Sunday Services in the Church of the Big Empty

Spring is here. It’s nearly 70 degrees F/21 C, and the wind is blowing. Services were quieter than they’ve been for more than a month because the largest part of the choir has moved on to points north leaving only the geese to make up the horn section. Otherwise, the meadowlark is leading the chorus with occasional interjections from red-winged blackbirds and frogs. We only had the opportunity to welcome one car, but the man and his wife were clearly VERY happy to be out though there isn’t a lot to see at the moment (outside of everything, of course).

Much to my amazement, Bear has learned to listen for bird songs and will stop when she hears a meadowlark. She’s incredibly attuned to my behavior. Still, her particular interest remains scat, and she alerted me to several different varieties today for which I’m unutterably grateful.

You can see from the featured photo that it doesn’t look a lot different from winter out there yet, but at the base of the little plants green is emerging. I’m looking forward to sunset walks services out there in the summer.

On our way out there, my heart gave a little leap to see hundreds of Angus cattle in the distance and MANY tiny puddles of black amongst them. Along with the little black puddles were a couple of white puddles; livestock guardian dogs. I remembered the first Great Pyrenees I ever met. He was in Descanso, CA, my little town in the mountains outside of San Diego. He was a working dog who would occasionally walk into “town” from the little farm where the people raised sheep and alpacas. Town in Descanso was a two pump gas station, convenience store, post office and deli all in one building. I was coming out of the post office and had just turned up the street toward home. An immense, incredibly filthy, very furry fluffy white dog came strolling up to me. I stopped. He leaned against me, and I thought, “This must be a Great Pyrenees. What a wonderful dog!”

When I started walking home after our “moment,” he strolled along with me until the fork in the road. His way was straight ahead and mine was to the right. Now that I know more about these dogs, I realize how incredibly honored I was.

Most people know the Great Pyrenees. Bear is an Akbash dog, a dog bred in Turkey for the same purpose as the Great Pyrenees in Europe. In Italy they have bred the Maremmano-Abruzzese, also a big white dog, to guard the sheep and goats. All of these wonderful beings have been friends to man for thousands of year. Top to bottom: Great Pyrenees, Maremmano, and Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog ❤

31 thoughts on “Sunday Services in the Church of the Big Empty

  1. Bear looks like the most agile of the 3 species of guardian dogs. What a wonderful visit you had to the “big empty.”

    • Akbash dogs have in their ancestry sight hounds. A grey hound is such a dog and the Afghan hound, so they are fast and graceful. We did. The Big Empty is always a healing place for us. I don’t have words for how much I love it. ❤

        • Yep. She doesn’t run much (it’s not in her breed) but I’m 100% sure if she had a reason to run it would be something to see (I don’t want to see it). Her way of walking with me has changed since we’re walking on that wide trail and I think I might be able to train her for ski-joring where she’ll “pull” me on my x-country skis. It would be so great not to have to leave her at home when I ski.

        • She’d be pulling me — her new way to walk with me is to walk ahead about five feet and look back frequently. Anyway, I have a few months to figure it out and maybe train her. I never tried it before because I thought she’d take off, but I no longer think she’d do that unless there were a bear or dog, which is also something to think about.

    • I thought I’d add my experience with my Akbash dog. She alerts me to anything that’s not how it’s supposed to be. I’ve learned that’s typical of them. Even my neighbor’s porch light coming on at a different time alerts her. So my guess is if you got a puppy and raised it to bond to you, and you hang out with your chickens a LOT with your dog, she’ll consider the chickens to be part of her world and therefore her job to protect.

      Bear is the only dog like this I’ve had and known well. She responds primarily to positive reinforcement. If I yell at her, she’s very worried that she’s failed. They are — apparently — all like that, so yours would want to please you. They are also very very very calm dogs unless something is wrong. So based on my experience, they can care for anything if they care for you, the property where they live and are properly attached to you and your world. They are very intelligent, intuitive and wise. Bear was house trained in four hours. 🙂 I didn’t even teach her. She just observed my other dogs.

      Another animal that works well as a guardian is a llama. A small farm near me uses livestock guardian dogs at night and the day shift is their llama. It’s pretty cool.

  2. What a magnificent pup. He’s so beautiful! Just so beautiful. Intelligent looking too. And he’s the kind of pup you’d like to wrap your arms around and hug!

  3. I wonder if the change in the way Bear walks with you is a recognition that you have now healed and are less in need of her help?

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