Livestock Guardian Dogs are an amazing asset to have. And I know it sounds very clinical- but the plain fact is that they are a farm asset just like any other item or piece of equipment, so like a fence line that is broken- I have to get on and fix it- fill the gap so we don’t lose more stock unnecessarily.
With Dona missing for over 7 weeks now, I am not very optimistic we will ever find her, so have ordered several new dogs from a very reputable breeder in Victoria. They will be coming home around July I think.
I didn’t mean to bring him home, but a friend alerted me to a litter close by, and I went to just take a look, and also maybe see if they had heard anything on the ‘maremma network’ about Dona, perhaps a sighting or something.
What I found really shocked me. The parent dog and bitch were really nice looking well tempered and socialised dogs, but so so deathly thin and unkempt. Clearly they are not treated as valuable working assets. The people couldn’t tell me when the pups were born, so I imagine the bitch has whelped out in the paddock and no one has really noticed till the pups were at least a few weeks old and moving around. Great mother- but don’t know how she fed nine pups in her depleted condition(this was the last pup- all the others had gone to a pet shop- but they couldn’t catch this one). “No, no” they said-“hadn’t vaccinated any of them-why? We’d just have to pass on the expense to you?”……
So when this dirty wormy ball of fluff was dragged out from under the house- of course I paid for him on the spot and went directly to the vet.
So, after a check at the Vet’s we have a plan- he is very light (5.1 kg and needs to be around 8 at this age) has ear-mites, fleas (easily dealt with ) and incredibly rickets already as well.
Rickets are caused by the lack of calcium, phosphorus and mineral salts in the diet, but can also be exacerbated by bad hygienic conditions, lack of sun and exercise. I have an incredibly supportive and thourough vet- rickets is generally only noticeable when it is in its advanced stages, but it is still possible to fight it off, especially if the dog is still young. If you administer large doses of calcium and phosphorus, along with a diet rich with raw foods especially chicken- bones and all minced finely, eggs, milk, vegetables like raw grated carrots, and apple peel. It is best to avoid overly cooked meals-canned dog food- as cooking reduces the wealth of vitamins and nutrients in the food the damage can be minimised.
So Simba is on five small meals a day- raw kangaroo and beef, minced chicken frames (for the extra calcium) eggs, brown rice vegetables and cheese as well as high quality puppy biscuits and fortified milk on demand.
With solid nutrition and lots of outdoor work, hopefully at 6 weeks we have caught him early enough and will get over all of these issues. The plan is to build a great future guardian.
Travelling in a car can be very stressful for Maremma, but Simba only needed one rest stop before we got home. I couldn’t bear the smell inside so a bath was next (how humiliating for a farm dog!) that needed three rinses of clean water to see the pink colour of his skin and restore his white fluffy coat. (he had actually been ‘painted’ by children and the stuff made his fur matt and very challenging to brush clean)
Clean and dry, time to eat at last and Simba ate like he had never been fed – he gulped down minced roo and chopped beef, cheese, dry biscuits and 1 litre of fortified milk in about 5 minutes flat- and has been poo-ing it out the other end ever since like a tourist with Delhi belly…… It’s clear food was something he has had to compete and fight for, even with his digestive issues to adjust to and day five of all-he-can-eat, he is showing extreme food issues, growling and snapping at the Pomeranians if they even try to sniff his bowl……already protective of territory and he is just a baby- now this dog will make a great chook warrior!
I am keeping him very close for a few weeks to know my family and our little dogs first- the poms were unimpressed when he arrived-and they are still quick to point out to me that he ‘smells different’. And he does have a distinct odour- working dog. He looks so cute all clean and fluffy now-it was hard not indulge myself and bring him into the office and just have him under my desk- but the poo-ing was the killer really, not the risk to my public service career…
Simba will have just a few short weeks with us near the house, then he will go out to be with some hens and new lambs in a training yard till he is about 24 weeks old-nearly six months. The older Maremma will be brought back up to the house yard a few times a week while lambing happens over the next month or so, and then by increments Simba’s interaction with them will increase as they move into bigger and bigger paddocks with more animals introduced over time.
By September, our spring, I will have the rams and ewes back in the paddock next to the training yards where Simba will spend time with the other dogs and the bigger sheep before being turned out to work fulltime.
Especially because we will be at the vets regularly to monitor Simba’s bone density in particular, socialising him to walk on a lead and trust me introducing people to him is important. In days gone by, and still today in traditional settings in rural France and Italy, these livestock guardian dogs are a part of the village life, community dogs interacting with all – not isolated, ignored or neglected. Human interaction is important to the dogs’ psychological wellbeing too.
I wonder why people who have no idea about Maremma do this? They imagine there is money to be made, I suppose. Maremma go from a tiny 400 grams born, to the fluffy-stuffed-toy-on-your-bed stage- to a 65 kilo hulk in about 12 months- so pity the fools who buy them from the pet shop and imagine they have a backyard dog! With their huge growth curve, it takes a clear understanding of what nutrition is needed to ensure good health in these dogs, and breeding bitches especially require careful nutrition.
Not taking on these poorly bred pups doesn’t help them either- at least good nutrition and spaying early will save the individual. Don’t know what to do about backyard breeders in general though. Anyway, I haven’t stopped searching for Dona, but thought you might like to meet this guy.