We would be remiss if we did not give our awesome livestock guard dog, Patou, the credit he deserves as defender of the farm.
Patou (pronounced Pa-TOO) is a Great Pyrenees, a breed favored by shepherds in the French Alps. Long years of selective breeding have accentuated Pyrs’ protective instinct, while selecting away from the normal dog urge to chase small defenseless creatures. As a result, Pyrs are fantastic farm guard dogs, coupling a complete lack of aggression toward livestock with a strong desire to protect their territory. Pyrs 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 Myersville as his territory. We keep him on our farm with lightweight electric fencing, which, if you visit, you will notice bordering several of our fields.
Pyrs are semi nocturnal, so Patou spends much of the day impersonating a rug as he naps. As darkness falls, he begins his evening constitutional, and we can hear his bark whenever he encounters something he doesn’t like.
We adopted our Patou in July of 2011 from a farm in the Hudson Valley–he was not getting along with another dog of theirs, and we were lucky enough to take him in. He has proven to be a beloved (and invaluable!) addition to our farm. He’s a loving, loyal, laid back dog. We ask that visitors refrain from bringing their dogs to our farm, however, as Patou has a history of not getting along with other alpha males. The best way to make friends with Patou is to be introduced by Andrew or Mary Kathryn. If we’re not around, offer him your hand to smell and let him approach you. While he looks and sounds intimidating, he’s often shy around unfamiliar humans (until he knows you).
In 2013 we added Meryl to our guard dog patrol. Meryl’s precise background is a bit obscure, but we think she’s part Akbash, and part Maremma. While Meryl’s guarding instincts are most strongly expressed when small children nap outside in a stroller, she will, if required, protect chickens as well. She’s also Patou’s best friend.