Last week, we welcomed Beebe the livestock guardian dog to Runamuk Acres. This was one of those amazing opportunities that just lined itself up for me and was too good to pass up. I love it when that happens lol. The resulting journey to Downeast Maine was an epic adventure, and the canine protector I came home with will be a valuable asset to the farm. I am one happy farmer.
ISO Livestock Guardian Dog
I am always on the look-out for opportunity. That’s been a big key to the successes I’ve had as a farmer. Simply keeping an open mind, and being ready to seize the moment has led to so many wonderful opportunities.
At the same time though, I’m not one to simply sit and wait for Fate to do all the work. I decided to create an advertisement on Craigslist: “ISO Livestock Guardian Dog”─putting the concept out there into the ether in hopes the Universe would see fit to provide. In the meanwhile, I joined a number of LGD groups on facebook. Following other LGD owners through their struggles and successes helped me learn more about these animals. It gave me a healthy appreciation for what it was going to take to do a good job raising one to serve Runamuk.
The biggest hang-up I had was that I didn’t actually have the $1000-$1800 that an animal like that costs. The farm is gaining momentum now, but that kind of money is currently out of my reach. I had to hope against hope that someone out there would be kind and compassionate enough to work with this farmer to hash out some kind of payment arrangement or barter for goods and services. I knew it was a long shot, but I put it out there anyway. If you never ask, the answer will always be no. And sometimes─just sometimes─the answer might surprise you.
The chance to score my LGD came to me through Instagram and one of my local followers there. I am blessed with a supportive network of followers both in real life and online, and I am so grateful for it. Laura Casey @magicallyflatyeticorn tagged @RunamukAcres in the comments of a post on Instragram asking, “Do you folks know anyone looking for a guardian?”
I didn’t have any expectations when I reached out to the dog breeder @dawnland_wolfhounds on Instagram. Bravely, I asked my question and waited hopefully, for his response. It was a pleasant surprise when he returned that he was fine with a payment arrangement. He said he just liked seeing his dogs go to good, working homes. Overjoyed at this news, I made an appointment for the following day.
From the farm, it was nearly 4 hours downeast to Crawford, Maine. Having never been further east than Bangor and Hampden, this was quite the adventure for yours truly. Though the color was past peak foliage, the majority of the trees still had most of their leaves despite it being mid-October. The burnt yellows and orange hues made for a beautiful ride on a sunny Tuesday morning.
As I went further east into Washington county, I saw vast hillsides painted a burnished red by the scrubby, low-growing blueberry bushes. Our nights here in Maine have grown cold, most plant-life is dead or dying. They are withdrawing their energies back into their roots, deep down in the ground. But, oh! What a display the wild Maine blueberry makes across those barren fields! That is a sight I won’t soon forget.
After a couple of false stops thanks to Google Maps, I eventually arrived at my destination. I met Eric Bacon, who raises Central Asian Shepherds, as well as chickens and goats.
The Central Asian Shepherd
Even with all of the research I’d done on LGDs, I’d never heard of the Central Asian Shepherd─apparently they’re still fairly rare in the United States. This breed is a product of natural selection, bred not by men, but by climate and circumstance. Only the hardiest pups survived, and only those with strong guardian instincts were allowed to stay with the flocks. CASs come from a vast territory of land that spans from the mountains of Mongolia to the deserts of Kara Kum. It is a legacy that is merged with the civilization of man, and their timeline can be found by tracing the history of the ancient Silk Road. Today they continue to be widely used in Afghanistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kirgyzstan, Tadjikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
The Central Asian Shepherd is considered an “extra-large” dog, heavily built and powerful. They are extremely intelligent, brave, and self-assured dogs, hardy and adaptable. These are territorial guardians bred to guard people and their possessions. The CAS is extremely affectionate, completely and utterly devoted to their families, and they absolutely love children. They seek out human attention, bonding first with their humans and then with the flock. They will guard whatever is placed in their perceived territory.
Since I have 2 male dogs kicking around the farm already, Eric suggested I pick out a girl-pup to avoid potential conflict. He warned me that even then, I should be aware this breed is very territorial and protective by nature. He advised me to always be careful with visiting dogs.
There were half a dozen female puppies to choose from, many with the badger-faced markings that I’m so partial to. Only Beebe, though, had the pretty brownish-grey 2-tone coloring, with longer fur than some of the other dogs, and oh-so-soft to touch. Eric separated her from her siblings so that I could spend a little one-on-one time with her to make up my mind.
I knelt there on the ground, fishing peanut butter flavored training treats out of my pocket, while the other dogs barked in protest and goats bleated nearby. Patiently I proceeded to coax the puppy’s affection, feeding her the little nibbles, and loving on her the way that all dogs adore. When I would get distracted by my conversation with Eric, Beebe began nosing the pocket where I’d stashed the treats, demanding another and another. It wasn’t long before she rolled over for me to rub her tummy, and I knew I’d won her trust.
I had no doubt that Beebe was the one. Just in the span of a few short minutes the pup had already proven herself a quick learner. Already she’d given this farmer her trust. Having learned long ago to go with my gut instinct on such matters, I asked the man how much, and we proceeded to hash out a deal that suited both of us, though I think Beebe was the real winner this day.
“Seeing them go is hard, but once they’re settled in their new homes, that’s when their personalities really start to show. That’s when they become the dogs they were meant to be.” Eric told me as he said his goodbyes to the puppy he’d raised.
Life at Runamuk Acres
Beebe is acclimating quickly to life at Runamuk Acres, but she is not yet ready to assume her role as livestock guardian. Because of her size, it’s easy to forget that she’s only 5 months old─still just a baby. She has quite a lot of growing and training to get through before Beebe will be ready to take on a pack of coyotes. Right now we’re working on the basics: where to poop and where not to, “Come”, “Sit”, “Stay”, and “No”. We’re building a relationship, she and I, building trust and growing love between us. That is the most important thing, for it is love that will drive the dog to protect all that this farmer holds dear. And afterall…love is everything.
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