Young Maremma shows Bravery
Our Southern Oregon ranch is 360 acres of hills, timber land, open meadows and pastures. Along one side we border BLM land. This steep, densely treed terrain is home to many of the indigenous wild creatures, such as the mountain lions who used to dine on our livestock until the Maremmas arrived and put a stop to that.
The dogs pay particular attention to this border. Our sixteen adult Maremmas, working in pairs scattered across the ranch, communicate with each other about what they see. Their “alert” bark is different than the “big trouble” sound off. The complexity of the work the dogs do continually fascinates me, but on one particular day one fine girl really showed me what she’s made of.
It was late in the day and I was wrapping things up with some visitors who had come to see the dogs when the furthest pair on the BLM side spoke up. It was an alert bark so the other dogs didn’t pay much attention to it, but over the course of half an hour or so each pair of dogs along that side, closer and closer to us, joined in and the pitch increased. I finally told my visitors I needed to go check things out so I drove out back in my trusty Kubota RTV.
What I saw made sense. The herd of about thirty elk who spend some of their time on our ranch had worked their way along the fence line. The dogs won’t let the elk, deer, or turkeys land in the pastures so the initial barking was to let the elk know to stay back, but the increasing frenzy was interesting. It was almost dark and the fog was rolling in so to get a good look at what was going on I had to get very close to the herd.
We don’t allow hunting here on the ranch and I make it a point not to encroach on the elk when they are here because I love to watch them, but on this night I felt I needed to a bit. This time what I saw was one very large, very bold cow elk who had moved away from the group, showing every indication that she was committed to jumping the fence and going into the pasture. Her behavior isn’t typical for the elk so I’m not sure what that was about, but she hadn’t counted on meeting up with my lovely young dog Sarika.
Sarika is sixteen months old and works with her neutered partner Teddy, who is three weeks younger than she is. As the cow, with her head held high, stomped her foot and moved towards the fence Sarika would charge and toss threats as she worked that fence line, up and back, up and back. I could tell she was agitated and maybe a little fearful but she never let up.
I watched this from a distance, and through the fog and diminishing light I wasn’t absolutely sure which dog was taking such a strong stand against this majestic cow. I thought it might be Teddy; I just had to know so I stumbled my way through the brush and rough ground to find that it was Sarika, all by herself.
That begged the question – where was Teddy??? He’s supposed to be her backup. Times like this are when a pair of dogs can help each other stay safe. Well, back in the distance, safely tucked behind a wooden corner post, low to the ground, stood Teddy. That boy ought to have been embarrassed!
Teddy is a bit of a punk at times and isn’t always all that much fun for Sarika to live with. She’s a gentle dog and would rather give way than take him on over things such as food so I always stay with them while they eat, as I do most of my dogs. With Teddy though I often show him the leash and collar in my hand when I set his food bowl down just to let him know I’m serious.
Well now I know. Teddy may just be all bluff, and my dear Sarika is discerning and picks her battles. On this day she showed wisdom and bravery beyond what would be typical for a dog of her age. I am very, very proud to have such a strong genetic base in my breeding program. Thank you Lili and Centurion! And Sarika, Cameo, and Bonavento will carry this forward into the next generation. How exciting!