So, I know that after I got back from visiting Nance and Rick after Thanksgiving, I mentioned that something – we suspected a hawk – had gotten our little white silkie. It was about the fourth chicken we’d lost in such a manner, and we decided it was time to start seriously figuring out a … Continue reading “1/5/09”

So, I know that after I got back from visiting Nance and Rick after Thanksgiving, I mentioned that something – we suspected a hawk – had gotten our little white silkie. It was about the fourth chicken we’d lost in such a manner, and we decided it was time to start seriously figuring out a way to protect the chickens from hawks and other predators.

We talked about dogs. We talked about donkeys. We talked about turkeys. About guineas. About moving the chickens back to a more protected, smaller yard. About putting shelters up in the middle of the back forty. We talked and discussed and talked some more, until I was ready to go out and kill all the chickens, just to stop the incessant talk about how to protect them.

We went to the flea market and eyeballed some peacocks. Or guineas. Or turkeys. I don’t even remember what we looked at, but I can tell you that getting big obnoxious birds to protect the littler (obnoxious) birds is an idea I wasn’t crazy about. I also didn’t want a donkey or goats.

Fred talked to a woman who worked with a Great Pyrenees rescue in Tennessee. She had two Great Pyrs that she thought would work for us. They wanted $250 for the dogs.

$250 each.

The idea of spending $500 to protect $3 chickens, well, it wasn’t something we were crazy about. We went to the flea market again. I still didn’t want turkeys or guineas or geese.

(I fucking HATE geese. Have hated them since one bit me ON THE ASS. Fuckers.)

On our way home, we swung by a small takeout chinese restaurant in Closeville to get lunch. On our way out, Fred pointed to the stack of free newspapers by the door. I grabbed one. As we drove home, I leafed through the paper, reading the classifieds.

“Here’s a guy in Tennesse with Great Pyr puppies,” I said to Fred. “$50 each.”

After putting it off for a while, Fred called the guy. The puppies were four and a half months old, they’d spent a lot of time around chickens, they were purebred Great Pyrenees, and the guy was desperate to get rid of them, because he had four adults and three puppies, and they were eating him out of house and home.

I tried to convinced Fred that we should drive up to Tennessee and see the puppies that night, but it was getting on toward dark, and we couldn’t be gone when the chickens needed to be locked in. We also couldn’t go the next day (Sunday) because the guy had choir practice and some other plans.

“You could take part of a day off from work, and we could drive up there,” I said to Fred. He didn’t want to do that.

Fred told the guy we’d think about it, and maybe drive up the next Saturday to see the puppies. He hung up the phone.

“What if he sells them before next weekend?” I asked worriedly. “Maybe you should call and tell him we’ll come up after dark tonight?”

Fred didn’t want to go up there in the dark.

“Take the goddamn day off and we’ll go up there on Monday!” I said.

Fred didn’t want to take the goddamn day off.


Keep in mind that we knew nothing about these puppies except that they’d been around chickens all their life and they were purebred Great Pyrenees.

In the end, Fred called the guy and told him we wanted two of the puppies, he’d pay the guy a little extra to meet us in Fayetteville the following Friday, and then he spent the next few days putting up an electric fence around the perimeter of the back forty. We also spent plenty of time saying “Oh shit, what if this is a stupid thing we’re doing? Are we idiots?”

He left work early on Friday, we went to Fayetteville, and waited at the Co-op there to meet the guy. When he showed up, he had all three puppies in a cage in the back of his truck. When we walked over to the cage, three puppies rushed over to meet us. One licked our hands vigorously, and two of them sniffed at us in a friendly manner.

Apparently these puppies were people-friendly.

In the end, we chose one male and one female. Though we’d brought carriers with us tied down in the back of the truck, we ended up putting them in the back seat of the truck. They were perfectly quiet on the ride home, didn’t howl or try to get out of the back seat – just sat there and looked around, and eventually fell asleep.

Meet George and Gracie.

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We brought them home on December 12th (and y’all think I can’t keep a secret!), and so far we’ve had a positive experience with them. We’ve begun training them – they’ve pretty much got “sit” down pat; we need to work on “stay” and training them to walk on leashes. We had to take them to the vet for their rabies shots and it wasn’t so much fun carrying them into the vet office because they don’t quite get what the leash is about – that was two weeks ago, and they weighed 43 and 53 pounds at that point.

