To Angel II my gracious, loving protector with a smile.
Hercules and Little Bear, my gentle giants.
And my husband for his love, acceptance and willingness to restore Angel’s faith in
Although we live .7 miles from a busy highway, some of our doggies make their way onto it and lose their life in an instant. Angel, a gorgeous Great Pyrenees, was one of our casualties. Weston, our son-in-law’s Blue Heeler, lost his life in the same spot just a short time before Angel; I was extremely paranoid! The thought of losing another dog was unbearable and unacceptable to me. I really, really, really wanted an 8’ tall fence around our small ranch to keep them safe – that was cost prohibitive.
So, what else could I do but dream up other strategies to keep my dogs at the house and off the road? I decided the labs could not be outside unsupervised but the Pyrenees were working dogs. Their role was to protect the other animals from coyotes; they could not do their job from inside the house! Solution: spoil them – make it so desirable for them to stay home they would not be tempted to wander was the best I could imagine!
All of my puppy dogs receive top of the line dog food, and I bribe them daily and often with treats and affection to keep them coming back for more. It seemed like a good strategy. They enjoyed the heck out of it and so did I – most of the time. Exception being when they return home in triumph after killing a skunk, reeking with that horrible, eye-stinging scent and their people momma felt compelled to pet and praise them in spite of it. The torture of the scent was not as painful as the thought of losing another dog!
Because coyotes are sneaky; it is recommended that the Pyrenees work in pairs. Consequently, we kept two Great Pyrenees outside. Angel and her brother Hercules – Little Bear, another sibling from a later litter, joined the family upon Angel’s death. Still, I feared Hercules would go hunt for Angel and get killed in the process.
Less than a week after losing Angel, as I headed down the driveway toward town, I spotted a white dog, near the highway. I panicked. I was convinced it had to be Hercules searching for Angel, but when I called him, he didn’t come. Hercules typically came to me when I called him. I got out of the truck and tried approaching him; however, he ran away. I did not know what to think; this was unusual behavior for Hercules who loved his human momma.
I returned to the house to get a bribery tool: dog food and puppy treats. Hercules was at the house. Who, then, was this mysterious stranger? I had reluctantly but personally identified my Angel’s lifeless body, was this visitor her ghost? Whoever it was would not allow me to get close. Could I be so-o paranoid that I was hallucinating? Hercules was safe for the moment. So, I laid a trail of dog food and puppy treats and decided to leave who or whatever alone to discover it.
The next day, the food was gone and the white dog was nowhere to be seen. However, I laid a trail again, this time closer to home. Finally we spotted her and following a week of breadcrumb trail enticement I had worked the white dog into our yard. She was in bad shape! In spite of the dirty, tangled mess that was her fur I could tell she was not a Pyrenees; however, that didn’t matter anymore. All that mattered was winning this poor thing’s trust! When she finally ate with me standing quietly nearby ,I knew success was close. When she let me pet her, I was ecstatic and Angel II joined our family.
We took her to the vet where we learned she was part Great Pyrenees and part Komodore. Initially the family labeled her as ugly and mean. The vet, however, told us that what we initially read as baring teeth to threaten us was actually a smile! I had never had a dog that smiled before and I was glad to give this one reason to smile.
Clearly, she had been abused before arriving at our place. Some of her smiles were genuine warnings. She was terrified of everybody but me, especially men. One day I was working in the yard with leather gloves. I reached over to pet her and she immediately cowered. I took the gloves off and she was fine again – gloves on, she cowered.
This Angel puppy was clearly appreciative of a loving home. Although Hercules and Little Bear were exceptional protectors and let me know they loved and appreciated
me; Angel went above and beyond to justify her place in the family. One day a “strange” man, one neither of us knew, came to examine our septic system. This required me to walk with him through our yard. The entire time he was near me, Angel positioned her body between the man and I and continuously growled her warning, “you mess with my momma and I’ll tear you up!” I have no idea if the man was a threat to me or not but Angel took no chances!
Angel had the most admirable mother’s instinct. Shortly after she joined the family, before we got her spayed, she and Little Jon became parents. She was so good with her babies. After the puppies went to their new homes, we had her spayed. Unwilling or unable to give up the mother instinct she assumed the role of surrogate mother to puppies born to other mothers.
