I had forgotten what young animals are like. Sure, I know about goat kids. It seems we have some somewhere all year long and they can both exasperate and keep me laughing. But, I had forgotten what it was like to have kittens and a pup on the farm.
All of our farm dogs and barn cats are mature to down right old. Not an extremely lively bunch, they know their jobs and they do them. They are a competent lot. Then along came a wild young beagle that ran the road all summer, starving. You couldnít get near him. People threw out some scraps, but didnít really want him hanging around. I couldnít take it any longer and asked Lee to live trap him.
The beagle sometimes hung out at my brotherís camp down the road. Lee set the trap down there and the next morning I went to check it and there was the beagle, not a bit happy, cowering to the back of the trap. He looked to be 6 months old. I named him Buddy and loaded him and the trap up in the back of the truck, took him home and opened the live trap in a large cage in the garage. I had food in there and water. Which he immediately wolfed down.
Beagles can be a bit of a snappy dog, but he let me drag him out of that cage and put a leash on him and take him for walks, and then back to the cage he went. He was one of those tiny beagles, cuter than a bug. Slowly he came round to allowing me to do anything with him. Eventually, he even happily learned to come to me when called. But, he never made up to Lee. Itís like he blamed Lee for trapping him. After about two years he allows Lee to pet him every now and then and to feed him, but he finds Lee a highly suspicious person. Lee can be sitting in the dining room eating and Buddy will come to the patio door and bark at him for being in there. He wonít come if Lee calls. Lee says he is my dog because he only will come to me and allows me to pet him any time.
I think Lee clinched the untrustworthy title that one day he took Buddy out for a walk and just couldnít control himself, because Buddy is the cutest little beagle, and picked him up and hugged him. Buddyís response? He opened up that little beagle mouth of his and grabbed Leeís throat. Didnít bite or put pressure on the throat, it was a warning. What did Lee do? He laughed! He still thinks heís the cutest little beagle, but Buddy considers Lee a shady character.
Even though young, Buddy is not very playful, probably because of the hard life he had had before arriving here, so you donĎt see much puppy behavior. After Buddy arrived, a momma cat appeared at the farm and proceeded giving us 7 kittens. Fearful that she and the kittens would be killed by our other neutered male barn cats, they are very aggressive to strange cats. We put her in the garage to have her kittens, with plans to not allow the kittens out of the garage until they were of good size to get away from our mature barn cats.
At that time Buddy lived in his cage at night in the garage and during the day was tied on the back porch, with me taking him on frequent walks to build his trust and let him get to know the farm. As soon as those little kittens could get out of their box, they discovered Buddy in his cage. Like tiny little monkeys they would climb that cage and sit on top of it or sit below on the floor and reach little paws in to touch Buddy. I really didnít know what to do. Buddy could have seriously hurt them if he had wanted to, but he accepted the little kittens trying to reach him and didnít think a thing of it. In fact, when I took him out on the leash, those kittens ran to him, purring, petting on him. They loved him and he put up with it.
Every night he put up with them trying to reach him and slept soundly while the kittens had a great time. Each night the kittens rearranged the garage for us, constantly playing, constantly climbing, constantly falling off things. Every morning I stepped into the garage to get Buddy, a row of seven kittens would be sitting there, facing the door and as soon as I opened the door, I was hit with a blast of purring. They never moved, just all sat there in a line and blasted me with purring. I felt like my hair was being blown behind me by the force of that combined purr. They were so loud. It was the funniest sight and the happiest sound a person could get every morning.
Eventually, they were allowed to go out into the big world and I was terribly afraid for them with our big mean 7 year old neutered male barn cats. Our vet said that a lot of times the older neutered male will act like an uncle to kittens. I hardly believed that until I saw the meanest of our neutered males start stalking the kittens. They saw him and ran to him, butting him in the head with their little heads and purring up a storm. That mean old male just fell apart and cautiously licked a kitten on top the head, after that they just adored him and he would eat with them, sit around with them, he liked them and they loved him. Strangest thing I ever saw.
Then arrived the livestock guard dog pup, Dusty Sue. She was a pup, yet wasnít a pup. She was the most solemn pup, extremely serious. Every now and then she would bounce around and play on the horse manure pile. But, if she bounced around too much, those big legs and joints got her in trouble and she would end up falling end over end.
One day last week I was out at the ridge barn, cleaning out the watering tubs and filling them up. It takes a while to fill them up and I always like to go around and sit on the west side of the barn and look up the valley while I wait. The goats were lying around, enjoying the hot sun, two of the livestock guard dogs, including 7 month old pup Dusty Sue, were lying under the hay building part of the barn, staying cool.
Dusty Sue likes to come out and sit beside me and look out over the valley too when I go out there every day. She came out of the barn so fast this time, that she ran into the door, quickly wheeled around to peek back inside, like something had chased her. She was extremely perturbed about whatever it was and I cautiously went over to peek inside the barn with her. Dusty Sue does not like snakes and I figured one was lying in the barn.
We both very carefully stepped into the barn and then she fanned around to the left and came up on something and stood there bouncing up and down, staring down at what had spooked her. I cautiously came up to where she was at and looked down and saw one of the biggest land turtles Iíd ever seen. It wasnít a snapping turtle, I know snapping turtles. It was definitely a land turtle, the kind you see crossing roads, only this fellow was three times the size of the ones you usually see.
And, he wasnít afraid of me or Dusty Sue. I was worried that one of the older livestock guard dogs would come out and make him one of their chewie toys and quickly picked the turtle up. He was heavy and he kept his head out, looking me over. Then slowly he pulled his head back into his shell, hissing as he went. I carried him down to the creek and turned him loose. Dusty Sue escorted us, but was very happy to leave in a hurry with me.
So, I suppose the young kittens, young dog, and the livestock guard dog pup are working out. The kittens still love their uncles, Lee controls himself and no longer picks up Buddy the Beagle to hug, and as long as a herd of turtles do not attack the goats, Dusty Sue is working out just fine protecting the goats.