Frank's Pyr "Prescription"
Frank & her buddy
My female Pyr will be 7 years old in August. I have gotten to know her pretty well since she became part of our family back in 2006, but every once in a while she shows me something new.
Frank (aka France) and I walk a lot. We walk in the nearby woods, the Sunnydale off leash Dog Park, the Barrie waterfront and through our own neighbourhood. Like all Great Pyrs, she gets noticed.
Since we were “adopted” by a stray ginger tabby two years ago, Frankie and I are often accompanied on our evening neighbourhood walks by Pumpkinz. The first few times I noticed the cat trailing us, I just figured it was feline curiosity that made him shadow us as we trekked around the block. But as the weeks went by, it became apparent that Pumpz was a willing participant in our outings, and happily followed just a few paces behind us as we covered ground.
Unbeknownst to me, the odd sight of a giant white dog being closely tailed by an orange tabby became a neighbourhood novelty, and people would come out onto their porches, or balconies to watch us as we passed. When the weather turned so nice of late a few people kept a lookout for us, and then sauntered down their driveways, coffee cups in hand, to view the procession up close. I am so glad that one family in particular did this.
I met Jason and his step dad a few weeks ago, as I was walking past their house one night with Frank and Pumpz. I could see that the older man was coaxing the younger to come out to the road to greet us. Jason is in his mid twenties and lives with his mom and step dad. He has a variety of health problems, coupled with mental and emotional issues. He is virtually a “shut in”, and seldom ventures outdoors. He cannot seem to stand bright lights and wears dark glasses even in the evening. He is a burly young man yet very soft spoken and shy.
As we approached their driveway, Frankie did something odd... she broke out of “heel” and strained on her leash pulling towards young Jason…her head down, eyes squinting, and her tail wagging. Jason’s face broke into a huge grin, and knelt down face to face with the dog. There was an immediate connection between the two, which I found interesting, because Frank generally is standoffish with men. We stood there for a while, as I fielded the usual questions (What kind of dog is she? Is the cat yours too?).
Michelle, Jason’s mom came out to join us… I noticed she had an astonished expression on her face. When Jason asked if he could hold Frankie’s leash and walk up the street with her, she almost dropped her coffee cup. I said “Of course, just make sure to keep her on your left, and tell her to heel.” Off they went, with Pumpkinz plodding along behind them.
Michelle turned to me with tears in her eyes, and explained to me that Jason has many medical issues, and doesn’t go outside. He doesn’t socialize, exercise or interact with people well. He had seen us walking by and many times commented on the “giant white dog”. She told me that he would wait by the window in the evenings to watch us pass by…and the odd times we didn’t walk that way…he would be disappointed. He was fascinated that this big fluffy dog had a cat as a best friend and although his parents encouraged him many times to come out and say hello, it took many attempts for him to come out tonight.
I took all of this in, listening intently. I looked up the street just as Jason, Frank and the cat broke into a light jog coming back towards us. Jason was smiling brilliantly, and Frank was trotting beside him; her tail in the air doing her impression of “best in show” in the dog ring. Michelle gasped and whispered that she hasn’t seen her son run in over a decade.
Jason came to a breathless stop beside us, and handed me the leash. I handed it back saying “You look so good walking her Jason. I can tell Frank really likes you. Do you want to come with us around the block? “ He looked at his mom, and she nodded; then asked if she could come too. So off we all went with Jason and Frankie out in front, Pumpkinz just behind and Michelle and me bringing up the rear until we said our goodbyes in my driveway.
The next day right after dinner, there was a knock at the door. Frank’s booming bark made the large figure on the porch step back, startled. It was Jason. I welcomed him and explained that Great Pyrenees dogs are guardians and that part of their “job” is to let people know it. Frank “announces” very loudly every time someone comes to our house, so don’t be surprised or frightened by it.
Jason then, very quietly said he really wanted to take Frankie for a walk…just around the block... once. Immediately Frank understood. We generally spell the word”W-A-L-K” for fear of getting her excited with anticipation. She paced over to where her leash hangs in the mud room, and then back to the front door a couple of times while Jason spoke. I said “Sure! She obviously wants to go.” I glanced up and saw Michelle standing back by the road and she smiled and gave me two “thumbs up”.
I realized at that moment the importance of this simple everyday undertaking for Jason. It was a huge step for him, and something that I had taken for granted; and sometimes even considered a chore, for over 6 years. But for Jason, his world had opened up. He was getting out of the house for the first time in years, and he was getting regular exercise that his body could handle. Frank was still getting her morning walks with me and evening walks with Jason and the cat. It was win-win all around.
Since then, Jason has come every evening (without his mom) and Frank has happily trotted off with him. Sometimes, Pumpkinz would dart out the door and join them, much to Jason’s delight. He always has something to tell me about the walk when they get back. He said he feels like a celebrity when kids in the park yell out “There’s Frankie!! Can we pet her?” Every night when they return from their walk, I teach Jason a new hand signal to practice with Frankie. Jason has trouble remembering them all, but we are working on that…one day at a time.