And What I’m Interested in, When I Do…
The first answer is very serious – I have two well-loved cats, currently aged 13 and 18, who have no real experience around other species, and at their ages, I think it cruel to subject them to something like a dog. (They really didn’t, at least Obi-Wan, cotton to new cats some years back, either… But then Obi was young enough to do the dominant animal behavior…) However, they have met chickens and roosters, but there’s always been a barrier between them – and I think the rooster that had to come into my basement a few times this winter due to truly low temperatures would have ignored the cats and vice versa. In any case, he was crated during the experience, because having him free-range my basement would have meant dealing with the fact that chickens don’t use litter pans.
I’ve always loved cats. Like me, they are a bit standoffish until they get to know you, and they have independent souls – but the best of them do form bonds with their humans. Let me tell you about Titania, my soulmate cat, alas deceased for over a decade. I’m dubious any dog could have been as good a companion as she! She was a gray longhaired tabby of dubious parentage, although she was born in Barkhamstead, CT the year I bought my Connecticut house (1991). But, let me get back to her another day, and discuss dogs, instead.
I. In college I remember a party off campus, at a friend’s house. I actually knew (at least sort of kind of) most of the attendees. One of the guys, whom I’d seen around and had previously talked to, decided he was VERY interested in getting to know me better. He wasn’t a bad dude at all, but the fact that he kept following me around and around began to disturb me. I took a break in the bathroom – and when I opened the door, there he was. Waiting. At some point I did dodge him and went outside for a LONG walk at night around several blocks in a dicey and marginal neighborhood. Thing is, there are certain breeds of dog that are just like that guy. They won’t let you go. Retrievers and Labradors are like that. Fortunately, that’s not all dogs… although I’m always bemused when I hear that “New dog owners should consider a golden retriever or a black lab…”. NOPE. I don’t like slavish slobbery humans, why would I want that trait in a dog? Unfortunately, a lot of dogs remind me of that behavior. On the fortunate side again – definitely not all.
II. I didn’t grow up with a dog, although my parents had a dachshund up until I was about two years old. No idea why or how they acquired it. I don’t remember this dog at all, though there are photos to prove they did have it, and that I was alive during at least part of that time. Mom told me tales about going away for a weekend or so, having a neighbor come in and feed/walk it — and that one weekend that dog barked itself hoarse when my parents were out. Yes, when my folks came back home, that dog was barking but was so hoarse no sound came out. Got to admit, I don’t care for dachshunds myself. And apparently they didn’t much either – they never got themselves another dog.
III. Dogs do smell bad. Seriously, they do. I’m not talking about the poop, which goes for all animals. Goats, frankly, smell better, although maybe not the males ready to mate. Maybe I just got weird nostrils! In many cases, breeds I do prefer already smell better than some of the other breeds.
IV. There’s no WAY on this planet I’ll ever consider a slobbery breed of dog. Just simply, No Way. They can shed all they want, but slobbers – sorry. Maybe an exclusively outdoors guardian dog can slobber.
V. Dogs, like humans, are individuals. I have a friend who has had a couple keeshounds, and I love her dogs. My brother and his wife had a pitbull/boxer mix named Wilbur, and I loved that dog. There are three Burmese Mountain Dogs that show up on occasion at the local community center, and I adore them. At least two of them were rescues, so I know for getting a rescue non-working dog here, that is a way to go.
VI. I’ve had cats thorough the portions of my life that I could choose my pets voluntarily. My parents also had cats during much of my childhood formative years. Cats are easy maintenance. You can set them up with food, water, clean litter and go away for several days. You come back and if you planned right, they still have food and water. And the litter will still be used, but at least no one has to come in and walk them.
VII. I really cannot think of anything to say positive about Jack Russells or Chihuahuas. The former is too high energy, and most of the smallest breeds are not proper dogs (to me). I do for some reason like the Tibetan spaniel, or at least the one of that breed I’ve gotten to meet when I used to go on archeological digs in Connecticut.
