Woody Packard

Words + Pictures

Nomadic Guardians Update


Bankhar Pups
Here's some news from the headquarters of Nomadic Guardians, which I wrote about a couple of months ago. In addition to the fact that Doug now has an assistant to help with the job of taking care of the growing responsibilities of the operation, three of the Mongol Bankhars have given birth to pups, adding significantly to the canine population there. But that is only half of the story.

Since these puppies are being bred as herd protection dogs, they are being trained to bond to sheep, which means that, now that they are venturing out of their shelters on their own, the time has come to introduce the dogs to their charges. It also means that in addition to taking care of the dogs, which suddenly have increased in number to more than thirty, there are now sheep to take care of. And unlike practically any other sheep in Mongolia, these sheep will be kept in an enclosed pen.

On my last two trips, I was put to work insulating shelters for the dogs that were pregnant. Insulation here means thick pieces of felted wool, the same material that a ger is wrapped with, which Doug bought at a ger supplies vendor at the Naran Tuul Market. The felt was nailed to the inside surfaces of the shelter, with a layer of hay covering a thick layer of dry goat dung—another native insulating material—on the floor.

Walking Arslan, Photo by Soyobold
All of the older problems remain. The process of feeding this many dogs is a major operation, especially given the need to cook fresh animal material for each meal. Consideration must be given to the limited volume that can be cooked at one time, even with the huge pots they are using; the time it takes to cook that much food; the water, which must be carted by hand from a water station a half mile away; the amount of fuel (coal) required to boil that much water; and the desirability of spreading the dogs' total food over two meals a day. All of this must be communicated to the caretaker, who speaks only a few words of English. For this and other tasks, Soyobold has been invaluable, as he was one afternoon when looking for a local veterinarian to look at the inflamed eye of their biggest dog.

There is one more detail about raising herd protection dogs that makes the job of volunteering here a little more difficult. A herd protection dog's allegiance must necessarily be to its herd, and not to people. So the part of the puppies' upbringing that encourages bonding with sheep or goats is also a time when they are given little contact with humans. The adult breeders have already been spoiled, so it's fine to continue to play with them. But for all those puppies, their contact with admiring humans should be minimal. So sad.

Close Story—Back to Pictures

Nomadic Guardians Update

Click below to page through enlarged images or read the story.

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Felt for Insulation

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Buying Bowls

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Measuring Felt

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First Mom

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Caretaker's Dogs

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Snuggle Bunnies

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Soyobold

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Borrowed Hat

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Looking for the Veterinarian

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Calling the Vet

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Reprimand

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Baavgue, Soyobold

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Dog Doctor

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Soyobold, insulating

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Sheep-ish

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Safety in Numbers

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Sheep Meet Dogs

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Two of Eight

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Dinner Time

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Supper Time


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