The Maremma is typical of a livestock guardian, possessing a natural protective instinct. They are friendly and loyal to their own family but can be wary of strangers. They like children in their own family but need to be supervised when other children come to visit. They use their size & voice as a deterrent, and are not usually an agressive dog.
The Maremma sheepdog has been known in it's native Italy for 2000 years and originates from two areas of Central Italy. The Maremma's main function was to guard the flocks against wolves & bears, and more recently from thieves & wild dogs. The dog was left to use it's own iniative in making decisions & that sense of independence is still strong in the dogs of today. In Australia, where the Maremma Sheepdog has been used as a stock guardian, farmers have reported a 35% reduction in losses from foxes, wild dogs and birds of prey
Wow, what an interesting few months it has been, and I must pass on thanks to Chris & Sue for putting up with me not writing last issue but we have moved house, and there in itself lies a whole other story.
Caya is doing well, when this goes to print, I guess she’ll almost be a year old – my god how time flies? So much for one puppy & two adults to learn and take in. We decided to make a “tree-change” and move about 200kms from Perth, which we knew would be hard on the dogs – we found a little house in Australind and went from a 2 acre block in Perth down to a 800sqm block so needless to say when the dogs arrived they raced out the back door and almost ran into the back fence!!
Moving for us and one of our cats has been a regular occurrence for us, however for Anook, Caya & Rusty (our evil cat, pictured with dogs) none of them had moved. Everyone was investigating the boxes, and then of course, I moved ahead with the cats to get them settled first. Every time I came back to Perth the dogs were like I was their long lost friend. Then came the day when they had to move and we started the 2 hour drive. We had planned along the way to have a stop, halfway in Mandurah but I must say that surprisingly enough she did extremely well, she took it all in her stride and just laid down in the back of the wagon and snoozed, every now and then getting up to take in the scenery.
Now we are living about 200m from the river, and I try to walk the dogs most days, but with Darran being away, trying to walk a Malamute & a Maremma at the same time can be a nightmare, so I’ve resulted to a bribery system and that is that one goes and the other one gets a bone which seems to be working. Our Maremma girl has certainly been a source of many laughs since we moved into I guess what we consider suburbia. Her bark has gotten deeper and deeper and she almost has 4 kinds of barks that I can determine.
One is the “give it to me” bark which she does to Anook when he has something that she wants.
Then there’s the “talking to the neighbourhood dogs” bark, which doesn’t happen all that often but she’ll join in when she feels it necessary – obviously, she’s a woman throwing her 2 cents worth in.
Then there’s the “who goes there” bark, which when I hear it I know that maybe something is about that she’s not too sure about
Then there is the “you better back off buddy” bark, which when in full force, I get up immediately and see what’s going on – so far this has been in response to tradesman at the front door and the neighbour’s cat, along with a couple of visitors that we knew but she didn’t and was outside and she was not happy that she hadn’t gotten to say hello first.
She’s taken hydrobaths in her stride, we have found ourselves the best dog washer and Caya has fallen in love with him and “melts” when she sees him, here she is sitting in this nice warm bath, having her face washed, her ears cleaned and her nails clipped – she looks like her majesty in there.
She has inherited a distaste for birds, from her mother may I add, and does not like it one bit when I’m trying to encourage the native birds around and they come to eat at my bird house, she happily jumps off the bed barking at them – the birds are not happy and neither is mum – hmmm, how do I get her to stop that I wonder???? She loves going for walks to the river, and is absolutely fascinated by the ducks, shags and the fish that jump out of the water, loves the water and we are really looking forward to taking her to the beach to see how she’ll go there. I’m half expecting her to bark at the water!!
We have nicknamed her “faffy” because she’s always ‘faffing’ about doing something; she’s a bit of a daydreamer and kind of gazes off in fairyland, thinking about things – if only I shared her wisdom. We are so used to walking our Mally and he just powers on ahead but not our faffy, she’s off with the fairies, wandering all over the road, oh look there’s a flower, oh look there’s a bird, what a lovely day, oh look there’s a grain of sand – yes, everything has to be investigated with full trepidation. And she’s turned into a bit of a kleptomaniac – she steals any manner of things and if anything is missing, it’s usually in her bed. She’s taken a particular liking to the neighbour’s hibiscus tree and many a time, i see her chomping away on pretty pink hibiscus flowers, pulling each petal apart almost saying – he loves me, he loves me not.
