Valor lived up to her name today.
I was flopping into my office chair to write up some farm notes, when I heard a commotion out in the north pasture. Loud Gampr barking, and then more, even louder, barking. It was probably just the neighbor’s yappy little dogs, being obnoxious again and baiting Valor into reprimanding them. It happens at least twice a day, and she often falls for their teasing and barks back.
But, even so, she was certainly making a racket, and before I got comfortable, I decided to take a listen out the back door.
Valor was crashing around in the brush down in the creek bottom, barking wildly. And it wasn’t yappy little dogs who were causing the problem. I knew by the retaliatory barking that it was my other neighbor’s pitbulls.
I snatched up the phone and told my mom and dad to get down here. We needed help on this one. I didn’t know if the pits had actually gotten into the pasture or not. What if they had? All the goats were loose out there. We could be looking at a disaster.
I knew that at least one of these dogs was the same pitbull who, several years ago, had forced his way under the fence and attacked my miniature donkey. My mom and I had caught him and a second pit leaving the premises, and the donkey had multiple bites to her head and face. So, that dog, at least, had a history both of harassing livestock from outside the fence, and of breaking in and injuring stock as well.
My knees were weak as I went out to the pasture, hearing mom and dad’s car splashing down the muddy driveway.
There were three pitbulls. They were all grouped together, barking and running the fenceline down in the brush. And thank God, they were on the outside of the fence. They had not managed to force their way in, and Valor was adamant they weren’t going to. She matched them move for move on her side of the fence, barking and snarling ferociously, and putting herself between them and her turf at every strike they made toward the wire.
This is why I have livestock guardian dogs. The fact that Valor dealt with the situation independently, when I was not there, and then continued to do so when I showed up and encouraged her, is exactly what I want to see. She does her job both when I am there, and especially when I am not there.
This was also the first time I had witnessed Valor responding to a truly serious threat. Her aggressive response matched the severity of the situation. She was dominant, determined, and intimidating. I am very, very proud of her.
However, if the unthinkable had happened and those dogs had broached the fence, Valor, for all her efforts, could not have handled all three of them. Two of them probably, but not all three. That’s why most people work their guardian dogs in pairs, and sometimes in larger numbers. It was definitely revealing to see what a stark difference there was between her forceful response and Drifter’s lackadaisical reaction. He did at least show up. He was there on location, and at least visible, but he did not charge the fence or take any action. He did not even bark until he saw that my parents and I had arrived. And even then, his barking was halfhearted.
I had already made the decision to bring a second Armenian gampr to the farm later this year. And I had already made the decision that Drifter would be my last Pyrenees. This drama confirmed both of those choices.
When the pitbulls saw that there were two big dogs and three angry people stacked against them, they left. Valor got hugging and petting and praise and adulation from everyone. And okay, yes, Drifter got some sugar too. I mean, he was there, after all.
I am so thankful that I have a good guardian dog. Had those pits broken in, and had Valor not been on duty, it would have been a killing field.
But that didn’t happen. And it won’t happen. Not as long as Valor continues to be the confident and assertive worker I saw today. She has my back. And she also has the backs of the thirteen goats currently relying on her vigilance. We are all in very large, very strong, and very capable paws.