Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Between Dogs

We meet many of our neighbors while out herding the goats. 
Groups of animals have lived on this range for a very long time.. 
Cattle, horses, deer, sheep and goats have historically grazed and browsed. 
Feral horses which were maybe used at one time now "retired" as well as a few breeders  released by current residents have replaced Madrid's miners' burros which were released into the Ortiz and brushy tail mustangs that once roamed the lands lending their strength as Pony Express ponies... and the last remnants of the cattle herd grow fat even without a bull...
We add our hooves and hearts to the land but under an entirely different management plan. 
We always accompany our goatherd with ourselves on horseback and dogs to herd and dogs to protect.

As more people move in so do more dogs. Coyotes continue regardless, but the deer are long gone. Occasional deer tracks ceased appearing in the late 1990s as the drought made it too unattractive altogether... Our goats have begun to fill that niche in this environment over the last 10 years. 
The goats have an advantage over the deer-their own body guards! Over the years we have not had many incidents of dogs drawing blood, few goats killed. Most of these happened before we had a mature pack that lives to serve and protect. Whether I am aware of these things happening at the time or not I am made quite aware by how my dogs treat such dogs on subsequent encounters. 

Zuli at seven months single handedly defended me from a pack of three dogs (one a coydog..) after the pack had begun killing and scattering the herd while we were working for the USACE at the Galisteo dam. That was then. She was the only working dog in a pack of older farm house-dog mutts. 

Now we have a substantial pack which can prevent trouble. 
And the way they do this is really effective. 
They avoid real conflict, relying on their impressive size and confidence to intimidate and push the perceived threat away from their stock. 
In Eldorado they return dogs to their people, then rejoin the herd. They establish a territory in this way and are given respect thus preventing any issues. They are, of course capable of backing up their threat. Everyone knows that. 

But Maremmas are really kind and gentle creatures preferring that we all just live peaceably. 
They are smart.
I know a lot of the dogs out here by sight anyway. Some are penned and some stay close to their homes and so I know less about them. Many dogs like to come and greet our Maremmas and Aussies as we pass by their territory. Lots of wagging tails and some play even from old house dogs ensues. 

This black dog I met one day south of her home on the mesas. She had followed a car departing from her home up the road leaving home and was on her scenic return trip, quite unaware that the goats were drifting through. I was on a finger mesa watching the goats drifting just off and on the adjacent mesa east of my finger mesa. I watched from there with Dozer as dad on Pecos went around to push the herd back my way and toward home.  

Here trots along a long black dog.. Guppy did not much like her because I was giving the strange dog some of my attention, but had nothing much else to say. So the dog hung out for awhile watching the goat specks in the distance and such while Gup sulked under a tree.

Dozer payed no attention to the strange dog, we were as yet still untested on so many situations I was glad this was not an issue...

She is cute, but those ears! 

At some point Dog spotted this black pooch from her mesa with the goats who were beginning to turn this way... Dog was upset, she ran all the way down and up that little mesa-let in between, then all the way down and up again and was some winded by the time she got to me. 
She gave me a smile and a tail wag, before looking around for the dog...

Spotting her, Dog proceeds to push the black dog away.

Dog was jealous like Guppy, but also a guard dog and so told the dog to be on her way, and that was that. That was maybe a month ago. Last week the herd passed nearby the black dog's home and there was also a red dog there, they both stood in their yard barking. But something about the red one's energy the Maremmas took offense to and chased the dog south and east quite a ways. As the last of the herd left the valley two old does that were a little slow that day dropped behind a bit, they were still connected to the group, but hesitating... The black dog ran down to the goats and I thought "Ok she'll probably push those two into the group."... But only one did, the other evaded the dog by going off the edge of the arroyo stranding herself four feet below the lip and six feet above the ground. I tried to push the herd back to the stranded doe a few times, but the barking of the excited dog kept them from getting too close. The Maremmas were still returning from driving away the other dog. Once I made it back to the arroyo, and the dog, I was back-up to Bucky who told the black dog the gig was up. 
She ran off after the direction the other dog had been pushed... 

Like most encounters out here these days no one was hurt. The old doe was persuaded to find a way down and jumped in three foot increments to a fairly easy landing below. She eventually made it home. She is a wild individual and had little trust in me, but knew her way home...

So then a few days ago we were in the same neighborhood, but to the north of the house. The black and the red dogs saw the goats a ways off and began barking in their yard. The goats veered north and up the hill completely avoiding the entire area... but the Maremmas ran over to hold the dogs in their yard while the goats made their escape. I didn't really expect that reaction, but accepted it. I was too far away to do much about it and figured the white dogs would catch up as we left the danger area... The dogs' owner came out to shoo away the Maremmas before long. and all was quiet. 


  1. I know those ears! That's Arie. She's a sweet girl, but I have no idea what she thinks of goats! I always gave your herd a wide berth when I was hiking out there. I wasn't sure how my dogs and your menagerie would get along. Now I wish we crossed paths! Someday, I'll be back...

    Keep up the great posts! I miss that country! Mary

  2. Thanks for for the note, Mary! Arie is a sweet girl.. I look forward to a desert encounter with you and your pooches one day... Happy travels!