I received an email this morning from Millie Crossland, a good friend whom I see way too seldom. Millie wrote to let me know that her dog, a beautiful Great Pyrenees named Shiva, turned ten-years-old today. She was also thanking me for giving her Shiva a decade ago.
Shiva was born on my little farm down in the Ozarks, a place that I lovingly call Rock's Roost. The "farm" is actually less than four acres of pine trees and brambles scattered along a rocky hillside. It has a small farmhouse that is barely big enough for one person, and a few out-buildings. It was my happy home for several years, but today sits sadly vacant. However, to quote an old fascist, it is a place where "I shall return" someday.
Back when I was living at Rock's Roost, I maintained a small petting zoo that was home to several small goats, some guineas and chickens, a couple of pot-bellied pigs, three emus, and even a fighting ostrich for a time. The most important residents of the farm were Paladin and Paloma, a pair of beautiful Great Pyrenees dogs who oversaw the place and kept varmints at bay.
Shiva was born to Paladin and Paloma on the dirt floor of the barn. I came home for lunch that day and knew that Paloma was in labor - with a couple of pups already snuggling up next to their mother. That evening it was dark by the time I got home, so I took a flashlight out to the barn to check on Paloma and see how she was doing. (It was not her first litter, and I knew that she could handle the situation.)
Great Pyrenees are big white dogs that are bred for watching sheep and goats. It is not unusual for them to have large litters. Their puppies are white with tan patches that fade to white as they get older. When I went into the barn I was greeted by the sight of a fatigued Paloma nursing a pile of little white puppies - but in the center of the pile was one that was coal black.
It took a few minutes to get my bearings and figure out exactly what was happening, but soon my light drifted over a few feet on the ground where I spotted Mama Pot-Bellied Pig who had just given birth to a pile of black piglets. One of the brood had wiggled around on the floor and wound up in the wrong pile! (I had not even realized that the old sow was in a motherly way.)
Shiva was the runt of Paloma's litter, and I knew when I saw her that she and Millie would be perfect for each other...and they have been! I wish them a many more years of enduring friendship as they enjoy life together and take care of each other.
Happy birthday, Shiva!