Friday, February 23, 2007

Farm Dog vs. Lap Dog

When I was a kid, our beagle had puppies. This was a highly monitored event. My mom got a big box and lined it with clean blankets and put it in the kitchen. When the dog started giving birth late in the night, we got up to watch, and got up several times throughout the night. We made sure they were free of their sacks, and that their mom licked them and that they nursed. Those puppies were adored! When they got older, my mom put an old playpen in the living room and we put them in there to romp. We loved taking them outside and rolling around with them.

Fast forward to today. Molly and Luke do not come in the house, unless it is really cold or stormy, and then only in the laundry room. They swim in the pond and roll in the dirt (and in Molly's case other more fragrant brown patches). We have not had Molly fixed because we thought someday we might breed her. She is a full-blood Australian Shepherd, which are extremely smart animals, and very helpful as farm dogs.

I am an advocate of spaying and neutering in general. When we first got a cat on the farm, Farmer Boy and I did a little math project in which we determined how many cats would born from our female over 10 years if she had five kittens a year, and each of them had five each year. It was astounding (if I remember correctly it was over a million). We spayed the cat, and Luke came to us neutered. It is much easier to control a female farm dog's reproductive life than a male's.

Nevertheless, this time we had a surprise, albeit a welcome one. We had been discussing getting a livestock guardian dog for the goats, and now Molly has seen fit to birth two! We will have to see if they end up with stronger herding or guarding instincts. I am hoping for the latter as I'd like to put one with the dairy goats (we have five now, and babies due in the next month), and have one to put with the meat goats we will be getting in the near future.

Thinking back to those days of squeaky clean beagle puppies, I have to laugh. It took a great deal of convincing to get Molly to come out of the dog house so I could put a clean blanket in there AFTER she gave birth (you would not believe the condition of the one she actually birthed on). Later I went out and she had moved it aside so the babies were on the bare dirty floor. Even with more clean blankets she is tracking loads of dirt in every time she goes out and returns. We did not see either baby born, nor did we ensure she licked them or nursed them or any other good veterinary suggestion. She just did it.

It's not that we don't love our animals, we just have a very different relationship. In some ways it may be healthier for all of us.

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