by Fran Jablway
(Yorkville, IL USA)
Orion, our rescued Brittany, had crossed the Bridge from lymphoma at the age of 13.5 on May 23, 2010. He had the classic Brittany temperment: sweet, people-pleasing, quick to learn. We hadn't planned to get another dog, but you know how that goes.
In February of 2011, I looked on PetFinder and found Oakley, billed as a Brittany-Beagle blend by the shelter. At 5.5 months old, he weighed all of 23 pounds, had long spindly legs and soft white and chestnut fur like a Brittany's, but with a black nose like a Beagle's, and eyeliner, and a curling tail, and double dewclaws on his back legs. On the way home, he put his head on my shoulder and started snoring.
Well...got him home and to our vet for the pre-Big Snip checkup. Dr. R looked him over and asked, "What did they tell you he was?" Brit and Beagle. "Uh...yeahhh....definately some kind of hound in there, but--well, you see the double dewclaws and the tail? That says Great Pyr to me."
So, three hours on line researching Pyrs and a pound of chocolate later, I understood why he wasn't acting like a Britt. Or so much like a Beagle (except for the howling and stubbornness). He has the Pyr personality and smarts: very much a freethinker, very independent, but devoted to his humans.
The first year was like dealing with a kid who's profoundly gifted but has ADHD and wound up fending for himself at a too early age. Learning about life outside of a 4x6 kennel run traumatized us both at times. It took six months to get him to walk or play without getting overstimulated and having a panic attack where he would start grabbing onto anything he could to calm down.
Luckily, I'm at least as stubborn as he is and have an MS in psych. With the help of a positive trainer, he grew into a delightful companion. Now he loves to take long walks in the woods. Oakley even protected me from a snowman this past winter. He stood between it and me and wouldn't let me go near it. We had to turn around and walk the other way.
He goes to day care one day a week to help play catch-up with socialization. Oakley is enrolled in nosework classes ( a new sport that uses exercises from training contraband sniffers and search and rescue dogs) and loves it.
At 19 months, we still have a few edges to polish (still mouths during play sometimes), but he's getting there. And he knows that Mama is right behind him.