Babe's been taking care of our older kids since she was about 8 months old. When our oldest son was about 2, he wandered off to the neighbor's house. We live in the country, so this was quite a distance for those little 2 year old legs. Babe didn't stop Tallis, but she did stay with him and she kept our neighbors from coming near him until she saw that Kathy had a baby with her. Then she shoved Tal toward Kathy and came running home to get us. Randall and I were searching frantically so it took us a minute to figure out that Babe wanted us to follow her. She got lots of treats that night!
Babe faithfully kept Carlie Rose away from our pond and the road. She had quite a job keeping tabs on Carlie. Tallis and Carlie taught Babe to go down the slide, they had to so that Babe would let them slide! Babe also considered the swings to be dangerous and refused to let the kids swing. She'd grab the seat of their pants and hold on for dear life while doing this muffled whine/bark thing that meant "Come take care of these kids! Can't you see they're going to get killed on this contraption?" As I've said before, Babe has rather a low opinion of my parenting skills.
The day we brought Jed home, Babe was beside herself. She still alerts to his slightest noise and she was convinced that his bassinet had eaten him and he had to be rescued right now! My fit of giggles during the bassinet thing has brought me to a new low in her eyes, as a parent. Jed now is old enough that he likes to be lifted into the air while we sing to him. We call it airplaning. Babe can't stand it. She rushes over and tries to hold our arms down so that we can't lift the baby.
Babe's one problem is that she keeps trying to offer her paw to Jed. A few days ago she scratched his face before I could grab her paw. I was annoyed and Babe was devastated. Jed's fine...she never even broke his skin...but I think we'll have to work on extinguishing that behavior.
Babe is exactly what we expected when we got an ES. I wanted an Albert Payson Terhune dog--a Lad--who would be protective and wonderful with our children. We sure got that in Babe. I just think ES are the best. Babe is my soulmate, a one in a million dog.Paige
Babe is friendly, extravagantly so, to people whom I've greeted. She's willing to be petted by folks that I haven't spoken to. However, if I'm trying to avoid someone or that person is acting strangely, nothing on earth will convince Babe that the person is ok.
Babe will often intercept folks who want to talk to or touch our children, offering her wagging self to be admired so that the strangers don't touch the kids. Complete with paw-offering and friendly little woofs. I think that this is quite an elegant solution, much better than her "stand and deliver!" demands of the past. Smart dogs, our ES--the boss (me) didn't like the original solution, so she found one that both of us can tolerate. And she started doing it so subtly that it took me nearly a year to catch on!
Strange dogs, however, are fair game and must never come within 10 feet of her children. This makes taking Babe and the children to agility events, etc. very difficult.
On the parenting front, I seem to have risen a bit in Babe's estimation, though she is still annoyed that I refuse to let her lick baby Jed's drool from his face. She does give me a disgusted look when I use a cloth to wipe his face. She's had to be satisfied with licking his drool-covered hands clean. (If my mom is reading this, then *I* wipe Jed's hands with a baby wipe...). Just this week Jed has shown a real interest in the dogs. He loves to have me help him stroke Babe's head and she of course is in ecstasy during these play sessions. Once Jed grabbed a big handful of ear and tugged while I tried to gently pry her loose. Babe just let out a huge sigh and snuggled closer to us. I hope she feels this way when he starts to crawl! Ha!Paige
I agree with the many posts that have pointed out the difference in guard dogs vs. *guardian* dogs. Babe has let people into her yard when we were not home. But then she won't let them out again until we get home and take control of the situation. I have to stress here that these are people well-known to her. They just have (foolishly) come to visit, seen that we're not home and decided to pet the dogs. Babe won't let them touch the other dogs in the yard, either.
In no case has she shown her teeth to these friends, but they both said that they didn't want to challenge her for the gate, even if she wasn't snarling. Just a couple of weeks ago, 3 guys drove up and knocked on the door. They wanted to look for ginseng in our woods. They seemed very polite and well-spoken and did all the polite country things that well brought up country boys do when they're talking to a lady that they don't know. They stood well away from the door, asked very politely, told me who they were and who their mommas were, etc. So I told them to go on ahead and wished them luck.
