any years ago, long
before a kennel was
built or the many
acres were fenced,
I had two Great
Pyrenees: Maggie (2
years old) and Molly (7 months old).
Very late one evening, I had them out
in the yard on leashes for their last walk
before bedtime. A car drove by with three
men in it. They started throwing out beer
cans and then the window was lowered
and one of them yelled, “Hey lady, what
kind a dogs are those?” I ignored them and
started walking back towards the house.
They then backed up and pulled into my
driveway. As the back door started to open,
I warned, “You are on private property. Do
not get out of the car!” The stranger con-
tinued out and suddenly I felt one of the
leashes go slack. I looked down and found
that Maggie had backed completely out of
her choke collar.
Before I could react, she was running
toward the car. Just as the man reached
the back of the car, Maggie jumped up,
putting her paws on his shoulders, pushed
him backwards onto the trunk and held
him there. I walked over, slipped the collar
back around her neck and pulled her off.
Needless to say, he was back in the car and
off in a flash.
Her behavior that night is typical of
what these dogs can and will do to protect.
I thought she was magnificent. She never
put her mouth on him and she was willing
to leave him when I asked her to. Maggie
lived to be 12-years-old and that incident
was the first and last time she ever got out
of a collar. Although had there ever been
another need, I have no doubt she could
and would have.
That was my personal experience, but
over the years I have heard numerous other
heroic stories about Pyrs... the Pyr that
moved between a toddler and a rattlesnake
and took the bite, the Pyr that moved his
sheep to safety before the barn burned
to the ground, the Pyr that alerted his
owners to a house fire. There are many,
many stories of these dogs, doing what
they were bred to do, that we never hear
about. All the working Pyrs that keep their
livestock safe every day. The therapy dogs
that spend hours in nursing homes and
hospitals connecting with and comforting
the patients; working with patients who
are relearning motor skills. The reader dogs
that are a highlight at many libraries. The
assistance or service dogs that make their
owners’ lives easier. And last but not least,
the Pyrs that bring joy and companionship
to their owners every day.
I was in the Pyrenees Mountains of
France last year and was fortunate to come
upon two young Pyrs moving a large flock
of sheep down the mountain. It was a sight
to behold! The only level terrain was the
roadway and the dogs and sheep were mov-
ing down the middle of the road in spite
of the automobiles, cyclists and the horses
and cows that also roam the mountainside
there. AND they were doing it all on their
own, all alone with no shepherd around.
Of course, I got out of the car to take pic-
tures. They were not alarmed by my pres-
ence or aggressive in any way. They contin-
ued to calmly move along, dropping back
occasionally to move a stray sheep back
into the group. They never approached me
nor would they take food from one of the
cyclist who offered it as he was trying to
move through. They were intent on doing
their job. Seeing these dogs in their native
country, doing the job they have been
bred to do for centuries, brought tears to
my eyes. It is a moment in time that I will
never forget and one I hope to see again on
future trips to the mountains.
The History of the Breed
Great Pyrenees take their name from the
mountain range in southwestern Europe,
where they have long been used as guard-
ians of the flocks. The breed likely evolved
from a group of principally white moun-
tain flock guard dogs that originated ten or
eleven thousand years ago in Asia Minor.
Not Just A Pretty Face
By Janet Ingram
It wAs A sIght to behold!”
2012 • 277