Dixie, Rex and Jordan, young Great Pyrenees, roamed a pasture, wild as Cheyenne colts, and never felt a kind hand on their bodies. They were taken in. Dixie, the most trusting, was the first to be chosen for a home.
It took two of us to corner Jordan so a lead could be slipped over her head. She and I walked the boundaries of the lower field where she made sure to keep her distance when we stopped, standing at the end of the leash, her left front paw poised behind the right, ready for flight.Rex ran between my legs, out of the kennel and made a break for the woods; we did not chase him. Shying and flinching, he came back to the offer of hot dogs raised in the air by four of us. We cooed and chanted “Come on Rex. Come on boy!” Two weeks later with Jamelyn, a big female Great Pyr, he ran the breadth of an enclosed pasture, and you saw in him the dog he might become, goofy and merry, and for that time free of anxiety.
Sophie is a grey Pit Bull; I don’t know how often she was bred before being taken in, but her dugs swing below her belly. She comes toward me, inexorable, heavily clipped ears tight to her head and looking like small horns, her tongue out, her tail swinging madly, all affection, the living embodiment of a refutation to all Pit myths of uncontrolled hostility and ferocity. I might take her home, I think, but she cannot be house trained. Her space is always awash with mess. She has been here so long that she is now a part of the larger family of free roaming dogs who will not run and will not fight.
Jellybean, another female Pit, may have been used as a bait dog. Pinprick scars litter her face. She is petite and playful. Cruelty did not breed cruelty in her. When I crouch down, she warms herself between my thighs and looks up occasionally. Sometimes I bend my face to hers and whisper, “Such a sweet girl. So sweet, So sweet.”The free roamers meet me each time as I walk from my car to the kennels – 3 or 4 Great Pyrs, at least 3 Pits, and an assortment of undefinable mixed breeds all united in stopping me because they must be petted, they must be nuzzled and indulged. Surrounded, I stop and lean over, my hands gliding and thumping, stroking and chucking, and say the most ridiculous things: “You big bazoo! … arf, arf, arf… Ho Ho Ho you thumper! … Whasup! Whasup! … We must walk and talk my beauties!”
Andrew is as compact as an iron ingot, and is the most powerful dog I have ever handled. I have to use a pronged collar to walk him. If I don’t, he takes all my upper body strength to hold him next to me like a reasonable creature. In the cage, he wags and sits, his eyes pleading. Out in the air, he becomes utterly self-possessed, alert to all the possibilities of cat, squirrel and horse. There is not an ounce of beggar in him. He does not fight me. He ignores me. I am just a 200 pound weight attached to his surging body and consciousness. His eyes glow a handsome shade of auburn, a fit color for a monarch.