started the most raucous howling and barking and it sounded too close.
We have baby monitors at the main barn to hear if something is not right and that monitor picked them up loud, plus with the house windows open to let in some cool air, the howling and barking sounded in stereo.
We have weanlings and yearlings around the barn, plus one of the bucks and 19 does in the front pasture near the road. The coyotes were making such a close racket, I couldn’t tell what direction they were at.
Chester was absolutely furious that they dare be so close and he looked to Buddy to see which direction Buddy was barking. Buddy’s good ears and sense of smell didn’t fail him. He looked across the road in the brush behind our mailbox and stood on the fence barking angrily. He knew exactly where the coyotes were.
The buck and the does in the front pasture took off at a dead run to their run-in shed near the barn. I ran out on the front porch trying to spot any coyotes that might be bold enough to take after the goats. But, old Chester and Buddy’s livid barking and me running outside to check things out, the coyotes stayed hidden and just barked. Lee heard the ruckus and came at high speed in the RTV, but the young livestock guard dog was ahead of him to defend the goats at the barn. The other two livestock guard dogs stayed with the large doe herd and brought them back to their barn and stood there with them.
The coyotes shut-up with all the extra help coming in. But, Buddy and Chester knew that it was really them who protected the farm that early evening. They knew they had been the first line of defense for the farm. Yessiree, they told the big livestock guard dogs. You guys, just remember, we’re the ones. Nothing is going to harm our farm, they told the big dogs. Fortunately the big dogs aren’t vain, sure they would whip those old backyard dogs little behinds if they dared come out to the pasture near their goats, but against coyotes, they stood as one until the coyotes left.
Yep, there’s nothing like having a good first line of defense. Or, so Buddy and Chester keep reminding me as they ask for their favorite treats.