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Kramer and His Herd
Author: Eileen Warner
My husband I considered getting a herd guardian for our alpaca farm for several years. We read about and researched different breeds. We are both dog lovers and have two pet dogs. We were often asked by farm visitors if we were worried about predators harming our alpacas. Our fences are secure (or so we thought) and we have 5 foot predator fencing to protect our animals. After being asked by at least 30 visitors, about worrying about predators, if we weren’t originally worried, we were now. The power of suggestion can be very strong. We had seen a Great Pyrenees at our veterinarian’s receptionist’s hobby farm. She had assured us that if we were to acquire this breed then we would be more than satisfied. We were finally convinced that this was the breed we wanted and decided to get a puppy in the spring if not sooner.
Friends warned me that I, being the dog lover that I am, would never be able to leave a puppy in the barn. I countered their skepticism by telling them that when I acquired a working dog, I would most certainly be able to leave it in the barn. After all this was part of our business, and I knew it was important not to “spoil” a working dog. My friends remained unconvinced.
I mentioned my desire to buy a Great Pyrenees to some friends who owned sheep farms. They said that they checked farm sites on the web that often advertised such dogs. One friend e-mailed me that she had located an advertisement for a sheep farm in New Jersey that wanted to sell a trained year-old neutered male Great Pyrenees. He was being advertised as a dog looking for a herd of his own. My first thought was, “What is wrong with him?” I was told by breeders that you will seldom find a trained working dog for sale. I talked to his owner who lived in New Jersey and learned Kramer’s story. She had two working dogs and had recently down-sized her flock of sheep. There was absolutely nothing wrong with him. He was described as having a wonderful sweet temperament and loved to work. He was still a bit of a puppy she remarked. She told us to make her a reasonable offer and we did. My husband drove from Connecticut with check in hand and bought him sight unseen.
I came home from work to find a massive white dog in our barn on a cold night in December. He weighed 105 pounds but with his thick winter coat looked much bigger. I wouldn’t have trouble leaving this “puppy” in the barn. He was still a bit of a puppy but a large one at that. After Kramer broke out of our pasture at least 4 times, we soon discovered the working mind of the Pyrenees. They are highly intelligent dogs and seek to enlarge their territory. His previous owner informed us that they will do this until you fix every possible gap in the fencing and she told us, “No he was not going over the fence.” After watching him, we soon realized that this huge dog could squeeze though a tiny hole if there was one. After all, we were told if he can get out, a predator can get in. These were wise words from an experienced farmer.
I can’t say that the female alpacas took to him very quickly He took his job seriously and was absolutely thrilled to have a herd of his own to “protect”.
Of course point of view was important here. He was watching over them. The adult alpacas viewed him with caution. He enjoyed showing off his skills to us when we were in the pasture. He liked to keep them together and move them where he thought they should be. One feisty female, Liberty’s Bell, must have spit on him almost everyday for 3 months whenever he choose to keep his herd together. He had a green face quite often. He was quite happy in his new home and a little spit never seemed to bother him in the least. He continued to maintain his sweet temperament regardless of what the females did and loved it when his humans visited him in the barn. Needless to say my husband and I grew quite attached to him and were quite pleased with protective yet gentle nature. We noticed one of our young females becoming quite attached to him. She was happy on a lead as long as Kramer came with her. The rest of our herd eventually accepted him by spring. Farm visitors adored him as he nuzzled their young children. These dogs instinctively know friend versus foe.
As the birth of our first cria of the season approached, we were a bit concerned as to how Kramer would interact with his newborns. Would he be gentle we wondered? We had never seen him interact with a cria younger than 5 months old. We assumed he would be fine with the newborns but we couldn’t help but to be a bit cautious about our large canine. Our worries were unfounded. Kramer not only proved to be gentle and loyal, but he became somewhat of a babysitter. Sarah, Liberty Bell’s cria, often slept with her mother and Kramer near one specific fan on hot summer days.
He would lovingly lick his charge and even put his head gently on her back as they rested together. The females seemed to have changed their opinion of their canine companion. On several occasions I witnessed Liberty Bell nuzzling Kramer as the 3 of them rested together. It was if she sensed his devotion to her offspring and wanted to show her affection and trust. This proved Kramer’s devotion to his herd (this was the same animal that spit on him for months). Every cria experienced the same gentle devotion and care of their herd guardian. Most days when entering the barn, I would see Kramer and his crias resting by the fan together as their mothers quietly grazed or munched on hay. My husband and I have noticed how relaxed the females are. In less than a year, Kramer has firmly established himself as protector and friend. We are fortunate that he found “a herd of his own” with us on our farm.
Alpaca Hill Farm
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