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~~*  Black Sheep Newsletter............Issue 121............Autumn 2004  *~~


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THE HOMESTEAD: The Livestock Guardian Dog a Breed All Its Own

If you're in want of some bacon, you'll need a fat hog
If your garden needs peat, you'd best find a bog
If your fire burns low, time to saw a dry log
But if you're a'll want a good dog

The Livestock Guardian Dog, a Breed All Its Own

The Livestock Guardian Dog (commonly known by the acronym, LGD) is a breed all its own. These dogs have been bred for centuries to guard and protect livestock, their "charges" as it were, this protection being almost "maternal" in nature. Both sexes of the LGDs seem to have this maternal bond with their charges, and both work equally as well to keep predation at bay.splash dot!


Uzi pup

Pup Uzi

Among LGDs, there are the various breeds, of course, and I'll only name a few. Possibly the best known amongst sheep and goat people are the Great Pyrenees. The "Pyrs," as they are often called, hail from France. There are the dreadlock-fleeced Komondors, from Hungary, the white fleecy Kuvaszok (plural form of "Kuvasz",) also from Hungary, the reknowned short-coated Anatolian Shepherds from Turkey and the Italian contribution to the LGD breed – the wonderful Maremma. Not to be overlooked, but less known perhaps are the Tatras from Poland, Russia's Shar Planinetz and even one from one of the European countries called a Slovak Tchouvatch.splash dot!


There are quite a few others, including Tibet's own, but I will concentrate on our own fond experiences with a very special LGD, a Kuvasz named Uzi. We were blessed that Uzi stayed with us and contributed so much to this homestead for six wonderful years. This column is dedicated to him and to dogs like him all over the world, the dogs that protect the flocks and herds, the dogs who guard with fearless prowess.splash dot!


Uzi pup

Pup Uzi

In the Beginning (at this Farm)

Uzi, the big white livestock guardian dog, came to this farm when he was 13 weeks old. I had been reading up on the breed and was afraid that perhaps he was just a tad too old to successfully "bond" to our herd of angora goats. I was wrong on that count. He bonded immediately.splash dot!


We had needed one of these kinds of dogs for a long time, and dear friends David & Julie Mahoney of Cornerstone Farm fame who also bred angora goats of color, just as we did, gifted us with the young Kuvasz. They knew how we were losing goats left and right and they also knew our plans to quit the angora goat business, the cougars too thick in our locality to deal with. It was our goats or the cougars – and at the time it seemed to us that the State of Oregon couldn't be much help to us. Afterall, Oregon voters had made it plain on the ballot that hunting the big cats with dogs (the only real way to successfully hunt cougars) was a no-no.splash dot!


The next day I spent literal hours combing the Hungarian Kuvasz sites on the internet. I learned about the breed. I found that during World War II, when Nazi soldiers invaded Hungary and found farms in the countryside that appealed to them, they had to encounter the guards of those farms first of all. Those guards were often the purebred Kuvasz dogs that had been bred for centuries to protect not only their livestock, but their "people" who lived on those farms. The Nazis had no recourse (if they wanted to take possession of a farm) than to shoot those great warrior dogs – diminishing the population of the Kuvasz by leaps and bounds.splash dot!


By the end of the war the breed was nearly extinct. There were only a small number of purebred Kuvasz dogs that survived. Intrepid lovers of the breed, decided to breed the females that existed to the males that were still alive. In time the Kuvasz population grew.splash dot!


Uzi pup

Uzi the thieven' liar

Thanks to those early beginnings in Hungary, and thanks to Cornerstone Farm - this gangly white puppy with the dark almond shaped eyes was on our goat farm. We named him "Uzi," which in Hebrew means "Protector" or "Guardian." We were hoping he would work well for us.splash dot!


Uzi grew out of the "puppyhood" stage by the time he reached 8 months of age. In te beginning he was just the precocious new kid on the block - always wanting to play with his charges or tug on their long locks of mohair. I was forever having to reprimand him, "No, Uzi, no bite." He would only playfully tug on their hair, never really "biting" any flesh, but even that was something I wished to discourage. By the age of 8 months he began to take his place as a livestock protection dog and all the playfulness suddenly seemed to leave him.splash dot!


As he grew to adulthood, he was my constant companion. During the daylight hours, if I would take the goats to far away mountain pastures (which I did much of the year) he was always there at my side, my constant companion, shadow, friend.splash dot!


If there was a predator out there, he was aware of it – that uncanny "sixth sense" these dogs possess kicking into gear. All night long we would hear him out there telling cougars, coyotes, fox and bear that this farm was his farm and therefore, off limits.splash dot!


