It would seem that the birds in this area love these fish too: Crows, eagles, hawks, etc. Its hilarious watching one of the smaller birds like the crows struggling to carry a large fish while flying away to its roost. The downside is that some salmon have “liver flukes” which are absolutely deadly if ingested by dogs. People had warned us about this, but I figured our Maremmas were safe from this, because they’re always penned up.
We were in the midst of a huge storm—days of it with wind factors of about 80-100 mph, driving rain, and several 12 hour long power outages–when I noticed that Zephyr was just standing in huge puddles (can I say small lakes) of water in the pasture. Strange….but I thought that maybe she was entranced watching a wild mallard or something in that same small lake. A couple of hours later, after having brought everyone in for the night, I noticed that she was just standing by the barn gate that faces the house, sheets of water pouring off of her, just staring at the front door…then she sat down in the huge puddle and started to go to sleep sitting up. When I went out to see what was up with her, her ears were burning up. Luckily it was still early enough that we could rush her in to the local Vet… temperature of 104!! According to the Vet, who administered a huge dose of antibiotics and steroids to Zephyr, she had somehow gotten into some salmon. Those liver flukes move FAST once they’re ingested and alot of dogs simply die because they don’t get the necessary antibiotics soon enough. Remember those crows carrying fish away from the river?…well, it would seem that one of them lost part of its catch in our pasture!
Now comes the good part. These 115 pound dogs live 24/7 outside. They had been in a car four times—-when we first got them and now three Vet visits. They are NOT house dogs by any stretch of the imagination…had never even been IN the house…. Until the 7 days following Zephyr’s rush visit to the Vet. Because of the rain, and her lack of desire to get OUT of it, part of her treatment involved keeping her inside a sheltered structure—aka a garage (don’t have one) or house. oops.
The two Maremmas have very different personalities; Zephyr is terrified of anything new– a brush, a toy….anything and Maya is totally blase about everything except the kittens…. Hence, when I tried to lead just Zephyr into the house, she stopped cold at the front door. One does not easily move 115 pounds of dog somewhere where that they don’t want to go!! Remember its still pouring rain through all of this. The solution I came up with was to bring Maya inside too, but bring her in first…. Maya, on a leash with me trying to hold onto the other end, eagerly burst into the house…all three cats tore up the walls onto whatever they could find that was high. Corky, our sheltie, simply tried to make herself smaller than she actually is…hence invisible. Once Maya had crossed the threshhold, Zephyr allowed herself to be led inside too. YES!!!!
Now, of course, I had two soaking wet, 115 pound dogs in my living room. Dogs that had never been housetrained. I led them into the 6′ x 10′ laundry room—with washer/dryer/freezer, essentially a 4′ x 8′ space covered with cedar shavings for this event—set them up with water and then sat down with them for a while to calm them. Before I left them for the night and closed the door, Bob put a little motion activated nightlight on the freezer door for them…what a guy!!
That night, there was no barking. Amazing. I had expected that we would not be getting any sleep that first night. Not only were they quiet, but they also only had one “accident”—and that from Zephyr after drinking about a gallon of water. In reality, this can’t even be referred to as an “accident”, because I had never even introduced them to the concept that civilized dogs do not use a house as a toilet. In the next seven days that we had to keep them inside (with only occasional outside forays), not only did they not bark all night long, but they also had no more “accidents”. Seemingly, they just knew what was appropriate house behavior! They were so cute in that itsy bitsy little living space all curled up next to each other; outside unless they’re rough housing, they grumble at each other if one stands “too” close to the other and they sleep and eat miles apart—each has their own little “den”.
I am SO impressed with the intelligence of these girls!!!!!
It was shortly after the last antibiotic pill had been devoured by Zephyr, our alpha dog, and they were again outside….Zephyr, not quite up to her game yet….. that we seemingly had a change in alpha status. Maya attacked her. If you’ve never seen two huge dogs seriously go at each other you’ve missed a thrill. When these girls stand up, fighting, they’re as tall as me! ….and I don’t have all of those teeth.
According to books on livestock guard dogs, to break up these fights, you should preferably have two people. Each of you is supposed to firmly grab the hindquarters of a dog and simultaneously pull. Right. I have first hand knowledge of THOSE teeth!!! …but Maya was decimating Zephyr and I knew from previous bouts with these girls fighting that neither yelling, nor water would have any effect. When I saw Bob reach out for Maya’s rump, I had nothing to it but to grab Zephyr at the same time…..fully expecting to see a snarling mass of teeth heading my way. Amazing…… I was still in one piece!!!….but Maya hadn’t let go of Zephyr’s neck either. Both Bob and I were holding onto our respective dogs with all our might with one hand and pounding Maya’s nose with our others. Finally she decided to let go—but in her “own” time. She was alpha….at least for now.
We kept them separate for the rest of the day….and Zephyr again was kept inside…this time by herself. She had puncture wounds all over her neck and front leg joints which needed to be closely monitored. When we finally put the girls together again after a respite of a day or so, Maya went out of her way to growl threateningly at Zephyr…but after that, everything was ok again….at least to date!!
Supposedly, the most difficult team of LGD dogs to raise are dogs that are: 1. the same age 2. two females Oh joy.
On the bright side, we have had absolutely NO trouble with predators—even though there are over 50 bears on the hillside right across the road and sightings of 50# coyotes on our farm and a mountain lion in the area. Damn fortunate, as if all goes according to plan, we will be having lambs here in about a month! Sheep shearing is tomorrow in anticipation of this event and I’m looking forward to seeing what these girls look like naked. Should be hilarious!