Back to when a livestock guardian dog journey began

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Livestock guardian dog
Kyra, front, just turned 9. She still has the energy of a much younger dog, and has passed her working ability and temperament down to her granddaughters, Seven and Sakura. (Courtesy of Farei Kennels)

Happy birthday, Kyra, 9 years young this month — a living, breathing representation of my journey into livestock guardian dog ownership. I grew up on the East Coast, and we are late to the game, when it comes to livestock guardian dogs.

When I started my search, no one understood what I was looking for. Their pet dog did just fine keeping small predators at bay, and everything was locked up at night. Having lost years of work on color breeding runner ducks, I found out the hard way this method didn’t really succeed. I was looking for something more.

The right fit

My husband worked halfway across the country five months out of the year. I wanted a working partner, not another pet. Something to watch over our small farm, go trail riding and keep me company during the long, lonely months.

I found what I hoped would fit the bill, a unique breed touted for its intelligence, loyalty and guardian qualities. It was more than I had ever spent on a dog in my life — horse purchases had commas, not dogs. I spoke to my employer about cashing in a week’s vacation pay, and I put a deposit on the black and white, grainy, puppy sonogram.

A 10-hour drive got me a pudgy pup that barely fit in the crate I brought with me. She howled for the first half hour of the drive, at which point, she promptly threw up inside the crate. A quick stop at a gas station bathroom got her and the crate cleaned up, and we were back on the road. She immediately threw up again. It was starting out great.

Love and hate

But potty training was a breeze. She learned to ride in the truck without getting sick. I loved her. She ran and hid at the first sign of a threat and pulled all the flowers from their beds. I hated her. Teaching her basic obedience was the easiest I’d ever done. I loved her.

She pulled all the cedar shingles off our barn, 30 feet long and 7 feet up. I hated her. She crashed through our screen door to save a chicken from a fox. I loved her. She blew through her invisible fence and was gone an entire day. I hated her.

A call to the breeder just left me feeling frustrated and disillusioned. I was on my own.

Live and learn

In hindsight, a lot of the things I taught her were just something to keep me busy, until I was ready to listen and learn myself. The things Kyra taught me are much more important. She taught me to re-evaluate my motivations and take joy in the little things. She loved me.

I struggled to curb my temper and be patient when we mis-communicated. She hated me. I was excited to show my husband this new protector of our farm. She loved me and it. He had been gone this entire time and was a complete stranger to her. She hated him.

The dog in front of me now has her canine good citizen certificate, or CGC. She has been through four moves of over 2,500 miles each, the stress of losing my husband — who she learned to love and for whom she mourned as deeply as I did — and then, the subsequent final move, to our home in Maine.

She has guarded poultry, sheep, goats, horses and free range rabbits. At 9 years old, she is going through her first lambing, proving that all of us old dogs can learn new tricks.

She has dealt with raccoons, porcupines, coyote, bobcat, fisher, black bear, stray dogs and two legged intruders. She has been an advocate for the breed, a teacher and the founder of a dynasty. And I love her.

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