A livestock guardian dog’s view

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Colter livestock guardian dog
Colter, at almost 9 years old, is the the Farei Kennels' pack patriarch. (Farei Kennels photo)

As told by Colter, patriarch of the Farei Kennels livestock guardian dog pack:

“Welcome to orientation. I’ve worked the high desert of eastern Montana, the mountains of northern Arizona and am currently running a crew in the woods of central Maine. It’s a lot different here working in the trees and brush. Visibility is poor, and you can’t always see what’s going on around you.

“I run a crew of four — myself and three women. Most of our crew members are female, as is our crew leader. We just added a youngster this year. She seems to work hard enough and have a good head on her shoulders. I’m glad our crew leader always brings on new workers in the spring, because it gives them a chance to settle in before the snows hit and there’s more work to do.”

Growing up

“I was lucky growing up. It was a pretty posh environment, and even though I went to school most days, I enjoyed learning, so it wasn’t a chore. It was only later, when we first came to Maine and our crew leader brought in some outside workers to help us get set up, that I learned not all of them got the same training I did. It was hard to believe at first, but they all said it was true. Most of them had started working at a very young age with no training. They just had to figure it out. I was amazed, considering how dangerous that can be.

“The first couple of summers we rotated in various outside crews. We provided them with the training they didn’t get in the beginning, in exchange for extra help while we built up our own crews.

Difference

“It was interesting to hear about all the different environments they worked in and how different crew leaders ran their places. Some of it was kind of hard to believe. How could you work with no actual perimeter. Do you just guess? Some of them had never even met the company owners. They just dropped the pay packets off. Sometimes, you’d see them from a distance but then they’d be gone. I had always thought of our crew leader as more of a partner, because of the way she acted. I came to realize how unusual that was, pretty quickly.

“I also realized how lucky I was to have the owner on site. I could call her day or night if there was a problem and she’d show up. She’d even dig in and help us if things got hairy. The area we work in has some pretty high crime rates and theft is big here.”

Better working conditions

“In the last few years, we’ve built up our own crews and have changed to helping other companies do their own training. Ours advocates for better working conditions, benefits and regular rest periods. We get bonuses in the fall too, and I know not every company does that.

“Our owner approached me the other day. Big things are happening, and she wants my help promoting our training program for workers everywhere. I told her I’d think about it. I’m not sure I’m ready for a desk job. It’s fall, and I smell snow on the wind …”

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Tarma Shena is an accountant, a certified dog trainer and behaviorist, as well as owner of Farei Kennels. She raises Turkish livestock guardian dogs, Jacob and Navajo-Churro sheep.

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