Georgia dog vies for National People's Choice Pup
Posted on Nov 29, 2023 at 16:25 PM
Casper, a Great Pyrenees who came close to losing his life a year ago while protecting his sheep from 11 coyotes on his DeKalb County farm, is competing against four other dogs across the U.S. to claim the title of People’s Choice Pup in the 2024 Farm Dog of the Year Contest. American Farm Bureau coordinates the annual contest supported by Purina.
You can help Casper win this title by voting for him at www.gfb.ag/voteforcasper. This contest, based on popular vote, is a perfect chance to help a Georgia farm dog be recognized for his heroism. You may vote once per day per IP address. Multiple votes can be cast for a single IP address over the course of the contest. Voting ends Dec. 20. The winner will be announced in January at the American Farm Bureau Convention.
Casper is one of six livestock guard dogs (LGD) that Georgia Farm Bureau member John Wierwille uses to protect the sheep he leases out to clients to clean brush and invasive plant species off their property.
Wierwille’s Ewe Can Do It Naturally landscaping business serves clients across Metro Atlanta and cities within three hours of Atlanta.
When Wierwille leases his sheep, he sometimes sends at least one LGD with the flock to protect it against coyotes, hawks, owls and two-legged thieves. Wierwille and his family have an urban farm in Decatur that includes sheep, chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys.
Casper, and his mate, Daisy, also a Great Pyrenees, came to the Wierwille’s farm in October 2022 from a goat farm in Tennessee. Wierwille got the pair after the family lost their Great Pyrenees, Shebah.
“Casper is a goofball. He loves other animals to come around him. He lets chickens sit on his head, and he’ll walk up to the sheep and just lay his head on their backs,” Wierwille said. “Daisy is more reserved. She hangs back and will growl at you.”
With his fluffy white fur and outgoing demeanor, Casper was obviously named for the friendly ghost. While Casper has the gentle, loving disposition Great Pyrenees are known for, he is living proof that his breed will turn into ferocious warriors to protect any livestock or family members threatened by predators.
In the wee hours of Nov. 4, 2022, a pack of 11 coyotes threatened to attack six sheep that Casper and Daisy were guarding near the Wierwilles’ home. Casper took out three coyotes that made it inside the pen and then leapt the 4-foot hog wire fence to pursue the rest of the pack. Daisy, who was only nine days away from delivering puppies, stayed with the sheep.
“He just charged them. Maybe in ten seconds he had the first three dead methodically. Just one, two, three,” Wierwille recalled. “Casper saw me, and I think he thought ‘The boss is here, I can go after them.’ He leaped the fence in one bound and went after the rest of the pack chasing them through neighbors’ yards and carports. It went on for about 30 minutes. The next morning, we found coyotes along the railroad tracks that Casper killed. In all he killed eight of the eleven coyotes.”
After the battle was over, Casper was missing in action for two days. When Casper returned home, he was so badly injured Wierwille feared the dog wouldn’t make it.
“I didn’t think he’d make it another couple of hours. He was terrible. He had these huge wounds, and they were infected,” Wierwille said. “He had a bad wound on his back and on his neck, and half of his tail was gone.”
The Wierwilles cleaned Casper up, evaluated his injuries and took him to an emergency vet where he had multiple surgeries and spent about 15 days.
On Nov. 13, while Casper was still recuperating at the emergency clinic, Daisy gave birth to nine puppies. The Wiervilles kept Linus from that litter to train as a guard dog for their sheep. They later realized he was better suited for protecting larger livestock, so he now lives on a beef farm.
The family brought Casper home for a brief period, but decided they weren’t equipped to manage his wounds nor were they able to restrain a large, determined dog accustomed to being outside.
The Wierwilles found LifeLine Animal Project in Atlanta, founded by CEO Rebecca Guinn. Under the guidance of LifeLine Director of Medical Services Dr. Susan Brosman, the clinic cared for Casper for 30 days with follow-up visits.
“She and the team over there were wonder workers,” Wierwille said. “They really were amazing. He became the boss of the clinic, nosing into everything. They had to lock him in an office to keep him from observing surgeries.”
Mainstream and social media coverage of Casper’s ordeal raised about $15,000 in donations to LifeLine via their online donation link. Once donations exceeded the amount needed for Casper, the clinic used the extra money to save the lives of other animals.
“We didn’t know what to expect. He came in and he had this wound that was massive, but he was still in good spirits and such a good boy,” said LifeLine Veterinary Technician Katrina Coleman.
Casper’s injuries left him with a spot on his back where fur still hasn’t grown in, and he has a scar on one ear where it was split. Because Capser's tail was infected, the vet decided it best to dock it.
“Not having a tail doesn’t keep Casper from expressing his happiness. Now he just wags his whole body starting with his shoulders down to his haunches,” Wierwille said. “It’s a remarkable site to see.”
Being on the injured list also didn’t keep Casper and Daisy from expanding their family.
In May, Daisy gave birth to another litter of pups. This will be their last litter together as Daisy was spayed after complications with mastitis while nursing.
“Casper loved his puppies. He’s just a big, strong, I’m going to be here dog,” Wierwille said.
Casper has made a full recovery and was back on the job by June 1 getting hamburgers as a reward for chasing coyotes away.
“Great Pyrenees are so loyal. They’re determined to stay with their animals. I couldn’t do my job without them because I can’t be out with my sheep 24 hours a day, but the dogs can. The dogs make a lot of decisions if a threat like coyotes come along. Casper and our other livestock guard dogs are an incredibly important part of our business.”
ABOUT THE BREED - Great Pyrenees, which originated on the French side of the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain, are working dogs bred to protect sheep and other livestock from wolves and other predators on snowy mountains.
The breed’s fluffy weatherproof coat is layered and is usually all white or white with markings of black, tan, reddish-brown or gray. Males can be as tall as 32 inches at the shoulder and weigh as much as 160 pounds. Females can be as tall as 29 inches at the shoulder with a maximum weight of 110 pounds.
Great Pyrenees can make great pets, but they are instinctively working dogs. They need to have a job or may get into mischief if bored. They have extremely sensitive hearing and are prone to bark, especially at night. They may only be barking at squirrels, possums or armadillos, but they will patrol their perimeter letting the whole neighborhood know they are on duty.