We were on our way to the Houston Livestock show and rodeo in the early
spring of 1993. That morning I decided to wear a skirt and high heels. A
Jersey girl who rides English I never looked much like a cowgirl anyway. It
was a lovely March morning and I was happy not to be mucking stalls for my
self appointed ‘Day Off.’ Enduring the normal endless ride from the country
into town I had almost fallen asleep; no I wasn’t the driver, when Paul and I
both spotted what looked to be a white bear with the ears of a dog walking
toward a major intersection. My adrenaline spiked instantly. Just a month ago
we had witnessed another lost dog being smashed by a car in nearly the same
spot. Yes that dog lived with a broken hip and the help of its relieved
owners. This dog, however, looked matted dirty old and unloved and even more
in need of rescuing. I practically jumped out of the moving car. Paul,
however was kind enough to slow down enough for me to land on my feet. I
started toward the animal with fierce resolve. ”You will let me help you!”
impulsive people like myself don’t always put their own safety first. It
seems a mundane concern. I placed myself behind her on the highway hoping the
traffic would be less likely to run over me than the poor dog. Paul followed
frantically behind me with his new shiny red Ford Taurus. The weary animal
was letting me get closer and closer as she continued on her way to certain
death at the intersection. I reached my hand out slowly toward her rusty
chain link collar suddenly noticing her huge head and enormous mouth. “Idiot”
I thought. She could kill you in two bites..”I had hold of the chain however
and had no intension of letting go ’Thank you God.” I sighed. ‘I have her and
she is okay with it.’ I turned the dog around and headed back toward the
subdivision openings where I assumed she belonged. Paul was soon following me
again grumbling things at me from the car window. We were supposed to be
doing something fun today and this wasn’t it. The dog was covered with hair
mats and smelled like old fish. We passed all entrances with sign of
recognition. Her destination was painfully aimless. My mind as usual was made
up instantly. “Go on home I barked at Paul my face screwed up into a million
“So what do you plan on doing with the dog.” Paul snarled.
I’m walking her home.” I snapped. (Home was thirty miles away but I knew that smelly old dog had no chance of a ride in Paul’s lovely new car.
“Get in.” He snarled.
“NO” I growled.
“Get in with the dog!” I thought I was hearing things. ‘What?”
“Put the dog in the car” I couldn’t believe my luck. Thank you again God! This act of compliance was totally out of character for the ever practical Paul. I only hoped the dog would actually get into the car as the size of her would make it impossible for me to put her in. The dog climbed in immediately and within five minutes was snoring in the back seat. “She sounds just like Paul I thought smiling to my self.” Paul wasn’t smiling but he didn’t look all that angry. I relaxed a little and turned around to study her. ‘Poor old thing I thought. She can spend her last days with us at the farm.
We named her Roushka after a Russian fairy tale about a snow maiden. She was completely white. I took her to my vet immediately who looked quisically at me before proclaiming her a show quality Great Pyrenees.”Where did you get her?” It sounded a lot like she thought I’d stolen the animal. I assured her I hadn’t and that in fact I’d contacted all major animal rescue groups to advertise her to possible owners.
She’s very old isn’t she? The vet pried open her mouth to reveal a set of lovely white teeth. I saw instantly what she revealed. “This dog is less than three years old. My heart lept. Roushke kept looking at me with an expression of such depth and hope. It looks as if she’s adopted you already! Dr Crouch remarked. I grinned like an idiot.
The next days were filled with panic every time the phone rang. I was terrified that Roushka’s owners would call to claim her. The last call I was dying listening to. I was so certain that her owners were on the other end until I realized they weren’t trying to find Roushka they were suggesting I take their male Great Pyrenees as they were having trouble with him wandering off. Not much chance of that I assured them. I hung up the phone and gave my new dog a big hug.
Roushka lived with us for fourteen years during which time I vowed I’d never be without a Great Pyrenees. Her gentle docile nature, intelligence and fierce protective instincts won me over totally. When I decided to acquire a small herd of goats I bought another Great Pyr whose job it was to guard them. It took me two years to even try it during which time a human butchered my favorite wether and a wild cat gutted a doe. Judy Muska who had sold me the dog. ‘Rumpole’ was exasperated. Put the dog out with them. That is what he was bred for.!” Well I finally did and soon saw for myself how much that instinct to guard and protect weaker animals is a gift they are born with. Rumpole took to his new job with a love and enthusiasm that was boundless. His attitude toward me was benevolent as if he was thinking’ Finally you understand!”
