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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Bronte is six. Where does time go? When I brought her home, it was in a hurry, to deal with immediate coyote-killing-sheep problems. She was a half-grown pup, who grew into her job, and maturity, very slowly. At the time, there was no time to think about spaying, I needed her out with the sheep yesterday. And, I think part of me thought I may have wanted to breed her someday. But part of me always thinks that, and thus far, has always been wrong. Even her breeder stopped breeding LGDs. The litters are huge, the pups grow fast and eat a lot, it’s tough to find suitable working homes for them, and sometimes you get them back later and have to re-home them.

Later, we got Moses, so I had a backup guardian dog. Moses was already neutered when he came. I started to think about spaying Bronte, but there still didn’t seem to be any urgency. Knock on wood, we just don’t have issues with loose or stray dogs here, so there was little concern she’d be accidentally bred. I considered whether maybe I’d never spay her. I waffled. This would be no ordinary spay, on many accounts.

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I don’t bother picking up the sheep placentas in the pasture, because the sheep move on in their graze every couple of days, so the afterbirth doesn’t pose much of a biohazard to them. Bronte the LGD eats a lot of them, but eventually she gets full. She tends to opt-out of eating her proper dinner almost the entire two weeks of lambing, because she’s eaten so many placentas! Sometimes she finds them while they are still exiting the ewe, and she gives them a gentle tug to hurry them along. Smile with tongue outOne of the many humorous and gross things that happens on a farm that makes a farmer just shrug. Placentas are very nutritious, after all.

I had the sheep in a few areas in the orchard near the house, where I didn’t put a dog in with them, so those placentas got left behind too. I figure some scavenger bird will find them and benefit from them, or else, they’ll fertilize the soil.

Sure enough, here is a pair of turkey vultures doing cleanup duty. I rarely see them land anywhere other than trees. I was able to sneak up and get a reasonably close shot of them on the grass (unfortunately beyond several sets of fencing, so they are somewhat obscured) before they busted up when they saw me. I sat down and got a few more shots while they lingered. They circled and circled, apparently reluctant to leave behind those delicious placentas- I’m sure those were a good find!

I never realized what these guys were until our neighbor got a close-up shot of one sitting in a tree, where you could clearly see his red, featherless (and rather unappealing-looking!) head. When I saw them in flight, I always assumed they were some variety of eagle. They are bigger than a hawk, but not quite as big as the bald eagles we see so often here. The patterning on the bottoms of their wings is very distinctive, however, if they are flying low enough to see it. Thankfully, vultures are indeed more of a scavenger, and less of a concern for predation.

We have multiple bald eagles that return to this valley each spring to nest and stay for the summer. I get uneasy when I see them fly over the lamb crop, but so far (knock on wood) I haven’t lost any lambs to them. A friend of mine who lives upriver on the North Fork Stillaguamish has a lot of trouble with eagles getting her lambs. For us, Bronte is a pretty good deterrent. Kirk has seen her come leaping up out of a sound sleep to chase off a bird that was zoning-in on the sheep. The eagle had to put ‘er in reverse pretty fast in midair to avoid that six-foot-tall, grizzly-bear-dawg standing up on her hind legs!

This dude (or gal?) was sitting on a fence post in dense fog the other morning, hopefully also just focusing on placentas, not eyeballing my live lambs! Annoyed

Our game cam is revealing just what busy bees our coyotes are. Here is a gang of four captured in one shot at The Hangout. This crew triggered eighteen camera shots over a span of about a half hour.

FourCoyotes

Just generally fiddling around in this spot, coming, going, having a seat, and possibly tinkering with figuring out what makes that camera flash and click.  The infrared flash isn’t bright, it’s pretty subtle; but still noticeable to a clever dog, I’m sure. There are a lot of shots of them looking right at the camera.

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What kind of scat is that? Poo from the Foona-Lagoona Baboona? (The remarkable Foon, who eats sizzling hot pebbles that fall off the moon.)

Well, I think I know.

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Moses arrived here in the spring of 2010, a middle-aged, retired show dog. His former owner sent him home with me in a most presentable form, fully bathed and groomed, ready for a show. Here is what he looked like upon arrival, fearfully meeting grubby Bronte:

BandM1

In retrospect, the bath was a bad idea, as he was not waterproof for a few weeks, and got really wet when it rained. But it was mild weather, and he survived the short but difficult transition to farm life.

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Polite Sitting at the GateSome readers already know his background (but in case you don’t) our LGD, Moses, is a retired show dog. He’s a finished champion that was never really cut out to be a “campaign dog,” travelling the road for years, racking up group placements and best-in-show wins. So, he’s here now, and farm life seems to suit him much better. One problem I’ve faced with him is grooming, however. Ironic, since he must have spent a lot of time on the grooming table when he was a show dog. But perhaps this is one reason he needed a career change, as he hates being groomed!

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