Who is in the photo at right?
I’m Christy Bassett. My husband Harley and I have a small backyard farm, Barefoot All Natural Farm, where we raise chickens, turkeys, goats and a couple of crazy kids. We have a new blog that focuses on the perspective that farming can give you and techniques that we employ. I am also a full-time assistance dog trainer and Harley is an airplane mechanic for the United States Air Force. We have 3 dogs, all males. Jagger is a Pit Bull/Husky mix who will be 11 this year. Violet and Windy are our 2 Saanen dairy goats and Shine, our cow, is peeking through the barn door. Our other dogs are pictured below. Dozer is a 4-year-old Catahoula Leopard dog mix and Ruger is a 1-year-old Great Dane mix.
What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?
Morning chores require coffee. And some good animal company is always welcome when making the rounds.
We brew Dean’s Beans at home, our locally based, organic fair trade coffee company. Moka Sumatra is a favorite. I could lie and say that I squirt some goat’s milk right out of the goat and into my coffee cup during the morning milking for a “farm fresh latte”, but that’s even a little strange for me.
Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?
We make our own dog treats from our pastured chicken and vegetables, so I always have a pocket full of those to reward good doggie behavior. And of course the ladies are enjoying their morning hay and grain breakfast.
How did your dogs get their names? Any nicknames?
Jagger was my first dog. I got him as a puppy 2 months after I moved into my first apartment and started working as a dog trainer. I like to tell people that he is named after the famous “Mick Jagger” since he howls like a rock star. But the embarrassing truth is that he’s named after my adolescent crush on a soap opera character- Jagger Cates from General Hospital. I do like to sing “he’s got the WOO like Jagger” to him on occasion though. When no one is looking. Or listening. Or within miles. We also call him “Jaggaboo” and “Jags” when we’re in the midst of oogey boogey sweet talk.
Dozer [photo left] came with his name, although it was a nickname at the time. The rescue that had him named him “Pete”, but he was so friendly that he would bulldoze the other dogs in the home to get to people for attention. My son was obsessed with bulldozers at the time when he entered our family, so it was a no brainer to stick with it. Jake, our 4 year old son, calls him “my dog, Dozey Doze”. And Harley likes to call him by some other endearing pet names, like “nut-job” and “freak show”. Isn’t that sweet?
Ruger is named after a gun company, as you may imagine. He is our first dog since entering into our new farming lifestyle, so we wanted a name that felt powerful and embodied a country feel. We also seem to have an “er” theme in the ending for our dogs’ names, as it happens. No nicknames yet- but I’m sure they’re coming.
How were you and your dogs united?
I found all of them on Petfinder.com, actually. Do not go on that website unless you plan to come home with a dog. Like, tomorrow. Or you have amazing willpower. Harley has banned me from that site since I spent almost our entire vacation last summer scanning dog profiles and pictures, and at the end of the week we came home with Ruger. Turns out 3 dogs is enough.
I’ve always had a weakness for blue eyed animals, so when I saw Jagger’s profile with those sweet little blue puppy eyes staring back at me there was no question that he would be mine. I visited the Fitchburg Animal Shelter, where he and his siblings were just put up for adoption and spent a good long hour trying to be objective and pick the puppy with the best temperament. In the end, Jagger (or “Tubbo” as he was so aptly named because of his tendency to crawl over to people on his big round belly) was not the puppy with the best temperament, but I knew that I would be back for him the next day if I didn’t bring him home right then and there. Those eyes would just haunt me forever. We’ve gone through so much together- we met Harley only 5 days after I brought Jagger home (he even accompanied me on our first date, as a “bad guy detector” and easy out if it turned out badly), and we’ve watched our family grow and our scenery change side by side for over a decade. He’s definitely my heart dog. Good thing he’s going to live forever to finally live up to his “grumpy old man” image that he’s always had.
We lost our second dog, Ninja, a Great Dane mix, to cancer at only 7 years old shortly after my daughter was born. Jagger had become accustomed to living with another dog and didn’t do well by himself. So the search for a new buddy started while I was still home with a newborn. I had always been drawn to blue merle or blue colored dogs (see a blue theme here?) so I narrowed my search for one of that description. Dozer (or “Pete” at the time) came up on the screen and had been in a rescue for over 6 months in his southern foster home. He had escaped a high-kill shelter in Kansas, despite being heartworm positive, being a large breed and also being dark colored. All 4 of those things are strikes against a dog’s chances in a shelter, and he had beaten the odds and beaten the parasite that threatened to kill him, all due to his wonderful temperament. But he still didn’t have a home. After questioning his foster mom intensely about his personality (there were some high demands put on a dog entering our home with cats, dogs, farm animals, babies and also the fact that I take my dogs to work), I was confident that this was the dog for us. When we went to pick Dozer up from the transport, I opened the back door to my SUV to put his paperwork in and he jumped right in onto my son’s lap and made himself comfortable in his car seat. They hugged and kissed and laughed a lot. And he was home.
