Farm dogs

We (sans dogs) recently attended a three-year-old’s birthday party, which was held at a large, beautiful farm in the nearby countryside.

Leah's 3rd birthday party

The young farmer brought out some baby goats and lambs for all of the kids to pet, which was a huge hit with the little ones. It’s fun to be reminded that most tiny children instinctively love animals — and that they also have no instincts on how to be gentle. Watching those toddlers maul those baby goats made me grateful that (1) the goats were very easygoing, and (2) the goats do not have sharp teeth. While I loved fraternizing with the babies and the baby livestock, my attention was naturally drawn to the dogs. Of course.

Leah's 3rd birthday party

First, I got to meet the actual sheepdog, this handsome 3-year-old border collie. He was soft and sweet, but very agitated by all of the toddlers, so he had to stay on leash. I mistakenly judged him for an English shepherd first, because I think the ticking and brown points on his coat threw me off.

Leah's 3rd birthday party

Then, in the barn, there was a pair of precious, adolescent Great Pyrenees. Here’s my friend greeting them:

Leah's 3rd birthday party

They were so gentle and friendly. These big pups were also great with all of the little kids who wanted to come stroke their noses. Having two high-strung dogs always makes me marvel at these dogs who have this natural calmness, who seem unperturbed by everything, just take it all in stride.

Leah's 3rd birthday party

Leah's 3rd birthday party

And then, there was THIS fellow! Guys. Totally mystified by his breed. He is all white, and I guess he could be a Great Pyrenees, but have you ever seen one with hair that grew like that? I haven’t. But he was so cute and muppet-y.

A shaggy sheepdog | Doggerel

It’s fun to see dogs in their working environments and to be reminded that dogs fulfill so many purposes, even now, in 2014. It’s easy to forget when you’re raising two dogs in the city.

I wondered what our dogs would do if they met the farm animals. Some of you live on farms, I think, but have your dogs ever encountered livestock? How did it go?

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Other pets I’d warmly welcome

Obviously, I’d be perfectly happy if the only pets I ever had were dogs. Dogs, dogs, and some more dogs. But I just love animals in general, and so a large part of my daydreaming involves thinking about all the animals I’d like to have in my life one day–including my small pack of dogs.

Here’s a list of the non-dog animals I would also love to adopt, ranked in order of desire:

1: RABBITS

Our Spencer actually looked just like this guy, same markings and everything. Click for source.

I adore rabbits. I think this is because our first family pet was a rabbit: Spencer, the mini Holland lop, who was the Greatest Bunny Who Ever Lived. Spencer was the gentlest and sweetest bunny. Miraculously, despite being somewhat roughly handled by the four of us as children, he never bit us, not even once. We liked to think he played “hide and seek” with us in the backyard; he enjoyed chasing us around the yard and hiding with us underneath bushes and small trees. I would get rabbits in a heartbeat–although I think they’re probably the most tempting (and defenseless) small animal to bring home if you have a dog like a German shepherd. Rabbits, unlike cats, have no defense mechanisms and I don’t know if I could ever trust a dog with a rabbit, but that somehow hasn’t dampened my desire for a bunny of my own. Maybe one day.

2: CHICKENS

Source: Heather Bullard.

Backyard chickens are the new thing for suburban dwellers, it seems–at least in our area of Virginia. Everyone (ourselves included!) wants to think of themselves as quasi-farmers. We have lots of friends who have a small coop of egg-laying hens in their yards and I confess that the idea has become very attractive to me lately. I don’t know if we’ll have enough room at our new house–and I think chickens would also be a constant, maddening distraction to a high prey-drive dog–but it’s a nice daydream. They’re certainly not as loveable or companionable as a bunny, but I like them just the same. They’re also not as stupid as people tend to think.

3: HORSES

I've always been partial to Arabian horses, even though they are the most high-strung. Click for source.

Like many little girls, my horse obsession began at a very young age. I think I actually became fixated with horses before my dog obsession began. I read all the horse books I could get my hands on. I memorized horse breeds. I begged my mother for riding lessons. The equestrian life is, however, a very expensive one, and my parents couldn’t afford to send me (and my copycat little sisters) to riding lessons. They did, however, send us to a horse camp where we mucked stalls and groomed horses in exchange for a few lessons in the summers. I loved every minute of it, even mucking stalls. The sweet smell of hay and the presence of these glorious, sensitive animals filled my little heart with joy. While I haven’t had much interaction with horses in a long time (*excepting one of the best parts of our honeymoon: Guion knew about my lifelong adoration of horses and surprised me with a two-hour trail ride in the Blue Ridge mountains), I do dream about them still. They’re a serious, serious commitment, but they’re also a nice thought.

4: GOATS

Baby goats, you are breakin' my heart with your cuteness. Click for source.
Baby goats, you are breakin' my heart with your cuteness. Click for source.

Goats are such ornery, funny creatures. I like them a lot, even though they may be somewhat hard to love (excepting those babies). I also love chevre and goat milk soaps and such, so I daydream about having a small dairy flock of my own one day.

5: FINCHES or BUDGIES

Zebra finches. Click for source.
Snuggling budgerigars. Click for source.

I like birds a lot, even though they are a pain to take care of/sometimes saddening to think about living your whole life in a cage where you can’t fly. So, maybe I won’t get a bird. But I grew up with a Zebra finch named Sprite and a pair of budgies that I received for my thirteenth birthday, whom I christened Monet and Renoir (they were in love). They are messy and noisy, but oh-so-beautiful to look at. Maybe not reason enough to adopt some, but I love them just the same.

6: CATS

A handsome family of kittens. Source: Itty Bitty Kitty Committee.

I am very ambivalent about cats, but I like them most of the time. I don’t think I would like to take care of one or actually be responsible for one, but I have my moments of soaring adoration and affection for cats. It’s perhaps not surprising that my favorite cats are the ones who act like dogs. The only cat I’ve ever truly loved was my roommate in Denver, a tabby lady I called Kitteh. She was inquisitive and affectionate without being obnoxious. Kitteh was charming and intelligent and I loved sharing a bed with her. I would get a cat if I could get one with a temperament just like hers, but I’m doubtful about how likely that is. I think cats are supremely beautiful. I think they make every room look more elegant. But I wonder how quickly I’d resent a cat if I actually dared to bring one home. Who knows? Maybe one day there will be room for a cat.

Do you have other animals, besides your dog? How do they interact, if at all?