VIII. Now that I am homesteading, I am considering dogs. Livestock guardian dogs outwinter with their flock, but my chickens don’t yet count or need these. Most of the guardian dogs I’ve heard about work with four-legged livestock. Herding dogs are of interest – I’d consider an Australian sheep dog, but since I don’t know when my flock is going to be a part of my life, I am WAITING. Yes, on WAITING mode. The other herding dog I’d like is the Pembroke Corgi. This would also be a working dog, and I really admired Tabitha, a Corgi owned by good friend of mine. Tabitha has since passed on, but I could work with a Pembroke Corgi here. I would definitely have to find one from a line where the breeders have done actual work with herding (or guarding, in the case of the former type of working dog). Rescues are generally not a good way to go for this sort of thing.
VIX. Anyhow, this is all moot until I have actual four-legged livestock on the horizon here. And herding dogs are less likely to work the best with goats or alpaca – and maybe not even so well with the half-domesticated sheep breeds (which really interest me) such as the Shetland, Soay, or Icelandic. I’m not sure I need to herd anyway – the locals with livestock pretty much “herd” animals with treats (or downright dinner) when they want them to move from one area to the next. But… you know… I think I’d like one… I am really not anti-dog, just anti certain types of dogs. As you all are aware, people cotton to some other people rather than to all of them – I think that’s where I am at with dogs, too.
X: I could get a livestock guardian dog while still having my cats as the guardian dog is nearly always outdoors with his flock. It’s a possibility. But at any rate, I’m not remotely ready for that needed four-legged livestock! (Fencing, housing…)
XI: I know I will work best with a somewhat more juvenile dog coming into my life, so we can adapt to each other that way. Especially if it is a working dog. And yes that does mean I’ll have to deal with juvenile dog behaviors, but I think that would be fine. We’ll learn when the time comes, both of us.
XII: Oh, the COVID-19 is also putting a lot of things, on hold, but that goes for all of us. This post was begun the writing of, this past autumn 2019. (I stopped working on it when Kat, my dog herding friend, passed away. It was just too depressing to think about it, since she was the major impetus for me to think about my future dogs and how soon I could bring them in.)
The other thing about the “Stay Home” thing is that even if I got a dog now – there’s no way to socialize him or her to others – which, frankly, is a critical thing to do. Much less being able to take the dog to any sort of obedience or herding classes. Which being a first dog in my adult life household, I’d HAVE to do!
XIII: Would I get another cat or two in the future? Yes, but I would adopt adult cats from the nearby shelter, preferably a pair that had to be in the shelter together, and that are already known to be friendly to other animals (especially any dogs). My goal had actually been to go volunteer over at that local cat shelter come the end of winter and icy roads, but, well… with things as they COVID-ly are, I sent them money instead.
So it comes down to at this point:
A LGD (Livestock Guardian Dog), for future four-leggeds? Or for ease of feeding, a donkey or mule? They can eat what their charges eat. A llama? Not sure about that one. The Akbash of the three depicted here seems most interesting should I go that route. I do know locals with LG animals and intend to pick their brains and resources when the time comes.
A herding dog or two? Breeds considered right now would be the Corgi, the Aussie or the Bernese Mountain Dog, but the Berner is less likely to be into herding than the other two, and the Aussie might be too intense – keeping my options open. On the other hand, a herding dog can also make a fine homestead pet with lesser responsibilities. I tend to like their personalities.
Much as I liked the Tibetan Terrier, I don’ t think one would be appropriate here, even simply as an acknowledged pet. (This dog isn’t a true terrier, which is fine by me, because true terriers do tend to have a strong prey chasing / killing instinct – sort of a potential terrier to my smaller livestock and any future cats…)
The Keeshond breed is not a working dog, but… hey. I’d enjoy. And nothing says it has to be just ONE dog…
My brother and his wife lucked out with their wonderful pit bull / boxer mix. But sometimes mixes are, ahem, a mixed bag until you get to know them. And my homeowner’s insurance policy specifically forbids my owning a pit bull. (I’d rather get them to acquiece to my owning a wood burning stove, first.) I’ve run into other mixes over the years I’ve enjoyed – all accidental breedings.
Frankly, I’d enjoy an Aussie/Bernese Mountain Dog mix. (A Bernsie?) Best of both levels of herding skill sets and so forth!
Don’t know what will come of this, but my eyes are open. Please let me know what you think! And as noted up above, I have time to think about this, as social-distancing a new dog or puppy really sounds like a BAD idea.