This is one of the things I remember from when my daughters were newborns – being awake, unwillingly, at 3:00 a.m. and trying to shush a wide-awake and inexplicably crying newborn. Wishing for all the world that babies were as easy to take care of as puppies.
Now my girls are seven and five, sleep through the night, and tend to their needs by themselves most of the time. But yet, for the last few nights, there I was again. Blearily awake in the early hours of the morning with a whining baby. Bumbling through the darkened house. Begging her to go potty out here and not in there. Hoping and praying that she’ll go right back to sleep when she’s done, so I can grab a few more blessed hours myself.
Granted, this baby is a puppy. My wish of seven years ago come back to haunt me because, as it turns out, babies and puppies are both essentially the same level of hard at 3:00 in the morning.
Rowanberry (Bubblegum) the Brave.
Just plain old Rowan, if we’re feeling casual.
Rowan is the newest addition to our family and our little farm-in-the-making. She’s a Great Pyrenees/Maremma mix puppy; commonly known and referred to as an LGD or Livestock Guardian Dog. Like their name implies, these are dogs whose purpose in life is to guard livestock. It’s what they’ve been bred for and done successfully for thousands of years.
Right now we’re a bit thin in the livestock department (heck, we don’t even live on the farm yet!) but we know that one day we’ll have plenty of critters for her to guard. More importantly, and the real reason we got her, is that we have a couple of free-range children. These dogs are naturally protective of young creatures in general, and their family in particular. Our hope is that with Rowan on guard, we’ll be able to worry less about coyotes and cougars and bears when the girls are out playing in the woods; and I’ll feel safer at night from two-legged intruders when Jasper’s away at work.
We didn’t make the decision to get Rowan lightly. In fact, we started talking about it back in January, and put a deposit on her months before she was even born. I’ve researched the breed voraciously, and read all I can on training these kinds of dogs. But still I’ve been a bundle of nerves the last week.
It’s been more than a decade since I last had to train a puppy, and I’ve never had this kind of dog. Una and Juniper are both herding dogs, and thrive on having direction and being told what to do. Rowan is different. For thousands of years dogs of Rowan’s breed have been expected to think and act independently. They have been turned out among their flock and left alone to guard and protect them.
I have to remember to keep that in mind while training her. She’s a little more like a child that way than a dog. I’ll teach her my rules and I’ll give her the best foundation I can. But then the rest is up to her.
We’ve only had her for five days, but Rowan is quickly picking up house-training and last night (despite the opening gambit of this post) she only had to go outside twice, giving me a solid five hours of sleep. It was heaven.
She’s learned her name, and will come when called if I’m proffering the right treat. She’s learning not to chase the chickens, and to walk on a leash. She is not learning not to chase the cats; the cats, likewise, are not learning not to hiss at her every time they see her across the room. She’s also not a big fan of riding in the car, which makes it hard to bring her to the farm with us. We’ll keep trying though.
She likes to play tug of war and to nap next to us while we read. She loves to play in the fields, and burrow under drying cut grass. Avery and Iris throw the grass up like confetti and Rowan smiles with absolute glee as it rains down on her.
I can already tell she’s going to be a very good dog.