2020 The Year of the Anatolians

I have always been a dog lover. Raised on a farm in South Louisiana, we had Rat Terriers, Beagles, Hounds, Catahoulas, Border Collies, German Shepherds, and many mixed breeds. Living life next to a dog was my lifestyle. They went horseback riding with me, rode in my truck, explored the fields, wherever I was there was usually a dog at my side. I have had many good dogs in my life. I grew up, got married, and my husband was a dog lover. This current pack of ours is what we lovingly call our fourth generation as we have been together for 36 years. We have had mainly rescues from one situation or another and a few purchased purebreds in the mix. Our children were raised with dogs in the house, in the car, in the barn, in the woods wherever they played with friends or alone, they had a dog at their side.

Living in the mountains of North Carolina, we live adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Wildlife abounds and we live in the middle of the woods down a half mile private road with a bustling trout filled creek meandering its way through our woods. During our 16 years here on the farm, we have seen one wolf, many coyotes, bear, deer, and even had an encounter with some type of cat one evening at dusk. North Carolina officials say the big cats are not here. I believe, for the most part they are not here, but I do think an occasional big cat of some type travels through and this being one of the most rural areas in the state with an abundant food source, it would be a natural conclusion.

This is Joe. He came to live on the farm in spring of 2006. He had a tendency to wander and needed a home safe from traffic. We had adopted his sister, Patche the year before when they were just babies. Their mother was an apparent Chow and Basset Hound mix and somehow the whole litter was a mix of odd looking pups, mainly solid black little Pit Bull type puppies. Joe had been the largest pup in the litter, extremely laid back, almost lazy, and more of a loner. Patche looked like a miniature Catahoula. She had the leopard markings, webbed feet, and naturally “headed” when she was after prey, which are all traits of the Catahoula. They are not heelers. I have watched her many a day while playing with other dogs and prey, go to head them off from the front, not catch from the back. Sometimes these dogs are called “hog dogs” and they catch hogs or cattle from the front. Catahoulas are a tough breed and Patche was no exception. She was blinded in one eye in later years but that never slowed her down. When Joe came to live with us on the farm, the two pups had been separated almost a year but when they saw each other, I will never forget; it was instant recognition and joy on their faces. They stayed together for the rest of their lives.

Joe and Patche always accompanied my children into the woods. I never worried about the safety of my children with Joe present, and he was always present. He was their self-appointed guardian. It became apparent that Joe was the guardian of our entire farm. We had eight dogs, six cats, and three horses and Joe managed every animal, every visitor, and every trespasser. If coyotes were on the edge of the pasture, they would not be there long. Joe would go and disperse them. He had absolutely no fear. If horses got in a minor scuffle in the pasture, Joe would go and investigate who needed to be told to knock it off. At nightime, Joe’s post was at our daughter’s bedroom window. He guarded from that spot for years. If we had a stranger on the place, Joe would always politely place himself midway between us and the stranger and fall asleep. However, I always knew that no matter how still he was, Joe was aware. He would have been up as quick as a shot if something had seemed amiss. Joe was somewhat aloof with people but always friendly. Slowly I began to realize that this guardian attribute had been bred into him somewhere, and it wasn’t just Chow blood.

Years passed, the kids grew up, and our pack began to die from old age. Annabelle, then Marshall, then Patche, and last year in 2020 we lost Joe. Our king was gone. In the summer and fall of 2019 we began to ask ourselves what would happen when Joe left us. We had some decisions to make. The three dogs we still had were either not outside dogs nor were they guard dogs. Living out in the woods, I was afraid that deer or bear would soon find their way into the house. Joe had kept an old sow bear at the edge of the woods for years. I always knew when she was down the hill and on the edge of the yard because of the particular barks that Joe made when he was talking about her. Then one evening we got a phone call from our tenant who rents a house in town from us. Apparently a young spike had jumped through the window of the house and proceeded to damage every room in the house. Law enforcement was called and the deer who was already bleeding heavily from going through the window had to be put down in a bedroom. The house looked like a murder scene as every room had blood, broken glass, and damage from hooves or horns. Approximately $10,000 of damage was done in those few minutes and of which our insurance would not pay for. I couldn’t let that happen at our home in the woods. I was concerned about coyotes being in the yard, deer in the house, and a mad sow if I came across her as l walked one of the trails on the farm. My little Jack Russell would be a target of a coyote even with me outside accompanying my dog. To have to be armed every time I went out through the woods or even in the yard was not an option suitable to me. I also didn’t want have to protect by bullet my farm from wildlife. That was not an acceptable option for me or my husband. A breeder we knew once mentioned to us that photos she had seen of Joe made it apparent to her that Joe had a lot of Anatolian blood in him. My husband had always jokingly said he would love to clone Joe, but it was a joke. We didn’t really even know what an Anatolian was or how closely Joe might have been one. So I began to read and look, and call people and ask questions.

