Olive and Clyde: Great Pyrenees Guardians
It’s hard to know where to begin with Olive and Clyde, our two Great Pyrenees dogs — twin sister and brother — who guard our herd of sheep.
When I first came to volunteer at the farm a year and a half ago, Olive and Clyde were puppies — two white, little furballs that always seemed to be asleep in the grass. You could pick them both up, one in each hand.
They quickly grew into their full sizes, Clyde now bigger than me. They’re not yet two years old (the age when they’d be considered adults), but they are impressive creatures nonetheless.
We quickly learned that Olive was the smart one. Quiet, reserved, but observant and lethal when she needed to be.
I think of Olive as a ninja. One moment she’d be standing right in front of me, the next, she’d have made it halfway across the barn without a sound.
There’s a story told about Olive that involves her digging up a buried lamb that had died, and staking its head into the ground as though to mark her territory.
After the guys found the head and reburied it, Olive dug it up again and stuck it back into the dirt. We never buried our dead lambs from that day forth.
Clyde, on the other hand, is the flamboyant, hyperactive one. While Olive will blend herself into the background, Clyde will come out in top hat and full song, jumping around and begging for attention.
He’s definitely been known as the trouble maker, leading the pair off to play and wander past the farm’s borders.
I read that the Great Pyrenees “is an intelligent dog who is used to working on his own and figuring things out for himself.” Unfortunately, their independent minds can also mean frustrating moments for us when we’re trying to get them to listen.
If you decide to take on a Great Pyrenees dog, you’d better be ready to invest lots of time and energy into training them!
Great Pyrenees dogs originated in the Pyrenees Mountains (hence, their name), and were bred to guard shepherds’ flocks.
Given their mountain dog lineage, it’s understandable that Olive and Clyde instinctively feel the need to roam to far places. Sometimes that unfortunately means ending up in our neighbour’s backyard.
I find it pretty amazing that even though Olive and Clyde didn’t grow up learning from their parents or an older dog, they still instinctively know to stay up at night and bark away the coyotes.
These two have a highly-tuned sense of hearing and sight, and know when an intruder is anywhere in the vicinity.
I often hear their ferocious barking when I’m in bed at night, and it’s what keeps me feeling safe at the farm.
I know that if a stranger were to come and try any funny business, Olive and Clyde would probably tear their face apart.
Given that they’re up all night working, Olive and Clyde like their naps during the day. They’ll find a good napping spot anywhere — in the hay loft, the sheep barn, or right outside on the ground.
One of the funniest sights is looking out the window and seeing them sprawled out in the sun, all four legs sticking straight out in front of them, fur ruffling in the breeze.
As you can imagine, these two eat a hefty meal each day. We give them regular dog food, as well as kitchen scraps from The Red Rooster, the restaurant run by Antonio’s parents. That includes rice, potatoes and fries (man, they love fries).
If you accidentally get some lettuce or tomato into their food bucket, they will eat everything around it and leave a clean bucket but for the one piece of lettuce or tomato. They ain’t feeling the vegetables.
We also feed them cooked lamb. Getting the taste for lamb is apparently supposed to create a sense of ownership over our actual lambs.
Of course, we don’t want them to get the taste for raw lamb, lest they devour our flock. It’s a strange, delicate balance that must be met.
When the rest of us — the sheep, birds and me — are tucked away in our houses to escape the snow and cold, Olive and Clyde can be seen roaming around outside or even lying in the snow. Their double fur coat keeps them enviably warm against the winter weather.
Great Pyrenees require a lot of socialization to avoid developing aggressive or shy behaviours. Olive and Clyde have learned to be welcoming to farm visitors once they see that we’re being friendly with our guests.
We’re supposed to treat them as work dogs — not as pets — and be choosey with our physical affection towards them. So, I think they like it when other people visit and fawn all over them.
It’s hard not to fall in love with these two though, and I will pet and praise them every so often for being good.
They are affectionate souls and have been my best, loyal companions. They’ll follow me around on walks, and stand next to me when I’m outside in the dark, as though they’re my bodyguard detail unit.
When I’m away from the farm, visiting the city, I often think about Olive and Clyde. I imagine them strolling around the fields, enjoying their day.
When it’s time for me to leave the farm life, I know I’ll miss these two the most.
That being said, I just got here and there’s lots more adventures with these amazing dogs coming up ahead!
>> Read the next post in the #farmlifebestlife series: Where There’s a Pig, There’s a Way