The big lumbering white dog grew and grew (we neutered him at about the age of 11 months – an LGD becomes a "wanderer" if he isn't fixed, and we knew we didn't need that.) At that tender age the vet weighed him in at 110 pounds. He was a well muscled dog and still growing. By the time he reached adulthood, we suspected he weighed 130 – 140 pounds easily, though we never weighed him again.splash dot!


In the night hours Uzi would mark his territorial lines and set up a ruckus if a predator stalked. The LGDs have a low rumbling-in-the-throat bark that resounds through hills and dales, and Uzi's bark was ferocious. It's rare that an LGD has to do combat with a predator, though it does occur on occasion. To our knowledge Uzi never actually fought any predator. We know, however, that he chased many away, or merely took a stand between his charges and the predator, barking at the intruder until the coast was clear.splash dot!


He worked the way LGDs work, almost to the letter, and we soon noticed that we were not losing any more goats to the lions. The LGD was doing his job, and doing it well.splash dot!


By the time Uzi was a year of age, my husband would wake me up during the night saying, "He's really going at it tonight." Stan could "read" his barks. At times he (my husband) knew that the bark signaled that Uzi was sounding a "distress" call and needed help. He needed a back-up.splash dot!


Uzi pup

Old Uzi dealing with the hot summer sun

Stan would go out there with a loaded rifle and a flashlight. As soon as Uzi saw my husband approaching, the white dog would run ahead chasing off the marauders, leaving my husband behind to guard the flock. He'd come back finally and if he could have talked, it seemed he would have said, "All's well now, boss. Go back to bed." The rest of the evening would be quiet.splash dot!


In time it seemed that the lions didn't like us anymore. At least they just didn't come around much anymore. The coyotes were always a problem and they didn't derive their title "wily" for nothing. Nonetheless, no matter what their maneuver to find a weak point of attack, the white dog with the almond-shaped eyes seemed to outwit them all. Always in the morning we found the whole herd intact.splash dot!


The predators knew to stay away from here.splash dot!


The years drifted by and our herd grew by leaps and bounds. Uzi helped "deliver" goat kids (at least he thought he was helping,) and I still recall the day that he called me out and led me way out to a far mountainside to show me a new lamb that had dropped. The ewe was standing there mothering the lamb, allowing Uzi to help her clean off the afterbirth. I marveled at her trust for him, but more so at his nurturing nature.splash dot!


There were those long, hot summer days, year after year, that I would herd the goats up into the mountain pastures, and always the LGD was at my side. He watched for the flock and for me. His hackles would rise and he would run into the distant shadows on far up mountainsides, barking at some unknown intruder. He'd wind his way back and take us, his charges, all the goats and me, the goatherd, back to the farm. If he could talk, I'm sure he would have said (out of breath,) "there's something out there and it's dangerous and I don't want any of you out there today."splash dot!


How many times we walked together, the guard dog and I, excursions over mountain passes and dry streambeds that we both knew by heart. There was that deep pool of water not far from where my goats liked to cross over Joe Hall, the one he would suddenly splash into.splash dot!


"Come on, Uzi," I would prod, while I looked over at the dog standing in the still pool of water, cooling down. Then he'd get out, shake himself off, and resume his work. We'd walk on together and I'd unconsciously lean my hand upon his back, my palm resting on him, nay, more than resting on him – but rather leaning on him. I leaned on Uzi's strength in so many ways. We traipsed around with a capricious band of angora goats, just that white dog with the almond-shaped eyes, and me.splash dot!


Uzi pup

The shepherdess's vanguard

Stan had a peculiar and special relationship to Uzi, to be sure. But somehow "I" was the chosen human in that dog's life. It could be because I always was there with the goats – the herdswoman, the person who walked the goats to far away pastures where the water ran cool and the pasture was lush. It could be because I was the one carrying the big dish of food out to him in the morning. (What an appetite he had!)splash dot!


Then came the days that I began to see empty dog food bags. Just one per month, perhaps, strewn, torn, way out in the back forty. I was pretty sure it was the big white LGD, and I thought he'd been pilfering from garbage cans, wondering why the dog would want to carry home an empty dog food bag.splash dot!


We're a rural place with a lot of farms, but there's one little lot where a lot of people live kind of like they do in cities – all butted up against each other with trailers and houses. One of those neighbors, in fact, had a couple of dogs that were trouble-makers as far as I was concerned. Uzi had run them off our place over and over again, and I'd caught them chasing our sheep and goats more than once.splash dot!


One day that neighbor drove up our rutted driveway and I could see he looked irate. Usually an easy-going guy, I guess he'd had it with my dog.splash dot!


"He's been eatin' my dogs' fod, haulin' it off right from my front porch -- and I'm tired of this!" The man, still sitting well within the confines of his pick up truck, pointed at the innocent looking white dog on the other side of the fence. Uzi knew him and slowly wagged his tail, smiling a greeting.splash dot!


