Dogs on the homestead

Dogs. For centuries they have lived alongside man, earning their keep with specific jobs intended to make our lives easier. They have played an enormous role in our lives, and have since changed their roles more to companionship and less as helpers. Still, there are people out there that have a passionate love for those breeds that work, and the work itself. Theres something beautiful about watching dogs who were bred for a specific job or talent . Watching those breeds work is an art form in itself.

My family have been avid hunters. It started out of self sufficiency for them, in times when thats just what you did to put food on the table. Those skills were passed down and the traditions kept. In a time when convenience is the easy choice to make, my family always chose natural and self sufficiency. I think thats why I am living life this way, because my parents lived it and passed this way of thinking down. I am grateful for it, truly, because too many things are going on with our food that is not natural. Back to the point, we got hooked on hunting with dogs too. My father always had some type of hunting breed around growing up. I remember all of the dogs, and my love for them stemmed from being raised around them. Hog hunting with dogs was definitely the one that started it all. I was obsessed with going hunting, training, and breeding dogs so that we had our own line of magical hog catching machines. They truly were magical. Incredible to hunt alongside with and watch their amazing abilities. The companionship and bond that is created is also one of a kind. To know your dog is there for you in sticky situations is a great feeling, and proving to your dog that you will do the same brings out the best in them. That bond is undeniably the reason dogs are known as “mans best friend”. Not to mention the pack. Watching them work together, I have no words to describe it. You would just have to witness it for yourself. It was like having a front row seat of a National Geographic scene of wolves or wild dogs hunting down their prey. Except, they were even more fearless because they had man on their side.

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Me holding Mocha, my father holding Montero, and brother holding Calabaza behind a big sow they had just caught.

I learned a lot from the man we got our dogs from. He used to explain training techniques and what to look for when you are going to breed. He used to directly explain it to me and tell me I was the one who needed to have this information. I was 16 years old at the time and wanted to be a veterinarian, so I soaked up all the knowledge. He was a dog man, this is what he dedicated his life doing. I will never forget him and all that he taught me. I still have his bloodline in my yard and I will preserve them in his honor. For me, they are the best dogs Ive ever known. One in particular who’s name was Hank, and is the foundation for the dogs i still have. He was the most intelligent and driven dog I have ever known. A once in a lifetime dog. When he passed away, my entire family mourned, for he fed us and was loyal til’ the day he died. No matter what, that dog was always ready to do his job. Even when he was starting to get old and rusty he’d still outsmart and beat the young dogs. No dog challenged his leadership, they just followed. I have his grand daughter, her name is Mocha, and she is so much like him. Its great to have a piece of him alive and with me. I have great memories of him. The best kind I know I will never forget.

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A very young me holding Hank after a night of baying competitions.

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Mocha gets to hang around the house sometimes and watch the kids play.

Dogs like Hank are a dying breed. They must be preserved if we want to continue these traditions. Im not talking about just hunting, but the preservation of the working dog. The dog that earned their keep by providing a helping hand. I believe these are the kinds of dogs that live happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives. Its part of their very own existence. How they became our companions, and why they seek our leadership. Right now we have five dogs on the homestead. Four are retired Hog Hunting dogs and one, our pitty, that was meant for Hog Hunting but never got the chance. They all have a purpose here even though it may not be hunting. It hurts my soul to not be able to give them the chance to hunt their little hearts out because I know they’d much rather be doing that than hanging around the farm. They keep predators away, alert me of visitors and three out of five don’t mess with my chickens, so I’m happy with that. But I wonder sometimes if they are. Although, if I  ever needed to rely on them for food, I know they would not dissapoint. That is a relief to know in these times when the future feels so uncertain.

I felt compelled to write this today, because this morning there was a fight between Hera our pitty and Mocha. Its important to make sure your dogs always know they are not in charge. They need to be a team. There is no room here for dominance games. The dogs on this homestead have a job to do even if they don’t know it, or at times when there isn’t, it can lead to this kind of behavior. It reminded me of those days when we were all a team, we had a job to do, goals to meet and there was no time for fighting. None of that was ever acceptable behavior, and so those rules will continue around here. Regardless of the job at hand, we are a team.

Thanks for reading, until next time!

-Cristina

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