Although Dozer was a great addition to our family, we really missed our Great Dane mix, Ninja. That big, dopey personality that a Dane brings into a home is really powerful and it’s absence was felt in ours. It took some time before we decided that we could break our “no more dogs than adults” rule, but we went for it. Again, I searched on Petfinder and came up with a blue colored Dane mix from the Fitchburg Animal Shelter, the same place that I had gotten Jagger 10 years earlier. I took it as a sign and made an appointment to meet the big guy on our way home from our family vacation in New Hampshire. The day before our appointment, I emailed the coordinator to confirm and found out that the dog had been adopted. But…there just so happened to be another Dane mix that just arrived who had an even better temperament. We watched a video of the dog playing with those long puppy-like limbs, and felt that familiar joy in watching him romp about, making people laugh. And he just so happened to look almost exactly like our last Dane mix, Ninja. Sold.
You've got a wide variety of animals running around Barefoot All Natural Farm. Do your dogs get along with all of them?
It is somewhat unnatural for so many different species to have to coexist, as we’ve asked our animals to do. But they seem to do just fine. Jagger started out pretty intense with other animals. Since he’s a Husky mix, he has a very high prey drive and likes to chase small animals. But I’ve worked with him a lot, and with each new addition to our home, he’s learned that chasing is just not allowed and that you can actually be friends with chickens and bunnies. Actually, when he was younger he found a nest of newborn baby bunnies in the yard when I wasn’t looking. When I finally noticed him visiting several spots around the rock wall, I went to investigate. Sadly, there were 3 little bodies in the grass, covered in dog slobber from Jagger licking them and nudging them so much. I was sorry that I wasn’t able to stop him from bothering them while they were in their hiding spot, and ultimately killing them, but I was proud that he didn’t even place a puncture wound in any of them. Since then he’s gotten even better about not bothering baby animals on the farm, but we of course don’t leave them unsupervised.
Dozer is great with all of the animals. From the day he stepped foot at our house, he hasn’t cared one bit about sharing his space with so many different animals. As long as he has his ball, his focus is completely on fetching.
Ruger is the newest of course, and he still has quite a bit of puppy in him. He does pay too much attention to the goats and the cow at times, so we’re working on that. He gets so confused when they don’t want to play back when he barks and play bows at them, that he gets very conflicted. The goats have done a pretty good job of teaching him to mind his own space, but it’s a work in progress. He’ll get there.
Squirrel, cat, postman...?
Nope. No chasing allowed here. But given the opportunity I’m sure they’d enjoy a good squirrely-snack.
Squeaky toy, ball, stick...?
Dozer’s a ball-a-holic. He must have some Border Collie or other obsessive breed in him because he can’t think straight when there is a ball present. Must. Get. Ball.
Jagger and Ruger join in the play as well, so we always make sure there are at least 3 balls available at all times. But of course the one that Dozer is currently obsessed with is the one that everyone wants. Luckily Ruger isn’t picky (or isn’t all that bright, I’m not sure) and will play with just about anything he can find. He can often times be seen romping around the yard with an empty milk jug or pail from the kids sand box. Maybe we should introduce him to sticks…
What is each dog's best quality?
Jagger is my boy. He is incredibly intelligent and we are very strongly bonded. We know each other so well that we often times don’t have to communicate with much more than a look. That can be good and bad though, because he knows when I’m not 100% attentive and he can be sneaky. But as much as that frustrates me, I do respect that quality in him.
Dozer is a real kids’ dog. He is so gentle and submissive that my 4 year old can completely control him verbally. I never knew that there were real, actual, dogs out there that respected kids as much as they do adults until I met Dozer. It’s amazing to watch.
Ruger is very well rounded. I take him to work with me and use him as a demo dog with my assistance dog handlers and I never have to worry about him being afraid or aggressive toward anything or anyone. That and his goofy nature. With him around, a laugh is never too far away.
If your dogs could change one thing about New Englanders, what would it be?
Jagger is actually a pretty good New Englander. He loves the snow and cold weather and has the New-England-Cold-Shoulder mastered. But Dozer and Ruger would love to have some more friendly neighbors. Not that people around here aren’t friendly, but they’re very private. I can appreciate that, as we are fairly private people as well. But those 2 social butterflies might have it differently. Dozer is from the South, after all.
If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which your dogs could speak, which actors should do their voices?
Well, automatically when you ask me to pick an actor to represent Jagger, I think of his namesake- Antonio Sabato Jr. Great. Now I’m going to picture Jagger speaking in a husky Italian voice whenever I look at him. I don’t think Harley’s going to appreciate that one.
Dozer would probably be played by the guy that did the Micro Machines commercials, John Moschitta Jr. His mind is always going 100 mph when playing with his ball.
And Ruger might have the same voice as Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh. A little slow on the uptake, but always up for a good time.
If your dogs could answer only one question in English, what would you ask them?
I’m actually okay with dogs not speaking English. They have too many secrets to tell. And I feel like I know them well enough to know what they want and need. But if I had to ask them one question, it might be “what’s the appeal of rolling in poop?” I just don’t get it.
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