Speaking of Maremmas — we’ll just make this “Maremma Week” on the blog — here’s our old girl Gina in a photo I took a couple of days ago. She had just been “retired” from a career producing puppies for a Maremma breeder in Vermont when we offered to take her. She only had two puppies in her last litter, and she was thin and worn out. We got her spayed, fed her back into condition, and gave her time to rebuild her reserves. She became our first livestock guardian dog, and helped raise and train Aaron for us when he came as a puppy. For three years now she’s gone out to pasture every day with the goats and other dogs, but about mid-summer this year we realized it was time to retire her from guardian duty.
She was struggling to keep up on the daily hikes going to and from the pastures. Though she wanted to go, the length of the treks would wear her out. (We’ve had her hips checked out and she’s okay.) And then on several occasions during those walks, much to our consternation, she’d just wander off in a totally different direction and disappear into the woods. We’d have to continue on with the goats and other dogs to get them into their pasture, then return in search of Gina. It’s not like she was going into the woods to lay down. No, she kept going! This was the perplexing part, given how at other times she’d seem to tire from the walks.
We think we might have been seeing the first signs of doggie Alzheimer’s, because it was very odd behavior to just walk away from us, the goats and the other dogs. She’d never done it before. When we’d catch up to her she’d have this look on her face that said, “Um, what am I doing here?” Otherwise she seems fine … she’s happy to greet each new day, bounds out the gate with a spring in her step, has a great appetite, and eagerly looks forward to going out every morning.
What we do now is put her in a pasture right next to the goat barn for the day — kind of like an elder day care facility, if you will! — and she hangs out there while the goats and other dogs are in distant pastures. At the end of the day we bring her back to the Maremma pen in the barn, where she joyfully greets the other dogs when they return from goat duty. She’s kind of like the ‘welcome home’ committee. So these days she’s on her second retirement and enjoying every day!
Those beautiful blue flowers in the photo are fleabane, a.k.a. “a weed”, which will be gone as soon as we rotate the goats back into the pasture Gina is in. (Gina says, “Jeez, I hope I don’t get any fleas from this fleabane.”) Here’s a photo of one of our goats, Melody, eating a fleabane flower earlier this summer:
And speaking of goats, we’ve grown the goat herd large enough now that we are starting a small farm goat meat enterprise to help generate some additional revenue for the nonprofit. A couple of weeks ago we rolled out a website for this venture, called Munching Meadows. You’ll see that same photo of Melody on the home page. I’ll be posting more farming related topics on the blog associated with that website.
2014 Shelter Challenge Underway
The latest round of the Shelter Challenge for 2014 is underway. It began July 14 and ends September 21. You can vote every day at http://www.shelterchallenge.com/. To search for us, type in our name, Rolling Dog Farm, and Lancaster, NH 03584. We’ve won thousands of dollars in the previous contests, so your daily votes do bring in serious money for our disabled animals!
Please note that I cannot help with technical or voting problems. If you find yourself having issues, please consult their FAQ page and their Rules page.
Thanks for your votes!