I always take excellent care of my guarding dogs as they take excellent care of us. We have had no loss of life or theft either since letting the dogs do the job they were born to do. Roushka’s job had only been to look after Paul and I. Whatever she had suffered before she found her home with us made her not want to leave the comfort of our house for long. She will always have a huge place in my heart. Roushka started my lifetime love and appreciation for the magnificent and noble Great Pyrenees!
"Is there any way that you might be able use another guardian dog?."Elaine's voice was hopeful over the phone. As she described the dog found on the interstate highway her words were muted by my own thoughts. We had just completed an exhausting move to a larger farm in the country with our family of twelve horses, twenty-nine angora goats eight cats and seven dogs. The project of getting all of them there putting up barns and fencing and assuring their safety had been stressful and overwhelming. Ironically just when I thought we were past the difficulties my favorite Great Pyrenees escaped what I had believed to be safe fencing and was killed on the road in front of our home. I had sobbed uncontrollably hugging his huge limp body in my arms. Watson had been the sweetest of dogs. He had a slightly silly expression with a tongue that never quite fit into his bear like head. Great pyrs are like enormous teddy bears and usually love to be hugged. They will also quickly morph into grizzley bears when they believe a loved one is in danger. Just a month earlier I had lost Watsons playmate Gasha to osteosarcoma. We had treated her agressively for the wrong thing. It wasn't until the autopsy that we discovered the mestatic cancer that had ended her life. I had made arrangements with the breeder of Watson and his older brother Rumpole,to purchase another female puppy who I hoped would be a new playmate for my Watson. He and Gasha had been inseparable.. Rumpole hated his brother and we never kept them together. Adult male Great Pyrs seldom get along. Watsons death happened a week before we were to pick up the new puppy. The only person who could console me was Judy; Rumpole and Watsons breeder. Cynthia she assured me it was better for him to have had a short life with you that a life with someone who didn't care for him as much as I know you did. Instead of not picking up the female puppy I decided to pickup a little male puppy from Judy as well. As I held the phone now I looked over at Thaddeus and Valeska sleeping innocently in the kitchen behind the kiddy gate. They had just discovered the joy of digging huge holes in the wall board. As our new home is somewhat like a lovely and elegant woman. This created the effect of boils on her face. My husband Paul who is less tolerant than I am was furious. We were all in the doghouse for days. Now Elaine was asking me to take on another Pyr and an adult male at that. Rumpole Thaddeus Valeska were not even my only pyrs. We also had Emma, a half great Pyrenees rescue and Hannah a show champion bred puppy .I had bought from a breeder in Florida. Hannah and Emma were great friends and Rumpole loved them both. All were nutered except Hannah who I toyed around with plans to show. I have to admit I am passionate about my loves and Great Pyrenees are one of them. They are like potato chips you simply can't have just one. But wasn't four and a half the maximum number even if we did have 54 acres now and lots of preditors threatening the Angora goats we breed and even the foals from our Andalusian and Irish Draught horses.
"No," I found myself saying firmly. I have no use for another guardian dog. Elaine was now telling me he had no place to go and they were going to send him down river to the shelter. I thought of Elaine,s home in Houston were she managed two adult male pyrs and two other dogs as well. She had NO acres. Well I hesitated bring him here and If Rumpole and Emma like him he can stay until we find a home for him.'
As I said these words It was all I could do to keep from banging myself over the head with the receiv(er.
Paul will be furious. He'll hate you. I couln't berate myself enough. Yes, Elaine bring him on Wednesday after he is nutered at the vets. He doesn't go on a leash. It takes three people to get him in a car. he is probably not house broken and he is terrified of everything. Yes, I'll be here push the gate code and come right in.
Elaine and Dillon arrived at our farm four days later. I opened the door and stared. There was Dillon looking nervous as a child ready to say 'Come on lets go. She won't take me. I could not tear my eyes off him. It was Watson without the tongue. I could hardly take it in and wondered If I wasn't halucinating.
Shall we see how he does with the other dogs I suggested. Elaine looked almost as nervous as Dillon. "Yes, lets see how he does. "
We brought Emma out first. She tried to attack him immediately. "Oh !" I apologised shoving her snarling body back into the house. "She is always like that at first."I laughed to cover my irritation. Hannah Thaddeus and Valeska were next. They just wanted to play with Dillon but I should have picked up on his apprehension.
