August 25, 2012
Diego, one of our two Great Pyr livestock guardian dogs, provides the gruff ruff of authority in the pasture. He greets all perceived threats – be they grazing horses, hot-air balloons, distant coyote howls or imaginary late-night lights that he alone sees – with a full-throated “RUFF.” Freckles chimes in, but her higher-pitched yelps simply don’t carry the same weight.
Characteristic of their breed, the two dogs frequently patrol the perimeter of the property, sniffing for security breaches in the fencing and scouting out future bladder-relieving locations. On balance, they provide many services and put up with a lot of irritating behaviors from their fellow pasture residents, the sheep and chickens. But sometimes too much is just too much for a man.
That’s why good fencing is key with these dogs. They are the responsible guardians for all they can see. But when they see beyond fences to neighbors’ pastures, they sometimes assume responsibilities that take them away from home, as in the recent Case of the Disappearing Dog. One morning, Diego was gone, nowhere to be seen. Spot checks of the four corners of the property were to no avail. On a hunch, we called our neighbor to the west. Sure enough, Diego was camping out in his barn, along with his goats, cows and a donkey. We drove over to recover Diego, which was when we learned that the neighbor had lent his own dog to friends in another town. Diego had sensed the absence of a guardian on the neighbor’s property.
Normally, this would not be a problem, because most fencing in these parts is strong enough and high enough to keep dogs and other animals where they belong. But the cows on the neighbor’s property had gradually weakened the fence during their continuing search for tasty grass. The strands of wire had separated far enough to allow Diego to break on through to the other side.
Over the coming weeks, Diego was to repeat his escapes until finally last week the neighbor shored up the fence enough that no right-thinking dog would attempt a breakout. We’re grateful that Diego takes his job so seriously, but if it’s just the same to him, we’d prefer him to confine his rambling to our side of the fence.