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Great Pyrenees as Gardener

Carolyn Schaffner asked:

:   what's a Great Pyrenees?? I don't have a cat, or dog, or
:  any pet critter except children --  What do you mean you "trained them
:  to eat the tender weeds and leave the iris alone??"

It's a BIG dog.  About the size of a St. Bernard, but white.  Bred for herding
sheep, but instinctively "herds" anything that moves.  Gentle enough to be
trusted with the baby lambs.  Fierce enough to protect them from predators.

Our colony of tame rabbits (cottontails) dates back to the St. Bernard's regime.
He was extremely protective of anything smaller than he was, and as he weighed
over 200 pounds that covered a lot.  He turned our five fenced acres into
something of a wildlife sanctuary.   (I know, unless you've seen a small rabbit
run to a big dog for protection it must be hard to believe.)

Anyway, the Great Pyrenees took it a step further with her herding instincts.
She liked to keep the rabbits close to the inner yard & iris gardens, which she
considered her primary responsibility.   With her as protector they seemed not
to fear people, which made it possible to "train" them.   

The most appetizing menu item seems to be tender young weeds -- and those grow
best in the irrigated iris beds.    When I spot a rabbit eating a weed, I speak
softly and let it have its comfort zone.   Once in a while one will check out an
iris, but they are tougher and not as tasty so they really aren't tempting.  All
it takes to discourage this behavior is a sharp "NO!" or hand clap.   The
"training" is actually quite easy now.  When a young rabbit  comes in that isn't
yet sure of the ground rules, it will stop about 20 feet away, catch my eye, and
nibble a weed.  We soon come to terms -- mostly, I think, because they feel safe
-- so I only have to worry about the weeds they don't find appetizing. 

Now the ground squirrels are another matter . . . .

Sharon McAllister (73372.1745@compuserve.com)

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