We have a lovely peaceable kingdom here at Heedley’s Hens, and I’m determined to keep it that way. Given that we are adding not a new species a year, as originally planned, but a new species a month these days, we have our work cut out for us.
On our way to see Sergeant for the first time, a horsey friend of ours laid it all out for me, in one of those epiphanies where something that had been so mysterious becomes so simple and clear, you can’t imagine why you didn’t figure it out for yourself. Ready?
Eyes in front, predator. Eyes to the side, prey. It’s that simple. Billie might look like a pony to us, a logical playmate for Sergeant, but to him, she’s predator. Eyes in front.
I behooves me, at this point, to tell you a bit about Billie. She is a 2.5-year old black Great Dane, and the sweetest, gentlest dog you can imagine. She doesn’t bark. Ever. She will look on as one of our cats chews on her meaty bone, pushing her aside, her eyes turning to me for assistance. She works out her zoomies in the yard, tearing around in huge loops, studiously avoiding the chickens, which, I think we can all agree, have got to be God’s greatest squeak toy. She is an angel. We are spoiled forever, as no dog will ever again be this easy.
And, yet, I am determined that she and Sergeant will be, if not friends, non-combatants. The Man and I devised a plan of action for Sergeant’s homecoming. First, they’d see each other from a distance, both on a lead, in the main pasture. A bit later, once Sergeant was stalled, we’d let them come face to face, Billie still on lead at first, then off, if it went well.
And, it did. I wish I’d had a camera to hand, to catch them checking each other out, Sergeant in his brand-new stall, Billie below him on the other side of the stall door.
This might sound overly ambitious, even foolhardy, but we know something you don’t know. We know that Sergeant had dogs and goats in his former home. This is a huge advantage. Also a huge advantage? Say it with me…Billie doesn’t bark. Ever. Dogs barking is the number one impediment to good dog/horse relations.
It goes without saying that I grew overconfident. What would a story be without a little conflict in the second reel?
I took Billie out in the pasture yesterday morning, still on-lead, while Sergeant was grazing. Billie was trembling with excitement, and there were some raised hackles. It was going well, without too much fuss, although Billie was far too excited to pee. Then, Sergeant came over to us, at a trot, right up to Billie, and reared.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been very, very close to a horse as it rears. It’s an imposing sight. It is damned near a bladder-voiding sight. There was no neighing or screaming, so I believe (but what do I know?!) that this was a gesture of pre-emptive dominance rather than anger or even fear. Sergeant didn’t make physical contact with Billie, I don’t believe (it happened quickly and it’s a bit of a blur), but Billie stumbled over herself shifting into a hasty retreat, and ended up on the ground with a yelp.
We got out of there with alacrity, as one might imagine.
This has made both Billie and me a bit shy, not surprisingly. The new plan is that Billie will continue to be on lead when Sergeant is in the pasture, and only loose when Sergeant is stalled. For now. I have been giving Billie the same training I gave her for the chickens, a year and a half ago: any sign of interest, even just with the eyes, is answered with a sharp “off!”.
This is the first word any Great Dane should be taught, as far as I’m concerned. It is multi purpose, and can mean: off the couch, get your nose off the chicken on the counter, don’t jump up, get your face out of my face, don’t worry your boo-boo, don’t kill your stuffie, don’t touch the cookie, don’t eat the cat…the list goes on and on. It is a word deeply ingrained in Billie, and it taught her not to chase the chickens.
My goal with Sergeant and Billie used to be friendship and companionship; now, it’s…boredom. We want Billie and Sergeant to be so bored with each other that fear and hostility are forgotten. Billie is so good and sweet that this should be attainable. If nothing else, she had a good scare yesterday.
So, that’s how that’s going. In parting, here are some pics of Sergeant taken this morning: