dogabuseA sneaky person posted this, and another similar homemade sign, out by our pasture this week. My favorite part is the one about the bed. ­čÖé Seriously, it is a double-edged sword living on a well traveled road, with our pasture visible to passers-by. On one hand, we can sell as much lamb as we could ever produce, and we’ve made a lot of new friends.

On the other hand, we get a lot of interruptions from people stopping by to ask questions about the sheep, or to let us know there is a dog in our field! :-0 This can get annoying, but I try to be polite to these well-meaning folks, since they might want to buy lamb from us.

We are blessed to live in a region where there are many well-off, well-educated┬ácity folks who make it a priority to purchase meat and produce┬áfrom local farms and natural or organic sources. And they are willing and able┬áto pay top dollar. The flip side is, these people don’t always realize how farms work, even good farms, and they can stir up trouble for farmers.

The anonymous signs raise an interesting question- is the life of a livestock guardian dog abusive? Is being out in the rain and snow with no shelter detrimental to our dog’s well-being? Well, to be fair, there are meager shelters in our pasture, so she’s not quite shelter-less (but I’ll tell ya: she’s never going to get a bed!) She doesn’t choose to use the shelters, however, she seems happy to be near her sheep, and indifferent to the weather, gleefully rolling about in the mud and getting filthy.

She is a Maremma, after all, this breed has been developed for centuries to do this very job. They are equipped with a double coat, which keeps them quite warm and dry at the skin (even when they appear drenched on the exterior). They are generally a very lazy dog, Bronte sleeps most of the day, and entertains herself by digging holes and wandering about the rest of the time. She is not terribly interested in people or other dogs, other than to try to shoo them away from her territory. She enjoys hassling the llama. She likes her homemade dinners I bring ever day. When I leave the pasture, she doesn’t pine after me like a regular dog would. She seems, well, pretty happy, in her own, simple world.

And, for the record, actually she is wild- I have a hard time catching her without mechanical means or food bribery! Really, these LGDs are just not like a regular domestic pet breed of dog.

I, myself, have reflected on this subject of her welfare, because part of me considers an LGD’s life to be pathetic, compared to my perception of what a competition dog’s life can be. But, is that perception accurate? Our Border Collies live in the house and have a dog door that accesses a small potty area outside. So their environment is pretty constrained, unless we take them out for walks or to work sheep. And that’s better than most working Border Collies, who live in 8×10 kennels except at times when they are at work.

Our dogs can sleep on the couch and on the bed. Sleep is a common theme amongst all dogs, so no matter where they live, they usually snooze much of the day. Just as often as I see our dogs asleep on the couch, I see them asleep on the wood floor, or out in the dirt in the rain. So they don’t seem to care that much about bedding, or about rain. I think because we are bare-skinned and wimpy about rain, we assume animals are as well. But actually, animals stay pretty comfortable in most weather, if they are equipped with an outdoor coat and proper nutrition.

The Border Collies get to work sheep, and they are very enthusiastic about that. But, it’s not all fun- it’s hard work, they get yelled at when they make a mistake, they get hurt, and I often require them to do jobs that they don’t┬áprefer. I flatter myself to think they enjoy my company in the house, but would they trade that for 24/7 freedom in a pasture? I don’t know.

I have a friend who owns a Chihuahua, and that poor dog is always being  stepped on, scooped up, manhandled, and carted around. He often looks irritated and shys away from people. Who knows, maybe if he could trade his life in a jeweled handbag for a boring life in a rainy pasture, he would.

So, I guess, to manage public perception, we’ll put a dog house down in the pasture, even though Bronte will probably not use it. It’s important to me that people who drive by perceive that our animals are well-cared-for, whatever their definition of that may be. I could live without the belligerent, anonymous┬áhandmade┬ásigns. But, we do think these are funny. We’ve taken to calling the dog “No Bed Bronte,” because definitely, I am not getting her a mattress!

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