Mythical Beast

“Do you want a story before you go to sleep?”

“Yes! Tell me the story of Osita!”

“OK. A Long, long time ago on a remote hillside near the small town of Antonito, Colorado, lived a family that raised sheep. One day, a marvelous creature came to live with them and her name was Osita. Osita was as big as a fifth grader, with long, white fluffy fur that shed dirt and water. She had big feet like snow shoes that held her up when she walked on the snow. She…”

“Dad, there was never a dog like that.”

“There was, honey, and she belonged to me. Or, maybe I belonged to her. I am sure she saw it that way.”

“How could you belong to a dog? I don’t get it.”

“You know that when I was a kid we lived…”

“I know, I know, out in the middle of nowhere and you walked 25 miles uphill in the freezing wind and snow to school every day.”

“It was only 2 miles. After a while there was a schoolbus.”


“Osita was never any good at guarding the animals, but she was a wonderful babysitter. My mom would leave us with Osita while she went out to get the eggs or feed the animals or help dad with something. Osita made sure we never went anywhere or got into any trouble.”

“How would a dog do that?”

“It was the instinct of her breed to guard young, helpless things. She was born with it. She just didn’t happen to see goats and sheep as her job. She thought my baby sister and I were her job. What a break for your grandmother it must have been to be able to leave us for a few minutes, even a half an hour. We had a big wood stove in the kitchen and, once my sister and I were walking, your grandmother was afraid to leave us alone for fear we’d burn ourselves. But in the dead of winter, it was the warmest place in the house. When Osita saw your grandmother putting on her headscarf, she would gently nudge us to a corner of the kitchen and make us stay there until your grandmother came back.”

“A dog did that?”

“Osita was a special dog, honey. She pulled me out of the pond one summer afternoon when I was three. I’d have drowned if she hadn’t been watching. She kept my sister and I out of all kinds of trouble. The thing is, we wouldn’t have had Osita if it hadn’t been for her blue eyes.”

“How? What difference did that make?”

“Oh, our neighbor — a rancher, lived five miles away — bred these dogs and sold the puppies to sheepherders. This puppy showed up with blue eyes. It’s rare, but it happens. That rancher was going to shoot her.”


“He thought blue-eyed dogs were all deaf and blind. Your grandfather picked out two pups and left them with the rancher until they could be weaned. He brought Osita home with him, tucked in his coat. Your grandma fed her by hand.”

“So she WAS real?”

“Absolutely, honey. As real as you or I. But some creatures are so special that stories become legends and, if enough time passes, they become myths.”

“What about the other two puppies? Were they mythical, too?”

“Absolutely, in their way. Osita’s two brothers stayed with the sheep all the time. The sheep were their family. They were fine dogs, too, doing what they’d been bred and trained to do. Your grandfather says that more than once they chased bears away from the herd.”

“These dogs sound like heroes.”

“To a farmer or rancher they are heroes.

“Do you think someday there will be ‘The Myth of Osita’?”

“Maybe, but I think, for most people, her heroism is as remote as the hillside on which I grew up. Maybe someday you can write her story.”


Here’s a video of an Akbash defending her sheep from a bear.

5 thoughts on “Mythical Beast

    • Bear — oh, she was lying with her head on my foot the whole time I wrote this story. I’ve seen the scene I wrote about here — two big white dogs out on this very hillside, my Christmas card last year, actually. Bear says this isn’t a myth and I believe her. She says it happens all the time. I found some great videos about Akbash dogs in Switzerland guarding the sheep and goats in the high country now that wolves and bears have returned. There’s even an instructional video on what to do if you’re hiking in the Alps and a guardian dog like Bear approaches you on the trail.

    • Yep, she is. The first dog I ever got to keep was a black, corgi/Keeshound mix, with stubby little legs, named Oso, pretty much Bear’s opposite. He was a wonderful little guy. I had forgotten I’d named my first real dog “Bear” until just a little while ago.

      I dreamed of my death a long time ago. In the dream I’m walking into the snowy mountains, being followed by a large animal, snow colored, gray and white, who breathed on my neck and kept me alive. Then at a certain point, there was an old man motioning me forward and the animal couldn’t go with me any further. The place in the dream was so much like the place where I live now, and, back when I had the dream, I had never been here. ❤

  1. Loved the story <3..almost took me there.
    I do agree such heroes are real,even among humans. When they r gone they become legend.after some time(when we hardly practice moral values) we find it hard to believe such heroes can exist in real world. Therefore name them myth.

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