Valor just keeps getting bigger (written 8/14/22)
At eight months old, she weighs in at about ninety pounds. Her head comes up to my hip pocket. Her feet are the size of Big Beef tomatoes, and her tail is a dangerous weapon.
However, one thing that has not continued to grow along with the rest of her is her voice. It doesn’t need to. It has always been big.
I’ve commented before about how loud and forceful Valor’s bark is. It’s not a particularly deep bark – although, for a female, (the females usually having higher-pitched voices than the males) – it’s on the lower end of the register. What’s most impressive about her bark is its volume and bravado. And when she really gets stirred up, she lets loose with a bellow like a foghorn. It’s the kind of bark that should make any prowling predator recalibrate the GPS and scout out another neighborhood for available fast food.
Fortunately, she uses her super bark sparingly. When you hear it you certainly do hear it, but you don’t hear it often. Even as a puppy, she has been judicious about what she barks at.
And up until this evening, basically everything she has barked at has been in response to something visual. She would see a cat, or see a dog, or see a snapping turtle trundling across the pasture, and she would spout off about it. But her response to things she can hear and not see hasn’t caught up yet.
And then tonight, as I was crossing the front patio, I heard coyotes start up to the east of us.
Coyotes are always a concern to those of us who keep small livestock. They are wily predators, and they have definitely been known to slip in and take goats, especially young ones.
Drifter has never been reliable about barking at coyotes. This is one of my primary complaints about him. Half of a livestock guardian dog’s job is to throw up a good offense by barking, most often at dusk and early nightfall when predators are most active. The idea is that the dog is declaring its presence to the neighborhood, letting every hunting predator out there know that, “Hey, if you want to come get these goats, you’ll have to get me out of the way first, because I am here.”
You don’t want the coyotes to break into your pasture at all, even if the dog is capable of dealing with them when they do. Ideally, you want your guardians to put up a good enough and loud enough front that the predators don’t even consider trying a break in.
So the fact that Drifter rarely bothers to bark when he hears the keening and yammering of the area coyotes has always frustrated me.
They started up across the road, straight east of my place, out in that big cow pasture that slopes down to the creek. Wild, wavering wails and ear-piercing yips echoed down into our little river valley. I stood there a minute to listen.
And then, I heard Valor rev her engines.
She laid into those coyotes with a full head of verbal steam that even made me rock back a little. And it wasn’t just once, either. She launched salvo after salvo of heavy, window-jarring noise that even got Drifter riled up enough to begin barking.
The coyotes hesitated. They thought about trying again, offered a few more disjointed, half-hearted howls. And then they shut up.
I have to say, I was proud of my girl. Good for you, Valor! She and I have had our differences over the past six months, and there are still things about her I wish I could change. But she is growing up, and if tonight is anything to go by, she will do her job well. She has heard very few coyotes before now, and of course, she couldn’t see them tonight as they carried on half a mile away. This was simply an instinctive guarding response, and it was a good one. Let’s all keep watching her. Let’s see who she becomes, let’s keep on being patient with her, and let’s keep on cheering for her!
Learn more about Reyna Bradford's fascinating life in her book: In My Hands, Stories of the Land & Animals I Love But Can't See
Be a better dog owner and read: How to Train Your Best Friend: 20 Things Every Owner Should Do to Raise a Dog Right.