As I learned as a youngster from Laddie Boy, big dogs need something to keep them busy. If they aren't busy they are usually in trouble, not trouble in the sense of doing horrific things but the little things instead, like digging and digging and digging some more. Laddie was given the job to be my guardian and he went everywhere I went in our neighborhood where everyone knew and respected each other. Mom didn't have to give him instructions; he knew when I got near the first cross street that I wasn't allowed to go off the curb. If he had to intervene he'd just grab me gently by the seat of the britches and "direct" me home with a solemn stare. It always worked and he beamed with pride as we returned to our house and Mom gave him a dog treat for a reward.
Then I went through a long period with small dogs. Don't get me wrong, I love small dogs as I love all dogs, and here on our rural homestead we have both large and small dogs, but there's something about the "rush" when a big dog is waiting for you. You drive up to the gate, the dogs first are barking, then when they realize it's you their tails start wagging and they move about anxiously like a tap dancer as they wait for the kind word and the love pat to which they usually provide a slurp in return. Oh, and you can't forget the drool.
The first big dog in my later adult life was Max, a liver spot Dalmatian, a ball of energy and a joy to watch. We had other big dogs at that time but Max was special, at least as far as my wife was concerned. Max loved her dearly; he liked me. He was a digger and a morning runner and we had to constantly be on guard to make sure that he stayed within the boundaries of our rural land. We knew that he had been abused as a young dog as we took him in as a rescue, but I only had one occasion when he showed any concern to me and that was when I was out in the pasture practicing my golf swing. Max growled when he saw me swing the club; I immediately put the club away and never again practiced in his presence. Someone must have violently beaten him in his early years and I made a special effort to let him know we loved him. There was never another questionable moment and he lived a wonderful and carefree life before passing at fourteen. He is buried right here on our land.
After Max came our first go with a Great Dane. My wife always wanted one and one Sunday she asked me to accompany her on a field trip. Little did I know that we were on the way to pick up a new rescue, this one with the imposing name of Goliath. And when I met him, I was amazed about his girth and his bark; he made our dear departed Max look like a small breed by comparison. But after a few weeks of getting adjusted, he fell right in with the family and was a wonderful dog. Goliath had been deprived of love by a prior owner and he truly loved being with us. So what that there were some holes in the yard and I had to follow his footsteps with a mop when he came indoors. He made up for it in love and the security that he provided. He wasn't vicious, but on a dark night when a stranger turned into our lonely lane by mistake, Goliath let him know that he was going nowhere until I came to the gate. Sadly, he died a tragic death when he was coaxed through a hole in the fence by our little mischievous jack rat terrier, Molly, to roam freely in the woods. We brought his body home for burial.
We decided to make one more try with another Great Dane. Before receiving Kaz, a not-so-big, much leaner fellow, we made sure that security fences were escape proof for both Kaz and little Molly. I don't know where he got the name Kaz, but after being moved around five times in two years, we weren't about to change his name again. And he fell right in with the family, sleeping on a large floor doggie bed by the family room television and learning to appreciate and socialize with all the critters who lived with us, including dogs, cats, horses and pet birds and fowl. He became a protector of the flock and we thought he'd be with us until his old age when, alas, he was diagnosed with a fast growing malignant tumor in a front leg. Bone cancer is quite prevalent in large dogs and we were told he could possibly survive if the leg was removed, but we just couldn't see this big fellow hobbling around, plus the prognosis for recovery was very questionable. We made him comfortable until he was clearly suffering and then he was put to sleep on a blanket under an oak tree while my wife cradled him in her arms. I buried him with a constant flow of tears; I'm not ashamed to admit that. The two of us had a good cry over that special guy but, then again, we do that with all of our animal family when they depart. He was a family member and a friend and he will be remembered, as will they all.
And that brings us full circle to our current big boys, two half-brother Great Pyrenees who have just turned three. M wife brought the first one, Valentino, home to me as a Valentine's Day present. His little half-brother, Salvador, came about seven weeks later. Now Sal is the big one and Val is smaller and the dominance of the bigger boy shows as well. We don't see much of them in the heat of the day, being long-haired in Florida, they find a cool and shady spot to hang out. But as the sun dips below the pine forest, they come out in full glory, guarding every living thing that is supposed to be on our grounds. And woe be it to anyone entering uninvited, but we've never had that problem just by their presence. The problem that we previously had with coyotes and pesky raccoons is gone; none of the local wild critter world wants to tangle with our small polar bears. It is a good thing, however, that these guys don't even want to come inside because when they roughhouse outside on a dewy or rainy night, their beautiful white coats become a dingy gray, only to disappear when it dries in the morning sun.
So we have a few holes in the farmyard and the house sometimes gets a little bit messy. Those are minor things that can be handled. But the love and devotion that these wonderful big dogs share is something that can't be measured. And the joy and laughter they provide is better than the best programming there is. We love them all, wouldn't have it any other way, and it's just the way our world turns.
Dogs, cats, horses, birds, we love them all. And the little dogs are wonderful on their own, but oh, those big, clumsy, lovable giants of the canine world. God gave them to us for a reason. Hope you enjoy the pics of the big guys and a couple of others as well.