Katya’s Thumbkin

Katya with her Monkey Toy

From the book Guide to Modern Domesticated Animals:
History teaches us that we domesticated roving bands of bipedal primates (Thumbkin) repeatedly from 125,000 to 40,000 years ago. It was from these early wild breeds that the wise ancient Alphas selectively bred modern domestic Thumbkins (Homo Sapiens Sapiens) for fine manipulative work where the opposible digits proved such useful traits. Thumbkin have less fur so they can more easily manipulate fire and with their long fingers they can to give that elusive scratch behind the ears that is oh just so good. The long arms and rotating shoulder joints of Thumbkin are also particularly well articulated to be handy for throwing things like balls for play and spears hunting allowing predation by our ancestors of larger animals like the horses and mammoth.

-Kavi AuCoy, Wolfkin Lorist,
Guide to Modern Domesticated Animals
16,384 A.P.

In the photo above Katya is snuggled up with her toy monkey. The idea behind the stuffed monkey is she gets to do what ever she wants with that and in turn she leaves our stuff alone. She also has a tennis ball in a sock and a chew stick to exercise her sharp little teeth. Interestingly she tears the wood apart, is pretty harsh on the sock-ball but monkey just gets carried around and snuggled with, sometimes shaken but never torn up.

One thing we’re still working on is at night she’ll go and get my jacket or one of my shirts to arrange as a nest. If I give her a pillow she likes that. The solution is we need to make a Katya pillow for when she’s inside. Outdoors she likes the hay.
Katya no longer sleeps with her mother Lili. In fact, Lili will give her a growl if she tries to snuggle up too much. Interestingly, while they’ll snuggle sometimes, the dogs do not routinely sleep together. Rather they spread themselves out around the farm, each with their own lookout.

Outdoors: 19째F/-1째F Sunny, Quite Windy, 4″ Snow over night
Tiny Cottage: 61째F/57째F

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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28 Responses to Katya’s Thumbkin

  1. Anonymous says:

    As for the pup getting an article with your scent (shirt/jacket) to "nest" on at night: dogs I've raised have always wanted to do so, especially those raised from a young age. My solution has been that twice to three times a week the dog receives the shirt I wore to bed from the night before. This keeps from the dog hair getting on other items; the dog's content and when they get their "new" scented shirt the old one goes in the trash.

    As in your case, I think it has to do with the association they develop from hanging out in your lap/under your shirt at an early age. Almost like a safety blanket. Beautiful dogs, by the way.

  2. Mary says:

    I realized (maybe incorrectly) about one month ago that you may be using the life of Katya to illustrate how you raise pups. I cannot express how excited I was when this occurred to me. I look forward to watching the picture unfold : )

  3. Vera says:

    Since Gussy arrived three months ago we have found that Bools now has a helpmate for guard duties. One will sit looking in one direction, the other will sit in a few yards away looking in the opposite direction. I love it! Makes me feel quite protected! But Gussy is not allowed any playthings by Bools, who is top dog. But I think the politics between the two of them makes up for this lack of play. Lovely dogs, though, and yours are too.

  4. I was just asking my dogs yesterday if they had heard anything about Katya. No they said. Thanks for the update

  5. Leon says:

    > Interestingly, while they'll snuggle sometimes, the dogs do not routinely sleep together. Rather they spread themselves out around the farm, each with their own lookout.

    Smart dogs. Ours all sleep together on the front porch. Yep – "you may be a redneck, if …"

    BTW, it sounds like USDA is going to scrap NAIS? Congratulations :)

  6. Mary Ricksen says:

    How cute. My dog is an indoor dog. So everything I own has dog fur on it.
    What no dog house. Where did you take this picture it looks indoors.
    Yup, my dog likes to sleep with my clothing. Heck he prefers the bed.
    Spioled huh?

  7. David says:

    Reading your blog I see the behavior, like spacing out and seeking vantage places, and even the appearance of your LLGDs is similar to the high end wolf hybrids I lived with for many years. Two notable exceptions are that wolves and high end hybrids are not territorial with us like dogs (which may be one of the reasons we made them into dogs) and all of the wolf hybrids I ever knew were instantly friendly to other people, even when they met folks as a loose pack in open country.

    I've long wondered if the first wolf/human interactions were just as you postulate:"We can find and even herd biggies like mammoths and sloths and bison, but those featherless bipeds over the hill have those pointy sticks, and they never take all of a kill. Go howl at 'em, Fred."

  8. Gail in Montana says:

    I love your post today, Walter!!! The picture is adorable. Isn't it neat the way our animal friends have their own personalities and behavior patterns. Love watching Katya grown up. My little doxie or our Brittiany would have that monkey in pieces in short order!!! Good thing Katya is so good with her toys!

  9. June says:

    Great pic and story. Hubby and I just picked out our new pup, black lab, will be getting her in 3 weeks. Plan to train her to be a farm dog, to help out with our animals. And, as when we got our piglets unexpectedly Christmas day and I scrammbled to your web site for help, so once again, sharing your experience is so appreciated.
    Hope all goes well with your new butcher shop. My husband is a meat cutter and he plans to also attempt slaughter of our 2 boars in early April.

