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In Memory

 

Zeus

Feb 14, '00-Sept 27, 01

          If love could build a bridge                                

and tears were stepping stones

                              then I'd walk right up to Heaven

                           and promptly bring you home

  

My Life with Zeus

 

I hope this account of Zeus's too short life, will help educate people to not make the same mistakes that we...I did. And save them some future mind numbing heartache in the end. Although this account seems rather long, it is actually the short version of our struggle together, I assure you.

There is a hole in my soul, that does not seem, will ever go away. I'm crying right now as I write this.

My journey with Zeus was filled with so many mixed emotions. Unwavering love and devotion, determination, heartache, fear and many, many tears. Even through it all, I would not have given him up for the world. I would go through it all again, just to know and love him once more.

His medical problems, and aggression was not all who he was. It was a very small part of his personality. The Zeus I knew was a wonderful bouncy puppy, who became my best friend. I'll miss him forever. And if this horrible ache in the pit of my stomach ever goes away, I'm determined to only remember the good in him and totally wipe the bad from my memory.

~

This oh so true story, begins back in December of 1998, when we decided to get our daughter Tamara a puppy. As her sisters all had pets of their own, and Pepsi was just not in the mood for playing anymore at the then age of 11.  

I wanted to be responsible and thoroughly research the breed of dog we were going to choose. We looked in our breed book......sigh, and after a few months of thought, decided to look into the beautiful white Great Pyrenees further. We are a big dog family at heart, and have never had small dogs.  I grew up with two saints, and understood what it meant to own the giant breeds.

At the time I did not have the internet so I had to rely on the sources at hand. I bought all the Pyr books I could find in the pet shops and book stores; went to the library and took out the breed books; talked to my vet and others who had owned or knew the breed. I familiarized myself with the breed traits and we were more than accepting of them all......so eight months later when I saw that ad in the paper advertising Pyrenees puppies for sale, I thought we were ready to add one to our family.

At the time they were only six weeks old and would not be ready for another two weeks. Tamara and I drove the 4 hours to the kennel......actually I can't say it was a kennel, as this was a loving family with two dogs and a small sheep herd.

We wanted to meet the pups and their parents before making our decision.

There were a few red flags on our first visit, such as the mother of the pups had to be locked away......but it was explained that she was upset with these strangers milling around her pups.....sounded reasonable, I guess. The father of the pups was there though, and he was an absolute joy! He was so calm and patient with our hugging and patting......and that face!

The people were very nice, and seemed very concerned about where their pups were going. They had alot of questions for their potential puppy owners. They had turned down two people while we were there. One because they did not like his answer about how he disciplines dogs. 

I maintain to this day, that they were not bad people, just well meaning people who did not understand genetics and how they play a roll in future puppies.

The pups were all raised in a kennel built inside of the sheep pen. They were all milling around our feet, and after seeing those fluffy adorable faces nothing else mattered. 

There was one pup in particular who caught my attention, this pup was shaking in the corner and looked so scared. The man picked him up by the scruff, and because this is a practice that has always given me the shivers, I took the pup from him.

He was a beautiful pure white pup, with wonderful pigment, and he was the second largest pup in the litter.

The whole while that Tamara was playing around with the pups, in total bliss, I held this puppy. I rubbed behind his ears and felt him soften to my touch. I even put him down once, while I checked out the other puppies and listened to the owner talk about his dogs. He would not leave my side, and looked up longingly at me. I picked him up and never let him go for the rest of the visit. I was hooked....as far as Tamara was concerned, it did not matter which pup she got, her main concern was having to wait TWO MORE WEEKS?

They day we picked up Zeus was I'm sure the happiest day of her life.

His puppy hood was quite a happy one. For him and me. He was such a quite puppy and was incredibly easy to house train...I thought I was in heaven. No chewing, no wrestling with the kids (which I thought would be a problem)

He was though, excessively shy.....I knew the importance of early socialization, so we took him everywhere. He would always find some place to hide, where he felt safe. But all in all he was a wonderful loving pet in the safety of his own home.

