No dog is better for this duty than the Great Pyrenees. Originally a Spanish mountain dog, their job was to guard sheep in the mountains when the wolves come out after dark. Big and hearty, they have a sweet disposition until they sense a different manner is needed and that's when they earn their keep. They are nocturnal, sleeping most of the day but coming alive and ready for action in late afternoon. With their thick coat and large body, they love the great outdoors and have no interest in coming inside. Just feed them and show them a little love and personal care and they are friends for life.
But there is a problem that they have, similar to most large dogs designed for work. When they get bored, they get bad. And last night was one of those nights. It started out normally enough, a raccoon and a possum breached the perimeter and they drove them away. Coyotes could be howling nearby and they keep a watchful eye on all points of entry. They repeatedly made their nightly rounds, looking for the barn cats and checking on the chickens and geese. And while the horses were spending the evening in a separate fenced pasture, the dogs repeatedly came to the gate and stopped and listened for any indication of distress, in which case they notify us immediately. But then, after their patrols were done and the evening quieted down, they got bored.
Molly the rat terrier who sleeps in the den on the floor wanted to go out. She heard the big fellas' carousing as they do on a cool night and wanted to get in on the action. I could hear the three of them rough housing, went out with my spotlight to find Molly looking like a scatback on a football team weaving and moving past two big linemen.
Once Molly came in, it was quiet. I walked outside at midnight and looked around but didn't see them. I supposed they had curled up for a snooze in the barn as they frequently do, a place where they can be alerted quickly by nature if the are needed. Then I turned in.
Walking outside just after first light this morning, I headed to the barn to prepare grain and hay for the horses before feeding the barn cats and the big fellows. And that's when I found out why they had been so quiet. They had gotten into the horse equipment containers and had scattered things all across the sloping yard between barn and pasture. There were leg wrappings, halter straps, liniment bottles, and even a small pony blanket among the carnage. Walking back into the barn after picking things up, I also found that they had turned over a heavy tool cart with the obvious scattering of a wide assortment of wrenches, screwdrivers and other implements. The worst part was having to pick up the nuts, bolts and screws which had fallen from the destroyed packages.
Finishing the clean up while I muttered under my breath, the two bad boys sheepishly walked into the barn, holding their heads down yet wagging tails. Now I must admit that I was angry and I wanted to give them a piece of my mind, but instead I just looked at them sternly, said nothing, and walked away ignoring them. They put their tails between their legs and went into isolation behind the tractor in the shed.
After I finished my chores, I brought out their food bowls and called to them. At first they were very sheepish but when I called each by name they approached. I took a moment with each, wanting to let them know that I love them but didn't appreciate their behavior as I fed them. They are acting very cautiously toward me this morning but they still know I love them.
Will they do it again? Yes, but not tonight. They always give me a break for a few days before resuming their previous ways. In the meantime, I will try to "dog proof" the barn some more and remove anything that can become an object of their boredom. But in the end, I know that they are big, working dogs and they are doing what dogs do. And the bottom line is this: it's just part of the price you must pay for a wonderful protective service. I know they love us and they would do whatever they could to keep us safe and secure and that's what's really important.
So here's two our two Great Pyrenees, Val and Sal (short for Valentino and Salvador), may they be with us as part of our family for a long time. Dogs: A wonderful gift from God. You just gotta' love them.