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.

Farmdog Needed. Inquire Within.

windsor

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?

House of Dreams, Raccoons, and Riches

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This house speaks in whispers telling of past families and memories.  It so fills me with inspiration every time we pass it.  I want to live there, to make a fire in the hearth, to grow something in the solarium.  I want to hang clothes on the line and tend to the chickens.  This 1907 house is supposedly inhabited by six people according to the internet but it looks abandoned.  Short stories and poems flow from its bones and I long to start a garden and trim the weeds so that one can see the wrought iron gate as they pass the statuesque frame of home.

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Do you see the visitor in the yard?
Do you see the visitor in the yard?

Ahh, I wish.

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The house we are staying at is enchanted.  A raccoon visits each evening.  Margie has dubbed her “Miko”.  She won’t come too close, just to the end of a pizza crust.

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I wasn’t too pleased with her this morning though!  We left our windows down in the truck.  Doug called me down to take a look at my seat this morning.  The vandal had opened a grocery bag of rotten leftovers and soup.  We wondered who would have done such a thing.  She had rifled through everything in the truck and left her telling, adorable hand prints on everything!  I knew immediately who the culprit was.

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Thus far, we have run into some dead ends regarding jobs but we won’t give up.  I imagine we will end up in Denver, Doug hopes to stay out here.  We’ll see.  Today we have food, clothes, shelter, transportation, health, family, friends, and a little change.  And though we have little else, we have the stuff that makes us rich.

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