Today, after evening chores, Jacques, the adopted stray also known as “that dog”, broke his tether and ran off. This was the tether that was preventing him from killing more poultry. It was nearing dusk, so all the free range chickens were beginning to congregate by their tractor. It was prime entertainment for a long confined dog. Because he was a recent adopted stray, he had no reason to respond to his new name, nor the calls of Ariana and I as we labored after him when he ran down the driveway toward the field where the chickens graze. He disappeared into the collapsed barn that was mostly roof and scrap, as the barn wood had been mostly salvaged for building shelves, or farm structures. Ariana chased him in, and while I was heading across one of the upper paddocks to head him off, I heard one of the cows bellow. Pausing in the search for Jacques, I looked north towards the new paddock I had set up this morning. I could see that one of them was up in the corner, near the water. They usually only bellow if there is a problem, so I wondered if one of them had gotten themselves stuck in the brambles. Making note to check on them, I returned to watching for Jacques just in time to see a flock of chickens and two geese running north, away from their tractor, where they should soon be roosting. Jacques ran across the field toward them, but then veered south, and stopped to lift his leg at the wooded edge of the field. He disappeared into the woods heading south.
I knew it was pointless to continue the chase, as he had a 100 yard head start, and could easily navigate the woods. So I sent Ariana back to the house and headed over to check on the cows. The north most part of the pasture had a narrow strip between the electric fence and some wild rose, and the steer, Big Pete, was holding up the line to get through. Nothing to worry about. Eventually one of those nursing mothers would give him a good enough poke with their horns that he would get out of their way. I stood and watched them for a short while, and the 3 week old bull calf, Little Pete, walked toward me and was watching me. The calves are short enough to walk under the electric fence, but generally do not wander far from their mothers. I turned to head back to the chickens to keep and eye out for Jacques, and was was halfway to the driveway when I heard hooves running my way. I turned to see Little Pete running straight towards me, kicking up his heals as he ran. I threw my hands wide and then clapped my hands and yelled “Hey! Hey!” and he stopped. I chased him back to the paddock, and turned again to head back to the chickens. I was almost to the driveway when I again heard Little Pete heading my way. I again turned, clapped and shouted, and this time he slowed down, but veered around me and stopped in front of me for a split second before running toward the driveway. I ran after him, thinking that he would get too far from his mother and turn around to head back. He ran into the soy field, and then up and into the neighbors yard. Last Friday after setting up a new pasture, but before electrifying it, the cows had gotten out, and ended up in the neighbor’s garen, tromping through the sweet corn and peppers. We only knew this happened because the neighbor called and let us know that we would be paying for it. We went round and herded them back, and quickly electrified the fence. As soon as Little Pete leapt into their yard, I started picturing him prancing all over the rest of the garden, and braced myself for the looming conversation with the owners. As I was finally able to see into their yard, I caught a glimpse of Little Pete running at top speed across their lawn, and around their house. I started thinking about the conversation I would have, asking these recently offended neighbors to help me shoo the rambunctious calf from their yard. He circled around and came back to the road and stopped. I only momentarily considered my next move before I turned and started running down the road toward the farm. It worked and he raced past me and headed back up the path to the pasture. As I began to slowed my pace, relieved to have him back on our property, I noticed Jacques running up from behind. I put on my best casual friendly voice and called him. He slowed down enough to allow me to pick up his leash and lead him back. I went and checked on the cows, confident that Little Pete would be unlikely to follow me again with Jacques by my side. All was well, and I took Jacques back to the house and tied him up again.
I am thinking about taking Jacques with us on the morning and evening chores, so he can get familiar with what his masters think is important. He could be a good farm dog, if he can learn to protect, rather than “play” with the livestock. As for Little Pete, I wonder if this is an indication of his future personality. A rambunctious and willful steer could be a real challenge when he is over 900 lbs.