February 1 marks the 11th birthday for Max, our senior Livestock Guardian Dog (LGD). LGDs are a class of working dogs that have been bred for centuries to protect flocks and herds of livestock, most commonly goats, sheep, and poultry. Max is an Anatolian Shepherd, an ancient breed originating from Turkey. These magnificent dogs protect mostly by their mere presence and their loud, commanding barks, but if necessary, they will do what it takes to protect their changes. Once, I was explaining their purpose to a friend. She responded: “So, they are livestock protection without guns?” Exactly!
While I cannot remember Max’s exact “gotcha” day, it is in the month of his birthday, so telling the story of how he joined our farm is appropriate on his birthday. We had been on our property for several years and our goat-herd was growing. In my continuing education about the goats, I kept reading about LGDs and was intrigued. We have a large coyote population in our area and cougar sightings are frequent. We have never had any issues but what spurred me to get a LGD was numerous occurrences of people driving into farms and stealing goats! Not my babies!
I started combing Craigslist to see what I could come up with. One day, I came across an ad for a free LGD. In hindsight, I sure wish I would have kept a copy of it. An Anatolian Shepherd, male, about one year old. Cannot keep him home. So I contacted the poster and made an appointment to meet the dog. When I arrived at the farm, the man takes me in the barn. In the corner with the goats is this huge dog! Being me, I walked up to him, knelt downside him and something in the line of: “Hi Sweetheart! How are you?” He sucked in next to me, as if to say “Hi. I’m fine.” I looked at the owner, who it a bit wide-eyed. He said: “He has never done that to me. You can have him!”
I put this huge, scared dog in the back of my truck and took him home. It was only his second car ride. He was not impressed. By the time we got home, the back of the truck was wet from slobber and pee. I was questioning what I had just gotten myself into. Since he was young, new to us, with a history of wandering, I tied him on a long chain in with the goats so they could get used to each other. Several times a day, I would put him on a leash, and walk the perimeter of the property. Within a few months time, he had settled in, the goats accepted him, and he became a part of the family.
We went a little blind into this LGD thing but Max has been a wonderful teacher. It didn’t take long to figure out why Max wouldn’t stay home at the first farm. While he had a job, he did not have a purpose. His first owner never bonded with him or gave him value. We did and he was become the best dog, so much more than we expected.
Happy Birthday, my dear friend! Our farm is so much better under your watch.