Bowie is a year and a half old now, still more puppy than livestock guardian dog. My research says that LGDs don’t reach “maturity” until they are past two years of age, so we have a while to go.
She is full-grown, though, weighing in at 150 lbs. of pure muscle and boundless energy. The pastures are well-fenced, so she has plenty of room to race around and keep track of whatever is happening on the farm, and our hilly setting allows her to keep an eye on the village and valley below. Added to this is a warm barn to sleep in at night, with Lewis the barn cat for company, and an old sofa upon which to rest herself. The barnyard is littered with her chew bones, and she has regular playdates with Alfie, a friend and neighbor’s dog. Auggie, the Cotswold who at 300 lbs. is the only animal bigger than Bowie, is her best pasture friend, and the rest of the flock tolerate her with wary affection.
Clearly, for a working dog, Bowie has a good life.
Unlike most LGDs, Bowie likes people. We’ve had construction going on ever since she first arrived last Spring, so she’s used to workmen coming and going…and paying her a good bit of attention. Our picnic table and grill are set up barnside in a pole barn meant for sheep; it’s just about the only flat area here, so we’ve taken it over as a space to gather when the weather is nice. All of this allows for Bowie to have equal time with people as well as sheep, which is unusual and not by-the-book for a working livestock guardian dog.
My friend Sarah, an expert dog trainer and dog whisperer, has helped me manage and train Bowie…somewhat. LGDs are bred to be independent decision makers, and are therefore hard to train. Bowie will obey some basic commands, but you can see that she’s weighing her options and thinking the situation through before she makes a move to obey. This makes life with Bowie interesting in the Chinese sense – i.e. at times challenging and rather too “exciting”.
I spent a good chunk of my early childhood with my grandparents, dog lovers both. We Great Danes, German Shepherds, assorted retrievers, and my grandmother’s Pomeranians running around the grounds and in the house. Bowie surpasses all of them in terms of what she requires in consistent management and patience. I did not know what I was getting into when I took on this Maremma/Kangol mix…which is kind of the story of my life: “I’ll think about it tomorrow”, carpe diem, etc.
But I cannot imagine this farm without its white wolf. I love seeing her patrolling at night, a white flash in the deep dark. I love hearing her booming bark. And I love the way she leans into me as we sit and watch sunsets, sheep, the tilling of the cornfield below. She is, with apologies to E.B. White, “Some Dog”.