Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Dogs

Two of the major characters in Mystery Spins a Tale are Martha's Great Pyrenees, Falcor and Denali. Great Pyrenees have been used for hundreds of years to guard livestock from predators. They originate from the Pyrenees Mountains and were favorites of the French Court at one time. Today they are still used to guard their traditional flocks of sheep and goats, but they also guard llama, alpaca, fowl, and miniature horses among other critters. Besides being Martha's beloved companions, Falcor and Denali guard Martha's small spinning flock of fiber animals.

Falcor and Denali are based on all of the Great Pyrenees that I have known over the past twenty plus years. However, the core of their characters comes from my first two Great Pyrenees, Denali and Miles.

Denali - Miles

When Denali died of bone cancer at a much too young age, we got Pele. Pele's sister Maddie joined our family when Miles went over the Bridge. Here they are on a hike in the Cascades in Washington state.

Pele & Maddie_0001

Maddie was bred twice and Karlo, from her first litter, joined us when he was about six months old. Here he is in a mock battle with his Aunt Pele.

Karlo - Pele_0003

Many years ago, my friend Judy wrote this piece about Maddie when there was a discussion on the Great Pyrenees list as to whether you could get a good working dog from a breeder who also sold companion and show dogs. I still love it after all these years and decided to share it with you. Enjoy.

"Maddie, one of Veryl's three pet dogs, has been staying with me for the last two weeks, while her owner escapes our rain and mud in sunny Hawaii. Maddie has stayed here before, so I knew she was good with the sheep (my house is included within the sheep fencing). She has very quiet body movements, and basically ignores the fact that there are animals around her.

This morning I let her out to splash in the ponds and get covered in mud as is her routine (and not allowed at home). She did not come in when I called her for breakfast - definitely unusual. But I could hear her barking her presence to the world, so I wasn't concerned.

When I went out to feed the sheep, Maddie was in the loafing shed - vigilantly guarding one yearling doe (who didn't belong there), one ewe,and one newborn lamb. She wasn't disturbing the pair, wasn't trying to take over the lamb (a common problem with new guardians), she was just guarding. Then she would go out onto the bridge and bark a warning, and return. During the time I was feeding, she did one full round of the field, a solid bark down the creek, and ended up back in with the new family. Looking very, very happy.

My dogs are much more casual these days about lambs. Drew was lounging on the hill that overlooks the entire sheep area, Natasha out patrolling the fence line. I think that as the oldest dog, Maddie gets to call the shots on where her presence is needed.

Maddie is 8 years old, the mother of two litters - one of her "pups" is the 1996 and 1997 top winning Pyrenean in Finland, and a house and yard dog. A pup from her second litter is a full time Alpaca guardian in Alaska.

The first time I saw her was in a show ring, at my first show. She is, however, from solid working lines. Maddie herself has several working 1/2 sibs. One of her mother's sisters guarded llamas until she died at the age of 12. Others worked in other varying environments. Her mother's sire was not only a champion and producer of champions, but had any number of pups who guarded successfully on both small family farms and large open range situations.

I would gladly take this show dog, house pet, brood bitch as a working dog to protect my flock. Her instincts are obviously very much intact, she knows a job when she sees one, and does it. She can do, and has done, it all."

If you enjoyed Judy's comments about Maddie, you might enjoy her blog which describes life on her small farm in western Washington, a farm much like Martha's: Ravenwood Farm Tails