Farm Dogs

I think most of you are well acquainted with the farm dogs.  Currently there are four Maremma Sheepdogs living on the farm to protect the livestock. Maremmas originally hail from Italy, where they were bred over the centuries to withstand the mountain weather and protect sheep and goats from predators. They are related to Great Pyrenees dogs, which is why they look so similar,  but are distinctly their own breed. Our dogs are big, lovey, marshmallowy fluffballs who love people and their flock alike.

Fettucine, or Cini, for short, has been around the longest.

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He’s about 11 years old, and beginning to show his age a bit.  Occasionally his joints bother him, and we keep arthritis meds for him for when he’s having trouble.  Otherwise he still loves to run and play and chase deer.

But what Cini really loves, is little kids.

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He will follow Oona anywhere she goes.  When other little kids come around, Cini is the first one to greet them and ask for belly rubs.  Being a big, 120 lb dog he can sometimes end up scaring the little ones whose feet he wants to sit at, but I’ve never seen anyone not warm up to him yet.

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Most days Cini can be found lounging on the back deck.  If the weather is really bad, we bring him inside.  A lifetime of devoted service to his flock has earned him a cushy retirement, even if he doesn’t seem to accept that he is retired.

He has fathered a few pups in his life, and we still have two: Sabine and Orzo.

Orzo is still quite a teenager.  He is rather bratty, and like his mother Lucy, prone to escape.

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Orzo, on the left, with Lucy

There’s been no keeping him and his mom inside the fence with the flock, but they do manage to do a marvelous job patrolling outside the fence, keeping away any critters who might intrude (usually deer).  During the day they stay on the deck with Cini. Orzo is 3, and is from Lucy’s last litter with Cini.  He has his dad’s love of people to balance out his mom’s brattiness a bit.

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Sabine is Cini’s daughter from Susan’s dog Biscotti, who sadly passed away when Susan  still lived in the Hudson Valley. She is one of the goofiest and friendliest dogs you could ever hope to meet.

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She has her father’s sense of obligation to the flock.  Sabine is the only dog here who stays with the sheep and doesn’t try to escape the confines of the fence.  On the rare occasion that she’s slipped out a carelessly open gate, all I need do is call her back and she dutifully comes straightaway.  Sabine is the essence of “man’s best friend”. If you’re out in the field working the sheep, you can count on Sabine’s nose to be right there at hip level, as close to you as possible.

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Recently she’s taken advantage of the goats’ chewing through the fence to the hay bales; she’s made herself a spot between two of them to snooze during the day.

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Recently when we’ve managed to convince Lucy to stay in the field, she joins Sabine in the hay fort.

Lucy is mom to two litters fathered by Cini.  All of those pups have been adopted out to other farms except Orzo, who I claimed the moment I saw him!

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If Lucy were a human, we would admire her greatly. She is headstrong, smart, knows her own mind and won’t let anyone tell her what to do!

There have been plenty of times when we’ve all been so frustrated with Lucy we’ve wondered how we could possibly manage her.  As she’s gotten older, she’s calmed down quite a lot and a little more patient with us as we try to figure her out. She’s quite taken to Paul, and he is the one I call when she needs fly ointment on her nose, or when she’s stuck in the fence and mad.  She respects him in a way I haven’t seen with anyone else she knows.

We’ve stopped trying to confine her, since she’s so much happier and well behaved when she can roam at will.  It still concerns me that she may venture too far or annoy the neighbors too much, but so far we haven’t seen too much of this (knock on wood!).  She and Orzo (her constant companion) do a fantastic job of greeting all of our visitors.

Every time I walk out the door I see four big, happy dog faces and am reminded how lucky I am to be able to care for them right now, and how lucky we are to have such gentle giants to watch over the flock (and us!).

 

 

 

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