One of the guys asked if they could go through our fenced yard to get to the woods. I politely said no and added that our dogs didn't like strangers in the yard. They guys gave the yard a WIDE berth and went away on their business. Later that afternoon we had some of my son's friends out to play. The boys were doing 8 year old boy things in the backyard while the ginseng guys began walking back to the car and getting ready to leave. I thought that Babe was going to explode. She could hear Jed crying inside, there were the strangers outside and she was trying to keep track of new children who didn't know the rules of the backyard. So she sat and stared at the ginseng guys, staying between them and the children, getting up to gently herd the boys away from the fence. All the while she kept up her alarm bark until I went to the back porch to show her that even though Jed was crying, I was holding him. She calmed down, but kept the boys out of arm's reach of that fence until the ginseng guys left.
After the my son's friends left, Babe came in, got a cookie and took a very long and well-deserved nap!
These dogs are real problem-solvers. I am constantly amazed at their intelligence and their willingness to use that on their family's behalf. I have to be careful to whom I tell Babe the Wonder Dog stories...so many folks think they want a dog with this kind of intelligence and problem-solving ability. I spend a lot of time talking to those people about what happens when a dog with these abilities doesn't have an adequate outlet for them.
This morning we found that Babe had killed and eaten two of our ducks. We're not sure whether the ducks squeezed out of the fence or Babe went in after them...it *looks* like she went in...
Our ducks are part of our groceries...eggs and meat...some are pets as well. I'm very deeply upset, as Babe has seemed to be exemplary with our poultry in the past two years. We're now wondering if some of our losses this past winter were due to Babe, not wildlife as we'd thought. The ducks are normally penned but in the winter we allow them into the backyard to forage. If Babe is out with them, it is only when we are out there to supervise. She's never even looked at the ducks when we're around.
We've just spent the afternoon reinforcing the fencing around the ducks and looking for holes and such in the duck barn. The worst part is that the two ducks that were killed were our breeders for next year, our best ones...and that I can't trust Babe around poultry anymore.
So...does anyone have any advice on how to teach Babe that ducks are no longer on the menu? I do not want to tie a duck carcass to Babe..even if we *had* a carcass...no offense to anyone who's used that technique...but I know I couldn't do it. But anything else will be considered. If we can't change her mind about the ducks, we'll work something out...rehoming her is NOT an option. That would be like cutting off my leg or arm or something. So...help! please!
Sorry for the lack of updates on the Babe/duck situation...things have been rather hectic here.
First of all, thank you thank you thank you to everyone who has offered insight, advice and wisdom. You all are responsible for calming my panic and helping me to think rationally. So here's what's been going on.
After spending all day here in a semi panic about the sudden insanity of my most trusted companion and partner, I kept remembering Kathi's post asking if I was SURE that Babe was the culprit. This just didn't make any sense! Babe never went after the ducks when they were loose, the ducks have been handled and cooed over since day one, in her sight. She's defended them from other dogs and doesn't spend time trying to figure out how to get hold of fresh duck. I felt finally that she couldn't have done it because I KNOW her. We spend almost 24 hours a day together and she lives inside my skin. Randall was not convinced and I couldn't change his mind just on the strength of my feelings.
So I told Randall that I'd keep Babe inside for 24 hours. If we didn't lose anymore ducks, then I'd have to concede that it was probably her. About 2 am that next morning, I heard a huge commotion in the duck barn. Randall went out and charged into the barn but didn't catch anything, though he did frighten one of the ducks into getting her leg caught on something. When daylight arrived we went in and found a lame duck (sorry, just couldn't resist) and a young female duck with very bad bite wounds to her head. We euthanized her...she'd lost an eye and was not only deeply in shock, she was mortally wounded.
But Babe had been inside the whole time. We still don't know exactly what has been carting off ducks, but it must be pretty big, like fox-size. That day we spent hours going over the duck barn with a fine toothed comb. We've reinforced it to the point that I'm amazed the ducks can breathe at night. But we haven't lost anymore ducks. We did put Babe in the duckyard that night, hoping she'd either frighten or shred whatever has been filling up on ducks. Good girl that she is she didn't stay there long...she's been told not to go in the duck yard.
So...I don't have a poultry killing dog after all...thank goodness. And I've had a great lesson in trusting my dog. That I was talked so easily into DIS-trusting her is very much an anomaly. Randall often complains that I listen to Babe when I won't listen to him...(no comment).
Babe is vindicated, I am chastened and the duck flock is holding steady.
Now..onto the next crisis...tiling the bathroom floor.