I have taken a self imposed sabbatical from writing "Frank" stories. I innocently started off several months ago, sharing lighthearted glimpses into my Great Pyr's "typical" behavior and ended up in August writing about how my four year old female Great Pyrenees fought off an interloping bear on our cottage property while my children were outside.
I was not present when Frank was protecting her "flock"; but my five kids and their grandparents were; and each proved to be a key witness. After interviewing my family and going through the process of writing up each account and "reporting" the incident to the GPCSO; I realize that this event changed my view of Frank forever. It also served to even further endear her to our entire family as well as to our friends, and some readers/visitors to the GPCSO website.
I now know that after all the comments, recommended reading, personal stories shared; and some reflection on my part, that when the lovable fur ball Frank took on a bear she was not doing something miraculous; or out of the ordinary. She was exhibiting "typical" Pyr behavior.
Being a first time Pyr owner is no excuse for not listening to, or fully believing, all the accounts of seasoned owners who repeatedly stress that Pyrs are PROTECTORS first, and pets second. They are gentle and ferocious; depending on the situation. They are guardians; not attack dogs.
I have learned that a Pyr can assess a situation and apply the necessary force. I also learned that they can RE-ASSESS and react accordingly.
Take this past Halloween night, for instance. Generally when night falls and someone approaches our door Frank is right on the scene barking her head off, warning anyone in the vicinity that she is on duty. But Halloween night she was out on the front porch with my sons and me as we handed out treats. Frank's tail was continually wagging and there wasn't a peep out of her. She stood on the top step and calmly "smiled" at all the little ones that came up the walkway. Even the children who were a bit overwhelmed by her size couldn't help but come closer and touch the "fluffy polar bear".
But later that night when two teenage boys decided they would try to steal our pumpkins, Frank was not as congenial. She immediately went into her "stance" at the front door and went into a frenzy of barking which alerted my husband.
The duo of Frank and Dan caught the boys in the act of picking up a pumpkin each off the front porch. Dan quickly opened the door and flicked on the porch light. Two masked figures looked up just as they were lifting the pumpkins. Dan had to raise his voice to be heard over the barking. "Uh, hi guys. You may want to put the pumpkins down before I let Cujo here out." In a flash the culprits replaced the jack-o-lanterns and sprinted off across the road and into the park.
The truth is that Frank would have done nothing more than advance on the pair while barking furiously until they left. Threat?: Intruders on property. Action?: Bark and look vicious until they leave. Simple eh?
I gained even more insight into the "assessment" component of my dog yesterday, which inspired me to sit down and type.
A stray cat has been hanging around our house for just over a week. This young, male ginger tabby is friendly and always hungry. I admit to feeding him tidbits out on the back deck. I even chat with him when he is perched on the outer window sill of the kitchen window as I wash dishes.
We have our own male cat: Tux, who gets along famously with our Pyr. Yesterday afternoon while I was on the deck putting out peanuts for the blue jays, I left the back sliding door open. The ginger tabby (nicknamed Pumpkkinz by my kids) strolled in to the kitchen. He didn't realize that Frank was having a snooze in the back hallway. I walked back into the house just as Frank sensed a newcomer and lifted her head up.
The cat froze. Frank yawned, stretched and slowly stood up. She walked slowly towards the cat; who panicked and jumped onto a kitchen high chair. The tabby went into an arched yoga pose, clearly indicating that he was NOT AMUSED with the approach of his natural enemy. Frank took no notice of the obvious body language and plodded over to say hello. The high chair put the pair at equal eye level and the tabby hissed and spat as Frank leaned in for a sniff. (Looks like a cat and smells like a cat... but it sure acts funny.)
Oblivious to the feline warnings, she pressed closer with her plume tail wagging lazily. With lightening speed Pumpkkinz lashed out with his tiger striped paw and landed a blow right on Frank's nose! She blinked and tilted her head. (This is interesting.) Pumpkkinz came back quickly with a one/two combination to the snout punctuated with a hiss. Frank's ears elevated just a bit and she pulled her head back in surprise. (What on earth?)
At this point, I decided to intervene just in case the cat decided to engage his claws and actually do some damage. I ushered Frank out the back door and was quite surprised to see the cat jump down and follow Frank out into the yard.
I fully anticipated the worst as the cat came up behind Frank and struck out. Frank spun around. (Oh, its just YOU.) She playfully lifted up a giant paw and brought it down just inches from Pumpkkinz. The cat crouched low and yowled his displeasure. Frank, quite unfazed, turned around and went to her favourite resting spot under the mulberry trees, circled around a few times, glanced over at the cat, then plopped herself down on the bed of fallen leaves.
I stood on the deck and marveled. This is the same dog who took on a bear! A cat would be an easy conquest. Yet when the cat attacks and provokes, she walks away and lies down. Why?
Because there was no perceived threat.
I am now a firm believer that Great Pyrenees Dogs continually assess the level of threat around them. And I think they are damned good at it. What an amazing breed!