  10. Sara says:

    My boyfriend's dog (Bubba) has a toy squirrel we got him when he was a pup. He loves his squirrel just like Katya loves her monkey. One rainy night Bubba was whining and scratching at the door. I was reluctant to let him out because of the rain (being a white dog he get dirty quick). I let him out, and no longer that I let him out he was asking to come back in. As I opened the door I noticed he had his squirrel in his mouth. It was soaked. LOL I couldn't believe he went out to save his squirrel.( Sorry I couldn't figure out how to post a pic but here is a link to a picture of our beautiful Bubba!!! http://i168.photobucket.com/albums/u186/silverhorse_86/Dogs/100_4661-Copy.jpg )

    P.S. We love reading your blog! I expectantly enjoy the ones about your dogs! :)

  11. Huck says:

    Hey sara,

    CUTE DOG! He looks like he's a good one.


  12. I have an Akbash female and a Bernese Mountain dog male. They guard our ranch (new calves, piglets, etc.). Katona (akbash) taught Bentley (Berner) at a young age what his duties were. He was high on the hill in the pasture each night by 4 months old and Katona took over duty nearer the barn and feeders. They share and divide the duties- swapping positions for daytime duty when they mostly sleep. Bentley retreats to the cooler barn area and Katona will take the sunnier pasture. Dogs are amazing and guardian dogs are well worth the investment and training efforts. I am thrilled to see your dogs in action too!

  13. BJGraves says:

    what kind of dogs are those?

  14. BJGraves says:

    Its very important! me and my family had a rescued dog that looked just like them and she was the best dog weve ever had and sadly she got hit by a car. The whole time we had her we didnt have a clue what kind of dog she was. We asked vets and they werent sure either?x(
    But im confused…are you saying the breed is a Thumbkin?

    • Our dogs are a little bit of German Shepherd, a little bit of Black Laborador and a lot of other. Their pack has been on our farm for about 20 years.

      The Thumbkin is a reference to humans, monkey’s, etc. – critters with thumbs. Katya’s thumbkin is an old stuffed animal toy monkey that our Hope daughter gave to Katya when Hope outgrew the toy. Katya carried it around and slept with it just like a young child does a comfort toy. As she got older she played with Thumpkin less and finally abandoned it. Other puppies have used it since. They are interestingly gentle with it.

  15. Hi Walter,
    I have searched for these answers and possibly missed them.

    1. If your dogs sleep inside the house, then who is guarding outside? This is an issue I struggle with having lost a dog on the busy highway a quarter mile “outside” our farm.

    2. You have said you “lost” dogs, but how? In battles or natural causes or?

    3. What number of dogs do you find most effective in your pack? Since my female was killed on the highway, my Maremma cross works so hard he is exhausted during the day and can barely move. I am looking for a replacement for her and possibly another.

    Thanks. As usual your input is much appreciated.

    • 1) Most of our pack sleeps outdoors and is there almost all the time so they can watch the animals and patrol the borders. Most typically come in for brief visits but they’re really outdoor working dogs who are more comfortable outside. They are very dedicated to their jobs.

      2) Dogs lead short lives relative to us. These are big dogs and they don’t live as long as the small toy dogs. Ten to twelve years is about their natural, normal life span. We also had one that got hit by the milk truck when she was about eight – it had stopped, then started up very fast and she had crossed in front thinking the truck was parked. There is also the problem of hunters who shoot into our fields despite the warning signs of “No Hunting”. The state of Vermont encourages irresponsible hunters to come spend money in-state hunting so as to stimulate the state tax base. The result is every year farmers lose livestock and dogs or worse. A cow, pig, dog, tractor, house, TV watcher (in his living room), sun bather (in his yard), farmer (on his tractor) does not look like a deer, unless perhaps their drunk – the hunter that is. All of these have been shot, many killed, by hunters over the years. Every year there are human deaths. Can you tell that this irks me a bit. There doesn’t seem to be any solution.

      3) Our pack has varied from two to twelve dogs in recent decades. Two is too small. To deal with coyote packs, bear and other predators two is the very minimum and more is better. It’s a gang war – our pack is bigger than your pack. Numbers keep them from actually having to do battle most of the time – they simply mark their territory with scent and voice.

      To stop your dogs from going to the highway you might want to try one of those invisible fences if the dogs aren’t staying home. Those systems are amazingly effective. They’re like an electric fence except they work for dogs. Our dogs can go right between the wires of electric fencing due to their thick fur and simply jumping so they have no ground contact.

  16. Thanks Walter. What number is the ideal for a pack? I have about 100 livestock of various types. Currently for winter they are all in the farm yard, but in summer, they are contained by electric net fences in the pastures, which may be a quarter mile from the house.
    I have thought seriously about the electric invisible fence, but my problem is that it is a circuit, meaning it needs to be closed some how. How do I keep them off the west boundary while allowing them to go everywhere else? (the dogs). Like your dogs, my dogs can jump a 4 foot fence as though it did not exist and/or figure some way into every animal pen that we have. My smallest border collie cannot get out of the Berkshire pen though, once she is in. It is comical to see her howling at the fence to be picked up and taken out. She is very tiny for a border collie.
    Do your dogs eat raw bear meat? I was given a bear in the fall that a neighbour shot and I butchered it and froze the meat. Since then I have been warned about a worm that bears carry which is transferrable to dogs and can be fatal.
    Thanks again.

