As Lucca and Kiki are such a large part of our lives I thought I would introduce them properly. Here they are as pups around 10 weeks old. They are Maremmas, a breed of Italian guardian sheepdogs from the north of that country. They are found in the Alps, left by the shepherds to guard the sheep and goats on their own. They are known for thinking for themselves and have a very strong mind, and will see off any predators from bears and wolves (which we don't have here) to foxes and badgers (which we do).
We have had many breeds over the years but Maremmas are different in many ways. They are not the easiest dogs to come when you call them, and will decide for themselves whether it is necessary and will act in their own good time. Throw a stick and ours tend to look at us as if we were mad. 'Why should we fetch it, when you have obviously thrown it away?' Lucca and Kiki are brother and sister and now are three years old. Loyal and loving. Lucca is very much like a polar bear. Not dogs that need massive amounts of exercise as they are bred for guarding not herding. Feed them and they may raise their heads without much enthusiasm and then will meander along sometimes hours later to eat their dinner.
I wish I had known about the moulting - my word, you've never seen anything like it, you could spin it and make blankets from it, there is soooo much hair. Hoovering can be a twice-a-day job even after brushing, and guests leave with a layer of white hair on their clothes. Kiki seems to moult earlier than Lucca so it seems to go on for months - the fact that I usually wear black does not help matters!
So here they, fully grown. They don't mind cold or wet weather but sometimes they are grateful to us for having an Aga for those times when it is extremely cold. We love them to pieces, even with all the vacuuming!