This was fortunate for Daisy, our matriarch lab. Once Daisy had her puppies she was ready to get in bed with human mom and dad! Mothering was not her forte! Little Jon must have sensed Daisy’s disinterest and decided to intervene on both Daisy and Angel’s behalf.
My husband and I were at work in Dallas when we received a call that Daisy had delivered her first ever puppy. Aimee heard a commotion outside and discovered Little Jon pulling a newborn puppy through the kennel steel mesh lattice into the tender mouth of the anxiously awaiting Angel. Aimee returned the pup to Daisy, Angel and Little Jon scurried off out of sight and out of mind while the remaining puppies made their grand entrance into the world. We moved momma and babies into the office in our home, next to our bedroom. When it was time for us to go to bed, there was Daisy ready to join us. My husband discussed a mother dog’s role with her, returned her to the whelping pen, and we settled in for the night.
A loud cry from a very unhappy puppy awoke us about 12:30 am. It sounded as if Daisy had set one outside the whelping pen and it was protesting the separation. We raced in to check on the puppies; they were all there and none of them were squalling. We counted them twice; still all accounted for. Then we heard the noisy puppy again, it sounded as if it were in our bedroom. Had she had another puppy in the other room? We searched but could not find where the noise was coming from. Fortunately, the protests grew louder and longer; finally, we realized it was not coming from the bedroom but through an open window. The unhappy puppy was outside. We were completely baffled.
It had been raining most of the evening and was raining still when my husband located a single newborn puppy, warm, dry but starving under the deck in the loving care of Angel. We believe the puppy Aimee discovered Little Jon rescuing was actually the second puppy born; Angel had already hidden the first! Once Aimee discovered Daisy having her babies, she stayed with her which left no opportunity for others to be adopted.
Angel made it very clear to all that she believed those babies were hers. They were born in the same place hers were and they looked just like hers. It actually worked out very well for all. The first puppy survived and thrived. Angel taught them their manners and nurtured them; all Daisy had to do was feed them. Nanny Angel!
Angel never did learn to very many people, but by the time our daughter Aimee’s Gysleine was born; she began to soften and warm to the family. Gysleine loved all the dogs. She let them crawl all over her and gave them the attention they thrive on.
When Gysleine was 1-year-old she followed Aimee onto the porch to feed the dogs. Feeding time was always an interesting experience. Hercules and Little Jon competed for alpha dominance or territory and it really showed up at feeding time. We tried to keep them separated to keep the peace. The other five dogs we had on the ranch at the time – Daisy, Little Bear, Misty, Angel and Rebel – could get a little snippy if they felt crowded but were a lot more civil than Hercules and Little Jon. Aimee filled all their bowls and got busy in the yard. When she looked up to check on Gysleine she saw all seven dogs in a circle around something. Not knowing what to expect, she approached the pack. When she got closer she saw Gysleine, sitting on the concrete floor with all the puppy food in a single bowl. She was feeding each of the dogs, one morsel, one at a time! These typically cranky feeding time puppies were gently, patiently and carefully accepting their single morsel in turn and completely out of character! What did they sense about this tiny little human that caused them to set aside their habits to indulge a baby’s whim?
One Friday night when we returned to the ranch Angel did not greet me. I knew instantly there was something wrong because Angel always greeted me. I called her, she did not come. It was getting dark fast so we used flashlights to search for her. When I spotted her I could see that she was trying to get to me but did not have the strength to get up and walk. My husband carried her to the kennel and we began treating her with a glucose paste to give her some strength; low dose aspirin for her arthritis. She seemed to respond but my insides knew it was her time. Still I prayed!
When she arrived the vet told us she was old. She gave us four good years and I am eternally grateful for the gift of her love and time. Thoughtful and considerate to the end she gave me her all that week-end, seeming to improve; however, when we left Monday morning she said her “good-bye”. Later that morning Gysleine found her “sleeping” in the kennel and she never woke up.