As he mmatured he was rather submissive, unusual for a Pyr, and his fear of the unknown bothered me.

Then as he approached puberty I noticed a change in him, that made me uneasy. He was always fearful of loud noises, but before would turn and run...now he seemed to confront the offending object defensively.

For example he would lunge and bark at the lawnmower, or turn and chase the tractor, all the while with a look of terror in his face. He was also looking at people in a different way as well. That scared me. He had an eerie, untrusting  look that screamed...I'm watching you. Yet it was usually unknown to them, but I could see it. 

I know that it is a Pyr trait to be aloof or wary of strangers, but these were people he knew all his life and were here all the time.....like my father. He was also starting to guard his food, the garbage bag, the dishwasher....anything he felt was his and surrounded food, and would warn Pepsi to stay away.

I decided that he was going to be neutered immediately. I thought that puberty was causing this new behaviour.

Because of his new found attitude, I no longer trusted him alone with my kids. Until he was neutered, and I saw a change. If I was not around they were to be separated. Although he had never shown any signs of aggression toward my family.

The night before his surgery, Zeus was in the put mudroom, as I had to go upstairs and clean. I heard a growl and a scream and came barrelling down the stairs. My youngest daughter was lying on the floor with her face buried in her hands...the dog was hiding under the kitchen table.   

My heart sank....I thought that under theses wee hands there would be nothing left of her face. I panicked and ran scooping her up in my arms. Thank God, there were only two small scratches on her cheek. I cleaned her up and dragged Zeus out to his outside run. 

That night the talk turned to euthanasia. I could not trust this dog with my children, and it could have been much, much worse. I was not going to give him another opportunity. My heart was broken, but my kids safety had to come first.

Why that did not happen....? I feel it is important to tell the whole story about that incident as my daughter's told me......

Apparently Zeus was whining in the mudroom, Kelsey, only three at the time, felt sorry for him and let him in the kitchen. Then she and Tamara decided to check out the cake in the fridge that I had made. Zeus also thought this was a good idea, and proceeded to put his head in the fridge. The girls tried to get him out, when that failed, Kelsey decided to wrap her arms around his back legs under his belly....and pull.

Tamara said he growled twice, then turned and snapped.

The next day I phoned the vet crying, and told him that I was bringing him in not to have him neutered, but to be put to sleep instead. At the vets office, we had a very long talk about his temperament and the incident. My vet was so understanding and loving...he really liked Zeus and convinced me to phone a few trainers. He said he was still so young, that maybe there was hope. Plus after the testosterone levels in his system went down. That alone might bring about change. We would check to see if there could be a medical cause. 

So I agreed. He really did not have to twist my arm too much, as I wanted wholeheartedly to believe that he could be saved.

After he was neutered, I decided not to wait till I saw a change (which never came) I contacted many trainers, and asked their opinion about what I should do.....Should I try and save this dog? Or is he too dangerous around my kids and can't be helped. Some told me to be done with him but from a few, I was given some very convincing arguments why he should be given a second chance.

One, he was still young, and the most convincing of all was that he did in fact use bite inhibition with my daughter. 

I was explained that Zeus saw my kids as littermates, and in a sense corrected,  just as he would another puppy who was hurting him. He gave a warning growl and then a snap. That snap would not have broken another puppies skin, but he could not be expected to know that a human's skin was softer. If he had really wanted to hurt Kelsey....at 100lbs he would have. I was to teach him his proper place in the family. That he was not equal to the children, but lower on the totem pole. 

This made alot of sense, and I was determined to save what was quickly becoming MY dog. After all 90% of the time, he was this big goof of a dog.....oh could he make you laugh!

  I subscribed to the internet as I heard that their were many sources of good information and help out there.

I joined many egroups, most about dog aggression and behaviour issues. I also joined the PyrNetL group, and in that group received alot of help and support....for which I will never be able to thank them enough.

The rigorous training and managing his aggression began. I found out that his major problem was fear aggression. Armed with that knowledge it made his plight much more real to me. How on earth could I not help a dog who is going through life afraid of everything unknown? It became a crusade....it consumed me. I had to help him, yet keep everyone safe at the same time.

