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Monday, August 15, 2011

Bridger, where art thou?

Lorraine and I were recently reminiscing about some of the dogs that we've had in our lives.  A very short list of them were considered pets.  Several were pups from various litters produced by our pet dogs that include a variety of Border Collies and Great Pyrenees.  Among these was a litter that came from Chloe, a Great Pyrenees that died this past winter.  With her, we knew when she'd been bred and it was a stray that had crossed our property.  At the time that she was bred, and we knew that she had been bred because the kids were able to share in graphic detail the events that were involved (farm life sure won't leave your kids ignorant of the procreative process involving farm animals).  As far as we were concerned this was just a big, overgrown lug by the name of Bridger.  And we knew that because that's what his collar said.  Lorraine reminded me that I'd let loose some expletives when she shared the news.  We didn't need a litter of mutts. 

I was out of town when this escapade began as well.  Although big, like an over sized Golden Lab, Bridger was very gentle and, other than spending time with Chloe uninvited, was a real gentleman.  And he was certainly smarter than some of the other dogs we had at the time, including Uncle Chester, another Great Pyrenees we had at that time.  It was Chester that was supposed to breed Chloe, but he was too busy with other tasks I suppose, because he never got the job done.   Although Chester, for the life of him, couldn't figure out how to get through a closed gate, Bridger, who probably outweighed Chester by 30 pounds, virtually oozed sideways through the rails of the gates, to go visit our sheep.  He didn't bother them, but it seemed some instinct compelled him to be near them.

After several hours on the property it was clear he wasn't going anywhere.  Lorraine started calling around to see what could be done with this wayward, fornicating animal.  She tried the City of Earlham, but they said we weren't in the city limits so they couldn't help.  She tried the county sheriff but they don't deal with strays.  The local vet wasn't interested in taking him in.  For the moment, he was ours.

Lorraine told the boys to put him in our dog run.  That's the typical chain link fence run that's 10 feet long, 6 feet wide and 8 feet high.  A little later she yelled at the boys for not putting him in the run.  They said they had and put him back in.  She yelled at them again later for not latching the gate on the run.  They said they had and put him in there again.  It was a little later that they saw this 130# beast climb the chain link fence and jump to the ground.  From there they put him in the livestock trailer which held him until I got home.

I checked his collar and it said his name was Bridger and that he came from the Upper Clover Ranch which is located in Elko County, NV, equidistant from Battle Mountain and Winnemucca.  On the map it looks like one of those places that you can't get there from here.  The collar included a phone number.  I pulled out my cell phone and called.  The number was disconnected.

I then tried Google to see what I could find on Upper Clover Ranch.  There were some references in newsletters about somebody from the ranch speaking at a couple of different meetings.   I don't remember what the groups were that they spoke to, but the newsletters had phone numbers.  I called and left messages.  Meanwhile I called the Elko County Sheriff's office to explain my predicament.  They said that the ranch was about four hours from their HQ but that they had a deputy who lived and patrolled that area.  They'd get the message to him and have him call me.  The return call from the newsletter contact came a day or two later.  They gave me a name.  J.D. Radakovich.  I Googled J.D. and lo and behold, he was a local from Earlham.  But that didn't clear up the connection between him and Bridger's home address being in NV. 

J.D.'s parents live in rural Earlham, not to far from our house.  I called Steve and told him the story about Bridger and Chloe.  He said that J.D. had passed through Iowa on his way from NV to a new job in TX.  He'd left Bridger in the care of his parents who were experiencing the same frustration in confining Bridger as we had.  I told Steve we had Bridger and that he was welcome to come and get him.  Figuring that he wouldn't go anywhere since he'd already been with us a few days, I went ahead and let him out.  Steve showed up shortly thereafter and Bridger was gone.  On the road again apparently, seeking out new horizons.  Steve went home, empty handed.

A few weeks later I began to wonder what breed of dog Bridger was.  I called Steve, reminding him who I was.  He explained that Bridger was an Akbash, a livestock guard dog breed with a Turkish heritage.  In fact, Steve said he might be interested in one of the pups since the Akbash and Great Pyrenees are both livestock guard dogs.  I was elated.  I not only had a litter of pups on the way, I had a litter of livestock guard dog pups that would be worth far more than plain old mutt pups.

I did some research on the Akbash breed and was intrigued.  They had some variety in the way they looked with some looking like a short haired Great Pyrenees while others looked like a very large golden lab with over sized heads.  What I really liked though was Bridger's personality.  He was very gentle and tolerant of the kids and apparently very attentive to the sheep.

Lorraine nor I can remember how many pups there were.  We're guessing eight with seven surviving.  The pups were unique in that some of them would growl and snarl when you picked them up, even before their eyes were open.  This little growling routine continued until they were sold.  It was kind of cute, but I'm not sure if that evolved into an unpleasant trait as they grew or if it was just their way of communicating, albeit in a threatening sounding way. 

Not all of them growled or snarled.  The others were downright cute and we grew attached to a couple of them.    It was also fun to watch how Chester interacted with them.  He was very gentle with them as they climbed on him and pulled his tail.   That's when we started calling him Uncle Chester. 

The litter was eventually winnowed down to one who we simply called "Puppy."  We hadn't intended to keep him and never got around to naming him properly.  We really would have liked to keep him but in addition to him we still had two Border Collies and two Great Pyrenees.  We couldn't justify a fifth dog, especially since Chloe tended to wander, sometimes with puppies in tow.   Chester couldn't be confined to the pastures with the sheep either.  The two border collies were both worthless in terms of herding.  We simply didn't need another pet.

But, Puppy had a great temperament and reminded me a lot of his father.  A most enduring trait of Puppy's was his tail and back end wagging in unison as he walked up to you while smiling.  He would literally curl his lips up, but there was no hostility or snarling like some of the other pups.  He was actually mimicking our smiling at him.   The first few times I saw this it scared me.  He was probably 4-5 months old and already weighed over 50#.  This animal coming at me with bared teeth was intimidating.  But then he'd saunter up, tail wagging, and wanting to be petted.  It broke my heart when someone came to pick him up.  I hope they enjoy him as much as we did the short time we had him.

Epilogue:  We received word that Bridger was eventually located a few towns west of ours.  Steve found him a new home.   We'd hoped to use him as a sire again, but the new owners had him neutered in order to reduce his wandering ways. 

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