Friday, November 23, 2018

Paladin and Competitive Aggression

Almost a year ago, my husband, Jim, died. It was not unexpected, he had a stroke seven years before, and at that time, was given two more years at best. We showed 'em.

He was terrified of dying in a hospital and I promised to keep him home. Between my daughter, me, and at the end, some really shitty live-in help, we managed it. I cared for him, twenty-four seven,  except for runs to the store, from the day after he went into rehab until the night he died. It was the hardest job I've ever taken on in the course of my very up and down life. I don't regret a second of it, but I'm truly grateful that going in, I didn't know how it was going to be.

Some of you from the days of yore might remember I was diagnosed with Parkinson's. That little bit of fun began the year before Jim's stroke. Somewhere in the pile, I quit writing the blog. I wasn't riding, I had no thoughts except the daily grind (and drama, sooo much drama) and I lost the connection between my readers and I. I did manage to have one Mugs and the Big K clinic before I crawled into my hole, and I'll forever be grateful for it. I had an absolute blast.

So, here I am. I haven't ridden much, hardly even thrown a leg over in the last couple of years. I wrote some, not much, and I started learning about dogs. I thought that was it. Madonna and Scrub are totally OK with the fat lazy backyard horse life. Except, lately, I've been looking at my horses and a little itch has come back. I think of training issues and want to head home and fire up the computer.

Tentative, but not forced, so maybe I'll be around some.

I didn't tell you this so you could feel sorry for me, or hit the crying emoji a thousand times, so please don't. It's just a warning that I've changed. It's a deep, exploring, what's our purpose kind of thing. It's opened up how I deal with my animals and because of that, how I cope with people.

I'm going to get back on my horses, there's a rumor I might be breaking Scrub to the harness this coming summer, and I'll be trying to get my mojo back. I'll be writing about my dogs, because I write what I know and I've learned a couple things. I'm also working hard at turning our place into a sustainable farm, which I find fascinating, God help you all. So be prepared, don't get all whiny about the good old days and horse stories, they'll show up as they come to me, and if you want, you're invited to journey on down this road.

Enough of that maudlin crap, here's the post for today.

I have a new dog.

Actually, I've had her about a year. Yes, if you do the math, I got a puppy right around the time poor Jim was trying to die in peace. We already had five, count 'em five dogs. My daughter and her not quite two year old daughter had moved in with us. I had a deranged maniac living in my basement, who, although hired to help take care of Jim and I, mainly drank while doing a truly crappy job of cleaning, and fought with my daughter.

In my infinite wisdom, when a friend called and offered me this puppy, I said yes. Tell me you would have turned her down. I was sad and tired. What can I say.

This is Paladin. She's a Livestock Guardian,  her breed, Sarplaninac, and  her parents were brought to the U.S. from Croatia. I had been interested in these dogs ever since my friend had decided to breed them. They are a landrace breed, and a molosser. Which from what I understand, the first means that the Sarplaninac was developed mainly by ability and geography. Second, she's a big fat hairy mastiff.

These dogs are big, but there's nothing ponderous about them. She can catch a coyote if that helps. She rears back on her hind feet and jumps straight up in the air when she's happy to see me, because she's not allowed to flatten me with joy. I am not kidding, her hind feet launch almost to my shoulders. I am trying desperately to get this on video, it's pretty amazing. She's primitive, instinctive and feels no need to take direction.

I was firmly told by the trainers I consulted, both who work extensively with this breed, NOT to train her. I was to let her develop and shape the behaviors that came with. If these dogs get too much obedience training, they lose their canny, independent thinking and generally become mean, crappy, unhappy dogs. Okey dokey then.

But, since we weren't herding sheep in the Sar Mountain range, I decided she had to be taught some things. Like, don't put your giant, drooly ass mouth on people. Don't knock people down. Don't block, lean or whack em' with your paw. Sit. She's good at that. Don't eat the chihuahua.

Paladin is turning into the dog she was born to be. Think about it, Sarplaninacs are somewhere around 4000 years in the making. Their purpose has always been the same. Guard the sheep, guard the land, and guard your people. Do it on your own, without human direction. Kill the wolves, bears, hawks and eagles that are after your charges. If we humans want to interfere with that amazing desire to do their jobs, then as usual, we're stupid and destructive and will ruin yet one more breed of dog.

She will doze in the sun with chickens on her back. Last week, she showed up and asked to be let in - with one of our goats. They were hanging around together and apparently, Paladin thought she should come in too. You know, if you're cold, then your goat is cold, bring them inside.

The best thing she does, the very best, is this. If my granddaughter, Hazel, slips out of my line of sight, I know in an instant. Paladin quietly pads by, and stands next to her. She doesn't bother her, just stands there, guarding the weakest, most precious, most troublemaking being on the place. She doesn't leave until her mother or I come to get her.  She keeps track of Hazel's whereabouts all the time.

The worst? There's lots, but it will have to wait until tomorrow.

This is my delicate little flower at 12 months. She's supposed to grow until at least 18 months, maybe more. She hasn't begun to fill out yet, not even a little. Note the door knob as reference.


  1. What a GORGEOUS dog! I hadn't heard of the breed (surprisingly) but they sound amazing. I'd love to see that jump - it sounds athletic as hell.

  2. Yesterday morning, a young woman, who helps me out a few times a week, took Hazel to see the chickens. They wandered off, no big deal, neither Clare nor I were concerned.
    Paladin got up and followed them, no fanfare, just sauntered off in their direction.
    I took a peek a minute later and she was lying in the sun, not interfering in any way, just watching them.
    I'm going to love this dog.

  3. What a lovely dog. It'll be cool to hear more about her. Guardian dogs are fantastic animals. My husband's family had a Great Pyrenees and he was a credit to his breed. That big, white dog faced off against three Australian shepherds that were after his sheep before he was a year old, and whipped them all soundly. Did the same to anything that threatened his charges.

    Glad to hear from you again, Mugs.

  4. Oh, dear! I've opened a floodgate (I hope)!