Walking across the barnyard toward the barn we sense that something is amiss. Things just did not feel right as we headed out to feed and water the chickens, goats, steer, horse and Lester the half horned sheep (a story for another blog). Heidi and Abbie (two of our faithful companions) are by our side hoping that when we get the the chicken coop we will find some eggsicles. Eggsicles are a favorite winter treat for the dogs. All they are, are eggs that have frozen and cracked. The dogs love them and they are good for their coats as well.
As we continue into the barn the feeling that something is amiss has grown to a feeling that something is seriously wrong. We grab some hay and take it outside to throw to Najah (Susie's Horse) and Lester the one horn sheep. I noticed that their tank heater had come un plugged and there is a thin coat of ice on top of the water. I break through the ice and plug in the tank heater. Both are thankful for the open water but they were not real thirsty as they did not drink too long.
While I was doing that Susie headed on into the main part of the barn to start taking care of the goats. The feeling that something is seriously wrong has grown into a feeling of impending doom. All of a sudden I hear Susie scream from the barn "OH NO, Smoky (the missing companion) BAD DOG". I ran in from outside to see Smoky slinking around in shame inside the Chicken Coop part of the barn. He knew he was in deep stuff (family blog). I went into the coop but he would not come, it was his turn to have a feeling of impending doom. There were dead chickens everywhere. I finally caught him and we gave it to him Dog Whisperer style... just kidding we took the Bible seriously when it said (Paraphrased) Spare the rod, spoil the Shephard.
After some serious lessons in chicken avoidance, which included some corporal punishment and alot of yelling BAD DOG! NO CHICKEN!,
Smoky was then put into his kennel for the rest of the night. He was definately in the proverbial DOG HOUSE. He never made a peep that night. Being too smart for his own good, he knew that he was not in our good graces. I went back out to the coop to find Susie piling up the dead chickens so I starting bagging them up in old feed bags. There was alot of grumbling undertones questioning our intelligence for having so many animals and wondering about the likelyhood of Smokey's lifespan if this ever were to happen again. The final tally was 14 dead and 4 wounded (the wounded have for the most part recovered). Of the mortally wounded, only a couple had marks on them, as most of them seemed to die of heart attacks. At the time, I believe Smokey thought that chasing these chickens was the most fun that any dog had ever had. Hopefully the consequences of this little escapade has taught his that this is not the kind of fun that is acceptable by a family member.
This sadly was not the first chicken mass murder. Last summer we had a fox get into the hen house repeatedly before we figured out how he was getting in. Unfortunately, he got quite a number of chickens. However, the all time record goes to our Black Lab Alli Babba and the 40 Fleas (Alli lived to almost 17 years old but we had to put her to sleep last fall. She had gotten so frail and feeble that she just could not make it through another Wisconsin winter). Anyway, she holds the record that we hope will never be beaten. She killed 18 chickens in one day. This was an even bigger feat than it sounds, as the chickens were free ranging and had many places to hide. After some disciplinary measures on our part, she learned to leave the chickens alone and we are trusting that Smokey has learned the same lesson.
We take the stewardship of our animals very seriously. We take as good care of those that depends on us as we can. Although we tried to present this occurance in a lighter manner, both Suse and I were so devistated that this happened. We have to teach our predator animals (our dogs) to co-exist with those that would normally be their prey. Smokey is just a pup. (I know he doesn't look like it, but he is not even a year old yet). In his mind, I am sure he thought this was a load of fun. He wasn't consuming them, he was just chasing them. It is up to us to teach him to respect all the animals on our farm. I know that it is a work in progress, but I also know he will learn the lessons we are working to teach him.
I could wax philosophical and compare this tough love in terms of parenting our own children or in our own relationship with God. Sometimes discipline hurts, but it is done in love and is important to teach and to grow us into the people that God wants us to become.
I could also say that every day on the farm is full of new challenges and adventures. Some are wonderfully fun, some are not. This was one of those NOT times. We are thankful for everything that the Lord has given us here on our farm. We are thankful for the beauty that we enjoy every day. We are thankful for our livestock and our pets. We sometimes wonder at our sanity for having so many of both, but we are committed to ensuring that everybody learns to co-exist. For Smokey, a very energetic young Shepard, this is a work in progress. We love him and are determined to help him learn. We know that he will learn the restraint that he needs as he interacts with so many (to him) wonderful and curiously interesting things that need his investigation.
Bless him. We hope he survives.