A little brief on our LGD Moses, living in retirement after a successful show career in the Kuvasz ring. He has been here over a year, and is doing very well. I think he really likes this life with no obligations, and he definitely feels triumph each time he “wards off” a passing bicyclist or slowing car! Then he goes back to snoozing.

I still have a pretty strong suspicion that  his vision is bad, that he is very far-sighted. I see it often, in little things he does.

Navigating Farm Life

I think in a household environment, it would be less apparent, because things are more static, predictable, and there are a lot of “aids” available, like leashes and structured places to be. It’s well known that even blind dogs do just fine in a home. But on a farm, there are wider spaces to navigate, no leash guidance, changing environments, moving livestock, rough ground, obstacles, and different lighting. So a vision deficiency would be more apparent there.

MosesInHouseLight and Approaching Things

During winter, when I do a lot of work by flashlight and the headlights of the ATV, he really shies away. He is not at all comfortable in that glare, and flinches if I pat him, like he only sees shadows coming at him and worries he might get hit in the face. He mostly stays back, away from any commotion, in this kind of lighting. The other dogs, and the sheep, are quite comfortable in the same light.

He is very flinch-ey in general about a lot of things- things moving toward him, like the tractor or ATV, an unexpected hand, or me carrying something large. He is super paranoid I might run him over with the tractor, even though I steer clear of him, and am only driving about two miles an hour! If I didn’t know better, I might be one of those people who claims, aw, look, he’s been abused. But he wasn’t, he’s had a pampered life. I think he just can’t see. It makes me wonder how many rescue dogs are rescues because their eyesight is bad, their behavior is odd, so they end up in rescue with somebody saying that, aw, look, someone must have beaten him… But, a beaten dog, and one that’s crashed into a lot of things he can’t see, probably act about the same: constantly anxious about getting smacked in the head unexpectedly.

Wait, those are Bridges? Over Water?

On days when I’m working outside, I’ll let Moses wander loose in the unfenced pastures with me. He likes to toodle around, sniffing and exploring. But he has been very cautious about crossing our AG ditch bridges, even though they are four feet wide and very stable. These he prefers to navigate on his own, if I try to coax or help him, he becomes fearful of falling and shies away. I have noticed him exploring unfamiliar bridges very carefully on his own; and once he checks them out, he seems to memorize them and crosses them with more confidence in the future. Sometimes he wanders too far on the “other side” of a ditch, and can’t remember where the bridge crossing is. He is not confident enough to jump across the ditch like the Border Collies do, so I have to walk over and show him where the bridge is.

For a while, I was feeding him on the “other side” of one bridge at a gate, to separate him from Bronte and prevent fighting over food. He had gotten used to this routine, and every day, he’d spin in excitement as he crossed that bridge, in anticipation of me setting his food bowl down. Each time, I’d notice the clumsiness of his acrobatics, like he wasn’t entirely aware that there was a six-foot drop into deep, muddy water on the sides of that bridge. And  yep, one day he got a little too stylish with his spin move, and down he went. Now, the Border Collies make an art out of diving off that same bridge, and they can also leap clear across the ditch from a standstill, if they want. It’s not a dangerous spot for an athletic dog that can see. But Moses fell hard, like falling off a cliff, and completely panicked at the shock of the cold water and the surprise of the steep and muddy ditch sides. He managed to scramble out, but I could tell it completely traumatized him! He was so upset, he didn’t want me to come near him afterwards. He has been more conservative on that bridge ever since!

See No Evil

And speaking of the fighting over food, things are better now. But part of the problem was that he always finishes his dinner first, while Bronte picks away at hers. He hovers, hoping to snag some castoffs from her, or finish her bowl if she abandons it. Bronte is one of those “silent warning” kinds of dogs: she’d curl up her lip and give him violent, stiff body posture to warn him away from her bowl. He had no clue; zero reaction to this message whatsoever. He’d wander right into her “zone,” and she’d tackle him. I feel certain he wasn’t doing it on purpose, because I could tell he hated fighting and was very traumatized and flinch-ey afterwards, especially because she always wins. Now he’s finally got it down, how close he can get without triggering her wrath, the fighting has all but stopped and they can eat in the same space.

Min Pin Sprint

He does spot passers-by on the road just fine, and loves to run along the fence line, “encouraging” them to leave. So he definitely sees things at a distance. If he’s far away, he runs as fast as he can to get to them. But his running is hilarious, even his most vigorous gallop is a choppy, short-strided affair. It’s possible that his cobbier structure just doesn’t support an all-out “double suspension” sighthound sprint like Bronte can do. For her one stride, he takes about five mini-steps. But I suspect it’s again his vision, that he takes small steps on purpose to reduce the risk of falling hard if he encounters an unseen obstacle. When he’s not hurrying to deal with an intruder emergency, he tiptoes very conservatively through the tall grass, and acts disappointed if he gets left behind as all the other dogs sprint around. Sometimes he reminds me of the proverbial kid with a crutch at school. I’ll be busy working, the collies and Bronte are in constant overdrive, and I’ll notice he’s crestfallen because he can’t keep up, struggling cautiously through the tall grass trying to stay with the group. And then, of course, I feel sorry for him and wait up and pet him. Smile

Don’t Fence Me In

He is very reluctant to enter confined spaces. It took him forever to warm up to using the dog houses, even though he prefers shelter. I tried commanding him inside them a few times, and he’d reel and cower, pleading, don’t make me… So I let it go, and he eventually figured it out on his own.

When I move the Electronet, he will get thrown off by its new location and proximity to the permanent fencing. He is extremely sensitive about being shocked by the hotwire. Well, all of our dogs are, but I think it’s especially  traumatic for him; like he’s just had a life full of unexpected and unseen surprises, and he could do without ever having another one again! So often when I move the hotwire, he’ll get “stuck” on the other side, and be afraid to pass through the wide-as-a-truck channel between it and the main fencing. He’ll bark and I have to go “rescue” him and let him follow me through the first time. Then he’s ok. I think he follows his own scent trail after that, because if he passes through again, he’ll carefully follow the same crooked path he may have taken before.

When I look up at his barking self “trapped” back there, he wags his tail, lowers his head, and shows the whites of his eyes, like he’s a bit apologetic about his dilemma. I’ve long-since stopped chastising him for being a chicken, because now I am sympathetic to his apparent difficulty and I respect his cautiousness. But I think he has a long memory of people (surely myself, and maybe others) saying, oh, for God’s sake, you have eight feet  of navigation there, get going, you wimp! So, he acts a little guilty, pleading and anxious, like he knows it’s not normal that he is afraid to go where the other dogs rush through. But he can’t help it, he is afraid. He always seems so relieved when I let it slide when he’s anxious about something. It’s nice that here, I rarely need to make him do anything. So he can choose what perils to embrace and when to steer clear.

Nekkhamma

The other interesting trait he has is that he likes his pasture and doesn’t mind being “put away.” Most dogs, you know, always dilly dally when you ask them to go back to confinement after being “loose,” whether it be back into a kennel, the house, or an exercise pen. And then they act all bummed if you leave them. But Moses goes back through the gate when I tell him to, promptly and while wagging his tail; like he is pleased to be put away. I have never seen a dog do this before, and he does not act  disappointed when I lock the gate behind me and leave. He just seems really comfortable with his simple world, like he is some kind of old soul who is completely fulfilled just by the simple rhythms of life.

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