After much thought, debate, and investigation, we decided to make the plunge and start looking for two Anatolian male pups. After watching the bond between Joe and Patche for all their lives, we decided we wanted a sibling pair, and we wanted males. We were a little scared because Anatolians can be a little scary. They are livestock guardians, and they take their job seriously. The breed is a 2,000 years old Turkish breed. They are absolutely fearless. They are a big dog, strong minded, and not for a novice dog owner. With the ownership of any dog comes much responsibility but the ownership of an Anatolian must be planned and well thought out for everyone’s happiness and well being. These dogs can weight up to 160 pounds and more, and they are nocturnal. They guard their perimeters at night. They are loud, strong, fast, decisive, loving, affectionate, loyal, and the list goes on. They eat a lot because of their size thus their upkeep is not cheap. They wander so they must be fenced with strong, tall fencing. If you are planning to use them to guard your goats, dogs, horses, kids, cats, chickens whatever it may be, it is imperative they are introduced and started at least 7 weeks of age if not younger. In the western states, these dogs are seen as a “green way” to rid a farm of predators. Coyotes, wolves, bear, deer, wildlife in general will make a path around a farm that has these dogs on duty. These dogs require the patience of a saint as they are bred to make their own decisions and your goal is to have a mutual agreement. Happily, they are highly intelligent and often only need being shown or told something once, although you might have to keep repeating actions over for a while as the pup may know what you want, it can be a battle of wills and decisiveness. Our pups have never ever had tempers lost with them and at 16 months of age, it has well paid off. They are willing and sweet dogs.

At almost eight months of age, Apollo began to show some aggression issues with his brother due to normal sibling rivalry, guardianship, etc and this was an issue that we needed to immediately handle before they got much larger. The boys had an acre and a half fenced pasture and were able to watch our horses all day and everyone’s comings and goings on the farm. They were taken on regular walks and to the feed store and to the hardware store and to the park. So we were doing what we could and we found a trainer who was experienced with the breed and helped us. Both of the pups adored people and other animals. Our trainer worked with us and we did joint lessons with the dogs and made the decision to leave Apollo under our trainer’s care for a month. It was an excellent decision. We would travel down and work with Apollo at the trainer’s and it was always good to see our boy. He was happy, learning, and gaining confidence. Apollo had always been the pup that was little insecure. Artemis had always been bursting with confidence which has always made him a dream to handle. Apollo came home and has grown tremendously in his maturity. He can still be a little nosy and pushy but thats a lot of who he is. His nature is good, and he is manageable.

Even at play Apollo is usually the leader. Although many times it is Artemis who brings up games of chase to play. These two dogs are the epitome of the Anatolian Shepherd. Apollo is highly affectionate and alert. He guards this farm and no bird of prey, wildlife, or person is gonna sneak up on him. He and Artemis investigate every sound, movement, and dare it to come any further. They are fast. The breed can run up to 35 mph and it would be daresome to be in their path when they are in pursuit. At nighttime, all I can say is, its a good thing we don’t have neighbors. This breed is not meant for neighborhoods. They work at night and are loud. With all of that, they love to greet our delivery people such as the Fed Ex driver and UPS people. They love to meet our friends when they come to visit. I have noticed that when we don’t greet someone warmly, they don’t greet. They get quiet and watch. Their tails will flag just a little and you can see the looks on their faces as they are deciding if this is friend or foe. They love to hang out with our dogs, although because of size differences, I do not allow for free run together. They have to play through the fence. They could honestly hurt a dog in a second and with two Anatolians, if something got misunderstood, there could be an issue as well. It’s best big dogs with big dogs. Apollo is approximately 140 pounds and Artemis is somewhere near 130 pounds so their size is a consideration at all times. Our horses, when running free on the farm, often choose to be next to the dogs while grazing and this makes Apollo and Artemis exceedingly happy. They love their horses and try to nuzzle them through the fence. They have managed to get loving licks on the horses’ noses several times.

2020 was a busy year on the Fun E Farm! We got Anatolians! They have been an absolute joy and a learning experience. Joe was the reason and we think of him often and now we know, Joe was mostly Anatolian. These boys took up his legacy and the farm is still under Anatolian guard!

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