Before You Get a Great Pyrenees (or any dog)

He just settled back down to sleep.  7:20, the school bus comes.  He jumps up, the futon shaking, and barks loudly at the small, hooded figures with backpacks, their parents shadily waiting in their cars, probably planning on breaking into our house.  They all disburse, the bus drives away, and Gandalf sleepily settles back down on his bright pink futon and begins to snore.

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We did our research on the Great Pyrenees.  I like to thoroughly read everything possible.  They can be pretty vicious.  Like, you may want to put signs up warning people.  If they aren’t socialized, they can be impossible to have around people and animals.  We laughed as we watched a video before getting Gandalf about how this gentle giant breed will guard you against predators, strangers, lawn chairs, birds, the wind….yea, we didn’t really get it.  They bark.  “Good!” I said, I want a guard dog.  They shed.  “Ha!  I have had nine cats at one point, he can’t shed more than them!”  Ha ha…yea, he can.  We will train him!  You don’t train this breed.  They do what they want.  Dogs are how you raise them, right?  But there are definite breed traits that one must know before committing to the lifetime of a dog.  You cannot train hundreds of thousands of years out of any particular breed.

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There are growing populations of Great Pyrenees in shelters.  These adorable fluff balls of polar bear proportions are just about too much cuteness not to fall in love with.  They grow quickly.  Comparing Gandalf to dogs at the dog park, he is probably over 180 pounds.  He’s still growing.  We have socialized him.  I have a lot of clients, students, and friends over and he has been fawned over and given treats for over a year now.  But he is very sensitive and even a benign person with too much energy makes him very wary and, let’s be honest, scary.  I keep him in the back yard if people are coming over.  At the dog park, he is fine.  Off duty, he plays and has a great time, turning into a puppy again.  At home, he is on guard.

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When people say they bark, it is not like a heeler or lab.  His bark is deep and bellowing and can be heard blocks away.  Intended to keep predators from flocks of sheep, the bark of a Great Pyrenees is meant to frighten away any dangers before confrontation.  In the city that means that anyone walking a quarter a mile away gets barked at.  He barks nearly all the time.  Loudly.  All.  The.  Time.  Now, that may sound great if you are concerned about security, but your neighbors may not think that is a great way to wake up Sunday morning.  His bark doesn’t change much.  Could be a burglar, could be a neighborhood cat.

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He sheds.  No, no…he sheds!  The interior of my car was black when I bought it.  I will bring dog hair with me on my clothes, find it in my coffee at the coffee shop, the couch is plastered in it, the floors have tumbleweeds of dog fur flying about every time the furnace kicks in.

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He did snap at a child that he didn’t know who took food from him.  That is any dog.  With Maryjane, he is the gentlest, sweetest, most attentive companion and I do not worry about her playing outside by herself with him by her side.  Even at the dog park, children will hang off of him.  He does live up to his Gentle Giant status.

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When we take walks, he pulls Doug.  If we are walking with someone who has their dog off leash, he pulls.  I was nervous the other day to take him by myself around the lake.  He has a different mindset with just me.  If Doug is not there, he feels his entire job is to watch after me.  The leash stayed slack, he kept looking up to me.  My beautiful, great leader.  He has a beautiful spirit.  He is playful, and adorable, and a great companion.  I love my loud, shedding polar bear.

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He loves the ladies at the bank!

He matches his breed.  There are so many huskies, heelers, and other beautiful dogs in shelters because they are amazingly cute puppies but someone didn’t take the time to understand their innate breed traits.  Gandalf is a lot to handle, but I don’t regret adopting him.  He is part of our family.  He spends most of his day outdoors by choice, but right now he is happily snoring on the couch.

Making Your Own Dog Food (why and how)

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It is amazing how media coverage can make folks paranoid.  The news about Beneful killing dogs made me very nervous.  We usually feed an equally crappy dog food because it is the only one that doesn’t give Bumble gas.  But one bag ago Doug accidentally brought home Beneful.  Rather than drive back into town we opened it up and fed it to him.  He ate doubled his normal portions and loved it!  But I went back to the other dog food because I couldn’t afford for him to be eating that much food!  It was a good thing because then I saw the news reports about the poisoning.  Then Bumble got sick.

Memories came back of our feisty and cuddly Siamese cat.  He was only eight when he suddenly dropped weight and became very ill.  He went into renal failure and after an agonizing two months, died.  And broke our hearts.  Do you remember that time?  It was when many of the cat and dog foods were being recalled and were killing numerous pets.  Including mine.  I was buying the expensive food.  The good food.  I was being a good pet parent.  But it turned out that the expensive food was made by the same companies that made the crappy food.  That was a solemn discovery.

It angers me that this multi-billion dollar industry does not care whatsoever about animals.  Animals are kept in cages in holding facilities their entire lives to be tested on with animal food.  They feed the public lies about nutrition and then sell us poison.  Knowingly, and then not pulling it until the lawsuits win.  It is sad.  Because for many of us our animals are a part of our lives.  They take up space in our photo albums and our phones.  They entertain us, love us, make the house a home.  Most of us don’t think about making our own animals’ food.  But why not?  Time and know-how I guess are the elusive answer!

