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 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.

She grew.

And she grew.

And grew.

And grew....

Et cetera...

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.


  1. Patrice, Tears are streaming down my face as I remember your sweet, dear, gentle giant. I laughed as I watched her grow and grow, the photos of her on your lap (or trying to be in one case) being the best example of her growth and resulting size.

    I can testify to her gentle nature, too. When we were at your house for that week, remember how Gypsy and Emily would play and play for seemingly hours on end? --I swear Gypsy was nearly big enough to put Emily's whole head in her mouth! But I never had a moment's pause because I knew that Gypsy didn't have an aggressive bone in her body. There are some dogs that you meet and you know in that instant that they're going to leave paw prints on your heart forever. Gypsy was one such dog and I'm honored to bear her prints on my heart.

    Gypsy was an amazing member of your family. She was a beautiful, precious soul, and I'm so thankful that you had one another.

  2. gulp.
    That was indeed a lovely tribute to a well-loved dog.
    I hope I am fortunate one day to have such a fine family friend.
    Very moving, thank you for sharing.

  3. I have been there more times than I would wish, but they give so much joy in life that it overshadows the pain of losing them.

    She was a beautiful girl. Thank you for sharing her with us.

  4. A beautiful friend and a touching tribute to her. It's hard losing such a friend. Be proud that you gave her such a good life and she enjoyed being with you. She will always live in your heart.
    Pardon me, I've gotten sand in my eyes again.

  5. What a beautiful tribute to a wonderful dog. I am so sorry for your entire family's loss. I'm teary eyed as I try to post this. The loss of a beloved pet is sometimes akin to the loss of a family member. What am I saying? She WAS family.

  6. She is beautiful! Its crazy looking at pictures of her because my lab/great pry mix looks so much like her and he such similar tendencies that she shows in her pictures! Im sure she was a great, lovable, and loyal pet!

  7. She is a lovely dog, and I am sure that she was proud to be your pet. I have a Great Pyrenees and afte looking at your pictures and hearing of her personnality, I think she may not have been mixed with anything, how much sid she weigh when shewas healthy?

  8. She was 104 lbs. when she was healthy. Now that we have a purebred Pyr, I'm fairly certain Gypsy was mixed with something, either Irish wolfhound or something else. She was **very** leggy and tall, much taller than our pure Pyr. She also had short fur and a different shaped head and body. But whatever she was, we loved her to pieces.

    - Patrice

  9. I need your advise as to how easy it would be to add a male pyrenees puppy to our family, as we have an adult female pyrenees. In your opinion, would this be a good pair? Our adult is 2 years old, and very protective of our family, but of course, a very sweet dog.

  10. Based on our experiences with Lydia, I would not advise you to get a puppy. Lydia is fine with our other dog, Major, in the yard; but she is very dominant and territorial in the house, and the dogs will conflict violently if not kept separated indoors. If your dogs are exclusively outside dogs, it might work. But if they're indoor/outdoor dogs, you can probably expect some trouble.

    I can't say with certainty, of course, but that's my $0.02...

    - Patrice

    1. Thank you, Patrice. You have confirmed what I thought. Our dog is definitely the dominant one out of our two dogs - the other was grown when we got Dixie as a puppy. I think the only way to have a pair is to get them both as puppies. Our dogs both live outside exclusively, but Dixie is certainly the boss! I will say that I don't think I will ever get a different breed - she is a wonderful, protective, sweet, intelligent family dog.