The tale of a livestock guardian dog and a cat

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Snow path
A telltale path shows the route Bridger, a 6 year old Kangal, traveled to visit the neighbor's ... cat. (Courtesy of Farei Kennels)

A lot of my time is spent talking about the big picture, with an eye on the long game. Humor me as I zoom in this month to talk about one dog and disobedience.
Bridger is a 6 year old Turkish Kangal. She was out of my first litter, so we have a long history together, one that has its share of bumps and bruises.

I have been on my current property for about five years. She has been guardian of the farm proper and free range chickens for about four years, as well as teacher of the fosters that regularly come through here.

Bridger and her cat

Up until this year, she worked an area with no fence, borders and boundaries set by my property usage and predator incursions — along with one slightly ratty fence line between us and the hunting camp on the east property line. I have been training her partner this last year or so. In an effort to set them both up for success, I have been working on fencing. There will never be another Bridger.

My neighbor and I worked together to put up a fence on the west side between us. The north side along the road was fenced off this fall, with a gate for the driveway. The south side is covered by the fence for the horse pasture and the new sheep corral I finished recently.

The farm also has a cat. He came to us about three years ago, having never seen a dog. The Kangals won him over, and we regularly see him ranging all over the property. Bridger consistently watches over him, whenever he is in her area. He sleeps up here somewhere. Sometimes, I see him in Bridger’s dog house. Sometimes, I don’t see him at all.

Every morning, as I do chores, Bridger waits on the deck for me to get to the dogs. As soon as I start dishing out kibble, she disappears, and a few moments later, Errol shows up for breakfast. It has happened enough times that I don’t pay too much attention to it any more. I fill her dish and his, knowing that she will let him know breakfast is served.

Bad dog

Recently, I took a piece of temporary fence to connect the end of the new sheep pen to the ratty fence line until spring, when I can put in a permanent one. I put the fence on the sled and dragged it down to the back property line, only to find there was a birch tree down on the fence and a veritable highway packed down in the snow — down across the neighbors’ property and out of sight. My good yard dog was bad.

With a sigh, I leave the fence behind, trudging across the neighbors’ property and out to our road. I see a little white car with Texas plates at a small camp, with Bridger tracks all over the lawn. There are no other permanent residents on our road and the visitors change randomly enough that I don’t keep track of most of them. Live and let live.

I had seen this car a time or two taking trash out to the main road, and I waved in a neighborly fashion. With another sigh, I walk down the driveway and knock on their door.

“I’m sorry to bother you,” I said. Pointing at the tracks in the yard, I asked, “Has Bridger bothered you?”

They assured me she has not. She does not allow them to pet her, and if they try to approach she turns and goes home. “She just comes and sits with our cat.”

Of course. Another cat.

Oh. Oooooh … “You have a cat,” I said, weakly. “Of course.”

According to the neighbors, Bridger came randomly each day, and she and the cat sat on the porch and stared at each other. Due to the nature of my life, chore time is quite random. I’m guessing she’s telling their cat about breakfast. It’s not “that far” as the dog trots, and any of my dogs would share their breakfast with a polite, friendly kitty. Errol has been doing it for years, and Guapo before him.

I explain that for Bridger’s safety, this is not an acceptable activity. They agree to let me know if she shows up again. I walk back down the road to the house, grab the chainsaw and head out to finish my project. I cut up the tree and remove it, stand the fence back up and connect the temporary line between the two. As I’m finishing up, I see movement out of the corner of my eye.

When I look up Bridger is standing in the snow watching me, head down, tail wagging slowly, outside the fence. I just fenced her out of the yard. Winter clothes are not made for speed. I hop the fence, and she bolts — down the property line, down the road and in the front gate, which only opens inward.

When I arrive, panting, she is laying on the deck, and I get a weak tail thump. “Not every dog lives to a ripe old age,” I remind her, trudging off into the dark to fetch my tools. “Their kitty can find its own breakfast!”

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