The hard part about these trips is you are leaving so much behind at home and only through the kindness of good friends can it be done. Just before we left, our old livestock guardian dog, Oscar, seemed to be developing a mild cough, but I had a bad feeling about it, as he had been on and off a bit for the last year. He was 12, a ripe old age for a dog with a lifestyle that generally allows for a life expectancy of around 8 years.
Oscar had been going down fast while we were away, and despite good friends who are vet techs, giving prednisone and other care to try to help him make it until we got home, a couple of days ago it was time to say goodbye. I haven't wanted to write until today, as I was having trouble wrapping my head around it. We have not had good luck with livestock guardian dogs (LGD) on these UK trips, losing our other 8 year old last year around the same time.
Oscar was one of those dogs who could look terrifying when necessary, almost 100 pound of solid muscle, and would take a coyote on without hesitating, and yet was a gentle giant. He knew the difference between a hunting coyote, a Border Collie doing his job, and a young pup who had got in amongst the sheep. Oscar knew who belonged on the farm, friends and students welcome...yet shady characters were chased off without hesitation. He made friends with nervous or aggressive dogs, they never tried him on or questioned him. His body language just communicated confidence. Yet his quiet, but deep lion growl would teach a young pup quickly about manners with no fuss and no muss.
Oscar knew when you were trying to help him. This dog who could've ripped me apart in seconds let me pull porcupine quills from his muzzle without protest.
He lived full time with the sheep, rain or snow or heat, and always did his job well, protecting the livestock and the farm. His final job this summer was to teach the ropes to his young sons.
Thank you Oscar and rest easy. Your work is done. We will see you at the Rainbow Bridge again someday.
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