For the record, vacation was wonderful. My sister and I shared a cottage on Tomales Bay, which is an inlet between the coast of Marin County and the peninsula that is Point Reyes National Seashore. Point Reyes became a favorite holiday spot for my parents and siblings after they all moved to California. (I had already left home by then.) The few times I joined them on vacation at Point Reyes was enough for me to fall in love with that stretch of sand, sea and wind–lots and lots of wind. Vacation consisted of hiking, talking, eating and reading. However, the vacation almost didn’t happen. The night before I left, Bear began to act sick. He didn’t want to play with Radha and he didn’t want to eat. I coddled him for a few hours and he improved enough that I felt comfortable leaving him. He still isn’t good. Today, I watched as Radha came running at him, ready to tussle the way they’ve been doing since she arrived on the farm. Instead of engaging, Bear dropped his head. She slowed down to walk with him, licking at his face, then turned away. That she checked herself speaks volumes. The reality is that the Kuvasz is a very large dog and at eight years old, Bear is well into his dotage. I won’t be surprised if I’ll be saying good-bye to him as well, doing so sooner than I like.
Thank heavens for Mr. Headbutts! Without her best lamb buddy, Radha would be lost and lonely. As Bear slows down, Mr. HB is stepping up to take his place, in very unexpected ways. Last night, or rather this morning is a great example. Bear started barking around 8 PM. The fact that he barks all night is not a bad thing. Last week, there was a young coyote over on my neighbor’s property, warbling away. When Bear didn’t let up, I figured it was probably that same coyote. I had slaughtered chickens and turkeys yesterday and I’m sure it could smell that.
At 1:25 AM (yes, 1 in the morning) I couldn’t take it any more. I dragged my heaviest coat over my robe and jammies, stuck my feet into my Wellies, and with flashlight in hand went down to walk him and his protege Radha around the edges of the property. He often calms down when I do this and she needs to smell what she’s supposed to drive off.
In a perfect world, I’d leave all the pasture gates open so both dogs could do this on their own. Unfortunately, Radha remains far too slim and has discovered every gap she can slither through to reach the porch, where she begs to come in with polite yips. I’m grateful she goes only as far as porch and doesn’t try to leave the property. At any rate, it’s easier at night to keep both dogs trapped with the sheep who feel safest in the first two pastures.
By the time I hit the front pasture gate Bear was hurrying toward the gate at the far end of the second pasture. Yep, there was definitely something out there. As for Radha, she was more interested in dancing around me, hoping I might be bringing breakfast a little early. Mealtime is her favorite part of the day, and she greets the arrival of her food bowl with Cirque du Soleil-worthy acrobatics. This is pretty impressive now that she’s almost as tall as Bear.
By the time I reached the far gate, Bear had veered toward the exterior fence. His tail was curled up above his back, which is how he shows intensity. That caught Radha’s interest and she turned to follow him. I started to loosen the chain on the gate. Something pressed up against my side. It was Mr. Headbutts. He was ready to race through the gate. His ears were alert, his gaze intent as he stared toward the back of the property. He looked like a new recruit, ready to assume guard duty.
I moved my flashlight behind me, worried that his cousins, the other ram lambs, were also on their way. They weren’t. Instead, they remained where they’d been when I arrived, curled on the frosty grass, chewing their cud, as yet more frost settled on their woolly necks. I couldn’t help but laugh. He’d left his cousins to follow his best bud and his best bud’s best bud–he was following his pack.
With a pat on his head and a quick chin scratch, I gave him the bad news. “Sorry, Headbutts, you’re a sheep. You’re what that thing is hunting. You aren’t allowed to come with us.” Cracking the gate a sliver, I let Bear and Radha slip through then followed. We walked the entire fence line, then returned to the upper pastures.
Headbutts was still waiting at the gate. Brave little lamb. Dog. Sheep. Whatever.