Billy the oddball

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Maremma sheepdogs have a reputation for aloof gentleness, a dignified independence and a could-care-less attitude towards human affection. Poultry guard dog Billy is none of these things. Owner Natalie Akers says the 18-month-old sneaks into the house to visit her two children, Lloyd (11) and Olivia (7), and has a (small) duck kill count on their Tallygaroopna farm.

What’s Billy like?

He’s not like other Maremmas. Even the vet said he was one of the friendliest Maremmas she’d ever met.

Have you ever had Maremmas before?

We had one before Billy. She looked after the birds and when she started getting a bit old we got Billy last year. She died recently from a suspected snake bite. The idea had been for her to train Billy, but he’s so different I don’t think much stuck.

What does Billy like doing?

Olivia: He likes to run and is very playful. He likes to play with the birds.

Nat: There have been a few birds accidently knocked out, unfortunately. Now he’s kept separate during the day and let out at night.

What does Billy eat?

Lloyd: Beef crunchies and dog food.

Olivia: Ducks!

Do you hear him barking at night?

Lloyd: Yes, I do.

Olivia: I don’t.

What’s his job here on the farm?

Nat: He looks after the chickens and ducks, which make up Akers Flock. At our peak we have 1000 birds but at the moment we have 500. My husband and his family take them to the Sydney and Melbourne Royal shows.

Is he good at guarding the machinery sheds on the dairy farm?

Nat: He has scared a few milkers when they arrive in the morning to work. Often it’s still dark and he’ll race up to them full speed looking for pats. He just wants to be friends with everyone, but he’s very big and likes to get close.

Does he have any funny habits?

Nat: Before we put the pool fence in, he’d come to the kitchen’s sliding glass door and stand on his hind legs and rattle it until he got a cuddle.

Olivia: One day I’m going to leave the door a little bit open for him, and he’ll fit inside and I’ll hide him somewhere.

Words and pictures: Daneka Hill