Great Pyrenees dogs are famous for watching over their flocks. Thankfully, a big, fluffy Great Pyr in Arkansas has had a local animal welfare team looking out for him this summer.
Early last month, the Bissell Pet Foundation reached out to the Cabot Animal Support Services (CASS) about a "neglect" situation on a property in Center Ridge, Ark. In an interview with Daily Paws, Brandy Buie, CASS's marketing and fundraising coordinator, says they were informed that the property owner had been arrested and had many pets he was willing to surrender to a rescue center in the area. Unfortunately, the local shelter couldn't handle that many animals, which is how Bissell and CASS became involved.
Buie said when they arrived at the property they found 17 dogs, three cats, and five potbellied pigs.
"There were also multiple deceased animals, animals eating deceased animals, and just a crazy amount of animal bones. The property was in complete disarray. It didn't have electricity or running water and there was just stuff everywhere," she explains.
The Bucking Alligator
Buie said some compliant dogs actually came up to them, while others were clearly not accustomed to human interaction. The latter group included a Great Pyrenees now named Bear. Once CASS staff leashed him, Buie says he acted like a wild alligator mixed with a bucking bronco. He was so wild their director had to sedate him for the safety of everyone involved.
The staff got Bear into their facility and got a better look at him. To put it kindly, Buie says, he was a total mess.
"He was severely matted and had tons of stuff embedded in his fur," she says. "We even cut wires out of his fur. His dewclaws were grown into his paws and were badly infected; he was caked with urine and feces; and his ears were severely infected. His anal glands were torn and infected, and he was chock-full of ticks and fleas."
She says they later found out Bear had a tick-borne disease and was heartworm positive. They neutered Bear the day after taking him in, gave him a rabies shot and other vaccines, and tried to clean him up the best they could.
Adoption and Ongoing Recovery
As unlucky in life as Bear had been up until that point, the fates quickly aligned to turn his luck around.
Buie says when CASS took Bear in, it was in the midst of the Bissell Pet Foundation's Empty the Shelters event, where the foundation covers costs to allow shelters to offer animals for $25 adoption fees. "So he was 'rescued' by Bissell's call to us and then 'rescued' again in part thanks to their sponsoring of the event," Buie says.
Bear came into CASS's care on a Wednesday and was adopted the following Tuesday. His champion: Melissa Dawson, a ranch farmer whose family members include cattle, standard and miniature donkeys, retired goats, chickens, and mini pigs.
"We learned about Bear through a Facebook post," Dawson says. "As farmer ranchers, he really caught our eye. I was pretty sure under all that he was a Great Pyrenees, and sure enough he was." (Great Pyrenees were originally bred to protect livestock from predators like wolves.)
Dawson says her family wanted a livestock guardian dog, but they weren't quite ready for one. But when they saw Bear and learned his story, she and her husband agreed. "We said let's just save him now, and he'll grow with us," she says.
Bissell Pet Foundation
Dawson and her son had an instant connection when they met Bear. But soon after taking Bear home, they realized the dog still had a long recovery journey ahead. Bear is currently undergoing antibiotic treatment for at least another 30 days to tackle a tick-borne fever and his heartworm infection.
But it's really Bear's ears that have given him the most visible trouble, Dawson says. "At first, you really couldn't even see in them because there was so much infection and pus. He was constantly rubbing his head, scratching them, and moaning." Their vet flushed and packed Bear's ears twice with medications to fight the infection, which the internal antibiotics failed to clear.
With his recovery an ongoing battle, Dawson says they've so far shelled out $1,650.10 on veterinary care and medication. This might seem like a lot, but she points out that purchasing a Great Pyrenees from a breeder would likely cost at least $1,500.
"I could go and [spend] $1,500 dollars at a breeder, or use that money to give this boy a second chance at life," Dawson says. "It wasn't a hard call."
'The Best Boy'
Since they first welcomed Bear into their family, Dawson says his personality transformation has been massive. "The biggest change is in his trust," she explains. "At first, any noise or sudden movement, and he was outta there. He wouldn't even take a treat from our hand."
She says Bear probably had little to no human interaction up until getting rescued, though he doesn't show any signs of physical abuse. Dawson chuckles, saying Bear still won't submit to a bath, but they're working on brushing him. He'll also now accept certain treats by hand and will approach people and allow them to pet him.
"He's settling in and seems like he's found his place," she says. "He's not at all aggressive with any of our other animals, even the cats. He's not even food aggressive, which is a bit shocking given his past. He's just the best boy. It's like he's finally at peace."
Bear is even making friends with the family's slew of rescued puppos, which includes a chocolate Labrador retriever, a black mutt, a beagle and Weimaraner mix, a Chihuahua they found abandoned on land they lease, and an Australian Shepherd who was dumped on their friends' land. Melissa says Bear has become especially attached to the Aussie, and they're as "tight as can be."
Bear's new family is hoping he can eventually roam the land freely to help watch over their livestock, a task he was born to do. "We just get the sense he loves being here, and we love having him here," Dawson says.