I’m back home and done with travelling for a few months. While I have loved meeting new friends and teaching in other states, it has taken several days to feel like balance has been restored around here. As my sweetest of husbands said (more than once)… “we fall apart when you are not around”. My being gone is a relatively rare occurrence…. I am the homebody after all. Neither one of us is ever gone for long, but in our 25 year marriage, he has had to travel much more than I have.
Charlie and I are a team in the truest sense. There are so many things he is skilled in that I simply fumble thru with mediocrity. Likewise, just as God intended for us, I am adept in areas that Charlie manages (with determination, if not skill) in my my absence. One of these is animal husbandry. My first college degree was in Animal Science from Texas A&M (’89). Aside from the enormous amount of science preparing me for pharmacy school, that degree has served our lifestyle well. Soil health, animal husbandry, genetics, nutrition…. all of that. While I did pack in the practical knowledge during those college years, it did not give me the gift I use the most….. intuition. I say this humbly, but I have the gift of being able to (usually) intuitively manage our ‘farmily’…. and in doing so, we have a remarkably smoothly run farm…. despite the diversity of animals. We co-exist… all of us… fur, feathers, two, and four legged alike.
Back in April, we had one of the roughest months emotionally that we’ve ever had. I still can’t even think about it without getting tears in my eyes. Among other things, we lost two dogs in two weeks to cancer…. one expected (at the ripe old age of ~15), and the other, completely unexpected, at the still fairly young age of ~9. Because I’m just not ready to put that story to text yet, I’ll leave it at that. The younger dog was one of the best dogs we’ve ever had the privilege of sharing our lives with.His name was Foster, and he was a rescue…. part Border collie and part Australian shepherd. Because he was so incredibly intuitive himself, he quickly became an asset to our farm, and became my right hand dog when it came to working with the cows. He learned (on his own, I might add) what I needed from him, and did an amazing job of keeping the cows from crowding me ever much. In losing Foster, I lost a pet, a friend, and literally, a ranchhand. The loss was tremendous.
Although we were no where near ready to open our hearts to a new dog, I knew we needed to put feelers out quickly to fill the position that Foster left behind. Let me tell you, his pawprints were big to fill. We first looked for a rescue, and then expanded our search to include “working cow dogs for sale” when all we heard was the sound of crickets in our preliminary search.
“seeking adult dog, preferably of Border Collie or Australian Shepherd breeding. Must get along with other dogs, cats, chickens, horses, and cows…… and squirrels (surely you see my problem here). Dog must be savvy and show instinct to work cattle. While we prefer to adopt/rescue, we will pay for a trained dog if necessary (the first time we have EVER considered doing this, but our need was huge).
A week into our search, I got the following email: “we have a dog that may interest you. She is a return to our rescue group and is seeking a home in the country. She is half Australian Shepherd, and half Great Pyr. She shows strong herding instinct with sheep and goats, but not sure about cows. Gets along well with other dogs and cats… not so sure about chickens or squirrels.”
We agreed to give her a try. Her name is Daisy, and her two week trial period became a lifetime commitment for us. She is not perfect, but she’s growing by leaps and bounds in terms of workability with the cows. (Again… another story for another day!)
I bet you’re wondering where all of these tidbits of stories tie in together? Daisy is an incredibly smart dog. She is one of those dogs who has the ability to do whatever is asked of her….but she is like a kid who is so smart that she thinks she needs to be the “boss of all of that”…. ie: she wants to be the Alpha Dog.
Memo to Daisy: Ain’t nobody gonna be the Alpha Dog, but Mama Dog.
Memo to Mama Dog: If you aren’t around, Daisy Dog volunteers & assumes immediate responsibility for said position vacated by Mama Dog.
The interesting thing about all of this is that if I go run errands, or leave for the day, all is well and my leadership is not questioned. Daisy behaves and defers to Charlie (most of the time). But apparently (as evidenced by my leaving…. really leaving…. and coming back 3 times in 21 days), once she thinks I’m out of the picture, she assumes the crown, the cape, the scepter…. and becomes a ruling army of one.
- She is marginally obedient to Charlie’s commands (even when I am home).
- She challenges our livestock guard dog, Lilly… every chance she gets.
- She runs the bull (and other cows… but especially the bull) when she knows she shouldn’t.
In effect, when I’m gone…. Daisy becomes a bully. The personality of the other animals consequently changes as well, and it’s not for the better.
Animal psychology is so very interesting to me, and I wish I could speak to them. I’m hoping that animals speak when I get to heaven so that I can have some of these conversations and figure all of this out! Daisy adores me. She worships the ground I walk on, and she is already my #1 protector….but she challenges leadership of both man and dog when I am not around.
Today, I’ve been home for a week, and things are back to normal. She is obedient and doting on my presence. I can feel the other animals relaxing their posture when she is around.
It’s good to be loved, but this power struggle in my absence is concerning. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!