Cashew gets a bad rap with most of my family members and friends because they don’t understand what she’s for. I have 2 dogs. One’s a companion and the other is a working dog. One was potty trained from the get go and spends her free time napping. The other took a good solid year and cannot be trusted with “free time” unless one desires something of her choosing overhauled. I bought Cashew with a purpose in mind. I needed a dog that would make up for the 7 foot holes in our barbed wire fencing. I needed a dog i could trust to keep an eye out and hold the perimeter against critters while i worked on projects and chores, and i needed a doorbell system. I wanted a dog that would tell me when we had company…human or critter…while i still had time to go for the machete.
Cashew began chasing coyotes at 5 lbs when her bark was still just a high-pitched squeak. It was a good sign, in my opinion, that she had the instinct to do what i needed her for. When people meet Cashew they see an unruly dog that wont walk on a leash and never calms down. They don’t get to see her in her element. They don’t get to see what she was born for, and that’s to work. Cashew is a dog that always wants a job. She is always sitting at the ready, waiting for an order. If her human doesnt recognize that behavior for what it is, she will give herself a job, which is not what anybody wants. Lately, i’ve been trying to give Cashew as many jobs as i can on the homestead. She can be a very helpful dog if managed right. In her younger days i let her have free range of the land and she showed me that one of her go-to self-assigned jobs was destroying electrical wiring. Now, she does not have free range of the land. When i give the command she goes to either the car or the dog run, and when i give the return command she runs to the porch steps and waits at the front door of the house. I trained her to do this so i could keep her away from the ac unit, which does have tubes and wires. She spends her time in the fenced dog-run area when she is not in my direct line of vision. However, seeing as i was finding myself home much more frequently after quitting my job, i decided to give her a little more leash to work with and observe the results. She was older now. Perhaps she would be easier to train. I started using her to deter the deer from my young fruit trees. They were fenced of course but the deer would stick their noses up against the wire fencing and munch on the outer leaves that they could reach. Cashew was a fantastic doorbell. She had a different bark for every kind of creature that visited our property. With deer she would bark incessantly; deep full-bodied barking peppered with high-pitched yelps of excitement. If it was a possum she gave a single bark every once in a while. With raccoons she went ballistic. She did not like raccoons one bit and a sighting of them resulted in snarling, barking, and baring of teeth. She responded to rabbits with sighing and whimpering. Humans were also a snarling occasion. So were passing trucks. So, i never knew if she had a coon, a human, or a truck in her sights when she started all that rabid-sounding mess. The fedex and ups guy got the same treatment as the coyotes. She gave them her deepest most intimidating bark and kept going until i appeared from the house and seemed willing to do something about the threat she’d identified. I had long been using her as a doorbell and surveillance system. However, i now started letting her loose on the deer that tried to browse my garden. I would open the gate and she would stand ready, dancing from paw to paw, bracing, waiting, listening with all her might, looking at me with pleading eyes… until i said “get em” and then she would tear off in the direction of the deer so fast, all her muscles working to propel her forwards in a flash. When she came to the tall grass she would use her legs like a spring and bound through the tall grass just like a bunny, soaring through the air with front paws tucked for each jump. Once released she was silent. She knew she had a better chance of catching the deer if it didn’t hear her coming. She would wait until she was right up on it and pop out of the tall grass barking her head off and the poor deer would nearly have a heart attack and scramble to get running before Cashew could reach out and grab it. Cashew would then herd the deer along the fence line until they encountered a hole in the barbed wire, at which point the dog would cut the deer off, herding it right through the hole in the fence and circle back. She would sniff everywhere the deer had been and then when she was satisfied she knew the exact trail it had taken across the property she would pee all up in that area, in case the deer didn’t understand whose territory it was frequenting. I let her have her fun. When i wanted her to return i would whistle and she would come flying back to me at break neck speed. If you wanted Cashew to repeat an action, all you had to do was praise her. I told her good job for chasing the deer and she repeated the series of steps every time. I told her good job for retrieving the cedar branches i cut and now whenever i trim trees she retrieves the branches for me so i can dump them in the wheelbarrow. If i point to a tree stump or some left over tree roots in the ground, she digs it up with her claws and pulls it out of the ground by yanking backwards with her teeth. She can be an incredibly useful and intelligent dog but leave her unsupervised and without orders and she’ll assign herself the job of digging up living trees. She’s quite efficient at it too. There’s a 50 year old oak tree leaning towards the house that she’s been digging up and i’ve been reburying for the past 6 months or so. She’ll get herself a good 2 foot hole going if i dont check on them for a while in the dog run. Cashew likes a job. She must always have a task. So i try to give her one as often as i can.
