An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
Killick has long been obsessed with our chickens. And while he has had at least two occasions in which he could have had his way with an escapee, he has not hurt any of them. He does, though, from time to time snip a few feathers off the tail end of a bird who mistakenly presented too easy a target through the fencing. Killick is VERY attuned to us - his humans. He's likely the most intelligent dog I have ever owned and knows very well that he is NOT to hurt the chickens, which is the only thing I can imagine preventing him from having a snack at opportune times.
But I am working to get him less "nervous" about being around the chickens. It's quite funny because that nervousness is similar (from my experience) to what one feels when doing something you know you shouldn't be doing. Maybe like picking your nose in public and getting caught...or perhaps worse. Killick is torn - you can see it - between the natural instinct to rip these birds apart and the instinct to commune with the pack (us) peacefully.
So I have been going into the chicken run with Killick the last few days and just hanging out there with him. The chickens, being as dumb as a bag of hammers, have absolutely no fear of him and will swarm around him - perhaps wondering if he is food. But poor Killick is caught up in a storm of paradoxical emotions that you can see on his face. He'll look up at me nervously, licking his lips, watching the bird, indecisive about whether to sit, lie down, or stand. Anyway, I give him much praise for his otherwise calm presence and I hope such therapy will help him come to a final resting place in favor (as he has done so far) of a peaceful pack community. As I said, he's a smart dog...too smart to fall for the proverb that you can't teach an old one new tricks.
In related news: a new employee is arriving at St. Brigid Farm this Friday. A very young Anatolian/Great Pyrenees/? shepherd mix. We'd been contemplating getting a young companion for Killick for a long time, and combined with the inclination to have a Livestock Guard Dog join us we have made the plunge.
LGD's are truly an amazing thing, if you think about it. How much more time have they had developing the hunting instinct as compared to the time we humans have spent with them developing a stronger bonding and protecting instinct - even for animals they would normally crave as prey? For me it is an amazing thing to see pictures like these (from the Anatolian Shepherd Dog Club):
Loyalty, devotion, and a yearning to protect are the hallmarks of breeds like this and owners have many stories of these animals giving their lives to save their flocks (be it chickens, ducks, sheep, or goats). According to the sayings of the Desert Fathers, Abba Xanthios said, "A dog is better than I am, for he has love and he does not judge."
Well I think the Abba rather underestimates the dog...sometimes they do judge - as they should...but certainly they love as I often fail to do. Here are three Great Pyrenees judging that this brown bear is not allowed and in so doing, loving those they are intended to protect.
Addendum: Our little girl is in the very back with the black mask. Now...names?
Addendum II: I had meant to write this earlier, but got distracted during the original post.
You will, from time to time hear notions in agrarian writings of how humankind through through our farming can bring order and beauty to the earth. There is also a sense of priestly duties in such work: bringing nature back to God - in a way. We stand with one foot in the seen realm and one foot in the unseen realm and we are the very connecting point between heaven and earth - perfected and made whole through the Incarnation. To some degree, we lead the created toward the uncreated....and I wonder to what extent the image of a carnivorous dog caring for a newborn goat - what normally would have been its prey had it not been for humankind's intervention - I wonder to what extent this image is a small icon of our role on earth?
Congratulations on the new addition! Brendan will be most jealous, I'm sure. And "dumb as a bag of hammers" has got to be the best thing I've heard all day. Beats "two french fries short of a happy meal," that's for sure.