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Snow Dogs

December 12th, 2013

Tara has been living at Chiot’s Run for almost three months now.  She came to us towards the end of September and is really settling in to her role as protector of all things living.  I find her sleeping by the ducklings sometimes and she frequently patrols the perimeter fence we have set up now.  She’s also really liking the cold weather, she finally spends her days outside without panting and searching for shade.  She was definitely made for winter!  Lucy is also a winter loving dog, she gets super excited when the snow starts to fall.  You can almost see a extra spring in her step when the weather turns cold.
Tara even has a few nicknames already, Terrible T seems to be the one she likes best, though she’s anything but terrible.  We also call her Sweet T to round it out.
Tara digging a den 1
Yesterday, Tara spent all day out and towards evening we discovered that she had started to dig herself a den.  It’s located in a small ravine between the chicken and duck coops.  You can’t tell she’s in there until she sits up and pops her head over the top of the rocks.  It’s the perfect place to be able to hear what’s going on and be close to both coops.
Tara digging a den 2
We have yet to decide on a permanent place for T, but we’re thinking this might be a good.  Perhaps a little roof over her den or just laying saplings and pine boughs might suffice.  We knew she’d eventually show us the place she wanted to claim as her own, this should work until the snow melts in spring, then she’ll have to find herself a new den.  It can be hard to have strictly outdoor animals in our society, people think they’re being abused or neglected.  Some certainly are, but there are those that are much happier being outside, Tara is one of those!  It can also be hard on us as we want to protect them and keep them safe, truth is, Tara is perfectly able to take care of herself and knows what she wants and needs.

Have you ever had outdoor animals? 


19 Comments to “Snow Dogs”
  1. Adelina Anderson on December 12, 2013 at 7:36 am

    Growing up we had a German Shepard who was always outdoors. He seemed to like it out there. If he was pushed into the house, he would get so upset. Also, all our cats loved being outdoors too. Since I now live in NH and have a backyard full of bobcats and other critters, my cats stay indoors.

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  2. whit on December 12, 2013 at 7:46 am

    So sweet! Tara and Lucy are such beautiful creatures.

    This is my first time having an animal outside all the time. We have a semi-feral mouser, Rosie. When she came to us, she was feral, but I seem to have won over half her trust with tuna fish. She’ll at least let me pick her up sometimes, which was my goal in case we needed to assist her health wise.

    I fell for the ol human trick the other day when we were 12 degrees overnight. I found her sleeping strangely by the back door and thought I’d nab her and feed her tuna inside to warm up. Wrong move. She took off, hid in the closet for a couple hours. You could tell she was just not comfortable with walls around her.

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  3. Lisa on December 12, 2013 at 8:00 am

    I know there are some animals that love to be outside but it still breaks my heart when I think about them being out in the elements when there is a particularly bad storm or below freezing temps. Do you think she’ll come in the house when the weather is just too cold or nasty? As you can probably tell I’ve never had an outside animal, lol.

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    • Susy on December 12, 2013 at 8:45 am

      Probably not, staying outside where it’s cold keeps her coat in the proper condition to keep her warm, I’d hate for the warmth of the inside to make her shed some of the coat she needs outside. She loves being outside and doesn’t seem to feel any cold at all. She’ll lay outside when it’s only 10. If we bring her inside she pants and looks miserable (probably b/c she is with that warm coat on).

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  4. Jaye on December 12, 2013 at 8:10 am

    Is to create a den for herself normal behavior for her breed of dog? I don’t know much about her breed, but I am enjoying watching her grow with you.

    Reply to Jaye's comment

    • Susy on December 12, 2013 at 8:46 am

      Yes it is very normal for her breed and most livestock guardian dogs, they love to dig and make dens. Most LGD owners I know say their dogs refuse to sleep in the shelters they provide and instead find their own place somewhere in the fields.

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  5. Nebraska Dave on December 12, 2013 at 8:27 am

    Susy, I haven’t really had any working farm animals. Mom had useless Chihuahua dogs for many years. I had never heard of animals for protectors until just a few years ago. It just wasn’t something we needed on the farm where I grew up. I never hear Mom or Dad talk about losing any animal due to predators. I am fascinated with reading about how some animals are just instinctively born to protect. It is true that people think it’s cruel to leave dogs outside in the cold weather especially in urban living. Actually, I think it’s quite the opposite. Dogs like Tara need to be outside. Tara is one lucky dog to be able to do what she loves best. I liken it to having a job that is exactly what you wanted to do. I had a job like that for 41 years and it really is true what the experts say. It wasn’t just a job.

    Have a great Tara day.

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  6. Joan on December 12, 2013 at 8:32 am

    Never a cat or dog, but my horses spend probably 360 days a year outside. If there is a particularly cold night (less than -10 degrees fahrenheit) I may put them in for the night, but the next day they’ll go out again. They do have a large lean-to that keeps them dry and out of the wind. It keeps them healthy and they like it.

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  7. Marina C on December 12, 2013 at 8:56 am

    Horses and cats, so far.
    Horses have a shed to go into, and cats go under sheds and in the hay to stay warm and dry.
    The cats always find themselves a spot!
    Tara may just need a roof or tarp or something to stay dry if she chooses, we notice that the horses are fine unless they get wet through and then it freezes.
    I can relate to Tara, sometimes I am too hot in my cool house when I have been working outside.

