This is Tessa on the left and Duke on the right. They came to us at our Colorado ranch in the spring of 2017. They were already adults (Tessa was 4 and Duke 3) and had already been with sheep for several years so they took to our sheep easily.
In the fall of 2020 we were making plans to move to North Carolina so we sold the sheep, and the dogs transitioned to our goats.
Just before we moved, Duke passed away from cancer and Tessa was left to care for the goats by herself. That’s when she started informing friends about her status as a livestock guardian dog—it seemed she was ready to try another job. She told two friends, “I princess!”
I mean really, look at that face. She just needs a tiara.
Little did we know that was just the beginning.
When Brad, our older son Josh, and the dogs drove across the country, Tessa stayed at the new house with Brad once they arrived. There were no goats then, so it didn’t seem right to leave her outside by herself!
When I arrived a few days later, I was welcomed by Tessa who informed me, “I HOUSEDOG!”
"Maybe housedogs drink coffee?"
The horses, donkey, and goats arrived the next day and Tessa went out with the goats to protect them. She was unhappy with that situation. We were lucky and the weather that first week was unseasonably cool and not as humid. But summer quickly came back with a vengeance and Tessa, with her heavy coat, was a mess. We brought her inside during the hottest part of the day. I brushed armfuls of hair out of her. In the evening she took to digging under the fence, squeezing under, and then coming up to the house with a big smile on her face like she was saying, “I don’t think you understand! I HOUSEDOG!”
One evening as I was taking her back out from yet another escape, I sat and talked to her about how she had an important job to do, protecting our goats. She said she was a housedog. I asked her if we could come to a compromise. If she could stay outside at night, she could come in all day, not just the hot part of the day. I got such a CLEAR, “Yes! Okay!”
That worked for quite a few weeks. I didn’t particularly want her to have access to the whole house, feeling like it would just add to the dirt and my cleaning—plus she was only learning to be house trained. Luckily she liked the cool floor. She easily agreed to my rule of her staying in the kitchen and dining room.
If we had to run an errand during the day, we left her on the screened in porch with a couple of fans blowing. At the end of July we went to Charlotte for the day for Brad's brother's birthday. We hired a teen from the barn next door to take the dogs out every couple of hours. Tessa stayed on the screened porch. We were driving home at 7pm when the teen texted us to say she had let the dogs out one last time and did we need anything else? Sweet girl. No, we were good, we'd be there in an hour! We arrived at 8pm to find Tessa on the front porch! She had gone through the bottom part of the screened door! After that we realized she knew where her house was and understood that we were coming back so we stopped using a leash with her because obviously, she wasn't going anywhere!
We started leaving her in the house on short errands and she proved that she was trustworthy. I told her if she would agree to a bath she could be in the whole house, not just the kitchen area. Within a week she decided that would be worth it. She had never had a bath before but she did great!
"I love Mommy's rainbow rug!"
She’s a complete fuzzball. Her hair flies through the house like a cloud. I have to dust mop EVERY SINGLE DAY and really it would be best if it were twice a day!
She is also ridiculously sweet. She’s so zen, nothing phases her. She’s an excellent, calm leader for Lucy, who really needs that. She has such a nice feel about her.
One evening, we had a horrible thunderstorm with pouring rain that lasted way into the night. I decided that I couldn’t put her out there in the middle of that and whatever creatures were out would be holed up too. She slept right by my bed that night. Never made a peep. I slept like a baby. I feel so safe with her near. And she’s ALWAYS near me, like my shadow.
Man was it hard to put her in with the goats the following evening at chores! I asked Brad to take her to the goat pen because I felt AWFUL. She walked away with him, looking over her shoulder at me. Ugh.
That’s when the next version of the great escape happened. She knew I REALLY wanted her inside with me and decided I needed her way more than those goats. She is the most intuitive dog. This was an escape (always to the house to find me) that we couldn’t figure out! She did it 3 times in one evening. By the second time I put out a camera on a fence post and put it on time lapse (video at the top of this post.)
Good lord, she climbed the gate and squeezed through the top piece! In Colorado she had never done any of these things! Brad tied up the top part of the gate and stopped that. Tessa and I discussed again and came up with compromise #152, she could stay inside until we went to bed if she would just, please God, stay with the goats overnight. Yes, mother, whatever you'd like mother :-)
This past week, Tessa has been barking at night way more than she had been. It doesn’t seem like the ferocious bark that says to the nighttime creatures, “Get away or I’ll eat you!” It’s more like, “Mom! Mom! I HOUSEDOG! Mom! Mom! Don’t leave me out here!”
Last night I talked with her about this before we went out and asked her what else could we do? She still has to protect those goats overnight! She immediately said that we could come get her earlier! Well then. I said we’d be out around 7am. She agreed not to bark all night.
I woke up without an alarm at 6:45.
I’m sure it was all her fault ;-)
Brad is planning on making a barn where we can lock the goats in at night.
Just for Tessa.
And me ;-)
May you all have this much love and devotion in your lives.
Love to all from the Mother Ranch,
Let me give you a big ol' hug!
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