Friday, March 7, 2008

It's all Sharon's fault.

Well.  Partly

In her post a while back on child rearing she gave the penultimate nudge that caused this:

This is our brand new black hole for time and energy; Bruce.

He's a little hard to photograph on snow; his points- face, legs and tail, are very black; quite striking.

Bruce is 10 weeks old, acquired from the local shelter- he's a Chocolate Lab/ Collie/ Newfoundland, with maybe a little Husky.  Our very good Amish friend Joe was hearing all about him from Smidgen, in the grocery store where we were after puppy chow, and commented deadpan; "Oh, you mean he's a Farm Dog."  Judging from his huge feet and loose skin, he's heading towards somewhere between 70-100 lbs.

We haven't had canine livestock here before; never really needed one; but we'd been thinking about it now for a year or so.  Lots of reasons; we could use a dog to chase wildlife out of the crops just a bit.  Having the truck stolen made us a little nervous about midnight visitors, out here in the boonies.

Two things tipped the balance.  Sharon was the first, her point #8 in that post pointing out the value of a good dog in helping keep an eye on children that are likely to stray.  And the Smidgen is 3 now; entirely mobile; totally fearless; and already was undertaking long unaccompanied journeys last year.

The second - was coyotes.  When I first moved here, in the mid 70's; the locals had never seen one.  This was originally wolf territory- and the two almost never overlap.  A few years later, coyotes started moving in- killing almost all the foxes.  20 years later, a few red foxes are showing up again- but I never hear the distinctive bark of the grey foxes, that used to be a standard part of summer evenings.  I miss them.

I don't resent the coyotes; change is inevitable, and I really enjoy hearing them chorus from time to time.  But.  Smidgen is 3- and yes, coyotes have been known to attack children, in places where the coyotes get too abundant, and too familiar with people.  (Google "coyote attacks" if you don't believe me- or look here- one of these 3 kids was 10.)

But, last week, for the first time ever here, we saw coyotes; near the house, in broad daylight.  Twice.  

Thanks to Sharon, we were already veeeery close to the puppy edge; the coyotes finished the job.  When my first crop kids were small, coyotes were very rare- and you never saw one.  But just like everywhere else; they're moving closer and closer to people, even here in farm country. Basically, I'm delighted to have the coyotes on the farm; they eat loads of rodents, the occasional fawn- fine. But watching us in daylight- no thank you. They knew we saw them- and didn't run.

"Eventually" - we expect Bruce to be a highly valued and valuable member of the family; pulling his share of the load.  At the moment, of course.....  it's way too cold to keep him outside (below zero again last night) - he's too young to be reliably house trained; and this is a tiny house...

On the up side; it looks like we were incredibly lucky at the shelter- he's a total sweety pie; absolutely snuggly, quiet, unspoiled, already retrieves things, very playful, willing to listen, and seems very smart.  Highly promising, I think.

On the other hand; this is our passive-agressive tom cat, who previously had us, and the house, to himself-

He's sitting right smack on the puppy's bed- after the puppy slept on it for hours, so the cat certainly knows it- and giving the pup the evil eye whenever he comes close.  Pup's had his nose scratched just once by the cat; now the cat only has to hiss a little, and the pup yelps.

Never a dull moment.


jewishfarmer said...

He's a gorgeous dog, and I'm glad he's going to be around. We had the same problems with coyotes in the yard (they den across the road) and it makes a huge difference - keeps the deer out of the garden too!

Congratulations - and I'm glad the "all my fault" part is such a positive thing ;-).


nicole said...

Been reading your fantastic blog for a while now. Love your practical insights. But you know, I come here for sensible info - like just what kind of pitch I'll need on my own THWASPCO someday. Instead, I show up here today and there's that gorgeous, bundle of fluff :). Congrats on the newest member of the family - he's scrumptious.


DC said...

That pup has a real presence about him, Greenpa. I think he's got a promising career ahead. In fact, I think if he joined with a certain other four-legged individual, there would be no stopping him. As you may or may not have heard, another blogger recently admitted to me that her animal companion has high career aspirations. If your Bruce were to ally himself with this canine superstar, we could have a dream ticket. The time to join forces now -- we don't want to see this go all the way to the convention and be decided in some back room by the party bosses. Is the little guy up for the challenge?

Chile said...

Um, DC, I think ya should maybe consult with Sleeping Beauty before volunteering a running mate... She's not entirely sure a rambunctious youngster has the experience for the job. Only time will tell.

And, she would also argue that cats are the greatest evil in the world, not coyotes. She didn't react to the coyote across the street but goes nuts when vicious cats stroll by.

Greenpa, congrats on the new family member. Quite a handsome little feller! Looking forward to pictures of Bruce and Smidgen.

just ducky said...

Bruce is a fantastic looking dog! He looks very huggable! I bet Smidgen is in seventh heaven. I am crazy about our puppies as well...we have an 85 lb. Bernese Mountain/Gold Retriever mix and a 16 lb. Bichon Frise...both were adopted...

As it turns out...the smaller one is better at alerting us to "visitors" of all types...but the bigger one is just as alert and only barks when he is REALLY concerned about a visitor's presence.

Shannon said...

Such a cute puppy! A must have when you have critters out in the woods. Our dog helps to keep the fisher cats at bay by simply marking the territory. The deer and turkeys have adapted to our mellow malamute. He just sits and watches them walk by...

Jennifer said...

Keep an eye out for the coyotes until he's way past 50 lbs... they have been known to hunt and take out dogs up to a medium size.

He's a cutie!

Susan Och said...

Like you, I have two generations of kids. When the older ones were little, I worried about strange humans walking by on the road. With the youngest, my worries switched to wild animals. Suddenly there are bear raiding chicken coops, many cougar sitings, and increasingly bold coyotes all around here.

You probably want to think about fencing, even with the dog. A horse trainer friend tells me that coyotes are adept at using the canine body language to entice domestic dogs to "come and play." When they have cavorted with the puppy enough to get him out of the yard, they will turn on him and kill and eat him.

We have done alright with dog and kid inside a large fenced yard. But my youngest, now 11, does not have the experience of hanging out in the woods the way her sisters did, because she is afraid of wild animals, especially cougars.

Christy said...

What a nice looking dog!