Our Guard Dogs
We would be remiss if we did not give our awesome livestock guard dogs, Patou and Meryl, the credit they deserve as defenders of the farm.
Patou (pronounced Pa-TOO) is a Great Pyrenees, a breed favored by shepherds in the French Alps. We're not sure of Meryl's parentage, but we suspect that she's an Akbash-Maremma cross (the Akbash breed hail from Turkey, Maremmas from Italy). Long years of selective breeding have accentuated the protective instinct in livestock guard dogs, while selecting away from the normal dog urge to chase small defenseless creatures. As a result, LGDs are fantastic farm guard dogs, coupling a complete lack of aggression toward livestock with a strong desire to protect their territory. LGDs are very friendly to human strangers, however, provided they feel properly introduced.
The name "Patou" is the generic nickname given to all Pyrs in the French Alps (similar to Rover for American dogs). Appropriately enough, the name comes from the old French word "pastre," meaning shepherd. In France they say that Pyrs "ring the bell," a reference to their warning bark when something strays into a Pyr's territory. In truth, our Patou is all bark and no bite, though he does a great job of scaring off wild animals who don't know this. Pyrs are notoriously prone to wander and, left to his own devices, Patou would probably claim all of Middletown as his territory. We therefore keep Patou on a lead or inside of a fence at all times.
Meryl, fortunately for us, lacks Patou's wanderlust, and stays on our farm without restraint. The only time she ever wanders down the drive is if she sees us going off for a family bike ride; she likes to come along.