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  • Writer's pictureReyna Bradford

On Guard (written 1-21-23)

I do love her, but there have been times over the last year with Valor that I have considered her to be an absolute nuisance. Okay, honestly, most of the time I have considered her to be an absolute nuisance.

First there was her overly friendly, downright obsessive attitude toward people. She didn’t want to be with the goats or at the barn. She wanted to be with humans and in the house.

Then there was the fence climbing. That resulted in the aggravation of keeping her chained until I could find someone to rig up a hot wire. A hot wire, by the way, which came with a fifteen-hundred-dollar price tag. Ouch.

Then there was the frustration of the wire still not working, even after all the fuss and expense.

And then, when all that nonsense was finally more or less resolved, there was the long and tedious process of slowly and methodically integrating Valor with the goats so that she could actually do the job for which she’d been obtained, and for which all this other hassle had to be overcome.

She has been more work and more worry than all three of my previous livestock guardian dogs combined.

However, this morning, we saw some tangible evidence that it’s all been worthwhile.

This morning, I headed out to the barn to get everyone fed, watered, and out the door as usual. And there was Miss Valor, on the wrong side of the fence. You have got to be kidding me. It’s been eight or ten months since she’s conquered a fence. The hot wire did an awesome job of keeping her contained. But, as the fickle things so often do, the hot wire hadn’t been working for the past couple of months. It's on the list to get it fixed, but things move slowly, and the job hadn’t gotten done yet. And now, there she was, whining and wagging in my neighbor’s horse pasture, on the east side of the fence when she should have been on the west.

I groaned. Way to go, Valor. You just always know how to make my day.

I had no idea how she’d gotten over there. Climbing has always been her preferred mode of escape, but it was also possible that a section of fencing might have been pushed down by the goats, or that a hole had been rubbed in the wire somehow and she had squeezed through that way.

In total exasperation, I marched back to the house and did what every daughter-in-distress has learned to do in moments of farming-need throughout human history. I called my dad.

Naturally, by the time he arrived, Valor had magically figured out how to get herself back into her own pasture. Eye roll, please. But, dad was here now, and he might as well walk the fence line and see if he could discover where and how she had gotten out.

What he actually discovered was why. And it was a game changer.

It was a dead raccoon.

He found it near the barn, out in the north pasture, and there was no question whatsoever as to who had killed it. Valor got extremely agitated as dad bent to pick it up. It was obviously her prize, and there was no chance in a thousand years that Drifter would have done something as decisive or forceful as to kill something.

My best guess is that there was more than one coon, and that, in warding off the others, Valor had disregarded all fences and barriers and gone after them into the next pasture. The two things – the dead raccoon and her getting out – must somehow be related.

In the midst of my being proud of my girl, I felt a little queasy. I have read that Armenian gamprs are very efficient at dispatching predators. And that’s why she’s here, to be a serious and reliable guardian. I just hadn’t expected to pick up the dead bodies afterward. Well, actually, I made my dad pick it up! Apparently, I still have some growing up to do as a tough farm gal.

But not Valor. She is growing up fast and well. She is committed to protecting her goats and her property, and she’s proven that she’s confident and capable enough to do it. Despite all the frustration and the discouragement and the questioning of my sanity (not to mention hers), she has begun to step up, and to live up to some of my hopes and dreams.

And so, I’ll say it again, this time without any of the sarcasm, and with total pride and appreciation: Way to go, Valor!

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