Shannon Du Prairie
It’s been three years since Shannon died. My heart strings are still pulled by her loss.
Shannon Du Prairie was the matriarch that started our English Shepherd breeding program. She was born in western New York State to Debbie Dollard. We drove to Debbie’s place and picked Shannon from her littermates. She was so small and pretty.
I am not a professional dog trainer, but I tried to do my best with Shannon. The first few months were ones that taught me how quickly a smart dog can learn new things.
A strong will and sense of justice was what Shannon was all about. She simply knew internally deep down how to keep our farm and its animals in check. She was exactly what a chore dog is all about. Though she wasn’t a bold puppy in her litter, she displayed boldness when she needed it.
One morning when Shannon was only eight months old, she began to bark in our garage. I ran out in my night gown to discover Shannon had cornered a coon that had strayed into the garage through the small door. I flew up the large garage door and Shannon herded that coon back to our neighbor’s construction site, two football fields away. I watched it climb into their dumpster; then Shannon cam home without me calling her home.
Soon after this garage episode, she took to being the first one into our henhouse when we gathered eggs. I wasn’t thinking about her routine until one day, she grabbed a coon from the nestbox and dragged it outside and killed it. I was then very thankful for her insights and instincts.
Shannon became so good at coon watch she would tree them on fence posts or run them back to their woodland home 100 feet from our barnyard.
On many occasions coyotes would come up from the woods and pass through our True Prairie grass meadow. Shannon would alert me and jump at the front door until I let her go outside. She’d rip roar off through the pasture, scoot under the electric fence and herd the coyotes always keeping about 30 feet to their rear, never engaging in a fight. She’d simply bark and run in a semi circle behind them, until they’d crossed that invisible line of our property boundary. Then she’d head for home at a racing pace and come back to me.
Shannon would halt cars who ventured up our lane, making the occupants stop before exiting their vehicles. She was sizing them up, usually with a wagging tail. She felt it her duty to determine if they were friend or foe. Sometimes when they’d open their car door, she’d come around and try to climb into their car if she felt they were worthy of a visit.
Shannon lived here free reign and always staying home. She had no desire to roam over the open prairie away from me. If we were raising a new puppy, about the time it was four or five months old,
Shannon would take it to the woods to lose them. She’d come home, and we’d have to go in search of our new pup. I think Shannon simply didn’t want to share us with another English Shepherd. She would resign herself to the idea of being top dog, yet having us pay attention to other dogs too. Shannon always knew though, that she was my very favorite friend.
Shannon was an outstanding mother. She had four litters in all. Her first was with Sutherland’s Truman in 2003. Two of those pups went on to breeding, one on the east coast, the other on the west coast of the USA, and the others became chore dogs for their families. Her second litter was with our male, Ranger and one pup went on to sire one litter of puppies. The others became pet dogs.
Her third litter was special because we met a working English Shepherd named Shep, that kept sheep and boar goats in order on his farm. We kept Joy from Shannon’s 3rd litter. Joy became our daughter’s 4-H project and went to fair at 8 months old. She won ribbons and a trophy that summer. Joy repeated the experience the following year. Next Joy earned her CGC certification and enjoys hanging out on top our trampoline with her young owner. Joy also started having litters of her own. We wanted a litter with Shannon and our male, Strider. They were successful and from their 2008 litter we kept Jane, a sweet black and white puppy. Jane was easy going, lovely temperament and produced two litters of her own, from which we kept our new male, Mr. Darcy Dunadan Du Prairie in 2012.
Shannon left this world suddenly. We think she ingested something like bones that hurt her intestines. Farm life is hard and sometimes dogs can find things in the fields or woods that are harmful. This risk is part of the life we choose to live. On a January day that turned into a blizzard, Shannon went to sleep. We buried her in the middle of my wildflower patch overlooking the meadow and pastures she loved to keep watch over. She was one of a kind, and the very best farm dog I could have ever hoped for, not to mention my best and dearest friend.
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