We were blessed with an amazing farm dog. Chief was our farm dog for 13 years. He roamed freely with us, keeping the poultry, goats, sheep and piglets safer. We loved him, of course. After living with him for 13 years, how could you not fall in love with his devotion to home and family. But things were not always easy living with Chief. He had his rough moments and an unpredictable personality.
I want to mention that, as a blogger and writer, there is always a choice of how much personal stuff I want to share with the world. In this particular time I went back and forth for a long while. Much of me wanted to post it every day. Our wonderful dog has died and we feel rotten. But I do try to maintain at least a semblance of sanity, although crazy chicken lady has been used to describe me by some in the family. Where is the line? How do you share tragic and sad farm life circumstances with people who only know you through your written word and photo-shopped images? When is it too much sharing? After all, if I shared every sad loss a working farm encounters, you all would be less likely to read.
And then a wise friend was sharing about losing her pony of 30 years. She was going through a similar dilemma. What and how much to share. She opened my eyes to the possibility that Chief earned his eulogy. He was part of our family, our farm and our lives. And so , here is the Story of Chief, our farm dog.
A Farm Dog and His Family
Chief came into our life as our children were walking off into adulthood. So, he became our youngest family member in some ways. You dog lovers know what I mean. You stop just short of letting them pull up a chair at the family dinner table. Chief vacationed with us, worked with us and helped ease the silence and emptiness of all those empty bedrooms and shrinking dinner table. But then, some problems cropped up that had to be addressed.
Chief had a dominant alpha dog personality and we unwittingly let it get out of control. Now with many dogs you can pamper and treat them like a person and still have a pretty good dog on your hands. Chief took it too far and it became a big problem. Much angst occurred over whether or not this dog could be saved. Could he be rehabilitated? And more importantly, could we? Could we go back to treating him like a dog? We consulted dog training experts all around the country and received lots of different advice and suggestions.
One plan seemed to hit really close to home. It made sense, based on our circumstances but would take a lot of retraining on our part. We felt the commitment was worth it and since we didn’t have any small children in the house, we made the decision to give it a try. You can read more about this method and the steps we took in this post. Lets just say, it did work, as long as we stayed with the program.
This included no physical punishment of any sort. We had to regain control and we had to expect to be obeyed. No other response was accepted. It was a hard road! But we did manage to get all of us back on track. At the time, Chief was not the only dog in the house either. Chief didn’t come to us until he was a year old. He hadn’t had much socialization and had never learned to play well with others. He worked alone and liked to have his humans to himself. As the years went by and the older dogs passed on, Chief became our constant companion again, although this time, we all knew our boundaries and place in the arrangement.
Chief Embraced the Life of a Farm Dog
The farm continued to grow and expand and having a dog that could keep up with the work was great. He worked clearing out the fox in the area. He scooted deer back into the woods if they came too close. Chief positioned himself at a vantage point in the evenings where he could watch many entry points, as dusk fell. He took his farm protector job seriously. The goats and sheep would wander around him while out of the stalls. He never tried to harm one. The baby chicks were always a little too enticing to Chief, so we kept them out of reach. The full size chickens and ducks were his to guard. Honestly, this was all instinctive on his part. We don’t know anything about training a working dog, but together we seemed to have one doing a fine job.
Labrador Retrievers love water and Chief loved water. The stream running though the woods or the large cattle water trough were all his personal swimming pools. It was so funny to see him come down from the woods, panting and hot and jump right into the water trough and begin swimming in circles. As he began to age, the heat made him really uncomfortable and he wasn’t agile enough to climb into the water trough anymore. When he arrived at the barn area he would make a quick recon tour of the farm and then find a shady spot for rest. Chasing a deer or a fox off the barnyard would tire him out. Even the cats started to know that he couldn’t catch them any more. Hard to see, but you know how it is. You’ve been though it with your own farm dogs, too.
Dogs don’t Live Long Enough
And even as we know the end is coming, we still hope for those miracle days to return. Those days where we couldn’t see that Chief was in pain, or unable to cool off easily. Those days where the farthest he would move was from the bed room to the kitchen, came more frequently. The end was coming and we had to prepare ourselves for a huge loss.
Again, you all probably know the story too well yourselves. If you’ve had a dog, for the farm or the family, you know they take huge chunks of our hearts with them where ever they go after here. Mostly we heal. And most of us true dog people find enough heart left to take in another dog at some point. I think it honors the love you had for all the dogs before the new pup. The bond is strong. The dog was made for human companionship. They learn our ways, they return affection, and they offer solace and protection. We have had many great dogs in our life, and we had one excellent farm dog.
We said goodbye to Chief on July 3, 2016. He was exactly 13 years old. Wise beyond his dog years and a greatly missed companion. We asked the Veterinarian to come to the farm for the final good bye. It was a beautiful and heartbreaking time but I am glad Chief could say good bye to the farm. Chief left a life that he loved, in the place that he loved best. We greatly miss our farm dog.