    • I’m not sure I can say an ‘ideal’ number because there are many variables. I don’t want fewer than three. How many more than that depends on are you breeding your own pack replacements and how big your farm is. Having more pack members means more costs for vaccinations, registrations, food, training time, etc. We like having around eight to twelve but that’s a lot for a smaller farm. Since they primarily eat meat and prey from our farm this helps with the costs of food.

      The advantage of the invisible fence is it is harder to ‘jump’ since it is wide. However, it does take training. They can be as large as 100 acres. Bigger than that and you would need to use multiple fencers.

      I don’t feed bear. The concern is bears are a carrier of trichinosis – that’s the worm you’re thinking of. It is basically eliminated in domestic pigs but wild bears, wild pigs, wild wolves, wild coyotes are often carriers. We also do not feed deer meat as there is a parasite that they can pass to dogs that causes problems in puppies.

  17. Drat! I have about 125 pounds of frozen bear meat. I wonder if thorough cooking eliminates the concern for trichinosis? I will do some research. I could do a fire outside and put a pot of water on it and boil the meat for a length of time. Not feeding deer is a tough one. I do not “feed” deer, but rather the dogs help themselves. If they find a killed deer or manage to down one themselves it is a free for all. I wonder if our area in northeastern Canada has this parasite? I may have to order that long distance fence from the USA because I cannot find a source for it here. Do you have a brand name by any chance? Thank you again.

  18. * Trichinella is killed when pork is frozen at minus 5 degrees F for 25 days OR to minus 22 degrees F for 25 hours.

    “Cooking is one of the most common methods of assuring that ‘Trichinella’ are destroyed; a temperature of 170 F (77 C) substantially exceeds the thermal death point and is usually achieved if the meat is cooked until it is no longer pink ”

    So, I have a freezer that is minus 25F and the bear has been there since October. I am thinking it is safe. Then if I boil the meat just to ensure death of those critters, it should be absolutely, without question safe for the dogs. I hope.

    • Yes, glad you found the info. Trich is killed by freezing or cooking – both have time and temp criticals. Sounds like your safe on the bear.

      On the deer, we had the same experience. Decades ago hunters had left a carcass which one of our bitches fed off of. She got infected. Doesn’t hurt the bitch but one of her pups got the resulting disease. This is how we learned about that one. Starts with ‘g’ but at the moment I’m not remembering the name.

  19. Yikes! The Innotec fence will be over 1000 dollars (CDN). I wish I was able to afford that at this time. It will be a priority and thank you for the link. I have 4 d0gs currently. Part of the problem is that people moved in across the highway with 2 unspayed female dogs. My female is spayed and the males are not neutered, so of course they go over to visit. I feel as though I am now powerless to control this behaviour and am sick about it since I lost my best dog a couple of weeks ago. Thank you for the link for the fence. Much appreciated.

    • Really! Yikes! Try doing a Google search. I just found it online for $299 US. That should be close to the Canadian cost. Additional collars do cost more (~$100 each) but you don’t have to buy a collar for each dog if they pack. Then just the leaders need it. Depends on your group and setup. The issue with the enticing ladies across the highway is going to make things harder. Do your females visit or just the males?

  20. It is not the initial cost, but the additional wire and collars. I suppose you are right about buying enough for all the dogs. The two “outside” dogs cross the road. One is almost a year old and the other is 10 months, but they appear full grown. The female that was recently killed also crossed and she was the pack leader. Now the two boys go. The younger border collie pup who is 7 months old does not go and neither does the 5 year old border collie. I have 160 acres. I want the dogs to patrol the majority of it so there is the cost of extra wire as well. I really only have to buy 2 collars, not four. That will bring the cost down 200 dollars. I likely could buy wire here cheaper than with the unit if I can find someone who knows what wire exactly will work. The neighbour across the highway did not even get off the phone when I went to ask her if she had seen Anna (the one that died), plus I brought her dog in off the highway. She was standing in the middle of it. That highway is busy with a lot of large trucks and rednecks who do not give a darn about a dog. There was a recent ad to give a dog away for target practice, if you can believe it.

    Like you have a thing for stupid hunters, I have that same ilk for stupid recreational units. The skidoos, sleds, ATV’s and quads always go along the road allowance of the highway. The whine of the motor disturbs the dogs and they want to go investigate and get them out of their area. I wish I could stop them from using the area along my farm, but there is no way. Grrrrrrrr!

    • Aye, the irresponsible, disrespectful ATVers, snowmobilers, dirt bikers and off-road truck drivers are, er, challenging. We post and confront, explaining that our fields and roads are not for the public. It has helped – takes years. Dropping big logs across our trails helps. Gates help with all but the worst idiots. Electric fence is even more effective – even if it is off they just don’t seem willing to test it.

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