Smart. Alert. Confident. Strong. Fast. Agile.
A watcher, both on the perimeter and in the middle of her flock.
Has a job. Does it day and night . . . relentlessly.
I mean RELENTLESSLY.
Will frisk you upon entrance.
Family. Companion. Man's best friend.
The overused cliché holds water here.
For this: we love her.
Lenna came to us from Florida. She was whelped of a Maremma x Anatolian Shepherd cross. She is a product of her genetics, large enough to fend off predators, yet quick and agile enough to also catch them if needed. She is just as much a part of our family as our one and half year old daughter. Working when we are sleeping or away, she is the boss of our farm and keeps everything in check. Without her, it is inconceivable how many livestock, chickens in particular, we would have lost.
She does everything we ask. She is near 100% on recall, and she can hold a "Stay" for 5-10+ minutes when we are in a bind. Other commands that are second nature are sit, down, drop it, and not yours. She can walk with us on a leash like she is a 10 pound dog. When we talk, she listens. She is smart. She knows what we are saying.
We didn't know we needed a livestock guardian dog. We didn't even know that there were different livestock guardian dog breeds. Here in Michigan, it is common to see and hear of farms that have Great Pyrenees. There was a lot to learn at first. It was a new part of farming that we had not considered before. After losing chickens to aerial predators one summer, and knowing that there are fox, bobcat, coyote, and bear that live nearby, we needed answers. What is our defense against predators at our farm? When goats are kidded, or when baby piglets are born what truly protects them? There was no answer to that question other than this: a fence, of course. That was a legitimate answer for the goats and pigs, though not totally predator proof, and not an acceptable alternative for our poultry. We have Icelandic chickens, brahma chickens, and guinea fowl. Free ranging them without fences was a non-negotiable cornerstone of our farming philosophy. That's when we decided we needed a livestock guardian dog.
So far, in Lenna's young life as a guardian, there has been a dead opossum, over 25 porcupine quills (a better story to tell in person), the time a stray dog was fast approaching (we witnessed this one), the chasing off of a coyote, a skunking, and a whole lot of unknown. I say unknown because we know we have predators, aerial and on the ground, yet we will never truly know, other than the cold hard proof stated above, how many times Lenna has guarded her flock. How many predators has she barked off? How many chickens has she saved? To what else do we owe her for her unconditional guardianship?
Until a person has a livestock guardian dog, one truly doesn't know what they are missing in life. These dogs are exceptional in every way. They are, to put it succinctly, the rudimentary version of what man's best friend aspired to, with a wolf's heart.
When we have to leave our farm, we do it with confidence knowing that our animals are taken care of.
For all this, we owe Lenna our unconditional love as companions at Terroir Farm.
Lenna means "lion's strength". She certainly lives up to her name.
One warm July evening, shortly after Clover's arrival at Terroir Farm, Todd told me to look inside Clover's hog barn. He had watched her build a nest earlier that day, which meant she would likely be delivering within 24 hours. How exciting! I hurried over to take a look.
"Guinea hogs are especially gentle with the young pigs ... Right before farrowing, they may behave differently, as in they carry small items or hay or grasses into the hut or to their chosen birth place to build a nest."
Excerpt taken from Curly Tales, the American Guinea Hog Association Newsletter
I hopped the short hog panel fence right away and gave Clover, who was taking a drink, a "Hi there" and quick pat. When I made my way back to her shelter for a peek at the nest she was building I was surprised by a movement in the hay. I yelled back to Todd, "either there's a mouse in here, or she has already had the piglets!"
That's when I realized I was in a vulnerable position. I was down on my hands and knees, peeking in on the newborn babies, and Clover was somewhere in the pen behind me. Yikes! I scrambled up to see what she would do. . . nothing. She was not concerned about my presence at all. Phew.
As they nursed, slept, and explored in their first weeks of life, Clover showed excellent mothering skills to her first litter of 7 piglets. She was attentive and gentle, and even displayed her protective instincts when we picked up the piglets to assess their gender and body condition. A squealing piglet is sure to get mom's attention fast! She grunted her displeasure as we handled her babies but never acted overly aggressive or tried to bite us.
Our first farrowing experience was surely memorable. We are thankful to Becky Mahoney for picking out such a gentle hog to be our first "mama pig" here at Terroir Farm. Check out our expected guinea hog litter page if you are interested in adding these gentle hogs to your homestead. Click HERE to learn more about American Guinea Hogs.