Not A Purse Puppy

I mean no offense with the title “Not A Purse Puppy” to anyone that owns a dog that you can scoop up like a football and run with, but as you know dogs come in all sizes and shapes.

Purse puppies are ones that will fit in your grandma’s purse, along with everything else magical she is able to pull out of there in an emergency; band aides, cookies, tissues, a thermos of hot chocolate and a 12lb fluff ball. These guys are typically high maintenance. They have spa days, require monthly haircuts, itty bitty little foods, and could be stepped on. I think they are adorable. I love to go to other people’s homes, snuggle them and then give them back when I leave. Why? In all honesty I would be afraid that I would break one. They are like little porcelain dolls.

Then there are small & medium ones, the sporty little dogs that can dart out from under furniture or run entire agility courses in a Nano second. They too are also dogs that I like to visit and play ball with then give back to their pet parents and leave. Why? Because I literally do not have that kind of energy. These dogs require someone that is capable of running 10k before breakfast. I am not that pet parent. I need coffee and a donut to start my day.

There are also your medium-ish/large dogs that you can pick up in an emergency or if you are feeling cute and want to show of your muscles for Instagram post.  Dogs that are high energy for a good hike, dogs that I can share a cheeseburger with and not cut it in to baby sized bites. Dogs that can carry a backpack, carry my backpack, dogs that get muddy and they like it – we have one of these her name is Greta. We will return to her story in a much later post.

Then you have the super biggies, the giant breed dogs – the ones that I have a soft spot for, the ones that people see at the shelter and say “that dog won’t fit in my car, or can you imagine how much food that dog eats?” I love me some giant breeds, dogs that you can almost put a saddle on they are so big. A dog that you can give a big hug to and squish your face into their fur.

Growing up we always had dogs, large dogs but my dream dog was a Great Pyrenees. I saw them working on goat & sheep farms when I was growing up, they were always so beautiful out there in the pastures watching their flocks. But then life happened, kids happened, and I never pursued that dream.  Then kids got older, life changed and a link to Big Fluffy Dog Rescue was sent to me from a coworker after the passing of our family dog. Then life REALLY changed….

The description read something like: “This is a rare breed, a Maremma Sheepdog, we don’t have many of these in Tennessee. We will call it a “Pyr Lite” for anyone that is an unexperienced Pyr owner this is like an entry level to Pyr ownership. Looks like a Pyr with half the stubbornness. Currently 86lbs we don’t think she will get much bigger. The farmer says she sucks, she eats her guards”.

I took one look at that photo, and I was in love. I completely glossed over the description. It didn’t matter, she was gorgeous, she was in a shelter, and I needed her in my life.  I immediately filled out an application and didn’t even tell my husband until we were approved and scheduled for call with a coordinator. I was afraid he was going to get hung up on that "she eats her guards” thing. I sent him a photo of her, with no description attached and said look how beautiful she is, and she needs a home. Please can we adopt her? She is a Maremma Sheepdog. It is like a Great Pyrenees but smaller.

We had our call with the coordinator on speaker phone and the look on his face when she said “she is a chicken killer and never has never been in a house” was priceless. Picture this,  him sitting on one side of the table, the phone in the middle and me on the other side putting my hands together like I was praying, mouthing the words please, please, please like a little kid at a toy store.  He caved and we were scheduled to pick a Maremma called Leia, later known as Denali up on transport from Tennessee. In the two weeks leading up to that he scoured the internet looking for information on Maremma Sheepdogs. Most things resulting in this breed is not suitable for home life, year around shedding, lots of barking.  My response was it will be ok, just chill, she will be perfect.  He said “she is a big dog and we already have one dog so this is it for while ok? And me saying ok, this is it , just her, our cat and our senior Beags Julie.”

I will never forget the night that we picked Denali up from the Big Fluffy Dog Rescue transport van in Hagerstown Maryland.  It was March 10th, it was cold, and it was 11:00 at night, the van was running a little behind due to high winds and bad weather. I was so nervous; it was like I was going for a job interview. I was worried she wasn’t going to like us, then what would we do? The van finally pulled in and people started emerging from their cars to get in line to pick up a dog, drop off a foster or drop off donations. We got in line, and we waited till it was our turn. We told them we were the Pikes and were there to pick up the Maremma Sheepdog that they called Leia.  When the transporter went to the back of the van to get her out and she jumped off the entire van shook. She came around the side of the van and it was love at first sight! This giant white ball of fluff standing in the parking lot in front of us, she smelled like a goat pasture you could smell her 3 feet away, the wind was blowing, and hair was circling in the air around us like it was snowing. She just stood there with her dreamy eyes staring at us. So calm, so patient, so happy to be going somewhere that wasn’t a cage.  They gave us her paperwork, and firm instructions on double leashing, martingale collars and that she would always be a flight risk because LGDs spook easy. We headed for our truck with our chicken killing, not suitable for home life, train wreck that I was determined to love until the end of time.

We opened the door to the backseat of the truck and immediately realized the only car ride she had ever been on was to the shelter, and in that transport van. She didn’t know how to get in – it took 2 of us to lift her big fluffy enormous butt into the back seat. She immediately slid over to our daughter who was also in the back and literally wrapped her paws around her.  And off we drove back to Pennsylvania with zero knowledge of Maremma Sheepdogs and one that had never been in a house before. 

We got home around 2 in the morning, she walked in, saw the way to small bed that I had bought for her, sat down on it and didn’t move. She just sat there taking it all in. Watching us, watching everything. We went to bed and I took her back to our bedroom with us and she stood beside our bed and watched us the entire night. I know this because I woke up every hour until 8 am and she was still standing in the same spot just watching us. Thinking back on it this was probably not a wise thing to do. But I was in love with her and very dumb at the same time.

I didn’t take into consideration the never have been in a house thing. Well, I did and that was thinking she wasn’t house trained.  Oh, she got that down in about 2 trips outside. She has never gone to the bathroom in our house, never. However, she had never seen ceiling fans, or a microwave oven that makes beeping sounds, or a TV or other suburban noises.

In the next 2 weeks we quickly learned that working Maremma’s don’t play with dog toys – they play with things like sticks. She ate our bookshelf, our table legs, chair legs, and door frames. I then found wood flavored chew toys. They were blessing, and our furniture survived.

At the end of week 2 we had a snowstorm. Denali had never seen snow. She ran around the back yard rolling and having the time of her life. I got the bright idea that it would be dreamy to take her for a night walk while it was snowing – I had a Norman Rockwell image in my head. Me and my giant white snowball double leashed walking at night in the snow.  We got about ¾ of a mile from the house and a scene from Snow Day started to unfold right in front of my eyes. Here comes a snowplow with all of it’s lights blinking, plow dropped on almost bare pavement with sparks flying off the road making a screeching sound from a horror movie. Denali took off running, I was trying to keep up with my snow boots on. I had her leashed double wrapped around my wrist; I was not losing my dog. All I could think was she doesn’t even know her name, I can not call for her because she doesn’t know me or who she is. I hung on with everything that I had, and I lost my footing about 2 blocks from our house. She pulled me, on my chest, through yards, down the road, and ironically right to our house and up the sidewalk to the back door.  I was horrified and she wasn’t even out of breath.  Lesson learned Denali doesn’t like big trucks and blinking lights. This is one of the many adventures of converting a retired working dog to home life.

In my next episode of my life is a circus you will learn how Denali thinks that school buses eat small children, and my husband gets an even bigger surprise.  

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