I knew this day would come but also knew I’d never be ready for it…
Molly was just 6 months old when my husband and I drove 3 hours to meet her. Molly and her litter mates had been guarding goats and when they were sold their owners no longer needed guards.
All but 1 of the Great Pyrenees Pups came to greet us. The one who didn’t was Molly. She had her back turned to us and her face buried in the corner of the barn trying her best to be invisible.
“That’s the one I want”, I said pointing to Molly. Both her owner and my husband tried to talk me out of it. But I already knew she was my girl.
The whole drive home Molly had her back turned to us in the car not even acknowledging my voice. When we got home I introduced her to the “her” sheep and she looked up at me for the first time and her brown eyes smiled — overjoyed to have a job. At that moment I became her person, her only person for the entire 14 years of her life.
We had gotten another guard puppy 2 months earlier named Daisy and, due to my inexperience and lack of knowledge I did not realize it was best to have 2 pups together in the pasture so they could play and guard together. The first dog had decided to chase the sheep out of sheer boredom and just because it was fun, I suppose.
When Molly stepped into the pasture and saw the other dog chasing sheep she alpha rolled the bigger dog (that was twice her size) and pinned her to the ground. Molly’s number 1 rule was established: Do not chase or harass her sheep. Though she was the smallest of our guards she also established herself as the alpha.
Two days after Molly came to our farm lambing began and the sheer joy this dog exuded was palpable. She looked up at me and smiled as if to say, “More sheep, you gave me more sheep”. Ewes that had twins actually allowed Molly to dry off one of their newborns as mom took care of the other lamb. Some of the lambs even followed Molly around the pasture half convinced she was their mom.
I can’t explain the peace of mind I had with Molly guarding in the pasture. Since the pasture she guarded butted up into dense woods I knew coyotes would be tempted to snatch a lamb before I would even notice. During Molly’s lifetime we never lost 1 sheep to predators even though we could hear coyotes often calling nearby in the middle of the night. However, over the years I did find an assortment of unfortunate raccoons, skunks, possums and other small perceived “predators” that had met their end in Molly’s pasture.
As we added sheep to our farm we also added more Great Pyrenees and Pyrenees/Anatolian crosses — 6 pups in all — and Molly trained every one of them. Though she never had pups of her own, she became a surrogate mom to those she trained. If not for her and the “Molly Factor” on our farm, we could not have safely raised our 2 breeds of Miniature Wool Sheep — Shetland and Babydoll.
So many years and so many memories of Molly come to my mind and echo achingly in my heart as I think back over the time I had with this dear girl:
-Molly, staying with a lamb separated from the flock barking until I found them both.
-Molly, sitting on top of the highest hill she could find watching for predators.
-Molly, bringing a few “lost” sheep to the safety of the barn from a bottom pasture during a blizzard — breaking a path for them in the deep snow.
-Molly, keeping watch in the barn with me during lambing season.
-Molly, standing between her sheep and any perceived threat — even if that “threat” was my husband.
-Molly, sitting next to me as I tended to a sick or dying sheep.
-Molly, and her “boyfriend” sheep sleeping peacefully together — she lying with her head on his side.
-Molly, frightened by thunder and fireworks seeking comfort from the terrifying sound by burying her face in my lap as we sat in her barn together.
-Molly, her soft brown eyes looking into mine with so much love I thought our hearts would burst.
As is the case many times with those we love, it is easy to not see the changes that happen right before our eyes. I think that’s because the eyes of love are veiled, perhaps because we cannot admit the inevitable is happening. Someone we love is aging. Someone we love is dying.
And so it was with Molly. She had slowed down this winter but would not stand to be separated from her sheep so, I set up a comfortable warm spot in the barn where she could be with them. My goal was to get her through winter to warmer weather. And, we were almost there.
This winter she enjoyed many cans of dog food and treats, lots of love and encouragement from me, the company of her sheep and another guard dog she had trained 8 years ago. She was content.
Every day she got up and followed her sheep around. Every night she laid in the hay with them as they slept. As always, even the slightest noise would wake her — ever the faithful guard.
This morning was different. I went out to do chores to find Molly softly whimpering, unable to sit up. I worked with her and she finally sat up and ate some canned food then went back to sleep.
It wasn’t until that moment that my veiled eyes — momentarily unveiled — saw the Molly that truly is (the aging guard), not the one that had been (the shy younger girl with the indomitable spirit). My Molly was suffering and for the first time in her life she told me so. She’d never been sick a day in her life.
As Molly aged, I had hoped she would choose her time to leave so I would not have to. But she was not going to leave me or her sheep peacefully on her own and I could not let her leave this world painfully.
Through my veiled, tear-filled eyes she was asking if I could let her go, if I loved her that much. She had done so much for me how could I not do this one last thing for her? So I made the call and the vet came to our farm and Molly breathed her last in the field where she had lived her whole life with her beloved sheep.
I don’t know if I will ever see Molly again and I think (at least right now) I am okay with that. I guess it’s enough for me that I have been privileged to see this girl for 14 years — loved her and shared her life. And I will still see her every day of my life as long as I live. Even if I lose my memory my heart will never forget my Molly. She owns a piece of it I can never reclaim and she has been one of the greatest gifts God has given me in my entire life.
The last thing I said to my Molly every night (her whole life) as I left her was, “You’re in charge tonight, Molly. You’re in charge. I love you Molls”. And I do believe that if there’s a celestial sheep flock Molly will be there guarding it. And, she will be in charge. She will be in charge!
Originally published at wwwamazinggracefarmscom.blogspot.com on March 16, 2019.