Thursday, May 13, 2010

Beginning the Animal Cavalcade

There are lots of animals here at Sliver Moon. I'll begin with the Maremmas. Shortly after we moved here, I purchased a female puppy from Sara and Dan at Buckwheat Bridge Angoras. She is the dog draped around my neck in the photo to the right. I'd never had a Livestock Guardian Dog before, and raising her through adolescence was a trip and a half. As a puppy, she regularly pulled on the fleeces of my Angora goats. Unfortunately, after they were shorn that spring, she repeatedly tore their skin with her milk teeth. They weren't scared of her, but Super Glue became my ally. I took to keeping a bottle in the barn.
As Phoebe grew, she became fast friends with our pony Nellie. They chased each other all over the pasture, often with Phoebe latched to Nellie's tail. They did have occasional bouts of adversity, which resulted in small tears in Nellie's nose and episodes of limping on Phoebe's part. Mostly, they were buddies.
When Phoebe matured, she was a great dog, attentive to her duties in keeping the coyotes at bay, yet gentle with my grandchildren. She was sweet, and followed us around the barnyard, leaning against us whenever we paused.
Last spring around this time she was diagnosed with an encephalitis of unknown origin. We had her on antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs, all to no avail. In three weeks she deteriorated from a gentle, loving dog to a seizuring, circling shadow of her former self. The last morning, I carried her to the car to return to the vet- no small feat, as she weighed about 95 pounds. She began seizuring on the way. By the time we got to the vet, she appeared to be partially blind and was attacking anything within reach, including me. I had her bite a towel, at which point I was able to muzzle her. Her temperature was over 106, and she died shortly thereafter.
Nick and I were heartbroken. I loathed going to the barn to do chores. The pony was depressed, and quickly ran to fat and foundered. She spent all of last summer with a grazing muzzle, eating only hay soaked in water per the vet's instruction. It took months for her to get better.
I began looking for a new Maremma after a few weeks, both to act as guardian and to fill the gaping space her death had left in the barn. Maremmas are a great breed, but there aren't a lot of them, and come most often at a price that was beyond our reach. At the end of August, I was contacted by someone I'd spoken to earlier in the summer. He had one pup left, and we were able to purchase her.
So now we have Phoebe the Second. I don't normally name dogs the same, but somehow this seemed fitting. She was four months old on arrival. That's her pictured at the top of the blog, taken about two weeks ago. She's been a bit less trouble as a puppy than the original, possibly because the sheep and goats had their fleeces during her milk tooth stage. She's developed a particular affinity for Eric, one of the alpacas. They play- she pulls his tail, he alarm calls, she stares at him. He waits for her to do it again. It's as though she considers him her personal squeak toy, and he concurs. I hope to get a video someday. They also sleep together.
She's had big shoes to fill, and that has taken her some time. The original Phoebe came to us at six weeks old. She bonded with everyone and everything quickly. The present Phoebe arrived at four months. She was unsure of herself and wasn't sure we were "her" people. That has changed over the course of the winter. She is delighted to see us, proud of her charges, and has begun her guard barking when the coyotes roam.
It feels like home again.
Post Script: The puppy on the top above is the first Phoebe on her first day here. The Phoebe on the bottom is our present dog upon arrival.

1 comment:

  1. Ahh! The extended metaphor of the blog title!!! Glad you figured out how to set it up. And pictures even.