Hercules and Little Bear, my gentle giants and cautious guardians definitely had a strong sense for danger and powerful command. One night my husband and I were “camped-out” next to a pen with a heifer struggling to have her first calf. As we settled in for a long night, in the woods around us we heard coyotes, a bob cat, owls and many other noises. As usual Hercules and Little Bear followed us down to the pen, sniffing around and checking out the area; when, for no apparent reason Hercules took off running at full speed to the beginning of the woods on our property; then, the most impressive thing happened. He began running back towards us and past us, barking into the woods all along the way. As he barked and passed by the woods a quiet stillness settled in and when he was done, there was not a sound to be heard but insects who obviously had not learned to respect my gentle giant.
Little Bear was much more subtle but no less protective. Although the largest of the three, with alpha males Little Jon and Hercules to dominate, Little Bear developed a much more quiet and subtle manner. He was always an effective “back-up” for Hercules. As we walked around the ranch I could count on Hercules, underfoot with Little Bear a few feet away keeping pace with us throughout. Our labs, on the other hand, explore, swim and wander; not the Pyrennes!
Early one morning, two friends of ours who knew of our coyote challenge came by to hunt them thereby reducing the threat. They scouted the ideal spot and sat down ready to take on our adversaries. When no coyotes showed up right away they used a coyote call. Within minutes they both felt wet tongues licking their ears. Hercules and Little Bear answered the call!
It was not unusual for Hercules and Little Bear to wander at night. It made me nervous but other than my spoiling them strategy, I did not know what to do about it. I was glad they wandered the ranch but always worried about the dangers of them straying.
One morning when they returned Little Bear had a huge gash on his side – it was at least 12 inches long and to the ribs. We never knew if it was from a tangle with a
coyote or a barbed wire fence or what. I called two of my regular vets who discouraged me from bringing him because he was just a country dog – an “outdoor dog”. They both told me that unless you bring them in as soon as they receive the injury they would not close the wound anyway. Finally, I found a vet in a nearby town who came out to the ranch. He too thought I was nuts for wanting to “fix” him; he would not sew him up but he did clean it and gave me an antibiotic for him. We kept him kenneled and in spite of no stitches actually healed nicely. Because he had so much hair any scars were not visible. Prejudice and class discrimination exists even for puppy dogs!
Interestingly several years later our matriarch lab Daisy received a similar injury while
roughhousing too near a fence. My husband and I were out of town and upon returning
three days later took her to the veterinarian – the only vet that would take our
“emergency” was a different one than we normally used. Because it was a Friday
afternoon the vet sent her home for the week-end – with pain medication and
antibiotics – then, on Monday, five days later the vet stitched her and closed the
wound. Exactly what the other vets told me could not be done! What’s up with that?
Not wanting to make veterinarians bad or wrong – I have certainly relied heavily on
them over the years. It is clear to me that people in general place different value on
dogs, pets or animals than humans. Whether it is right or wrong, I don’t know. It just
seems to me that when God gave us dominion over the creatures of the earth, the
inference was that we should serve as their caretaker. Caretaking is a relevant term and
means something different to everyone. Cost is certainly as much a challenge for
animal caretaking as it is for humans; so, how much is enough – how much is too
much? The answer is different for everyone.
One morning we woke up and Hercules was gone. On the way home my husband told
me that the kids found him dead on the side of the road. I was hysterical. When I saw
the dog, I knew instantly it was not my Hercules; my husband checked and it was not
even a male. What became of Hercules I do not know. I prefer it that way; I can
pretend he found a new home with a family that loves and spoils him. I reacted so
shamefully to the prospect of his death no one dares to tell me bad news anymore; if
they know something I don’t know, so be it.
One month later, my Little Bear was gone. I have no idea where he is but I pray he is
alive, healthy and loved. I was blessed and honored to share a few short years of their
lives; I hope they felt the same.
These stories are mostly about the puppies that have come and gone in our lives. Yet, today, we remain blessed with the presence of Little Jon II, Daisy, Lady, Rebel and Kayla. Each of them adds value to our daily lives in their own special way. Each of them have their own special personality and stories. We are eternally grateful for their love and interaction with us. We are better people because they are in our lives!