Thursday, February 21, 2008

Paladin and Paloma

Paladin and Paloma, a pair of beautiful Great Pyrenees, were the King and Queen of Rock’s Roost. Both dogs were pedigreed, bred to look after farm animals, and both took to the task as naturally as ducks take to water or birds take to flight.

Paladin came to the Roost as a puppy, barely weaned. When he was several months old, I brought Paloma to join him. Although he was older and more independent, they immediately formed into a playful pair of young canines. As they got older Paladin learned that no fence could keep him in. He would scale the chain-link and leave tufts of his white hair in the barbed wire that ran along the top of the fence. Once over he would patrol the yard and along the property boundaries while Paloma stayed inside watching the livestock. In the evenings I would lead him back into the barnyard to feed, but he would soon be back out in the yard. It actually worked well, because if a strange dog ambled by, Paloma (and the guineas and peacocks) would set off the alarm and Paladin was free to give chase.

Great Pyrenees are big dogs, looking much like St. Bernards, only white. They are gentle souls, but there massive size (Paladin weighed over 110 pounds) and thunderous bark would give pause to any hardened criminal. They do most of their patrolling at night and like to sleep during the day. Paladin’s favorite place to siesta was on the dirt road that bordered the farm. Fortunately for him, the neighbors always gave him a wide berth!

When Paladin wasn’t sleeping during the day, he was roaming. Most of the neighbor’s knew him and didn’t get out of sorts when they found him stopping by their dog’s dish to do some comparison shopping. One day, however, he roamed too far and got into some serious trouble. A neighbor called and said that she had seen him walking along the highway about a half-mile away and that he was bleeding. I hurried out in my old pickup truck and managed to get him loaded up and home. He had been shot in the stomach and didn’t have the strength to get out of the truck bed. After several frantic telephone calls, I was finally able to get a vet to agree to come into his office (it was a Sunday afternoon) and treat my big, gentle dog. The vet examined Paladin and determined that a small caliber bullet had passed through his mid-section and not hit any vital organs. The poor dog spent the night at the vet’s clinic and was back at the Roost the next afternoon.

While Paloma was kept away from her partner by a fence most of the time, Paladin would make the occasional conjugal visit, and Paloma was blessed with several large litters of puppies. I came home one day for lunch and found Paloma in the barn dug into the straw and just beginning to deliver a litter. When I returned that evening, I went out to check on her and was met by quite a surprise. The weary mother was laid out in front of a pile of squealing puppies. I had expected that. What I hadn’t expected was to find a dozen or so little white puppies with one that was solid black! I soon solved the mystery when I noticed that Mama Pot-Bellied Pig had also burrowed into the straw and delivered a sizeable litter of little black piggies. One had gotten adventurous and crawled over and joined the puppies! The guys at the feed store had a good laugh over my black Great Pyrenees!

Paloma had one other suitor besides Paladin. A young motherless goose decided early on that Paloma was his girlfriend. He kept constant company with her, napping where she napped, sharing her food, and being a fixture in her life. If Paloma ran to the fence to bark at something, the goose would be right there with her flapping his wings and honking at whatever had alarmed the big dog. The goose could be quite mean, as Paladin found out when he tried to visit, but the goose also looked after the puppies as though they were his responsibility. The goose would preen Paloma, picking ticks and burrs off of her with his beak. It was a beautiful symbiotic relationship.

I had done a lot of research on Great Pyrenees before bringing Paladin and Paloma to the Roost. One thing that I learned was that they were loyal, but the males would occasionally move on. My dad became ill and I started having to spend more time with him. I began to stay in town and come out to the Roost twice a day to feed. One day Paladin was gone. I like to think that he just walked on down the road and moved in with a good family who were able to give him more attention. When I finally closed the Roost, I gave Paloma to friends. Her goose, of course, went with them also.

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