As some of you already know, Becky gave me her beloved Shachah this week. You can read about his presence in Becky's life and flock by clicking here.
Shachah, otherwise known as 'The Big Guy' is a Great Pyr/Akbash cross Livestock Guardian Dog (LGD). He is six years old and has lived with sheep presumably his whole life. He considers sheep his job, his family, and his life. I am very honored that Becky gave me this chance to learn about LGD's from 'an old pro' like Shachah. He has already taught me many things...
I liked him the minute I met him at Becky's house. His head was more massive than I expected...everything about him was more massive than I expected...but I liked him. And he seemed to like me, or at least he liked me scratching him behind the ears and massaging him along his spine. And he rode home in the back seat of my truck without so much as a whimper or whine. 'So good so far' I thought as I left Becky's on Tuesday afternoon.
By the time I reached home with him it was pouring down heavy rains and almost dark. I had to give him a chance to relieve himself and get him into the kennel before I couldn't see. Shachah was a little spooked. He didn't like the rain, the wind, the dark, and the two dogs that met him with frenzied barking. Eventually, he found a tree he was willing to water and I slowly coaxed him toward his kennel with the makeshift shelter. It was pitch black outside, I was soaked through, and my mud boots were full to the brim with rainwater. I hoped tomorrow was a better day for both of us.
I found Big Guy digging a hole under his kennel panel bright and early the next morning. He was happy to take a walk on the leash with me. We toured the perimeter of the farm at his pace, which seemed to be a quick trot in the direction opposite the house and his kennel. At the farthest point I allowed he stopped at the end of the leash and looked toward his unknown destination. I could feel him willing himself forward, away from Boston Lake...away from that stupid kennel I wanted to put him back into.
I once again managed to coax Shachah back to the yard and kennel. He immediately began digging more holes. I walked him around the perimeter again that evening, and again the next morning. He kept digging. We moved the kennel. He started digging a new hole.
Finally, on Thursday evening, after he drug me right out to the ewes in the far pasture as soon as he was leashed, I decided something had to change. He was obviously miserable in the kennel. Since I knew he liked me enough to come up for scratches (kind of like the sheep) I decided to put him in the electronet with the two new ewes I also brought home from Becky's. My only concern at that point was whether he could escape the electronet. But Becky had said that type of fencing did hold him.
Clancy and I were talking about this idea out in the yard just before dark. Up to that point, Shachah had tolerated, but still mildly avoided, contact with Clancy and the boys. But as we talked, I asked Clancy to move closer so I could interact with him and have the dog learn he was someone I trusted and liked. After a few minutes of being totally ignored by both of us, Big Guy came up and sniffed Clancy and melted under the resulting ear scratches.
Clancy took the leash and asked Shachah to heel. I assured my husband that the best he could hope for was to be drug at a polite pace. Shachah heeled. It was this amazing moment.... Clancy has always had a way with animals...but this just amazed me. They walked side by side all the way out to the quarantine paddock by the barn. Clancy brought Shachah inside the fence and together they inspected the perimeter of the pen. Shachah had this proud sense of purpose in his carriage and expression. Once the circuit was complete, Clancy turned the area over to the Big Guy. We were acknowledged, dismissed, and this gigantic Regal Being took up his reign as Guardian of Sheep. He found a spot under a tree and surveyed his domain. He was facing the house...willingly.
Friday morning the Big Guy frolicked a little as I carried his food bowl to him. I couldn't find a single hole in the pen. The new ewes came up to sniff me, then moved aside after Shachah finished his food and decided to get his ear scratches. He had a smile on his face. He was completely relaxed. After a few minutes he wandered over to a tree and flumped down. Then he sacked out on his side as I resumed petting the ewes. When I stood up to leave, Shachah hopped up from his nap to escort me to the fence line. I thought perhaps he might want to come with me. But he didn't seem to mind that I was leaving. He was seeing me to the door and I was welcome to visit his pasture again anytime. I looked back over my shoulder to see him return to his nap under the tree. Today was similar. As I approached the pen, the Big Guy rose from his nap, stretched, and came over to greet me. Eventually, I think he will learn to think of this farm as home. It'll probably take some time before I can trust him to be free in the yard without taking off. In the meantime, he seems totally content to live with the sheep. I think we have a good thing going on...a good working relationship. He is a gift. A humongous, fluffy, serious, lovable, photogenic GIFT.