A good dog is an invaluable asset on a farm. Sometimes you don’t really realize it until they’re gone. We lost our dog, Sheila, in early December. She had been with us for a decade, showing up on our doorstep soon after we moved to Tennessee from Texas. She had been abandoned by some irresponsible neighbors and we took her in. The vet thought she was probably about a year old. She was no special breed, but likely had some chow in her. Being an independent thinker, she just did her own thing and listened if she felt like it and most of the time she didn’t. If she barked she meant it and you knew someone was here or something was up. An expert hunter, I would often run across dead woodchucks, armadillos and rabbits she had killed in the yard. One day I witnessed a fox dash out of the woods in broad daylight and grab a chicken. Sheila was on it in an instant and chased the fox away AND BROUGHT THE CHICKEN BACK BY HERDING IT HOME. She was amazing. I lost no livestock on Sheila’s watch. But now she’s gone.
Earlier this year my two ducks just disappeared, along with 6 of our meat chickens. Some time later my neighbor found feathers on her woodline and we thought maybe it was a bobcat that had gotten them. That was the end of it for awhile, then three weeks ago I began losing layers. Every weekend for 3 weeks in a row I’ve lost layers, a total of four now. I finally caught the predator in the act this past weekend and it’s definitely a fox. He wasn’t afraid of me, just stared at me with his creepy orange glowing eyes and eventually trotted off. If he was eating the chickens or taking them back to feed babies, I would have a little sympathy. But he’s just ripping the heads off, leaving the carcass, killing for sport. We reinforced the chicken house, although many of them don’t sleep in there anyway, and started locking it up at night (something we hadn’t needed to do with Sheila around). Those that choose not to sleep in the chicken house roost in the rafters, so they’re probably okay. I don’t know how to shoot a shotgun but I’m going to learn, and I think it’s time to get a livestock guardian dog. He’s getting my chickens now, but what is next, my baby goats? If he follows his pattern, he’ll be back to kill again this weekend, and my husband will finally be home and hopefully can shoot him.
This wouldn’t have happened on Sheila’s watch. I miss my dog.