Did I ever tell you that when we first got Rowan, we put her crate in the girls’ bedroom so that she would bond with them and think of them as her “flock” and protect them from all the coyotes and bobcats and bears and cougars that roamed the hills?
Well, we did. Having no livestock more precious than our free-ranging children, we decided that we had to somehow train her to protect them. And what better way than to have Rowan – an 8-week-old puppy away from her mother for the first time ever – sleep in our young children’s bedroom? Fool-proof! Except, as soon as the lights went out Rowan started crying and then the girls started crying and then everybody was crying. I’d run in and take the puppy out to potty and shush the girls and then try to quietly put the puppy back in the crate and 45 minutes later the whole charade would start again. Finally, at about two in the morning, I decided I was an idiot and dragged the kennel out of their room, down the hall and into my room. I fell asleep with my hand in her crate that night and many others, petting her softly and making those quiet mama-noises that all babies, regardless of species, seem to appreciate.
And that was it. From that moment on, I was hers and she was mine.
Except, she’s also all of ours. A true family guardian.
Six months have gone by and that tiny little puppy has blossomed into a massive, courageous polar bear of a dog. Granted, she is still very much the pup at eight months old, but her personality and character are already there for us to see. She is sweet and loving and fearless in her quest to protect us from all the dangers (real and imagined) that surround us on the farm. Actually, sometimes she’s quite afraid (I can tell by the way her tail is tucked tight underneath her) like the time she first saw our Halloween jack o’ lanterns lit on a dark night. But even afraid she meets all potential threats head on with her big, deep bark, ready to fight if she has to. She is utterly brave.
Does she wander, the way most websites claim her breed does?
Well, yes, but in the same sense that I, too, wander around when I’m outside.
We don’t have any fences around our property, but we do have a sort of natural boundary in that the five acres surrounding the house is ringed by forest. She often trots that perimeter during the day, checking to make sure all is as it should be. She investigates strange noises and smells, and sometimes finds something good to bring back to her special “treasure spot” and chew on. She visits her friends across the street, Max and Sophie, an Australian shepherd and an Australian cattle dog, and she’ll go on walks with the neighbors if she happens to notice them going by.
But she knows where she lives and she always returns. In fact, as soon as dusk falls she usually asks to come inside, where she spends her evenings happily in front of the fire and begging for belly rubs.
Does she bark constantly?
Surprisingly, no. In fact, Una and Juniper, our sheep dog mixes, make most of the annoying racket in the house. Inside, Rowan hardly ever makes a peep.
She barks more when she’s outside, as she should. Sometimes when we let her out at night she’ll run the wooded perimeter just barking barking barking. We don’t know if she’s seen, smelled or heard anything in particular or is just giving a general warning to any and all critters that might be thinking about coming onto her property. Regardless, that’s pretty much her job and I don’t begrudge her for it.
And it turns out that Rowan didn’t need to sleep in their room or be trained to bond to Avery and Iris. She has adored them from the first. If they are outside, she is close by. Sometimes she’ll join in their play, and sometimes she just keeps a benevolent eye on them. She knows when the school bus is coming, and is always first to greet them, tail wagging, overjoyed to be reunited with her girls after a long day apart.
I couldn’t imagine life without this dog anymore. Of course, she has her (extremely trying) moments, as all pups do, but I think it’s safe to say that Rowan has more than delivered on her breed’s promise. I have no doubt that her companionship will only get better as she ages, and that there will always be room for a Great Pyrenees in our family.
Even if we have no livestock (or kids) to guard.