There were expletives shouted and I held my breath. My neighbor then leaned on the door of his cab to open it. My eyes were riveted upon the seam under that door, however, for a white foamy cascade was slowly pouring forth onto my driveway. When the door opened, a beer can fell out with a rattle and a kerplunk to the ground.splash dot!


Uzi pup

Guardian of all that is his

He picked up the can and placed it into his truck and threatened again. (pointing a finger in Uzi's direction) - "that ---- dog's got to stop stealing dog food!"splash dot!


I was mortified, knowing then the truth of all the empty sacks of dog food I'd found. My dog had been doing wrong. This LGD had been a thief all along.splash dot!


"Please, Jack," I stuttered, "let me reimburse you just a bit." I ran into the house and found a $20 bill and returned shortly. "Here – for damages. Buy some dog food. I don't know how I'll keep him from your place, but I'll try. Hey, Jack – I know you guys keep an open bag of dog food on the porch for your dogs. Can you maybe put it in a plastic trash container? I'll send Stan over with more money so that you can buy a locking trash can..."splash dot!


"Well, uh, thanks..."splash dot!


"When Stan gets home, he'll talk to you..." I weakly offered again. Surely this was a nightmare.splash dot!


The irate neighbor left, his tires leaving rubber on the asphalt in front of the house. Stan got home shortly (thankfully) and I told him our present dilemma with a thieving dog.splash dot!


I tried to curb his bad habits, but my neighbors never did buy a lock-up trash can to keep their dog food in, and I would still on occasion find an empty dog food bag in the field. I would cringe when I did. Somehow this big LGD felt he "owned" not only our acreage, but all the adjacent property from here to the Tiller Market. Nothing was "off limits" to Uzi. He owned it all.splash dot!


It was one year ago in mid-September on a bright sunny day and Stan and I made plans to attend a wedding. We rarely leave this farm (anyone who knows us well can attest to that,) but that day we did. The wedding was lovely. We visited my parents and got home at dusk. I immediately ran into the goat yard to check on the big buck that seemed so sick in the morning. He was 100% improved and I sighed a great sigh of relief.splash dot!


Then I heard the sounds of a dog squealing. It sounded like Uzi. I looked into the deepening shadows and thought that he'd somehow gotten "caught" behind a garden fence and couldn't get out.splash dot!


"Uzi, be quiet," I remanded. He stopped the noise immediately, obeying me. Then I went closer and tried to locate him. He wasn't behind the garden fence after all. I saw that he'd opened the gate to his big kennel and his big white form was back there at the back of the kennel.splash dot!


Uzi pup

Always checking out anything different or strange

"Uzi, boy, what's wrong? Come on," I called to him, expecting him to walk to me. He couldn't rise, however, and I knew something was very wrong.splash dot!


By then it was only darkness with only a glimmer of light in the sky. He was lying there stretched out, panting hard. I put my hands on his body. He was bloated, his skin as tight around him as a tympany drum.splash dot!


I ran into the house and called Stan, but inside my heart I already knew we were too late.splash dot!


He didn't last very long after I discovered him there. It seemed to me then and still seems that he was waiting for us to come home – just to be able to say a "final goodbye."splash dot!


Stan drove madly to Medford to try to find some medication that might relieve the bloat. Meanwhile, I stayed home with the dying dog. I leaned over him that night, my heart in my throat, holding that big cumbersome head in my lap. I wanted him to live, so desperately did I want him to just get up and get well.splash dot!


Poisoned? We wondered about that. Gastric torsion? Probably...splash dot!


I knew with a goat that has bloat in its last stages you should use a canula and pierce the goat's side. I was half tempted to do that with him. I refrained, however. It didn't seem the right thing to do, and I could see that the dog was slowly leaving me.splash dot!


The stars twinkled in the black September sky above me and I leaned down into that fleecy white fur that always smelled so clean, calling his name for the last time – wondering if he could hear me, so that he would know I was there. He then breathed his last and with a final shudder, was gone.splash dot!



Uzi pup

We miss you good buddy!

My life was a virtual daze for a long time after that. Day after day I went out alone with my goats. I was walking all the old paths to the very same pastures, up the same mountainsides -- but there was someone very important no longer with us. At times I wanted to lean the palm of my hand right there on that warm fleecy back..splash dot!



Within two weeks the fox scat began to appear, and then coyote scat very near the goat barn. It was as though the predators knew that he was gone. They were becoming emboldened by the lack of his presence. They moved in closer and closer.splash dot!


Today seems an appropriate day, one year later, to give him this tribute in writing. He was a good dog, the best of livestock guardian dogs. He kept his flock safe and kept us safe, too, and today – a whole year later – I still miss him immensely.splash dot!


goats butting heads


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Alexandra Scribe
Homestead Home


Stanley & Alexandra Petrowski
34620 Tiller Trail Hwy.
Tiller, Oregon 97484