She’s certainly very different to what I imagined, but I wouldn’t have her any other way, she’s my little treasure and she loves cuddles and hugs and kisses. Sue keeps telling me that she’ll be coming into season soon, so I guess maybe that will be in the next instalment.
I left you last newsletter with the birth of our pup and the name we had chosen for her along with all the anticipation of her coming to our home - that was December and wow how things change so quickly. We've had christmas & new year since then and Easter Eggs are in the shops and our puppy seems to grow overnight.
We decided to get our puppy Caya earlier than expected, so I flew over to Melbourne in early December and thanks to Sue and her family for letting me stay at their place for the night. Oh my god, I was in puppy heaven. When I arrived, only 1 puppy had left, so you can imagine my delight when 7 puppies came bounding up to greet me along with Mum Cassie & Auntie Hope and Dad Snow from a distance. It was great spending time with the pups as I got to see how they interacted and how amazingly different their personalities were. Our girl, well she was and still is a little treasure, loves to play, but loves a cuddle just that little bit more - great temperament - Sue did a great job. Sue also taught me so much about them in the short amount of time we had but it was invaluable information I would have never gotten had she just been freighted over.
Then came the time for the long journey back to Perth, the day before Sue had bathed her and she was looking gorgeous and fluffy, she wasn't allowed to have breakfast that morning because of the long trip, so she was beside herself when they ate without her !! She lay down next to her mum just before we were about to go almost as if she knew she was leaving.
I held her in the car to the airport, and I think I was more scared than her when we checked her in at the Freight Terminal, here she was, this tiny little thing, yanked away from all that she knew and shoved in a cage in a big shed and then on an aircraft. Fortunately for me, I worked for Qantas for many years, so I know how well they take care of the animals - I wasn't so worried but when the captain advised on takeoff that it was going to be quite a rough takeoff then i was worried. I got chatting to the flight attendant opposite me, and told her that I had a puppy underneath and she said they had seen her as they boarded the aircraft and she was crying and they could hear her underneath in the back galley. All I wanted to do then was just go and cuddle her. I just wanted to get her home and make sure she was ok. Four hours later we landed in Perth and waited at the Freight shed for the cargo to arrive, and there she was - she was a little scared but there were actually about 4 dogs on the flight so she would have been near them and hopefully that eased the anxiety a little.
We got her home, and then had the task of introducing her to our Malamute Anook and 2 very cranky cats, he was over the moon and wanted to play with her straight away, the cats? Jury is still out on that one, although I did spy one of them smooching up to her the other day, she was bursting with excitement and all she wants to do is be friends with them. She wasn't so sure about everyone but as the afternoon progressed they seemed to get on quite well.
That night we built "Puppy alcatraz" as we liked to call it (a little pen where we put her and Anook couldn't get to her but they could see each other), she cried most of the night and the next night, so we decided to lock Anook in the same area as we live on 2 acres and he tends to wander around the property at night time. She didn't cry again, except for when we let them into the full 2 acres, and of course Anook disappeared off doing "dog stuff" and she couldn't see him in the dark and cried and cried. But one whistle for Anook to come back to the house , soon fixed that, she was fine and didn't leave Anook's side. I would get up in the morning and peer outside to see this little white bundle of fluff cuddled up with the "big bad wolf" we couldn't have wished for things to go smoother. Even the neighbours commented on how quiet she had been.
Day after day, she seemed to grow overnight, one day we'd wake up and she looked like her back legs had grown, and then she'd get chubby and then she'd get skinny and so the cycle goes. I look at the photo's I took now and then and see how much she has changed. Very intelligent little dog, we were amazed how quickly she learnt. She was sitting on command after about a week and our mally doesn't eat dinner until he's given the command to and she learnt that straight away as well. During our hot summers, she discovered the clam shell pool and lives in it on hot days, always got her feet wet when she comes to the back door and of an evening the pair of them run around like little kids under the sprinkler - barking and carrying on. Then one morning, we heard the "gruff" bark and it was the "who goes there?" bark - unmistakable and we knew she was slowly developing her Maremma personality. When she barks like that you know something or someone is around and you'd better pay attention.
