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.

Sunday Morning on the Farm

We need to bring in more wood.  I shall find some more kindling.  Empty the ash into the compost.   A wood fire is far more warming than the furnace.  And delightful as well.

The grandfather clock chimes and the morning is still.  Blue jays call in the distance.  Steam rises from my coffee cup as my husband sips his beside me.  A quiet Sunday morning save for sounds of the homestead.

Blur….upp, the sound the honey wine makes while fermenting.

The busy whir of the sewing machine as I work on Yuletide gifts.

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Gentle snoring from the farm dog who reclines comfortably on the sofa after a cool night outdoors keeping watch over the urban farm.  He loves his work and does it well, coming in to rest then opting to go outside again late morning.

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This life, this home, it balms, sweetens, and simplifies.  This homestead life.

Root vegetables- sunchokes, parsnips, and potatoes- harvested from the garden beds will be roasted for brunch alongside fresh eggs from the coop.

The chickens dig around in the leaves and the golden light of autumn cascades over the sleeping beds.  I jot down ideas for a preservation garden.  I will need more fencing.

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Dreams, and the gentle lilt of every day life pervades me and I smile, and take another sip.

The Motley Crew of Pumpkin Hollow

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I need this sign!

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Gandalf is over a hundred pounds now at seven months old.  He is adorable.  His crazy brother, Merlin is eight months old and thinks he is a jaguar.  Or a dog.  That boy is a little special.  Each morning my husband emails me from work and asks, “How are you and zoo?”

DSC_6169My three old kitties, that we had hand raised almost thirteen years ago, came home after being at the shop for over two years.  Let’s just say they don’t love Merlin.  Gandalf is loud and furry and naughty too.  I didn’t get chicks this year.  I think eight cats, a giant polar bear, and seven chickens will do me just fine for now.  But I tell you what, this zoo makes me laugh. Every. Single. Day.  It’s a motley crew over here on Pumpkin Hollow Farm!

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Footprints ‘Cross the Floor (the fallacy of the clean farmhouse)

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Now I said it with my mom voice.  You know the mom voice?  Even if the kids grow up and move out the voice still finds its way around.

“No shoes in the house!” I says.  Best mom voice.

No…(pause)…shoes in the…(pause)…house pleease!

Now I am married to an independent man but one that likes (wisely) to keep mama happy.  He comes in from work- tired and hungry- and takes off his shoes first thing.  He stashes them below the sofa so the puppy doesn’t play with them.  He puts on his bedroom slippers.

And then!  Later he walks out the back door in his slippers, through the chicken yard, into the chicken coop, gathers eggs, and comes back in tracking chicken straw, mud, and myriads of stickers, his big, doofy pup following with large paw prints ‘cross the cleanish kitchen floor.

Well, they ain’t shoes, I guess.

Now Folks, the idea of the perfectly clean house is a fallacy designed by gents in suits selling the finest cleaners and somehow it stuck.  Only the very bored and those that have lost a hobby or two have a perfectly clean house, in my mind.

There is clutter, and dishes, and overnight guests, and animals galore, and laughter, and spilt wine, and a dog on the sofa.  The dust falls like fairy dust and the home is cozy and fine as it should be.

So, y’all, I look at them two traipsing across the kitchen floor that was clean for five minutes.  Pa hands over the eggs and the hundred pound puppy drools on the floor, both waiting for mama to smile.

And my heart swells, and I do, because that’s what brooms are for, and puppies, and husbands, and kids, and guests were always more important than footprints ‘cross the floor.

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The Great, Great Pyrenees (traits and fun facts)

Message_1514674093077I love the individual traits of dogs.  I am fascinated that certain characteristics could be bred into a dog over thousands of years.  I enjoy watching those traits emerge.  The little souls and personalities may be different but there are definitely set patterns.  We decided to get a Great Pyrenees.

We have long looked at that breed when we had our “real” farms but never ended up adopting one.  I wondered about getting one that would live in the city, would he be happy?

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The Great Pyrenees was a mountain dog in the Pyrenees mountains between Portugal and France.  They were bred to cross mountains and guard sheep.  Their double dew claws on their back feet are attached with bone and make them able to stretch out their feet and easily climb rocks.  We have not a huge expanse for them to wander, nor sheep.  We do live in an area, lovingly described to us by a fellow who was out mountain biking while we were hiking, as Colorado’s unknown playground.  It is gloriously spring-like all the time here and we have thousands of trails.  I happen to be extremely energetic and really needed a pup to walk me!  Gandalf and I walk three to four miles a day, usually just around the lake at the end of the block but we also head to the Riverwalk and hopefully this weekend we can take him the short drive to the mountains and ramble around the trails there.  Great Pyrenees do not have as much energy as a husky or a heeler or me.  A few miles walking or a few minutes throwing the ball are perfect for these gentle giants.

