- On April 14, 2014
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Most folks are put out to pasture when they retire. Ruthie is getting pulled off the pasture.
Ruth came to us four years ago – almost to the day… April 16, 2010. A gal called me up wanting to know if I needed another Great Pyrenees dog to guard the alpacas. (We had recently acquired Judah to guard the sheep.) This lady was going to school and had a job and not enough time to take care of the dog, plus, Tessa, as she called her, barked a lot at night. I said I’d love to have a look at her, so the gal brought her by.
She was beautiful! A lovely house dog, her coat was full and clean, and she gazed deeply into my eyes. Calm and peaceful. The gal said she wasn’t a jumper, because she had an old injury to her back leg–apparently hit by a car when she was young. She seemed to get around just fine so I didn’t think much about it. The lady handed me the end of the leash and drove away. OK, I guessed that meant she was mine.
I introduced her to the Jacob sheep and alpacas, who did not know what to make of her. They’re instinctively wary of canines, but Ruth’s pervasive serenity won them over quickly.
She seemed to settle in overnight, and took to her new job of guarding as though she’d done it all her life. Hundreds of years of breeding bubbled to the surface to direct her senses and sensibilities.
Before long, we learned that the leg injury was causing more challenges than we could see. The problems she had getting up and down were taking a toll on her, um, personal hygiene, and before we knew it, she was dehydrated, and had a bladder infection and fly strike – a horrible condition where flies … oh, look it up, if you must. Anyway, she was a sick puppy. A very expensive trip to the vet later, Ruthie was housebound, so that she could recuperate through the wickedly hot months of summer.
If you know my house, you know that a 100 pound dog in the living room changes everything. We all got used to stepping over her big white furry polar bear body in the middle of the room where she spent hours stretched full-length. We had only owned her a few months, and this was not at all what I had bargained for. I searched in vain for someone to adopt her who could offer her an indoor home. No dice. Ruthie was here to stay.
We lived through the summer, dragging/pushing her outside several times a day to take care of personal business, giving medication, and growing to love her more and more.
One fall day, my husband suggested that we take her out and introduce her to Judah — maybe they’d make a good team? The weather had cooled off, and she might be healthy enough now to have another go at guarding? She had lost the extra weight and was getting around much better. It was worth a try. Any skepticism I may have harbored vaporized the minute I put them together. They bonded instantly.
The two Pyrs worked together beautifully, but when our ewe had lambs and needed to be separated into her own pen with her babies, I made the decision to put Ruth in with them. That’s when we met “Nana” Ruth. Out came the maternal instincts of a tiger. She loved on those lambs like they were her own. If they ever strayed from their mom, Ruth nosed them back where they belonged. They jumped on her like she was their own personal playground. What a blast that was to watch.
Then came the puppies – Vanni and Tella, the ten-week old Maremmas. The long range plan was to put Judah and Tella with the sheep, and Ruthie and Vanni with the alpacas, when the pups were old enough. Ruthie helped us teach the puppies good manners, and when the time came, she mentored Vanni in the ways of alpaca guarding.
We moved slowly and deliberately with this plan, grooming them every step of the way for their ultimate positions, and it worked a treat. Aided by the adult Pyrs’ coaching, the Maremmas have turned into fantastic LGD’s (livestock guardian dogs).
Ruthie has continued to guard her stock and love on any babies she can get next to. Mostly that has been school groups and Farm Camp kids. Her deep kindness and love shines through at every turn. When you look into her eyes, you can hardly feel anything but peace.
I knew this day would come, and frankly, I’ve been putting off this vet visit because of what I knew I was going to hear. I didn’t want to hear that she wasn’t fit for guard duty unless I also knew where she could go to live out her days. With five other dogs on the place, and a 1000 sf house, it just wasn’t going to work for us to bring her indoors forever. But I also didn’t want her to be suffering out there with her achy joints and mangled hips.
Our friend GarySue mentioned one day recently that if we ever needed to pull her off the job, that she would be willing to give Ruth a permanent home. What a relief. With that information in my pocket, I made the appointment that we kept with Dr. Wallis today. I wasn’t shocked when he gave me his verdict, but I had to blink back tears for a minute at the thought of giving her up. Ruthie has made such an impact here at the farm.
Because of her, I’ve been able to sleep at night, knowing our stock was safe from coyotes and bobcats. I’ve known our lambs and chickens had vigilant protectors. I’ve trusted our school kids and campers to have fantastic experiences. I’ve always had a friendly ear to listen to my woes during chore time. And I’ve had big doggy paws wrap around my leg when she didn’t get enough scritching to suit her.
She won’t leave without fanfare — she deserves a great send off. I’ll let you know the details when we iron them out.
I’ll always love you, Ruthie.