Well, I used to always have Benji sleep by my side of the bed inside. He and I are shadow buddies. I always felt that if I were super busy, this was one thing I could always offer him. His special place beside me through the night. We both loved the arrangement. But sadly, the farm's needs became greater and greater. Chickens were being attacked in the night. I knew I had to let my practical side win and let Benji work the night shift. I wondered how the loss of our long moment of rest together would change things.
It's cool and exciting out in the Virginia mountains at night! The coyotes have moved back in but have been respectful thus far. I have read that if you remove a respectful coyote tribe, that a more aggressive one may replace them. So far, we have not had any major complaints - we being the humans - and so we leave them in peace. Lorna has her say with them and scolds vehemently and Benji who is a bit calmer about the whole thing backs her up. The coyotes seem to listen to the dogs and maintain their distance for now. Tansy is usually in bed by then, but certainly doesn't sleep soundly when she hears all the worrisome ruckus.
I have a confession to make. I miss Benji beside me at night. His comfort and friendship. His silent sleep with watchful senses. Enjoying the cozy together. But I love having eggs! Benji seems grateful for the cool outdoors. His coat keeps him very comfortable. I do believe that snow is his favorite weather as he loves playing sled games with the kids! I miss his presence that I am somehow aware of while I am sleeping, but I sleep better knowing that my healthy hens are not dinner for some other marauding critter. I am sad when Benji smells like skunk, but am happy that this means I will not catch that same skunk (many lost eggs and dead chickens later) in the live trap and wonder how to safely resolve the situation. I am very happy to not be skunked literally and figuratively! I know that when noises happen during the night, unless Benji sounds a certain alarm bark, I can peacefully sleep knowing that all will be well. No more bad dreams of chicken mauling or dreading going out in the morning to assess the night's damage. Instead, we collect more eggs and say "Good Dog Benji." He seems to know and though I know he misses me, Benji is always so grateful for work and proving himself useful.
I sometimes wonder what Benji thinks as we tuck the pup into bed and bring Lorna in for the night. (Lorna would love to have her turn, but we've had her heats to consider.) I see him sit like a king. Sad to see us go, but proud. We have only lost chickens on one night since we've brought them in as chicks. This was the night that we had not followed our new routine, and we learned the hard way. A momentary lapse of memory and duty. Benji seems to be always on duty. So when he is there, somehow we are still close. He understands that this is what I need. I understand that this is fulfilling for him. The closeness we have transcends physical distance.
In the morning, when I go to him at the side door, he always greets me with enthusiasm. He is a very snuggly and hug-filled dog. Stretches and conversations ensue as he articulates in his own way the tales of the night. The unobtrusive sounds this dog tries to talk in the morning always amuse us! I do think he wishes so badly that we would actually understand his words. But he loves us anyway. Even when we just pat him on the head and give him the same greetings day to day. Love is enough.
A couple of days ago, this was all the same. The greetings, stretches, our conversation, hugs. Nothing unusual. I had no reason to suspect that there was anything different about that day. Life continued on until late in the morning when I walked out the front door - not my usual exit. There right next to the side walk Benji had left me his gift. He had taken out another of the coon family that had been attempting to steal eggs, kill chickens, and rip open feed sacks. Benji is no-nonsense and all was done with no noise or sound during the night or early morning that we heard. He simply left us the evidence and did not make a fuss. That's our Benji. He is full of surprises!
I often wonder at all the things that he has done that we are not aware of. The animals listen to him at a respectful distance. they are not eager to run or come too close unless Benji says. They trust him. He has been faithful, even if he is bossy at times. When Benji barks, they look in the direction that he is pointed and head away. I think they are aware of his scouting talents. His powerful mind and nose is calming for us all. Running the fence lines is his way of checking up on the order of nature beyond and sending a message of what belongs to who. Much of Benji's gift to us is this security and calm. Through his barks, he brings peace. When he is still, all is well. When he is joyful, the very air hums with happy!
I still miss him beside my bed, but I think somehow protecting the farm makes him a different sort of happy and fulfilled. I cannot provide him with the same comforts outdoors as I can indoors. The pillows are still there, but the company is not. But somehow, this reign of the night is all his own and he relishes it! Here is Benji's world, and he will keep it safe for those he loves. King Benji rules the night, and somehow our common purpose and goals bring us even closer than a simple matter of distance.
This blog chronicles our very full life here on WoodSong Farm. We will share everything from dog to sheep stories, unique wooly works, to animal husbandry tips we pick up along the way. I hope this helps to give you an idea of what our extended farm family and wooly projects are like, and that we may somehow benefit everyone who reads about our journey.