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Great Pyrenees are bred to protect.  That is what they do.  My favorite quote is, “The Great Pyrenees dog breed‘s goal in life is to protect sheep, goats, livestock, people, children, grass, flowers, the moon, the lawn furniture, bird feeders, and any real or imaginary predators that may intrude on your personal space.” Their size alone could do that, but their deep, bellowing bark will make you jump out of your skin.  They are quite intelligent.  Gandalf enjoys being around other dogs and he loves, loves, loves kids.  If he is in the yard, anyone that walks by is suspect and he will bark whether it is an old lady, seven year old child, or shady looking character.  While we are out, he carefully sizes everyone up that walks near us.  As is the case of the world, the vast majority of people are good folk and he is happy to greet them.  Only a few times did he bark and refuse to walk until they were out of sight.  He will be great protection for me.

Great Pyrenees have a double coat.  They are fabulously cuddly and snuggly and polar bear-like.  I love a great big fluffy dog.  We were warned that Great Pyrenees shed.  We laughed.  We go nowhere without cat hair on us as it is!  There is a great talk about how, because of these mega coats, that the Great Pyrenees prefer to be outdoors in the cold, even in freezing temperatures.  I am sure that they were bred for that and can withstand that but my Great Pyrenees has no problem being in the house, even with the wood stove burning.  He will lay by the door where it is a little cooler.  He sleeps next to my side of the bed.  He doesn’t mind being an indoor dog.

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He saw his first rainfall and had a great time running around the yard trying to catch the invading water.  He also learned to turn on the spigot after watching me fill buckets to water trees.  He had a great time until I wondered where the sound of water was coming from!  A simple shake and all of the moisture was off of his fur.  He pounds through the thin ice near the lake and streams by our house and plays adorably splashing in the water.

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The Great Pyrenees are distantly related to the other breeds, Bernese Mountain dogs, St. Bernards, and Newfoundlands.  Their adorable faces confuse a lot of people.  The city people here have rarely seen a Great Pyr, so they search their memories for what he could be.  St. Bernard is the first guess.  Since mine is French, I joke that he should have a barrel attached to his neck with a spigot for wine.

The bones of Great Pyrenees dogs have been found fossilized from 1000 BCE.  That is an old breed!  They were also used to guard French castles in the 1700’s.  They have been beloved for so long that I am surprised more people do not know about them.  The Great Pyrenees dogs will range from 85 pounds (female) to upwards of 160 pounds.  Gandalf seems to be heading in that spectrum.  At 4 1/2 months old he is already 78 pounds.  He is goofy and lovey, and a really, really good puppy.

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So if you have been thinking of getting a Great Pyrenees, I hope this helps you decide for yourself whether a polar bear would be a good fit.  I sure love this pup.  He is perfect for our little urban farmstead.  He is good with the chickens and the cats and I can see where they earned the nickname, “Gentle Giant.”

A Girl and her Farmdog

 

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“It’s easier,” we assured ourselves, committed not to get another dog.  Cats are really a lot easier.  We can run off to Taos and leave them some big bowls of food and water and they don’t mind a bit.  Cats don’t typically eat the couch or leave horse-like piles in the backyard.  “No, we don’t need a dog,” we said again.

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I suppose it began with a one page article in Sunset Magazine some months ago where a blond photographer and her wolf hybrid traveled the country together capturing the perfect shot.  I miss my wolf.  And a dog to travel around with me would be so fun.  I haven’t really opened my heart to a dog since Navajo.

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image_1511665275681Then there was the adorable lab at one of the fairs we did.  Then the movie, A Dog’s Purpose.  Kinda knew that would do me in.  Then I cried when my granddog went home after two weeks at my house.  My other granddog is my logo for my company and he is just too fluffy and cute for words.  I wanted a big floofy dog.

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And into our lives entered a ginormous ball of fur.  Gandalf talks like a husky, is huge and fluffy like a wolf, protective already, and at three months old is already forty pounds.  I am in love.  So is Doug.  The cats…well, not so much.  The kitten loves him though!

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If you are considering a farm dog or a city dog, it may be the perfect holiday gift for yourself and for the little soul that you bring home.  If you have extra love to give, there is a pup out there who would be so grateful.

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The Urban Farm Dog (meet Gandalf)

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He’s here!  Eleven weeks old and thirty-three pounds of fluff.  (And muscle and baby teeth and mischief!)

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He is a gentle giant.  My granddaughter ran into the house laughing yesterday to meet the new addition.  She ran right up to him and he began licking her face.  He played with my daughter’s dog.  He loves the kitten.  He welcomed my students to the house.  He is a friendly fellow.

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I know I will be learning a lot in the next year about training; something I have never done.  He’s a smart one.  He outsmarted the baby gates with sheer force.  He doesn’t sleep in the kennel; he wants to sleep on the floor by our bed.  But he is a good boy.  And I am excited to have him here.