Earlier tonight we had an eerie orange full-moon. The sun had just set but the sky was still light and the chickens refused to get in their coop until full darkness fell, as usual. A band of coyotes stood on the property line yipping, howling, and pacing, circling around. They were big healthy things with bold yellow eyes. Likely getting fat on the neighbor’s sheep. But today, they seemed set on chicken. All 5 chickens flapped frantically around their enclosure, feathers flying, making the most racket they could possibly manage. Both dogs stood stock still in their enclosure, ears perked, tails up, looking at the coyotes. Neither one barked. I wondered if they didn’t feel the need to alert me since i was already staring at the threat. I had come out to get something from the car and noticed movement at the property line and then heard their distinctive yipping, way too loud to be in the distance. I had two choices…put the dogs inside or use them to save the chickens. I decided to see what Cashew was made of and before i could change my mind, i released the dogs. They stood there looking at me, waiting for orders i guessed. I growled and mustered up a deep throaty bark in the coyotes direction. That was all the info Cashew needed. She took off in the direction of the coyotes like a flash of black fur dashing across the dusty ground. Sili ran after her for back-up. She usually likes to give Cashew enough of a head start that she probably won’t see any action but will lend her voice for intimidation purposes. Cashew ran along the property line, barking and snarling. She ran back and forth, back and forth, snarling and snapping like she had lost her mind. The coyotes lingered for a moment and then disappeared into the trees. Cashew sat at the property line and stood guard, keeping an eye on the trees in case the coyotes decided to return, while i sat on the porch steps waiting for the sky to darken enough for the chickens to go in their coop. When the last chicken was in i put the door on, locked the pen, and whistled. I heard the rapid-fire patter of paws on the ground and then there she was, sitting at attention, muscles shaking with excitement, ready for action. I rubbed her head and patted her side saying, “Good dog, good dog!” She ate it up. She loved being praised more than anything on the earth. She would be sure to chase the coyotes away every time if it meant she would get a “good girl” and a head pet. We haven’t heard the coyotes since so they’ve either moved out of ear-shot or they haven’t found dinner yet. Either way, Cashew remains ready to defend her feathered siblings…which is slightly ironic because when i brought them home she was pretty sure they were supper and remained sure about that for several months. My point is, she’s a dog that loves a job, and she’ll do whatever job she’s given. She’s incredibly smart, extremely attentive, and absolutely fearless. Cactus, scorpions, and bees don’t seem to phase her. When she’s on a mission she knows no pain. I wish others could see this side of her. I know they just see an unruly ill-behaved house dog but that’s because Cashew doesn’t spend most of her time in the house. That’s Sili’s domain. Cashew watches the homestead and Sili watches me. Sili has long been my soul mate. She is my heart. She is extremely attentive and cuddly. If i’m sick i’ll let her sniff my head. If she ignores me its a simple head cold. If she wraps her paws around me and holds on, nuzzling me with her snout, i know i better buckle up for something big like the flu or norovirus. She can also sense my level of anxiety and if she feels i’m reaching critical levels she will place a paw on my leg or lay her head on my lap. She is the dog that is content to nap in the bed all day long and will stare soulfully into her human’s eyes for minutes at a time. She also snores, which is pretty adorable. Here she is directly after feigning back-up during the coyote standoff. She is my love, my heart, my baby, but you can tell perimeter patrol was not her cup of tea.
Sili is the older dog…wiser in many ways. But i have come to rely on Cashew for quite a few things recently, and tonight when she told those coyotes off so i could get the chickens put up for bed, i was **** proud of her. It really is a beautiful thing to watch her work. She was h*ll to train but now that she’s over a year, for me, watching her execute an order is like watching a ballet. That’s my kind of show. A muscley little dog channeling all her bull-in-a-china-shop tendencies into swift and precise herding motions…its a beautiful thing.