Last week three bottle babies and I took Shark Week the Desi dog, to the Canadian border. You may recall that, despite a promising start at The Farmstead, I finally admitted to myself that Shark Week would most likely never outgrow his murderous urges and, in all fairness to him, really wanted to be someone’s pet and not a working dog.
Shark Week was always great with the humans in our family, especially Gizmo, who at the delightful age of 18 months thinks everything should be tugged and patted with over-exaggerated enthusiasm. He just couldn’t stop killing chickens and chasing pigs. When I found him with a lamb, almost completely dead, I knew it was too much. We weren’t his forever home.
It was a long six weeks from the time I decided Shark Week needed a new home to the time he actually left here. Baby goats started arriving and I lived in constant fear that the areas I created to keep them safe were no match for his Houdini like powers. I kept goats inside the house for way longer than I normally do as a precaution against him...thank goodness for diapers.
The night before Shark Week was to leave all the dogs got out of our fence. Unfortunately, they have been getting out all Summer as we’ve had lots of people in and out with the logging, dairy construction, and selling of goods. Normally the dogs would be in with the goats, behind not only the perimeter fence but also the electric wire, but, because of Shark Week’s untrustworthiness, no one was living with the herd. I wasn’t too worried as they usually do one loop around our fence and show up at the back gate.
For some reason that night was different.
Six hours after the initial escape only Cleo had returned. Shark Week and Turkish were still off doing who knows what.
I spent that night walking the trails behind our house, in the dark, and in the rain, screaming for my dogs. It was windier than normal which made me feel like a tragic British heroine screaming across the moors. For a brief moment I allowed myself to get sucked into the wallow and self-pity that only comes when you are doing something you don’t want to be doing and, when you would rather be eating ice cream in a warm bed.
I convinced myself that I was never going to find Shark Week and I was going to have to wait another six weeks to re-home him. I also convinced myself that my beloved Turkish, our first dog and a creature who I am certain would take a bullet for me, was dead, the result of a neighbor mistaking him for a predator.
Here at the farm I get sucked into that blackness more than I would like. I recently had to assist my sweet dairy girl Genevieve with her birth. The baby was stuck, mama was tired, and, I was doing the best I could. Unfortunately though, it wasn’t enough. Covered in the slime and goo of birth, a baby literally hanging out of her, her head in my lap, I burst into tears. I just kept telling her over and over, “I’m so sorry I’m not better at this. I can’t do anything else.”
But then she looked at me, and I looked at her, and somewhere in there that bond between animal and man takes over and we both caught our second wind. Not only did she have a successful (albeit assisted) birth to a GIANT buckling, but it turns she loves being a mommy. Every baby goat (save for my bottle babies) in the barn helps themselves to her milk. And she lets them. I’ve never seen a goat do this before. Now, when I walk in the barn, she’ll catch my eye and I swear, she winks at me. “Thanks for your help lady.”
It was that same feeling of triumph that kept me out walking the trails looking for Shark Week and Turkish. I found them eventually, and we made it home, all of us tired, hungry and thirsty. I’ve never been so happy. Everyone got a big dinner and that morning I loaded Shark Week into the kennel in the cab of my truck. It was a 3.5 hour drive (one way) and 10 minutes in Shark Week diarrhead (yes it's a verb) all over his kennel. For a half second I thought about pulling over and cleaning him up but, knowing my luck I knew he would make a break for it and then I’d have a dog loose in the city. No, we didn’t pull over and no, the smell never faded. Every once in awhile a baby goat would peek it’s head over the tub and look at me like, “Why does it smell so bad?” With 30 minutes left in the drive I had lost all my compassion and contemplated opening the door and letting Shark Week run free but, as my friend pointed out, he’d probably find his way back to the farm.
By the time I met up with the rescue, who was fostering him for a week before he went to his new home, I was convinced I wouldn’t miss this dog one bit. We got him cleaned up and transferred into the new car but, just as we were shutting the door, the tears started flowing.
Shark Week was a good dog. His only downside was that he loved people more than he loved his herd and he had such a strong prey drive he couldn’t quite grasp the concept of protecting. I should have re-homed him sooner, when he first started showing signs of aggression towards animals, but, stupidly, I believed that no one could love him the way I could.
I’m not sure why animal lovers do this, I know I’m not unique. We somehow get it in our heads that we are the only acceptable home for an animal and then, despite all signs of the universe pointing towards disarray, we keep plodding along in the same state of unrest. Shark Week affected the dynamic of our farm, just like Viola the donkey. In a similar fashion, I had too many goats for what I could handle, and, as a consequence, got behind on care for all of them (hooves especially). The first goat of the season, who came way earlier than I expected, never got disbudded. A Snubian Dairy Doe, I will likely rehome her for free to someone who is okay with a horned animal on their property.
As humans we take on too much based on the fallacy we tell ourselves, “No one will ever care as much as I do." I’m learning more and more this isn’t true. My home is not the perfect home for everything with a beating heart, and, to many animals means no one is thriving.
That night, after seven straight hours in the car, I got home and immediately put the dogs in with their herd. They spent the night with them and I slept with no fear of waking up to dead baby goats. The milking equipment installation started this week and I again, had no fear of Turkish misinterpreting a man’s presence on the farm as someone wanting to abduct me. Additionally, I had no worry around them running out the front gate. They have their jobs back and there is peace and purpose in their work on the farm again.
And as it turns out, Shark Week spent that same night, post bath, curled up at the feet of a human being. I can only imagine how happy he must have been.