When we attended the Vermont Grazing Conference this past January we met a farmer from Rhode Island, Patrick McNiff who is essentially doing the same sort of farming we are; pasture farming. We discussed farming with him and discovered that he breeds livestock guardian dogs. We were instantly excited as we have been researching dog breeds best suited to protecting our animals here on the farm.
We instantly got a great feeling from Pat and over the weeks following the conference we kept in touch with him and did some more research on guardian dogs. It turns out that Pat's dogs are origianally descended from the same dogs on Joel Salatin's Polyface Farms. Pat drove to Georgia to Nature's Harmony Farm to get his first dogs and now he is providing beautiful dogs to farmers like us.
Pat emailed us a picture of Casey (1/2 Great Pyrenees, 1/4 Anatolian Shepherd, 1/4 Akbash) the dog that he currently had for sale and we immediately fell in love. Casey's beautiful cream-colored coat and serious face were enough for us to say "he's the one."
A week after letting Pat know that we would buy Casey, we packed up the car with dog crate, leash, snacks and kids and headed to Rhode Island. When we arrived at Pat's farm, fittingly called Pat's Pastured, we felt like we had come home. The sight of elecrto-netting surrouding a couple-hundred chickens and the sound of deep grunts coming from the woods told us we were on a pasture-based farm.
We talked with Pat for a while and stretched our legs and then the five of us headed out to the pasture to see the dogs. Casey's mother just had a litter of five so we were lucky enough to see week-old puppies on the way! As we approached the dogs who were guarding the flock of sheep we were surprised by how big and sturdy Casey looked. He came right up to us and it all seemed right.
After spending some time with the dogs we walked back to the farmhouse where hospitable Pat cooked us up a delicious lunch of tacos with some of his grass-fed beef and some locally made salsa.
With full bellies and warm hands we headed back out to the field with the car and loaded Casey into the crate. We gave Pat a few minutes to say goodbye while the kids climbed a massive tree in front of the farmhouse.
We said our own goodbyes and thanks and headed back to home. We returned to Walpole in the dark and took Casey for a walk around the yard. We put him in the pen in the barn where we had kept the sheep so it smelled like home to him. In the morning we put him to work with the chickens and he seems right at home!