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Welcome Gandalf to Pumpkin Hollow Farm!  (He set that pumpkin there!)

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Meet the New Farm Dog- Take 2

 

20171019_132845It seems strange that I could not bond with the little red heeler.  He would try to bite me if I snuggled him or picked him up, sometimes viciously.  He would go after dogs at Petsmart unprovoked.  As I nursed the bite on my finger and watched him chase the cats, I wondered what I had gotten into.  Maybe because I didn’t choose him, or maybe we just had personality differences.  He may have only been ten weeks old and cute as a button, but we just weren’t friends.  So, when my cousin, Julie came over to spend the day with me I could not have been more surprised at how he acted with her.  It was his long lost mom.  He playfully bounced at her feet, wanted to be picked up, and she loved him too.  He didn’t look back as she bundled him up with his toys and took him home!  He loves her older Golden Retriever and her cat.  Julie and her husband have three grown children at the house and they all love him.  He found his forever home.  I am so happy!20171019_132853

Now, my daughter, Shyanne and her boyfriend, Jacob think that I sabotaged the relationship because I only love BIG floofy dogs (not a typo, that is my word.)  Jacob’s husky is my logo for White Wolf and I still am not over the loss of my wolves from over twenty years ago.  I would be stupid to get a husky or a wolf in the city and with my lifestyle.  But, there was another big dog that would be perfect for me.  And my friends, Amy and Rob, had a litter of perfect, large, floofy Great Pyrenees puppies.

I used to board their goats and one of the goats met me when I got there and stayed by my side the whole time.  I was so happy to see Tank, the wethered Nubian that I bottle fed every few hours.

Amy and Rob’s farm is called Lavender Moon Farm and they raise turkeys and sell honey.  We were all going to co-farm at one point together and I am really proud of them for what they have built.  It was great being around sheep and goats again.  Amy and I visited while the puppies played and hid under my skirts (as all babies and livestock love to do!) as I carefully chose the right puppy for me and Doug.

20171019_13062420171019_133704The parents were so lovely and gentle and the father kept pawing me, which is endearing to me, and his little son did the same and I knew that was the one.  Gandalf will come home to meet Merlin and the other cats and chickens in a few weeks after he finishes nursing.

20171019_130937My goodness, at eight weeks old he is a handsome fellow.  I buried my face in his thick, polar bear fur and he didn’t mind a bit.  I found my farmdog.

 

The New Farmdog

20170924_071821On Mabon, the eve of equinox, I smudged the house with oils and Doug carved on a candle a few things we wanted to manifest.  “Dog” was one of them.

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The next morning my friend, Alli, sent me a picture by text message of a litter of puppies.  Her husband was fixing equipment on a ranch and the pure-bred puppies were only fifty-dollars.  He could bring one home for me.  I looked up at the sky and said, “Dang, that was fast!”

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He ended up bringing one home for Alli and for one of their other friends as well.  Eight week old Heelers are pretty dang cute.

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We named him Arthur to match Merlin, our ten week old kitten.  Those two are running around this place like little bats out of hell until they fall into one of their many naps.  It’s pretty cute around here.

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Well, here he is folks, meet Arthur.

Farmdog Needed. Inquire Within.

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We have had unlikely farm dogs.  We had Windsor for eighteen years.  He was completely devoted to the children.  He also peed on the kitchen floor every day of his life.

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Our greyhound, Bumble, was a great family dog.  He lounged on his reclining lawn chair guarding the chickens every day.  He would dig great holes in the yard (presumably to help me plant trees) and would run a mile circle if accidentally let out of the gate.  When he passed away in the night two and a half years ago, we decided no more dogs.

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A few months ago I babysat my daughter, Emily’s dog, Azzy for two weeks.  She is a small blue heeler/border collie.  She never left my side.  She rode in the car, loved walks, growled at little old ladies who looked threatening, kept squirrels out of the yard, and scared the recycling guy.  She has separation anxiety something awful so I just took her everywhere with me.  I found myself very upset when she went back home.  And her mother won’t give me her dog.  Kids these days.

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My granddog, Lupo

 

The city has been difficult for me to get used to.  Our cars have been broken into four times since we moved here.  Last week they shattered the window to get in, only to find nothing of interest.  In the country we never locked our doors.  I find myself worried to leave my house windows open.  I am home alone most of the week and even though it is pretty safe around here, I wouldn’t mind the company of a dog.

I am worried about getting the right dog though.  I take adoption seriously.

“MWF seeks big, snuggly dog with big bark who loves long walks around the lake and rides in the car.  Must love chickens, cats, and kids.  Looking for big, strong, protective pup who would enjoy years of being spoiled who doesn’t care to dig or run away.  Preferably one who doesn’t have separation anxiety and doesn’t eat couches.”

Is that even possible?  Does my farmdog exist?

What breeds would you recommend?  Puppy or adult?  I would like to rescue.  Ideas?