Her fluff is slowly going, replaced by her soft white hair, her puppy teeth are going (thank goodness) replaced by big teeth but the puppy is still there. She started obedience 2 weeks ago and seems to be going ok, except for the birds at the RSPCA headquarters, she doesn't like them (inherited from her mother I believe) and seems more interested in them than actually paying attention in class.
One thing's for sure, she certainly has brought us lots of joy and laughs and the journey continues......
I'm going to take you on a journey of what I'm sure will be trials and tribulations of owning a Maremma puppy and how she fits in with our family over the next few issues, hopefully it will make for good reading and you might get a laugh along the way with us!!
Where do I start? We decided to add another dog back into our “pack” after a few years of just having our dog and 3 cats, we had another dog but unfortunately she was killed by snakebite so the decision to get another dog was a big one for us, especially considering our Malamute Anook has been by himself for a few years. But our neighbour recently got a puppy and Anook took to her with such gentleness that we thought – it’s time !! Why choose a Maremma? I saw them once on an episode of Burkes Backyard and seeing as we are lucky enough to have the space in Perth as we live on 2 acres, we made the decision to get one. Hmm, wasn’t as easy as I thought however in locating one, I did some research on the net and quickly realised that there weren’t any breeders in WA, so I tracked down Sue Buckman from Allarme Maremma’s who originally I contacted to see if she could assist me with locating a contact for the Maremmas in rescue. Initially, we thought we would rehome one but that wasn’t feasible with the dog being rehomed in another state. Thankfully, Sue was so helpful and I found we really hit it off, so I asked her if she was planning on any litters soon. She advised that she was planning on one this year with her dog Cassie and as luck would have it, we were planning on holidaying in Tassie and decided to stay an extra day in Melbourne to meet Sue and the dogs. Darran and I felt like we were going for an interview as “prospective parents” but once we arrived Sue made us feel welcome and we had a great couple of hours, talking about our dogs, what we were looking for and just generally getting to know one another. The dogs sized us up immediately and then stole my heart, especially Cassie, such a gentle soul, loves cuddles, then there’s Snow, the big “lion” as I like to think of him and the jester “Hope” well of course, she’s still in that “teenage” phase of her life and she was goofing off but all fantastic temperaments and we knew then that this was where we wanted to get our pup from. Sue gave us so much information and shared her photo’s and her experiences before we bid farewell and it was back to Perth for the long anticipated wait to see whether or not everything would go as planned !! Then the news came that there had been a successful mating and now it was just a waiting game until we were certain she was in pup, with many emails going back and forth, Sue was pretty confident Cassie was in pup and then it was confirmed that the scan had come back and yes she was in pup – Oh my god – how excited were we? Emails crossed back and forth the country with countless updates on how she was doing. We decided to work on the name already and we wanted something easy but not just your run of the mill dog name. We found out from Sue that this would be her 3rd litter so the pedigree names would start with the letter "C" so we had that to work with and of course I wanted to keep the "Italian" connection as well and after much debate we settled on Allarme Caya Libellula. Libellula is Italian for Dragonfly and as I collect anything Dragonfly I thought it was appropriate. Then on a Sunday morning I woke with a text message that said – “check your computer, we have pups. We have 7 so far - 3 girls & 4 boys" And so it began, I've never had kids myself but I felt like the expectant mother - waiting for more news - and more photo's. The final count - 5 boys & 3 girls, and we knew that one of those girls would be ours !! They all look so cute and it's been interesting so far to see their progress and how quickly they've grown. She is due to come to us around early December but as my partner works away offshore, and will be away we want to make sure that she bonds with both of us, so we've asked her arrival to be delayed until early Jan so he can be home and can spend 3 weeks solid with her settling in. Unfortunately, whilst we've been through this up and down process, one of our pets sadly passed away - our 2nd oldest cat Blue - god rest his soul. He was such a good mate of 15 years and unfortunately he just got too old to go on and gave up his zest for life. This past couple of weeks for us has been terribly difficult, what with the birth of new life and the passing of an old life, an old mate. It makes you really think, and you always think they will be there wil you. Needless to say, ourselves, 1 dog and 2 cats are all looking forward to having a new bundle of energy racing around the place to cheer us all up!!
I was asked to write a running article for the "Mostly Maremma's" newsletter of the trials and tribulations of choosing and owning a Maremma. It was featured in 4 parts and I have posted them here for you.