This article has taken me a long time to write, as it is so close to my heart. I wanted to write a short article about a new role my two LGDs, Tisza and Boris, have assumed since February, 2020. However, I cannot relate the heart-warming part without relating the painful story of the precedent and catalyst for this addition to their duties.
Tisza is my senior LGD, a seven year old spayed female Kuvasz, with a penchant for escaping from any and every kind of gate or enclosure (electric excluded). She has protected my 12 sheep, 2 goats, 4 geese, 40 rare ducks and 30 rare breed chickens since she was six months old. In February, 2018, I picked up a 3 month old male puppy from Chenil des Grands Blancs. Miksa adapted very well to his new farm and his mentor. Tisza was amazing in training him and correcting inappropriate behaviour. I spent time every day supervising his training, as well as taking him to puppy classes. Tisza continued to find ways to escape, usually at night. Miksa never escaped or showed any desire to escape. They lived with the livestock 24 hours a day, with breaks for short walks and grooming. Tisza’s independent out-trips never lasted longer than an hour and she would always end up at one of the doors of the house. I have tracked her in the winter and repaired fences and gates countless times. I did make a lot of mistakes with her initial training, which would make a good subject for another article!
Miksa grew into a big, handsome male with a lovely temperament and good LGD instincts. I was very proud of his participation in the Kuvasz Specialty in the summer of 2019. We actually did complete a short course on Standing for Exam, even though there was no evidence of that at the dog show!! He was neutered in December, 2019, and recovered very well as a temporary house dog, even keeping the cone on for the full recommended time.
At the end of January, 2020, I had an issue with daytime mink attacks on the Ancona chickens. I moved a temporary electric fence to give both LGDs access to the poultry area. That solved the mink problem very quickly. One morning towards the end of January, I found Tisza outside the kitchen door. I was not overly concerned until Miksa did not answer my call, a morning ritual. I started to panic. There was enough snow to track, so I found the chain link gate that Tisza had dug open, and I followed two sets of dog tracks down into the river valley. Miksa’s tracks were all over the ice at the dam, and it looked as if he had been hunting something.The tracks crossed the river and then I lost them. For four days we had a team of searchers out in areas around the river dam, posted notices everywhere in the neighbourhood and on Facebook Groups. There were no sightings. On the fourth day, I called my brother and asked him if he would bring his coonhound to help track. We split up and the hound went up the railroad tracks, I walked up the parallel hiking trail and a friend walked up the other side of the river. It did not take long for the hound to find Miksa. He had been hit by a GO train. Words cannot describe the agony of loading him onto the toboggan and pulling him out to the road, loading him into my truck and bringing him home to the farm. I brought Tisza to say her goodbyes, and then my Pumi, Pippa.
At the same time that I was grieving Miksa, I knew that I needed to get another LGD before Tisza was too old, but my heart was not ready. Then, at the end of February, Marie-Paule Pellerin came to the farm with a 6 month old male, Boris. Tisza took to him immediately, although he was cautious, of course. He is an exceptionally affectionate dog, and I think Marie-Paule knew that he would be like a balm for my heart. I walked everywhere around the farm and the trails with him. Since Miksa was found about 1.5 km from the farm, I surmised that he had crossed the river on the ice and could not find his way back. I wanted Boris to know the surrounding area intimately. I cried into Boris’s fur, and he would try to climb into my lap when I would sit on the ground. He is an enormous Kuvasz. I purchased a Sport Dog Containment System for Tisza, as backup to the high tensile electric fence and the 6 foot perimeter fence. I also made the decision to put both dogs into the barn at night, rather than leaving them outside. I could not risk another nocturnal escape.
My 89 year old mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease last year. She and my father moved to the little bungalow in-law suite on the farm 5 years ago. She is still fairly independent, and after being widowed 2 years ago, she was lost and miserable. She asked how she could help me, as her greatest desire is to ‘feel useful’. She started to take care of the 2 barn cats, feral rescues. She is the only one who can touch them and groom them. She buys them toys and feeds them. When I started putting the dogs in the barn at night, she asked if she could brush them. And so began the new roles for Tisza and Boris as therapy dogs. Mum calls every night to find out what time they are coming to the barn. She bakes special treats for them and they have their own special grooming kit. Tisza and Boris are happy to go into the barn every night and I can rest assured that the contents of the barn are safe from intruders! Both dogs lie down on the floor so that Mum can brush them. She is very tiny and frail, and Boris weighs a lot more than she does. His back is also level with the top of the chest freezer. Each dog gets a brush, followed by a T-Touch. They are so good with her, gentle, loving and affectionate. When she leaves the barn, Mum always leaves a message to say how well behaved they are!
About once a week, Tisza goes to visit Mum in her house. She immediately checks everything in the house, and then jumps up on the couch and waits for her special treats. It is such good therapy for my mother, and both dogs still take their LGD role very seriously from dawn to dusk, they dispatch rabbits and other undesirable rodents, they drive off predators and sound the alert every time an unfamiliar car comes up the driveway. When my grandchildren come to visit, they always ask to go and hang out with the dogs and the sheep. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to work alongside these magnificent dogs.
(This blog was previously published in Echoes, the newsletter of the Kuvasz Club of Canada)