Don't Get Anything Off The Internet Just Because It's Free

by Paul Potter
Hollow Tree Hill Farm, Effingham, New Hampshire

Now some of you may know that my wife has been raising goats for several years now, and lately she's been considering getting something to guard the goats - and the cow, and the chickens, and, well , she's sorta branched out, as she sees some live stock that's available on line, and free, and so she goes and gets it. I tell her, "You don't get something off of the Internet, just because it's free." But I'm a husband, and I read in the husband manual that came with me, that I won't necessarily get listened to.

Anyway, here's the new acronym you have to learn to really understand this story: L G D . At first I thought that it might have something to do with a gas fired BBQ, but no. It means: Livestock Guardian Dog. These dogs are bred to do just that, guard livestock. Some of them herd the livestock away from danger. (Come on folks, this way, nothing to see here, free hay in the barn for the first forty heifers to get there. etc) Some of them bark to warn off predators, and alert the owners. (ARF ARF! Stay away! My mistress has PMS and a semi-automatic! Hey, in the house, little help here please!) And some of them just go and eat whatever's bothering the livestock. (HI! I'm hungry and your legs look tasty!)

What she wanted was what's called Mare Enema, which is not a huge dog, that's kind of shaggy and white, and belongs to the second category of Dog. (Hey! In the house! I'm telling you again, there's six, count em six,coyotes out here!) So she was sorta engrossed in doing a hunt for this Mare Enema on the Internet.

I kept reminding her, "Don't get anything off the Internet just because it's free." (There's usually a reason for it.) Anyway, she's been dog hunting for a couple of months, looking for something that we can afford, when she comes across a FREE Great Pair O' Knees. This dog not only had been used as a guard dog for poultry and Alpacas, but he had even attempted to do in some coyotes that had tried to get in the pen, well actually they had succeeded, and so had the dog.

Well, I was a little leery, not of the dog's ability, but why this Terminator in a dog suit was "Free" So I was told a sad story, about how his owners had stopped being livestock owners, and the dog was wasting away from not having anything to guard. Well, naturally being a good 12th generation Yankee, I thought, "Damn, the dog has a work ethic!" And I told my neat and sweet that I supposed I was fine with getting a dog. What I should have said was, "Don't ever, ever get anything off the Internet just because it's free!"

A few days later, unannounced, this SUV shows up in the yard about breakfast, and the wife sees it's the dog's owner come to drop him off a little bit sooner than we expected. This should have rung warning bells, but I went out to tell them it was the right place, not that the chickens in the drive, the goats in one pasture, and the cow in the other probably wasn't hint enough. I noticed that the SUV was sitting pretty low to the ground, but I put that off to pot holes, after all, it was mud season out there and shocks are a casualty of living the good life. I greeted the lady and then she went around to the rear of the vehicle to let to dog out. She raised the tailgate, and called the dog, but nothing happened, and so she reached in and pulled. By now I'm standing in front of the SUV, just in time to watch it spring into the air as the dog exited the rear. What came around the car was the size of a small horse, a husky small horse. I was assured that it was, in fact, a dog. It did look like one upon closer examination, big and white, with just a bit of black on it's ears. Also it was big, had lots of real thick white hair, and it was big, and what appeared to be a laid back personality. Also, it was real big. The nice lady told us the story again about how it guarded alpacas, and how it was used to poultry. She also added that she had had to trick the dog to get it into the SUV because it didn't like to ride at all. She also remarked that the dog was in fact, free.

Now keep this in mind, "Don't ever, ever get anything off the Internet if it's free."

We put the Great Pair O' Knees (named OD by the way, I'm still leery of the implications behind that..) in the pasture with the goats, who apparently not looking like alpacas, caused him mental anguish by chasing him out into the depths of the field where he hid behind some brush. We then put him in the other pasture with our young bull, BBQ. They seemed to get along alright, and so we decided to leave him there with "the tasty cow" for the night. The two pastures were side by side, and it might give the goats a chance to get acclimated too.

Things seemed to go the way they were supposed to up to five AM, that's morning for any of you farm challenged people, when the dog started talking. "Woof, woof, woof, woof." He had a real deep voice so it didn't wake me up immediately. When I finally came to, it had increased to, "woofwoofwoofwoofwoof" Sort of like an old style steam train going full speed......if trains went "woof", instead of "chuff".

I got up, pulled on my work pants (originally blue, but after several encounters with Clorox in the wash, now a sort of bright purple). Grabbed my winter bathrobe (alternating BRIGHT green and black stripes) slipped my boots on, and grabbed my True Value hat with "master electrician" written in big white letters over a hunter safety orange back ground. A black nylon dog leash heavy enough to use as a tow rope was the finishing touch.

"Woofwoofwoofwoofwoof!" The dog was glad to see me. His tail was wagging. I supposed it was his tail, as there was so much fur it was hard to tell. The motion was at the opposite end of where the sound was coming out, so I supposed it was a safe bet.

Going into the pasture, I groped around the end that was making the noise and found a a collar about the size to fit a WWF wrestler, and attached the leash, at which point the dog led me out the gate at a rapid trot. There apparently WAS something out there, and the rear end had stopped moving. He was now all business.

We trotted by our summer neighbors house which is literally on our boundary. The dog was only letting out an occasional mutter now, and it was so deep that I wasn't worried about it bothering anyone, mainly the wife who was still snoozing 500 feet away. I wasn't concerned about the neighbors, they NEVER came up except in the summer, and on rare weekends. Let's face it, central New Hampshire in mud season is not what you'd call a tourist mecca. That's when I saw the upstairs curtains move.

