Because Andrew raises chickens and turkeys, I knew that golden retrievers, the dogs of my childhood, were out of the question. I made a list of my desired dog characteristics: calm, friendly to people, poultry, and pigs, hostile to deer, able to live outside year round, and (preferably) cute. Looking back at my list, I suddenly began to worry that I was seeking a mythical creature, the ideal dog that never existed outside of Plato's cave. Still, I figured that I might as well look.
One breed that caught my eye was the Great Pyrenees, traditionally raised in France as livestock guard dog for flocks of vulnerable alpine sheep. I posted a thread on a farming list serv asking if anyone had any experience with the breed, and was immediately flooded with effusively positive reviews (as well as links to several flickr photostreams). The pictures quickly confirmed that Pyrs passed the cute criteria with flying colors.
The next evening, I received a call from a woman near New Paltz, New York. She had two Great Pyrenees, she informed me, both of whom were excellent guard dogs. Unfortunately, her male Great Pyr, Patou, had lately taken such a fierce dislike to her herding dog that the two of them now fought like cats if ever their paths crossed. It had gotten so bad that she now kept Patou on a leash all day while Berge, the herding dog, had free run of the farm. In the evening, when Berge came inside, Patou and his sister Marie patrolled the perimeter. Would I be interested in giving Patou a new home?
Needless to say, I was hooked. Last week I drove to New York to pick up my new baby (I mean dog). After a few days of confusion over his new surroundings, he seems to have settled in here in Maryland. He spends most of the heat of the day snoozing under his favorite bush. As the day cools off, he perks up, and he stands guard all night. In the evening, when I take him for a walk, he likes to make a circuit of the barn to check on the chicks and piglets before we head out across the fields to look for deer to bark at.
I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.