In contrast to the ease in which Quincy Dog has integrated into our household and farm, I submit to you, dear reader, this P.I.T.A. canine. She is coming up on her two-year-old birthday and is still quite juvenile. One day last fall, I was out doing chores, she had escaped again, and I heard a ruckus near the chickens. She’d caught one that had flown outside their pen. I started chasing her with the ATV and she bolted, chicken in mouth. I finally caught up with her in the tree farm next door. She was laying low, and looked like she was burying the victim. She bolted again and ran for home. I looked and looked for the chicken, but couldn’t find it. I retraced our steps, white feathers marking the trail. It wasn’t dropped anywhere. I drove back to the tree farm and walked the row where I saw her lying down. Only to find the chicken, stuffed head-first down an excavated tree hole. The chicken was relatively unharmed and wound up surviving the ordeal. But I had lost my patience. On a day that this crazy dog let me touch her, I nabbed her, and tied her up to a stake in the ground, like a dog in the seventies.  She was quite sad-faced about this new curtailment.Open-mouthed smile 

This was last winter. She was rail-thin, shedding strangely in December, and had a weird, hard-swollen vagina; raising concerns about some kind of hormonal problem. She’d had a “split heat” the prior year, so this added to the suspicion that something was amiss in her endocrine system. I had the  vet run a blood panel on her, but nothing emerged. We agreed that spaying her would be a good thing to try, possibly eliminating hormonal weirdness as well as some of the desire to wander. Not to mention, eliminating the risk that she’d be bred by a coyote and produce for me a litter of ten nightmare hybrid puppies.

It took some time and plotting to get a surgery appointment and a plan in place for getting her there. We drugged her for the trip. It didn’t help much. I managed to drag her into, and through, the clinic to the back room, where they promptly knocked her out. The vet said she had a huge and very bloody uterus. It’s possible she was in another split heat, rather than clear of her cycle that should have ended weeks prior.

For her recovery and time in the cone, I bought a 6-foot chain link kennel run and set it up inside the barn, so she’d be double-secure. I bedded it with shavings so I could scoop her poop and pee. Which ended up being somewhat irrelevant, because she barely ate and drank in her two weeks of sequestration. By the second week, she was somewhat anemic and I was concerned. I took her back to the vet for a follow-up exam, but was not able to drug her that time. On the way, she pooped in my van twice, and stepped in it. Disappointed smile I suggested we do the exam in my van, so as not to create further drama and mess. The staff insisted we bring her in to an exam room. Once inside, she peed about a gallon on the floor. Winking smileWell, I tried to warn them. (Pet vets, <sigh>.) There were no findings from the exam. So I put her back in the pasture, tied up again. She instantly returned to normal. So, it was just kennel stress that was putting her in a bad state.

StickHeadNow that she seems stable, I’m starting my next iteration in schooling attempts. A friend of mine from Illinois shared this brilliant invention for preventing digging under fences, a PVC head collar that’s rather big for squeezing through holes. It’s taken a week or two of design tweaks, but I think this may work. Right now, she’s inside a hotwire enclosure, but once I’m satisfied this thing will stay on her head, I’m going to turn her loose in the larger pasture and see how it goes.

I’ve pondered different outcomes for this dog. I considered re-homing her, with my craigslist ad reading something like this “90 lb chicken killer and livestock chaser, prefers to range over a 20 mile radius, can escape any fencing, frequently goes feral and cannot be caught. Other times, extremely silly. Not leash broken or housebroken or socialized to strangers.  Knows no commands, does not come when called. Eats a hell of a lot. $100 re-homing fee.” Who me?

Given that, the only remaining option is to persist and get her trained and functioning in the role that she was bred for. My prior Maremma, Bronte, was a similar challenge, though maybe not quite as bad, as she was not an escape artist. I worry about all the ways she could come to harm: escaping and getting hit by car, getting shot by another farmer, getting that stick or some other training contraption stuck in something, suffocating, drowning or starving to death. Or, from fighting coyotes or domestic dogs. Then I realize, it’s the main job of these dogs to be put into a position of risk. Their role is to mitigate the potential for thousands of dollars in damage to livestock. LPDs in wolf country regularly get killed, so by comparison, our farm is much safer. But, for all LPDs, their fate is a complex brew of survival odds, valor, hardiness, scrappiness and ability to learn and adapt. Crossing my fingers she figures out her proper role in the coming year and settles into its weighty responsibility.