In 2015, few months after I put my last Siberian Husky, Lily T. Wolf, to sleep (she was 17) I saw a puppy on the Facebook page of the local shelter. I was instantly obsessed with this dog. She had my beautiful Lily T. Wolf’s blue eyes but something else. Some je ne sais quoi. I contacted Brandi, the girl who ran the shelter. She said, “We have to wait two weeks in case someone claims her, but you can come visit.”
As I stood about 10 feet away from her cage — the quarantine cage, a big one off by itself — she ran to the wall and then stopped. She cocked her head and looked at me seriously, as if she were thinking. Then, she sat as if to say, “See?” Brandi came out of the office with the key to the cage and we went inside. The dog was gentle, happy to see Brandi, curious about me. I didn’t want to stay too long because I wasn’t sure at all. She was beautiful but at four months almost as big as my Australian shepherd! I was in love with her, but since I turned 60 I’ve developed a brain.
I didn’t know what kind of dog she was. I hadn’t lived here long enough to know the breeds that are most common out here in the wild and (literally) woolly west. I thought she was a Siberian Husky/Great Pyrenees mix. I knew Huskies well, having had several, and I was afraid I wouldn’t have the energy to be her person. I researched Great Pyrenees, and I had big doubts about being able to deal with a giant breed livestock guardian dog who wasn’t intrinsically very social and who liked to roam. I had visions of being dragged down the street by this immense white, blue-eyed dog.
The two weeks passed and I went back to see the dog. When I approached her cage, she was clearly happy to see me again. She’d been moved to the regular kennels. Brandi brought her out, I put Lily’s halter on her (it nearly fit) and took her for a walk. She didn’t quite get what was going on, but she kept checking with me (looking up at my face) for clues about whether she was getting it right. That’s a very good sign in a dog.
“Take her home and see how she does with Dusty and Mindy,” Brandi suggested.
“OK,” I said and we loaded the puppy in the back of my car. I turned on the mysterious oracle known as the car radio and this began to play:
Dusty wanted nothing to do with her and Mindy was gently indifferent. The puppy liked Dusty anyway and snuggled next to him on the floor when he napped.
Once at home, we faced the house-breaking challenge, but within the first few hours, the puppy knew where to pee. I took her out with Dusty and Mindy and she saw what they did. She never had an accident.
When the “test drive” was over, I took the puppy back to the shelter, knowing that someone else could still adopt her. I still wasn’t sure. I couldn’t sleep. I kept thinking. There was the “Oh my god, she’s going to be a BIG dog. Can I handle her or am I too rickety and too old?” I sought advice from everyone — and Marilyn had experience with Great Pyrenees and explained how it might work. I read everything I could find online about Great Pyrenees. When morning came, I called the shelter and said, “I’ll be there at 10:30, is that OK?”
Her name was “Silver” and if I’d see the Lone Ranger at that point, I’d have kept the name, but I hadn’t. I named her “Polar” but she didn’t like it. She responded very well to Bear.
I have had upwards of 20 dogs, all of them have been good, some of them have been good friends, wise, funny, goofy, wonderful beings. But this one? She turned out to be something completely different.
She’s not a Siberian Husky and not a Pyrenees. She’s an Akbash Dog — a kind of common dog around here though generally pretty rare in the United States. She’s a Turkish breed of livestock guardian dog. These dogs are gentle, calm, patient, and affectionate — but also intelligent, independent — bred to be a partner to man, not a pet. That’s fine with me. Akbash Dogs are powerful enough to protect a herd of sheep from bears, wolves and mountain ions. She has the most amazing intuition. She’s wise, funny, low-energy and very very very loving. As a friend said recently, “Bear is just love.”
Mysterious forces — limerence? — brought Bear to our lives at just the right moment. Her calm, dedicated love for Dusty helped him recover from the loss of his best friend — Lily T. Wolf who’d raised him and whom he’d known all his life. Now they are close, close friends.
Bear’s love for me persuaded me to go to Colorado Springs for hip surgery.
In less than two weeks they get to come home from the kennel where they’ve been while my hip replacement healed. I can’t wait.