They say that dogs are “man’s best friend”. And people talk about the relationship between man and dog, but unless you’ve actually experienced that connection it’s really impossible to comprehend just what it means.
I’ve been around dogs all my life–my family had a dog when I was growing up, and then when we embarked on our own life together, Keith and I went to the local animal shelter and found a dog who needed a good home. That dog’s name was Tamra and she was with us for 11 years before she passed on. And then there was Ava–if you don’t know the story of Ava–click here to read all about it.
But none of those dogs were MY dog.
The dog chooses it’s owner–I firmly believe that. No matter who claims it, the dog will always choose the one person it prefers above all others. That’s not to say that the dog won’t love anyone else–most dogs are happy to be loved and petted and taken for a walk or a car ride by just about anyone who will show them a little care and affection. Such is the nature of dogs. But there will be one person that a dog will really bond with–one person who it will give it’s life for.
So, yes–I’d known dogs, but I’d never had one of my own before. Not till I found Willow.
After moving to the property back in December, one of the first animals I wanted to invest in for our farm-expansion, was a livestock guardian dog. I’d been looking for and waiting for “the right one” when I found a local woman who needed to re-home her pyrenees/anatolian puppy. Willow was 4 months old, and I fell in love with her the instant I saw her. That was back in March.
Read more about Willow’s arrival at Runamuk by clicking here.
At that point Willow was already the size of a golden retriever. She came from a home very different from ours–she’d been crate-trained, and allowed to eat chips and people-food on the couch with an 11-year old girl. So I worked dutifully with Willow–house-broke her, taught her to leave people’s plates alone, to sit, to get off the couch upon command, and to go lay down.
Willow is an incredibly timid dog. Vehicles–especially the Runamuk truck–frighten her. Strangers and new dogs scare her. Loud noises, objects out of place, or change–all make her nervous. We joke about the fact that she has got to be the most cowardly livestock guardian you’ll ever meet, but the fact of the matter is–she patrols the farm, barking to scare away prowlers in the dark, even going up against the resident porcupines (even if it is foolhardy) to protect out goats and chickens from mayhem.
I’ve worked with her through all of her fears, some still persist, but we’ve made good progress. The last time she had to go to the veterinarian’s office to have porcupine quills removed she actually went into the building on her own–I didn’t have to carry her in–and at almost 75 pounds–I can’t tell you how happy I was not to have to pick her up!
We take walks together and play little games that only she and I know. She’ll come trotting out with a big stick–almost more of a log at 4 feet in length–and she waits for the customary praise that I am only too happy to give.
She has become my constant companion when I am working about the farm. Joining me in the goat-pen to play while I feed the critters, or waiting for me outside the chicken coop. She accompanies me to the garden (though she still needs to learn some respect for the beds and the crops planted therein!), lays in the shade nearby and keeps guard dutifully while I spend hours weeding. Willow watches and waits while I move from one chore to another, waiting for the opportunity to get close for hugs (that’s right! she actually gives hugs!), pettings and words of love.
She can be stubborn–especially when she’s nervous–and she’ll sit herself down, deciding that since she’s big and strong she doesn’t have to move if she doesn’t want to. But when she looks up at me with her soft brown eyes shining and her tongue lolling, I can’t help but forgive her–sinking my fingers into her soft fur and petting her the way I’ve come to learn that she likes.
For the first time ever in my life–a dog has chosen me as it’s person. I’m sure it is due to the dedication, adoration, understanding and support that I’ve shown her. We just seem to connect–she understands me, and I understand her. And we’re there for each other.
It’s a beautiful thing–that relationship between man and dog. And she truly is my best friend.