Friday, August 14, 2009
A tribute to Gypsy
In October of 2003, some lowlife scumbag took a litter of five-week-old puppies and dumped them in an isolated forest in the mountains of Utah.
Fortunately someone found the bewildered, terrified pups and brought them in to a shelter, where kind souls fostered the dogs and listed them on Petfinder.com as Great Pyrenees / Lab crosses. The exact lineage, of course, was unknown.
About this time, I was looking for a dog. I’ve always had a fondness for large dogs – the bigger and hairier, the better. When we were ready to get another pet, I wanted to find a Great Pyrenees / Golden Retriever cross. A friend had such a cross, and he was terrific.
In searching online and through regional shelters, I couldn’t locate such a mix. That’s when I turned my search wider and found this litter of puppies waaaay down in Utah. There was one female left to adopt. That’s the dog I wanted.
The foster-mother and I emailed back and forth, trying to figure out how to get the puppy to our place in north Idaho. But since it was November and the weather was dicey, and since her place in Utah was something on the order of a fifteen-hour drive away, I decided it wasn't worth the driving risk or expense just to get a puppy. With reluctance, I abandoned the thought of this particular animal. I emailed the foster-mother and thanked her for her efforts.
Out of the blue, the foster-mother called a couple of weeks later. Seems a man who lived in Montana was traveling down to get some other dogs from her. If I could meet him on the Idaho-Montana border, he'd be happy to bring this puppy for me. Delighted, I agreed at once. I met the fellow, paid him gas money, and met Gypsy. The first thing – the very first thing! – this little puppy did was to crouch down and untie my shoelace with remarkable precision.
Well, at eight weeks she was exactly the size of our cat.
And she grew.
One time I brought her with me when I went to the city on an errand at PetSmart. I leashed her up and walked her through the aisles, looking for the items I needed. A PetSmart employee poked his head around the corner. “Twenty-four weeks old?” he asked. I shook my head. “Twelve weeks,” I replied. His eyes grew very wide.
Since we didn’t know exactly when she was born, of course, we assigned a birthday of September 1 – probably accurate within a week or so.
Gypsy continued to grow and got very leggy, much leggier than a Lab and certainly more than a Great Pyrenees. Still, we continued to call her a Great Pyrenees / Lab cross – why not?
One day a friend who had never seen Gypsy before came to visit. She took one look and said, "She's not Lab, she’s Irish Wolfhound!" In researching Irish Wolfhounds, I became convinced my friend was right. Gypsy had a tendency to arch her back like a cat when stretching, and a way of sitting that looks exactly like an Irish Wolfhound. Her head and fur were Pyrenees, and her body seemed to be Wolfhound.
Perhaps because of her early abandonment, Gypsy was wonderfully affectionate. She loved to “burrow” – shoving her head into your lap, burrowing deep, looking for “skitches” (our term for scratches and affection). She was a gentle soul and even made friends with a deer whose fawn had died.
She was very playful and (we learned) very protective of our children.
For six years, Gypsy graced our lives with love and laughter.
About two months ago, neighbors noticed she seemed very thin. I realized they were right. Probably needed a good worming, right? I took her to the vet and got the medicines to worm her. “If she doesn’t start gaining weight, bring her back in and we’ll do blood tests,” the vet said.
After several weeks her thinness became skeletal, and the blood tests revealed lymphoma. No hope for our dearly loved pet.
Last Wednesday afternoon, I held Gypsy’s thin body one last time as she burrowed her head into my lap, getting “skitches.” The girls did the same. Then we lifted her into the truck and Don brought her to the vet. With her head on his lap, she drifted peacefully away.
We buried her near the orchard.
Gypsy: Sept 1, 2003 – August 12, 2009. What a beloved dog.