Friday, July 17, 2015

Tough Decisions

     It has not been an easy week.
     For all the cute pictures, all the precious moments captured, I do my best to convey not only the happier moments of this life, but the gut-wrenching, heart-breaking moments as well.
     While our founding fathers wisely noted "pursuit of happiness" amongst our rights, it was not happiness they found inalienable, but the pursuit itself. Pursuance involves a myriad of emotions ...I dare say it involves every emotion in the spectrum, and for sure more than sheer happiness alone, as any entrepreneur will attest.
     I liken emotions to colors on an artist's pallet. We may resonate to the bright reds and the cheery yellows, but leave out the richness of the darker tones...those deeper shades of wines and ambers... and your picture lacks depth. When it comes to the portrait of my own life, I've come to accept that sadness is a part of it. Fear plays a role. Stress...angst...even depression...They are right up there with the bliss of a new arrival or the immense relief of a lost baby found. To pretend it's all cupcakes and roses would be a facade. And while I don't always post the stressful moments in pictures, I DO try to balance the blend here in written word lest someone think my life became easy street for simply having upped and moved my body to a farm. (It is far from easy and the street is long and winding...more like a perpetual curvy lane.)

     Today's saga involves my beloved Hix (a.k.a. "Hiccapup") ...A name deserving an explanation...

     I didn't plan to keep Hix. I didn't plan to keep ANY of Rosey's babies. Most were spoken for before they were born. Sadly, owing to the size and working nature of Pyrs, this breed doesn't live as long as smaller breeds as a rule. Life expectancy is said to be 10 - 12 years; most farmers will tell you if they make it to 8, you've done good. They are working dogs and the work is hard.
     That said, Rosey came from a long line of goat-guarding dogs (not that they don't all do this instinctively, but Rosey came from particularly good genes--generations old--and raised with goats specifically.). Plan was to allow her one litter, then spay (which we did).

     Because Rosey was SO maternal a mother, I decided to keep Rosebud, rather than have Rosey endure the shock and depression of all her babies suddenly gone. Meanwhile, I also had plans to add a second goat breed to the equation. (Still do.) But the learning curve, I did not allow for. Life itself slowed the game plan just a tad. Given I prefer raising Pyrs in pairs, I then decided to keep a pal for Rosebud to guard their own paddock someday. (His name was Brando; I already had him picked out. But Hix said "Not so fast blonde lady.")
TJ and Hix Meet for the Very First Time
     One by one folks as came for their pups (all but one pup went out in pairs; the solo pup now guards an animal rescue farm; Brando became "Polar" -- It's the Bruce/Caitlyn of Pyrs, but in name only. There was no sex change.) Reason I kept Hix and not Brando? Well, therein lies the history of his name.
     Hix would break into hiccups, almost as if having a panic attack with each selecting visitor. He did this also when eating, so much so that I was concerned to the point of pulling him aside and feeding him separately by hand. (Note the manipulation.) When down to the final 3 pups (Rosebud, Brando and Hix (not yet named because I didn't plan to keep him), the last person came and like clockwork, Hix commenced to hiccuping, so I offered up Brando for fear it might be a health matter I dared not hand off. (For the record, Hix has not hiccuped since, which only made me love him more. He had no intention of leaving. His little trick worked.)
Rosey's pups first night outside...
(I recall the evening vividly as we could hear a litter of coyote pups in the distance.)
     Like all Pyr pups, they grow at warp speed, enhanced by growth spurts that can last from 2 days to 10 days at a time (wherein they act as if starving no matter how much you feed them). With TJ the established alpha, our family was fine, UNTIL Hix outgrew him in size and stature, which today, poses a problem. For the past few weeks Hix has maintained his acceptance of the submissive role, all the while looking to me as if to say "Explain this again...WHY is he alpha when I am bigger?" More recently, he's not asking, so much as he's challenging.
     Meanwhile, Hix has developed a series of stunts which are annoyingly cute...Things like tipping bowls over, dumping the other dog's food on the ground when they go for water, or hiding bowls all over the place (sometimes empty, sometimes full). But between this week's events involving goat births and buzzards, Hix's antics have taken an angrier tone, so much so that my trust of him is wavering.
Hix sez "Take that Rosey."
(She won't eat it off the ground, but he will...once he's done with his.)
     A lot of googling and many lengthy phone calls later, I begin weighing my options:
     Yes, we can have Hix neutered. Reason I haven't already: 1) For this breed, it is recommended you do so only AFTER they have fully matured (18 months - 2 years). Keep in mind, Hix is STILL growing. 2) There is some research suggesting to neuter before they are in full hormonal balance can lead to cancer. Furthermore,  most farmers would never consider neutering a male Pyr as you want their testosterone in tact for the sake of fighting off predators. (Of course, most farmers I know don't have 4 in one lot.) 3) Hix is out of Rosey. Rosey comes from a long line of goat protectors. Someway/somehow I intend to keep her line going. Could be Rosebud. Could be Hix or TJ fathering. Yes, this is my family. But I am also in the goat business and Pyrs are a big part of this equation. I love them as my family, but they do have a job to do. What's more, I will not sell a goat to anyone who does not have a Pyr or some goat-protecting breed on site. Fences alone won't cut it. Coyotes and foxes can jump. Furthermore, neutering does not necessitate a solution once a dog shows aggression. The alpha role is still a factor. In short, Hix needs to be an alpha of his own domain....(which leads me to ....)
     2) Return to the original plan and commence with the second paddock. Allow Hix his own herd of goats. Pros: this keeps Hix on familiar turf allowing him his alpha role AND with Rosebud who he's already bonded to. Cons: Fencing takes time. New shelters, new waterers, new facilities take time. Learning curves take time.
     3) Find Hix a new home. This is a time-saving/money-saving solution provided an ideal scenario is found, but it is not without its challenges. Will Hix adjust to a new setting? Are there male dogs on the premises or nearby (as this could exacerbate his frustration)...?
     Like everything else, I do vast amounts of homework, (which is why I have not been blogging).  
     The good news is, a solution seems to have presented itself. (For the record, you never go Craigslist with this sort of thing. Serious goat and Pyr people will research to the hilt. How NOT to give a dog away is to go with an open plea. It makes me cringe. It is also why so many Pyrs wind up euthanized, missing, tortured or worse. No. You only want to deal with a tight-knit network of fellow Pyr people who know the breed, know whose farm needs what, know fellow farmers and their set ups, their philosophy, etc.) I respect deeply the dog adoption agencies that home inspect and background check individuals before allowing an adoption. Taking in a life is a responsibility like no other. While some may base the decision on emotion alone (walk into a pet store and let's just fall in love with something) is not a responsible way to go about this.There is more to it than that. And when it comes to a pup I have literally held from birth, this is no easy decision.
     In the end, it is not my happiness that comes first, but Hix's.
     (To be continued....for now, I pray, and welcome yours if you're the praying type.)
And perhaps my all-time favorite ...
Hix and his best bud, Charlie 

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