Bumble had all the symptoms.  The diarrhea, the lethargy, he stopped eating for five days.  He limped and had trouble moving.  I told Emily that she and her siblings may need to come out and say their goodbyes.  He has been our family dog a long time.  Now at ten and a half years old, it is hard to see him suffer.

Then he made a miraculous recovery.  Turns out that the bitter cold caused his hip to stiffen up and his teeth are bad.  But it certainly made me think.

A Nutrient Complete Dog Food

Part of this recipe was inspired by a recipe in Ani’s Raw Kitchen.

2 cups of nuts like cashews, walnuts, pecans (protein and antioxidants) soaked overnight

2 cups of fruits and vegetables like kale, avocado, carrots, banana, and/or green beans (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants)

2 Tablespoons of olive oil or coconut oil (coat shine)

1/2 Tablespoon of dried herbs like basil, oregano, thyme

1 clove of garlic (anti-viral and anti-cancer)

1 teaspoon of sea salt

Sprinkle of nutritional yeast (B 12)

Dogs are able to live very well as vegetarians.  In fact, wolves and coyotes in the wild eat a lot of fruits and vegetables.  But some humanely raised, organic meat could be added as well.

Grind everything together in a food processor, adding a little water for dogs with bad teeth.

This recipe feeds a 75-80 pound dog for a day giving him two servings.  It keeps well in the refrigerator.

Perhaps I could designate a day to make his food for the week.  It doesn’t take long and wouldn’t cost anymore than the dog food.  The dog food could be costing me much more.  We don’t want to lose Bumble yet!

The Old, Old Farmdog

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I wanted a ferret.  “You do not want a ferret, ” Grandpa exclaimed.  He gave me reasons, but I had tuned him out.  I wanted one.

I had just turned twenty-two and still knew everything.  Andrew had just turned three and we had recently lost our wolf hybrid that he identified with and loved.  Andrew loved animals and so did I allowing a menagerie of creatures coming in and out of the house.  Four cats were joined by an American Eskimo puppy named Snow White.  We needed to keep our minds off of our lost dog.  Shyanne was only six months old and was busy crawling all over the house.  I had just found out I was pregnant with Emily.  Life was full and busy.  I liked it that way.  A ferret would add character to our already crazy household.

At the pet store, I chose the littlest, cutest white ferret and took him home.  I didn’t think to get a cage.  He was to be litter box trained and allowed to roam the house like any other pet.  Upon getting him home, I realized that perhaps Grandpa was right.  The baby ferret was either attached to my foot or Shyanne’s diapered backside at all times by his teeth.  This was not going to work.

Shortly afterwards, in the pet store, Andrew was being chased by a giant lizard around the shop (shop lizard, I guess?), I was done with the ferret, I just wanted my money back and to get out of there.  They would only offer me an exchange.  Now, I am a big dog person.  Wolf hybrids, St. Bernards, big fluffy dogs are my style.  I was credited a hundred dollars but there was nothing in the shop for less than that.

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Except for a new bunch of sickly little shih tzu/poodle mixes that had just arrived.  Mangy little things.  I chose the one with one blue eye.  He was the closest to a husky.  We named him Windsor.

I was afraid he would be a fear biter because he was so nervous at home.  He had been cooped up for his first six months and knew nothing about playing, jumping on furniture, or receiving kisses.  He learned quickly.

He was pretty naughty.  He jumped the fence to get into the front yard all the time.  His partner in crime, Snow White, who was the same age, could not jump over and play with him.  One day, Windsor jumped over the fence and was playing in the front yard. Snow White started convulsing and died.  Someone had been dropping poisoned hamburger into the yards all around my neighborhood.  Windsor saved himself by jumping the fence.  Snow White was eight months old.

Each dog that I brought home….another wolf hybrid, a lhasa apso were among the lost…he would get out of the yard with and come back alone.  We joked that he was getting rid of the dogs.  So, he was an only dog for a long time.

He has been great with the kids.  Three children under the age of four playing with him, dressing him up, dragging him everywhere, he never once nipped.  He has been tie dyed, had hair cuts, mohawks, and was walked sixteen miles when Emily decided to walk to Grandma’s house when she was younger.  He has loved every minute of it.

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He wags his tail around Maryjane.  He loves children.  He loves cats.  We think he may have thought he was a cat.  At some point we thought he was lonely and adopted another dog, Bumble the greyhound.  Bumble was only two and a half at the time, Windsor was twelve.  Windsor was too old to lose Bumble, less than thrilled to have a roommate, but he has dealt with the bumbling new dog tripping over him (who is now nine).  He has lived in the inner city, a townhome, an old neighborhood, off to the suburbs, to the country with no fenced yard, and now on a huge plot that doesn’t do him any good because he spends the majority of his day on a pillow.  He is deaf and blind. In no pain, just tired.  He wags his tail when he hears the kids walking across the floor.

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He turns eighteen on Sunday.  I never expected to have this little dog for nearly my entire adult life.  He has been a very, very good farm dog (city dog, suburb dog, family dog).  Happy Birthday Windsor!  Sometimes the most unexpected of happenings become a major part of one’s life, an unexpected blessing.