Suddenly the Great Pair O' Knees stopped, I kept my momentum, and was brought up short by running into the canine equivalent of an air bag. If he had been a retriever I would have said he was doing a point. Since it was him, it was more of a heavy shaggy line. He must have been listening, as there suddenly appeared two upright hunks of fur on top of the end the leash was attached to, Then I heard it too, "Gobble, Gobble, Gobble." I was momentarily irritated, but then I realised that the dog had never heard wild turkeys before, and he was interpreting them as a threat. My respect for the dog went up highly for a moment. For a moment. I repeat, Don't ever, ever, get anything free off the Internet.

There was a massive jerk, the leash left my hand as well as some skin I wasn't really using, and a white blur vanished from sight in the direction of the gobbling. I didn't know something that big could move that fast with out special effects. Neither apparently did the turkeys. I followed the white blur and saw him descending on a flock of of 4 or 5 birds across the road from our neighbors, whose curtains were now wide open with faces pressed against the glass. The turkeys scattered, and the dog went into maneuvers best executed by an F-15 fighter. The birds went left, and so did he, they went right, he followed, They tried to jump/fly over him, he leaped higher. He was clearly in command of the situation. The turkeys in tight formation turned and ran....towards me...with a very determined Great Pair O' Knees hot on their tails.

It was at that moment I had a burst of crystal clear revelation. The dog had been around poultry before we had gotten him. He was trying to drive the errant fowl back into the pasture! In fact he was doing it!

About one hundred feet in front of me the turkeys also had a revelation. They didn't have to run, they had wings. And as one, they rose up into the air,still in tight formation, still coming straight at me. So was the dog. I dropped, and the birds flew over me, closely followed by the dog, who was NOT flying but still went over me, but miraculously not laying a paw on me. Our neighbors were now leaning out the window cheering. For who was not immediately apparent. The six foot deer fence around the pasture was coming up, the turkeys ignored it and flew over it, The dog briefly considered running through it, but at the last moment he veered, and ran down the fence line separating us from the neighbors.

As in the case with most of New Hampshire, the fence line was a stone wall. I stress the word "was". Stones were rumbling down every where, leaving not so much a stone wall as a stone path. Turkeys and dog disappeared into the woods, in the general direction of the White Mountain National Forest, a mere 25 miles away.

My wife was frantic when I told her, and immediately got dressed and started searching for the dog in the woods. She also informed me that most Great Pair O' Knees had a different name when they were not fenced in. They were then called, "Gone". About one mile into the woods, we hit the first trace of the dog, paw-prints in the mud near some fresh moose tracks. My wife was quite worried, but I assured her that a moose, at least, looked nothing like an alpaca, so we were probably safe on that point. The tracks led towards an old abandoned town road that led to the center of town, and we lost them at that point.

We went home, called our daughter, and all three of us set out in different directions to try and find the beast, but to no avail. The next nine hours were not really good ones, No dog signs, and lots of phone calls to various people and organizations letting them know that a really large white dog was somewhere, and to let us know if they saw it,

Life does go on though, and my wife, tho quite weepy, insisted that we take our garbage to the the recycling area since it was "Dump Day". We loaded up the truck with the usual stuff one does not feel a need to keep to pass on to the next generation, and headed down to the center of town. Of course we went slowly hoping against hope that we would get a glimpse of "Gone"

We turned off onto the road leading the the dump, and as we passed the only occupied house on the road, I saw our neighbor Jake, Barbecuing , with a large white rug at his feet.. It was, of course, the Great Pair O' Knees. I came to a screeching halt, and ran to the house. Jake explained that he had walked out on his porch about six in the morning, and had discovered a ratty looking white mat lying on his deck. Being on the dump road he is used to having to pick up trash that has come loose from other peoples vehicles, but he had not had anything land on his deck before. He was really ticked, as he is NOT a morning person. So he tried to kick the rug off the deck. His foot disappeared into the white stuff of the rug, and the rug sat up.

Jake is a big boy, a Navy vet, and a retired weapons tester for the government. He is also a member of one of the older families in town. Not much bothers him. He looks at the pile of fur, and grudgingly asks it if it would like breakfast. I was told that the dog really, really likes smoked sausage, cut into small pieces, so they fit on the fork better. The mental image I had was one of Jake and the dog sitting at the table, eating, and drinking coffee, each bitching about how their mornings had gone. I put a lot of effort into getting that out of my mind. Anyway, Jake figured that if the dog liked that, he would probably like barbecued chicken too, So he was out there getting an early supper ready.

Thanking Jake, I unwound the leash from around the dog, he had managed to wrap it around his neck, or at least what I assumed was his neck, so that the grip end was hanging down like a necktie. He didn't seem to mind going with me, but he did give a longing look at the grill as we went past it. As I got the door to the truck open, The Wife was reminding me that he didn't like to ride, and that we wouldn't be able to get him into the cab. I give her the leash, and informed her that she would pull I would push, and some how we'd get the dog in. I reminded her we had a four ton come-a-long we could use as a last resort.

Either the dog was listening, or he liked to ride shotgun, One leap and he was on the seat, and a moment later my Wife disappeared as he sat down on her lap. The truck also listed rather abruptly to the right. Sounds of outrage, if not outright pain, issued from beneath the dog. We continued on to the dump. As we drove in the recycling crew saw the big white blob riding with me and came over the be introduced to our new acquisition. The dog loved it. He even opened his mouth to pant and slobber a little, proving beyond doubt which end was which.

My wife cut everything short by demanding I empty the bed of the truck and get us home. I felt she really meant it too, as she was gasping for air most of the time while she was telling me. Anyway, we got back home and stuck the dog in with the goats. The wife was completely indifferent about them beating the dog up, and even sort of agreed with me about not ever, ever getting anything free off the Internet. That lasted until the next week, when she saw the ad for the three free sheep in the next town over...