PupIt has been nearly three months since Bronte was diagnosed with bone cancer, with a stated typical timeline of roughly six months left to live. I have switched her to a ketogenic diet and started treating her with CBD (an extract of marijuana, minus most of the THC), in an effort to slow the cancer’s progress and buy a little more time. She is doing very well thus far, most days just slightly favoring the leg and still very cheerful. The wrist tumor is getting bigger, however. This timeline weighs heavy on my mind, both knowing that Bronte doesn’t have long to live, and also that I don’t have a lot of time to get her replacement trained and functioning reasonably well.

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This summer our ditches were cleaned by the Drainage District. For a few weeks, this was the view from our kitchen window.

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Worried

Our new pup is a Maremma. She was born on a 2,000 acre ranch. And I don’t mean “the breeder who produced her owns a 2,000 acre ranch.” I mean, this pup was born and reared in an environment where she and the group of dogs into which she was born ranged over 2,000 acres. Naturally, the dams of the litters stick close to home when whelping and rearing young pups. The breeder described that at sixteen weeks, the pups still weren’t ranging far from the safety of the homestead. But, they were indeed ranging, and acclimating to the lifestyle of learning to protect a large span of territory from predators. She hails from Eastern WA, where wolf packs are now a force to be reckoned with, and most ranchers are needing to run large groups of LPDs to protect their livelihoods.

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BronteKneeA few weeks ago, we got some bad news. It started with Bronte showing some lameness on her front leg around the first of July. I wasn’t initially alarmed, since the dogs do injure themselves sometimes with all the running they do on uneven ground. There was a little bit of swelling in her knee, but not much, and she was still getting around just fine and was cheerful. I gave her some NSAIDs I had left over from her spay, and it seemed to improve.

Once the meds were gone, it got worse, however. The swelling increased, as did her lameness, and her demeanor started to change, as if she was in more discomfort. I worried that perhaps it was a bigger injury, like a tendon that needed surgical intervention. I called to make an appointment to have it x-rayed. My description to the vet that it was a strange, “hard” swelling made her instantly say “bone cancer” on the phone, even without seeing it.

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Last week I attended a talk on the new Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD). This continues to be a topic that “everyone is freaking out about” when I don’t think most need be. On hand to present were Amber Itle, a WSDA Field Veterinarian and Cat Marrier, a WSDA Feed Specialist. I was already pretty familiar with the law change, having read up on it when it was proposed in the Federal Register, and following it as it became law. But I did pick up a few tidbits of interesting info I didn’t know!

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The most common model used in the U.S. for managing lambing time is to “jug” each ewe into a 4×4’ pen in a barn right after she gives birth. Most people leave ewes jugged for several days. This definitely helps the ewe be sure to “learn” all of her lambs, and not get confused by any intruders into the birthing scent cone. It also gives the lambs ample chance to nurse on a ewe that’s not a moving target, to learn the smell and sound of their dam, and to gain practice at finding and using the ewe’s teats. If there is a problem during jugging, intervention is easy, since they are all easily caught in such a small space. The upside of this practice is reduced mis-mothering incidents (either caused by the dam’s or the lamb’s behavior), which can be a source of lamb losses.

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The grass is looking fantastic this spring, we’ve had a great mix of warm weather and rain. The abundant feed is a gift, but it comes with the overhead of moving fencing every few days. I was able to start grass rotation on the south property March 5th, and the sheep just returned to that area two weeks ago. It is reed canarygrass (RCG) so though they grazed it down to nubbins in March, it is already taller than me and forming seed heads! It is both a very productive, and vexing grass.

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