"Shall we take him out to the buck pen to see if he is a guardian dog?" I asked. Elaine was so sure that he had been used as a guard as he had NO house manners. We tried to take him to the smaller goat pen where the bucks live in their own horse shed and where I was housing a 'guardian' Donkey who had arrived in such bad shape that she needed months of rehabilitation before she could walk never mind guard.(She had twelve inch long foundered feet.) Dillon was fine with Charlotte the donkey but absolutely terrified of the bucks. He was in such a panic to get away I was afraid he would pull Elaine over as she held on desperately to his lead.
Well I guess he's not a guardian dog after all!She exclaimed.
'Lets not give up so easily.' I thought. "I think we should take him up to the barn where Rumole is." I suggested. The walk there is a quarter mile and Elaine being a city woman and fair skinned as well was noticably suffering in the heat.
"Shall we drive or walk "I asked; remembering that it took three people to load Dillon in a car.I quickly answered my own question.
"Why don't you drive up there and Dillon and I will walk and meet you." It would be a good time to see if I could safely controll Dillon on a lead. He followed me to the barn with the hope and trust of a child.
Rumpole lives in the twelve stall barn with office, bathroom and carriage room. It is a barn that many people would be pleased to live in themselves. He is protected by no climb fence and believes he owns all he surveys. His holdings include fifteen horses including the three new foals and the ajoining goat barn that houses twenty some Angora does.
At first Rumpole was deceptively nice to Dillon. He even let him rest under his eaves looking over at his does. Rumpole was devising his strategy already however as Elaine, Sly ,our farm manager, and I were breathing undeserved sighs of relief. As Elaine pulled away with deep thanks and a promise to work hard at finding a home for Dillon as quicklly as possible.
Tired and acting with thoughtless automation I soon brought up Hannah ,Emma, Thaddeus and Valeska as this was their usuall time to play in the barn.
Hannah was thrilled to see Dillon waiting there to play. She wagged her tail and pounced. Rumpole was frantic to keep all dogs away from this new dog. Hanna pouncing was misinterpreted by Dillon who turned to attack her. Rumpole then attacked Dillon and I nearly had heart failure. I grabbed Rumpole's collar and shoved him into his emergency crate. I checked Hanna who was shaken but unharmed and let Dillon to a small enclosure I had used for the little puppies where he would be safe until I came up with a plan. By the next day I still had no plan. I sat down to email Elaine that Dillon would have to leave, Then I went out to be with him. His sweet face looked at me again with such hope and trust. 'Stupid girl.' I thought. 'Can't you figure something out that will work?" I called Elaine on my cell phone while still divising a plan. "Hi Elaine, forget my last email. I want to try something." Elaine thanked me profusely for not giving up. Ironically I also had Paul's support. While I was wondering if the striking resemblence to Watson was wishfull thinking Paul had commented only that morning. "Did you notice that dog looks just like Watson!!!" Dillon seemed to be comfortable with Charlotte the donkey. It was a large area with a covered shelter big enough for two small horses. It had a great view of the property and it was next to the Angora bucks. Surely Dillon would get over his fear of the silly creatures that way. Angora goats are so sweet and docile that no intelligent animal would fear them for long.
Charlotte was delighted to have Dillon as a companion. She seemed to know that he would keep her from harm as the condition of her hoofs rendered her helpless. As Charlottes feet improved Dillon enjoyed the company of the bucks more and more, forcing his way into their pen whenever possible. I brought Hannah out daily to play with Dillon. Hannah, the sweetest of my Pyrs forgave him instantly for his initial bad manners and encouraged him to play with her with the gentle patience of a saint. When Charlotte improved enough to begin bucking and kicking in a wind storm I feard for Dillon and moved him in with the bucks as his usual hangout.
Every evening I hang out with Dillon as he has his dinner alone in a separate pen. I brush him and make a fuss over him. and give him belly rubs. Soon we will work on car rides so that can take him with me when I run errands.I'll buy him a hamburgers at McDonnalds in hopes that some day soon he'll get in the truck on his own. He is really getting the knack of being a guardian. It is in his blood to be after all. He rests comfortably next to his goats on his hill surveying miles of rolling countryside. At night he patrols the perimiter of his predator fencing proudly. Dillons industrial strength bark cuts through the crazed comotion of coyioties howling as if to say. "Don't mess with me, I'm Dillon and this is my home