By Judy MacDonald

Great Pyrenees with cat“Most Pyrs are like a good vodka — they mix well with anything.” This great quote from Texan Cynthia Nesser summarizes in a nutshell what most of us have discovered about these big white dogs that we have grown to love. And what a blessing that is when we look for forever homes for our rescue dogs. Our oversupply of dogs in rescue results from many causes — abandonment, divorce, neglect, they “got too big,” failed farm or livestock guardian dog, not enough resources to take care of them, owners who are just “tired of them” and sometimes they just show up as strays from who knows where. Once they are ready for adoption, we want each one’s next home to be the forever home, so how do we decide which new family will be the “right” home for our Pyrs?

Pyr To Pyr or Mix It Up?

“Pyrs are like potato chips – nobody can have just one.” Most of our Pyrs seem to enjoy the company of other Pyrs and thrive with their companionship. If we can find a potential new home for a dog with another Pyr and IF the temperaments of the 2 (or more) dogs are compatible, this is probably the ideal placement. This combines knowledgeable Pyr owners with dogs needing affection and stability. The critical factor for any placement is COMPATIBILITY — with their natural stubbornness nothing and nobody will move a Pyr to do something he or she does NOT want to do and this definitely includes accepting a potential canine family member. If a Pyr family is not available, placement with new “Pyrents” and other breeds can be the solution. Finding potential adopters who are well aware of the needs of Pyrs, show a responsible ownership with their current dog(s), and have good references from their vet and/or their neighbors is the first step. We want people who are not afraid to be “hands-on” with big dogs, including big hugs as well as exercising leash control. If another breed of dog (or dogs) is already in the household, how receptive will this dog be to a newcomer? If there is any hesitance on the part of the potential owner, or any statement like “We’ll make sure they get along,” that should raise a red flag. Since adoptable Pyrs come in different ages, sizes, and activity levels, the more information we can obtain from the adopters the better. Are they looking for a playmate or companion; same sex or opposite; quiet or boisterous; puppy or older dog? This will also show how much the adopters know about and care about their current dog(s). Once the adopter’s preferences are established, choosing a dog or dogs for the “meet and greet” is the next step.

Experience Counts!

Many of our tireless rescuers have their own family groups of mixed breed dogs. This experience in blending Pyrs with other breeds is invaluable in placing dogs as part of their rescue work The Allen home in Texas has 2 Pyrs and 3 other mixed breeds and 2 cats. Mindee reports that “everybody gets along pretty much.” Julie Russell in Indiana has “quite a mix of dogs and cats in our house. We have a Pyr/Saint Bernard mix, a Border Collie mix, an Australian Shepherd mix, a Black Lab mix, a Chihuahua and 3 cats. I think my Chihuahua seems to hit it off best with the Great Pyrs” What seems dissimilar “on paper” can sometimes work out amazingly well. Kathy Liles in Washington has “placed these dogs with Papillons; toy poodles and Poms as the smallest and Newfs, plus whatever comes in between. They have done great with all sizes and usually the little ones rule. A big male that was placed with Papillons several years ago was recently separated from them for 2 months and boy did he miss his little charges.”

Playmate or Companion?

Debbie Plass in Indiana adopted Chloe, a young female Pyr, as a companionfor her lonely Newfie Barnabas after Abby, her Shepherd mix of 11 years, died rather suddenly. Chloe and Barnabas play great together (“one neighbor commented that they look like a big Panda bear when they are rolling around together”) and their temperaments complement each other so well. “Barnabas is a big chicken and Chloe isn’t afraid of anything.” In addition to all the great stories of Pyrs as buddies and playmates, the natural empathetic nature of the Pyr can help and comfort an aging or ill dog. Our own 2 Pyrs were adopted into our family, one at a time, as companions to our very elderly Newfie/border collie mix. They gave him a “reason to get up in the morning” and made his last 2 ½ years much richer than they would have been otherwise. 4-year-old Thor was adopted by the McDonalds in Cincinnati as a playmate for their 5-year-old Newfie, Sampson. They were best friends, but the relationship took a tragic turn when Sampson was diagnosed with bone cancer a few months later. Even though Thor lost his best friend too soon, Lana McDonald describes how Thor first helped Sampson and then the family: “We think he knew Sampson was sick, and we also believe that he spent many of the weeks leading up to Sampson’s death standing guard over him in the back yard. Thor has been a Godsend for us. When we cry, he sits with us, places his paw on our shoulder or leg, and sits until we stop crying.”

Making the Final Decision – Pay Attention to What the Dogs Tell You

These big white balls of fur have the ability to charm people, and most other dogs, big or small, do not appear to be fearful of them. The critical factors in placing them are TEMPERAMENT and COMPATIBILITY. Choose potential “siblings” and families carefully, based on your own knowledge and experience, and set up a calm and quiet site for the “meet and greet.” Introduce the dogs, then step back and let them tell you how they feel about the whole situation. That “prance,” that nuzzle and sniff, and then that wagging tail will tell you that another of our loves has found a forever home and another fortunate family will experience the joys of being “Pyrents.”