To celebrate the release of my book, I’m running some “Memory Lane” posts from my years at Stringtown Rising Farm. I’m choosing some of my personal favorite funny animal stories–if you’ve been around a while, you may remember them, and if you’re new, you may have missed them. This story is from four years ago, when Coco was still but a Giant Pup. She’s spayed now, but at that time, she wasn’t spayed yet. (I was considering breeding her, but later decided against it.) In this story, we were suffering the constant amorous and unwanted advances of the neighboring Rat Dog.
I’ve always been a huge proponent of spaying and neutering. In fact, I’ve never had a dog or cat before that wasn’t fixed. I spent a great deal of time, effort, and money getting as many of the wild barn cats over at the old farmhouse fixed as I could while I lived there (and kept or gave away the kittens that were born before I could accomplish it all). I have eight cats now and they are all fixed. Coco is different. Not because she’s a registered, purebred dog. (I’ve had registered, purebred dogs before–and fixed them.) But because she’s not only a pet. She’s a working dog, a livestock guardian dog, and she is livestock herself. I keep goats for milk and sheep for wool, but I’m also breeding those goats and sheep because this is a farm and one of the ways a farmer makes an income is by producing more livestock–to sell to other farmers who are in need of them.
And so, for the first time, I experienced having a dog go into heat, her first heat (when, of course, I don’t want her bred because she’s not mature enough yet), and experienced for the first time the challenge of protecting a dog in heat. In my naivete, the goat yard seemed quite secure. After all, Coco can’t get out of it, and other big dogs that might come in to bother the goats–or her–can’t get in. Mission accomplished!
Only….. It wasn’t a big dog I had to worry about. It turned out to be a little, bitty, raggedy, scrawny thing that lives on down the road. (This entire story will be that much more interesting if I go ahead and tell you that this dog, whose name we don’t know but who I dubbed Rat Dog, belongs to the Ornery Angel, who not only lives to test my humanity but sends Rat Dog in her place at times, apparently. And just to explain before you ask–they have no fencing and, no, I’m not going to talk to her about her dog. What, do you want to get me punched??) The first sign of trouble was a hullabaloo in the goat yard. Upon investigation, I discovered this little dog springing cartwheels around Coco in hysterics. And while it seemed nigh on impossible that this tiny dog could logistically accomplish the deed with the Giant Puppy, it also didn’t seem like a good idea to take a chance.
Into the goats’ small night pen went Coco. Rat Dog had gotten into the goat yard because he’s small enough to squeeze through the gate. The night pen was made of smaller wire with pallets for gates. The Giant Puppy was safe again–
Until I got up the next morning and found Coco and the little Rat Dog lying in each other’s arms in the night pen. (Rat Dog was smoking a cigarette and everything.) Have no idea how he got in there.
The Giant Puppy was brought to the porch, penned in by sturdy gates with chicken wire nailed across the bars to block the Rat Dog. Finally, the Giant Puppy was safe!
I came back out onto the porch thirty minutes later and there was Coco and the Rat Dog lying in each other’s arms again.
I said, “I will defeat you, Rat Dog!”
Rat Dog: “You can’t defeat true love, Woman.”
Then I stamped my foot and the little rat ran off the porch, demonstrating how he’d gotten on, which was to clamber onto the outer shelf of the porch steps and from there jump to the outer shelf of the porch and then in between the bars.
We started nailing up pieces of wood to block the access. And the Rat Dog kept showing up on the porch, risking a 15-foot fall if he were to slip during his hysterical gymnastics.
Coco stood by the whole time saying, “Come to me, Rat Dog. I love you!”
There was just no talking sense to her.
The Rat Dog was finally stopped by this complex and mangled arrangement which included not only all sorts of pieces of plywood but a garden decoration strapped across the access, which would have required the Rat Dog to make a leap he just couldn’t manage unless he sprouted wings.
It’s a lovely addition to our decor, don’t you think? I fully expected to find the Rat Dog splat at the bottom of the porch the next morning due to his own ill-advised persistence, but apparently even he knew when he was foiled. He limited himself to whining from the porch steps from then on.
Coco spent several sad weeks confined to the porch, cut off from her would-be lover….
….while I fretted over the possibility of Great Pyr/Rat Dog puppies.
I told her, “Your true love is Admiral, Coco. He is your worthy suitor!”
Next time she goes into heat (which should be sometime this summer), we’ll take her to the goat farm for a date with Admiral.
(And boy howdy, isn’t he going to be glad to see her!)
By the time Coco was good and out of heat (and, whew, not pregnant, so apparently the Rat Dog did not accomplish the deed during their stolen night together), she had a bottle baby to watch, so Coco has continued to stay on the porch, though I can let her out for exercise and to do her business without worry now. Soon enough, the Giant Puppy and her little lambkin will both move down to the goat yard.
In the meantime, the little Rat Dog still regularly visits his true love. They have their brief moments together before I lock the Giant Puppy back onto the porch with her lamb.
Heat or no heat, the Rat Dog dreams his little dreams.
Rat Dog: “There has to be a way……”
“……I know it’s in there somewhere……”
“……Help me, Giant Puppy!”
Coco: “Help you do what?”
Rat Dog: “A LADDER, A LADDER, MY KINGDOM FOR A LADDER!”
You can order Chickens in the Road: An Adventure in Ordinary Splendor now!