When I brought this giant breed dog into my house last August 1, I had a lot of apprehension about it. I mean a puppy is a PUPPY, right? I expected all kinds of damage and training “challenges.” I read up on them and learned that if a family wants a puppy to play, tug, fetch and tag with, a Great Pyr (which is what I believed she was) was not the pup for them. What? An un-playful puppy? Bear destroyed a few socks and dishtowels. Had two accidents inside (she was sick). That was it. From day one, Bear has been the easiest dog I have ever lived with. Lucky because she’s now mid-thigh height on me.
It’s not that she doesn’t play, but truly not like other dog breeds. She plays fetch to a limited degree (she’s letting ME play fetch, I think) in fact she just brought me her Liberty Ball. She loves to shred cardboard boxes. She plays with my friend Lois’ dogs some, but she’s so much larger than they are that when she gives them a gentle body slam, they go under her legs.
Most dog toys aren’t large enough for her, anyway, and she decimates them in minutes — if she notices them. I subscribed to Barkbox for the treats and toys (a good deal, by the way, $19 for about $40 worth of treats and $25 worth of toys and part of the money goes to help shelter dogs) and the best part of that, for Bear, is the box itself. Last month I ordered a new Liberty Ball and she got to destroy the box it was in to get it out. Wow. That had to be her best day EVER.
Bear has taught Dusty to play. Dusty is a truly SERIOUS dog for whom everything in the world has terrible consequences. Dusty is Bear’s size, more or less, and when she body-slams him, he stands his ground, often looks puzzled and frequently plays. Bear has been a “therapy dog” for an extremely neurotic canine.
She loves to go for walks. Her passions are snow (in which she plays) and the scents she finds out in a field or on a trail. She is gentle and aware of her surroundings, as a livestock guardian dog should be. I’m sure if Bear were around when mama sheep was giving birth, mama sheep would let Bear clean the newborn lamb.
This type of livestock guardian dog was also described as “serious” and that got me thinking. Plenty of playful people are deadly serious people (including me). Playful is NOT the opposite of serious. And, having seen a few livestock guardian dogs at “work” I don’t think they’re working at all, not from their point of view. I think they’re having the time of their lives. I think in their minds there’s nothing BETTER than wandering around the hills watching and protecting a herd of very silly animals even if it means taking on a cougar. I (personally) think sheep and goats are funny, and I have learned how very intelligent Bear is. I think it’s entirely possible those big white dogs are out there cracking up inside at the idiotic antics of the creatures they’re “guarding.” Maybe life is a continual Far Side cartoon for the livestock guardian dog.
As it tends to be for me…
I’m a playful person, and that has caused me problems with other people over the years in that the more serious the situation, the more goofy I become. It doesn’t mean I’m not coping with the situation (I’m very effective in a crisis), it just means that somewhere inside me is a mechanism that believes “getting all serious” never helped anyone through anything. Unless it’s a grizzly attacking my goats. That would be serious.