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They live out in the back forty with the chickens. They’re in the back forty all the time except for the one time we had to take them to the vet (and we’ll be taking them next month to be spayed and neutered). We got them a Dogloo to sleep in, but they completely ignored that and took to sleeping under the chicken coop, so we decided the Dogloo wasn’t big enough, and Fred built them a dog house on the back side of the coop. Sometimes they sleep there, sometimes Gracie sleeps in the dog house and George sleeps under the coop, sometimes they both sleep out in the middle of the field. Whatever they feel like at the moment is what they do.

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(They thought Brian was THE BOMB.)

Gracie is a sweet, protective guardian who seems to notice the possibility of a threat before George does, and acts to protect the chickens. George is a sweet dunderhead who would happily show you where the silver is kept and help you carry it to your car, but he follows Gracie’s lead when it comes to protecting the chickens.

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One day Fred and I were in the chicken yard with the chickens and dogs, and a guy who buys eggs from us approached fence. (We knew he was coming over.) George was a little worried about the guy, but when he saw Fred talking to him he was okay with his presence. Gracie (who was on the back side of the coop) didn’t see the guy ’til he was already in the yard. She put herself between the guy and the chickens, and barked a few times until Fred told her it was okay.

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We’ve seen the dogs run off hawks at least three times.

One afternoon I was out gathering eggs from the chicken coop, and a couple approached the fence. I didn’t hear them coming until they were at the fence, and I happened to turn around and see them. They startled me, and I jumped, and both dogs barked at them the entire time we spoke (they were looking to buy eggs; I didn’t have any to sell that day. I’M SORRY, BUT HOW DIFFICULT IS TO GRASP THE CONCEPT OF IF THE SIGN IS OUT, I HAVE EGGS TO SELL. IF IT’S NOT, I DON’T?!). I’d like to think that they picked up on my discomfort (the wife don’t take too kindly to strangers, as Fred might say) and were protecting me, but who knows?

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I like these dogs quite a lot (especially Gracie), but they are not pets. They have a job to do, protecting the chickens, and if they fail to do their job, we’ll find another home for them.

(I say that, knowing that so far they seem to be doing a really good job of protecting the chickens.)

As long as we can train them to sit when need be, to not bark at strangers if we assure them it’s okay, and we can get them into the truck for the occasional vet appointment, I’ll consider it a job well done. Great Pyrenees are notoriously hardheaded and not prone to follow directions, so it’s going to take some work.

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I’ll say it again – I like these dogs, but they’re working dogs, not pets. Will I give them treats and pats and scritches and tell them how pretty they are? Of course I will. (I also brush them occasionally, but rumor has it that their first great shedding won’t come ’til Spring, when they prepare for the summer.) Will they ever be spending time in my house? Nope. They’re in the back forty with the chickens, at all times. They don’t come into the back yard, they don’t come into contact with the cats (they bark at Maxi and Newt if they get too close to the back forty – just a bark that says “I see you, don’t you touch my chickens!” – but for the most part they ignore the cats. They can see into the back yard, and at first they’d bark at Tommy if they saw him out there (I don’t know if it was because they know Tommy’s secretly a chicken-killer at heart or because he was just easier to see or what), but now they pretty much ignore the cats in the back yard. The cats pretty much ignore the dogs, too, and go about their business wandering around the yard.

So, there you go. We has us some dogs, and some pretty damn good ones, at that.

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(And we kept it a secret for a few weeks because after the last time we adopted a dog and the time before, we wanted to make sure this time the dogs were going to work out. The fact that they’re working dogs instead of in-my-face dogs in the house (or right in the back yard, in Sadie’s case) seems to make a big, big difference.)

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Also, we’ve started watching The Dog Whisperer, and Cesar Millan cracks me UP when he starts imitating dogs.

If there was one dog on this planet that I would want to come live with me, it’d be Daddy. He is just such a cool, laid-back, sweet guy that every time Cesar brings him in to assist, I squeal and clap my hands.

(Yes, I’m a dork.)

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“We don’t need no stinkin’ dogs. I coulda run those hawks off.”

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2008: No entry.
2007: Oh look! It’s been two years since the last time we adopted a dog.
2006: Home again, home again.
2005: No entry.
2004: No entry.
2003: No entry.
2002: No entry.
2001: How we met.
2000: And that’s all I have to say ’bout that.