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  8. Sierra N Hampl on December 12, 2013 at 9:39 am

    I love dogs and I appreciate when they are bred for a certain purpose and I enjoy seeing a dog fulfill that purpose. What makes me angry is someone like my neighbor, who keeps her dog outside year round and has a dog just for the sake of having a dog. The situation makes absolutely no sense to me especially since they spend zero time with their dog even when the weather is nice. He is not a hunting dog, he is far too friendly to be a guard dog and he is certainly not protecting livestock (although he did alert us a couple times when dogs from down the street were roaming our backyard, so maybe he’s inadvertently protecting our chickens). I can’t tolerate a dog tied up to a lead day and night that is never given any attention. A working dog makes sense to me and I think it is so much fun to see Tara claim her territory and obviously she feels like an important part of the family.

    Reply to Sierra N Hampl's comment

    • Deb on December 12, 2013 at 10:34 am

      We have a neighbor with a dog that is never let run and has a small doghouse and usually a spilled rubber pail of water. No nice crock or dish that doesn’t spill. When they ahd 2 we gave them water during 97* temps. as they ahd none. neighbors weren’t home and we couldn’t stand that they had no water. They drank 1/2 gal. right off. Now their one dog gets loose frequently, not sure how with the hookup they have, and comes to our house. I call them to bget it or once even took it back on a chain I have from when we had a dog. Such a shame as this dog does nothing but bark relentlessly. They even have grandchildren there now and she can’t even play with them. When they ahd cats they never fed or fixed them and guess where they came. They shpot at them to scare them. Irresponsible idiots, sorry, is my opinion. So glad, Suzy, that you care for your critters. They look well cared for and loved.

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  9. angie h on December 12, 2013 at 9:44 am

    We have some outside cats that I worry about on particularly cold nights. But we know they have shelter and we have a closed in box with straw or the shed they go to for protection. On nights I have thought it is too cold, she is still sleeping in the little basket on our porch for now. I watched her fatten up and her coat is extra thick for winter.

    I think it is mainly an important message for dogs that are tied up outside, who can’t seek their own shelter. I don’t think some people give as much thought to where they tie them and if they give them a dog house, is it in a good spot.

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  10. Mich on December 12, 2013 at 9:51 am

    My cats are strictly outdoor animals but I have plenty of barns for them to find a sheltered spot to sleep in.

    Reply to Mich's comment

  11. Deb on December 12, 2013 at 10:29 am

    Most of my cats are indoors but have outdoor ones, too. I ahve insulated shelters made from plastic totes with a board laid at an angle in front to keep out snow and rain. I ahev 4 and I clean and wash all the ebdding each fall. This winter my cats are also sheltering in my portable chicken coop. I plugged all the holes and used plastic and boards where it is open. Except for a small door it is pretty warm and on the south side of the chicken coop. One seems bullied some by others and he likes the nesting boxes with an old blanket in them. Nice and dry. We also have a dog house but haven’t had a dog for years. Its double walled and double floores with insulation. I put old coats and old balnkets in it. I buy the blankets at auctions and such, sometimes several for $1. Once I got 11 wool blankets for $1. A couple were house worthy and the rest was used for the cat shelters and the garden when it needs covered. My cats could also find a couple old cars in the barn they can crawl in. No livestock in the big barn so no hay or straw. I, too would think a liitle roof for Tara would be good to keep the rain and snow off as that would chill her sometimes. Such beautiful dogs. What kind of perimeter fence did you put up?

    Reply to Deb's comment

  12. DebbieB on December 12, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    Instinct is a marvelous thing!

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  13. Donna A. on December 12, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    [Wow, I’ve been gone from commenting for a LONG time. Things changed… I was previously Donna B. and now I’m on the west coast! hehe… Anyways…]

    That’s absolutely adorable
    When you were first talking about Tara I was wondering if she was going to be an outdoor dog. She seems very happy with her job though!

    I can’t wait to see what you guys do to help her with her den~ Keeping it water safe would be something I could see you guys helping her with…

    For those that keep their pets outdoors [and I mean ‘pets’] the ones I really dislike seeing are those that are kept in a chain link enclosure with a small dog house and a little bowl of water. That, to me, is cruel.

    I’d much rather have a dog at the foot of my bed. Hehe.
    [keeps *my* feet warm!]

    Reply to Donna A.'s comment

  14. Marcia on December 12, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    People seem to forget that dogs roamed in packs against the elements long before we took them on as pets. Back when we had our dog Zed, my dad spent a day building her a big, warm doghouse filled with hay. She would hang out in there if we climbed in but mostly still slept curled up on the porch. We would bring her in for special occassions or if the temperature fell to -40. She was a proud, working, outdoor dog. She barked at the coyotes and pulled carts of vegetables at harvest time. She even attacked and ate a cornered Muskrat that was lunging at me. If there is any justice in this world, she is young again in doggie heaven, chasing Musrats and squirrels and waiting for us kids to play hide and seek with. Jeez, how can I still get teary eyed over this 15 years later.

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  15. Jennifer Fisk on December 12, 2013 at 5:52 pm

    My cats, ME Coons, are indoor/outdoor as they choose. I count them as working cats as they keep the rodent population in check. The dogs, GSDs, are outdoors most of the daytime spreading scent around which I think helps keep predators at bay. They are in the house after they eat supper until early morning and sleep on their LLBean beds in my room.

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  16. Songbirdtiff on December 13, 2013 at 10:51 am

    I think it’s wonderful when animals have the freedom to use their instincts to create a place all their own. I definitely don’t have a problem with outdoor dogs when they have the ability to provide their own shelter as nature intended. In town we see dogs tied up to a tree where they have no ability to find cover or warmth, which is very sad. Our yards just aren’t big enough for the animals to have what they need to be protected unless it’s provided by the humans. Of course our dogs choose to stay on the couch, lol.

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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