The problem was, that his aggression was not a constant and was very unpredictable. One minute he would be all friendly to someone, then with the slightest movement could turn on them. His outbursts started to increase in intensity. In hindsight, these were all symptoms of the tumour that was growing in his brain. I learned to read his subtle changes in stature and quickly remove him from the situation.

 Zeus was sent away to Behaviourist for six weeks of in-depth training. But it really did nothing to help his outbursts. Instead he came home better in some ways (obedience), but more intense in others. We worked consistently when he came home, everyday was a training exercise. 

Through this a bond so very strong grew between us. Yes it was alot of work...but work we both enjoyed. He was given personality tests, and was found to actually have an amiable temperament. Which would suggest that he really could not help his behaviour. Deep down he would rather be the dog of his true temperament, but something inside was making that impossible.

I quickly learned that his problem was genetic and could only be managed, and not cured. Although he could have been one of the few Pyr's to win an obedience title, he could never again be trusted alone with my kids, and had to be closely monitored constantly with anyone out side the family.

With the kind help of a new trainer and a host of wonderful supportive new friends, (with their own dog aggression issues) things seemed almost fine for a while. We both fell into a comfortable routine. 

Then totally unknown to me that there was a connection, he started to pee in the house once again. He was chewing everything in site...he was regressing back to puppy hood. And the hair! He was loosing far too much....too quickly. Not you average coat blowing! A friend suggested I have his Thyroid checked. It came back fine.

He was starting to get that look again. He out and out attacked Pepsi our Sheppardx, for no apparent reason. He did not break the skin, but she was shaken up pretty bad. A few more intense unprovoked reactions and the intense training began again, but this time to no avail. Within a week he went from seemingly content to allow me to handle any situation, right back to where we started...but with even more frequency and intensity.

The night before he died, I was getting into bed, and Zeus was laying at my feet....he suddenly jumped up growling and snapping. I had to grab his mouth and hold it shut. He was starring right through me as if I did not exist. Like he was in a trance. My husband and I put him in his crate, with me still holding his mouth shut. I was so shaken up.....the one thing I could count on was that he had never challenged me. He would never try to bite me and I could diffuse any situation that arose. How could I protect everyone else if this had now changed? I stayed up the whole night crying. 

Twenty minutes after the incident, Zeus was all happy again, he seemed confused as to why he was in his crate, and mom would not come near him. In the morning I had Ron take him out to his run, I was still quite shaken. 

I went out to feed him later, and his eye had turned all bloodshot, more like severe pink eye. I took him to the vets, and found out that his eye was already "fixed" and there was alot of blood behind it. The vet said that a tumour had ruptured, and there was no helping him. 

He said that this tumour had most likely been there since his behaviour first started to change from fear to aggression. As it is at puberty when alot of tumours can develop, and there is nothing anyone can do to prevent this.

With that knowledge, I am even more proud of all he accomplished with his training. It had to be remarkably hard to trust me and fight the affects the tumour was having on his mind.

I cried and held him, told him I loved him, that I was so sorry that I could not save him. I promised to see him at the bridge, and let him go to God.

I know he his much happier there, finally safe from fears, and his own mind. I am so happy for him that he is finally free. I just pray the pain of loosing him and my loneliness without my best friend will ease with time.

Tamara now has herself a new puppy...Freckles. She is thrilled with her. And I believe, she has filled a void that should never have to be in a little girls heart..... But even now, I will still catch her crying alone. When asked, she says she misses her Zeusy, and wishes he'd come back.

Please.... if you are considering getting a puppy of any breed, save yourself and your family this horrible pain, and only seek out one from a responsible breeder. Do your homework, and let your head guide you in your choices and not your heart.

Although Zeus's tumor was not a genetic issue, his shyness and fear behavior as a puppy certainly was.


 Sariena and Tamara Foley

Forever the proud mom's of Zeus, Great Pyrenees

 

       I Only Wanted You

  • They say memories are golden

  • well maybe that is true.

  • I never wanted memories,

  • I only wanted you.

  •  

  • A million times I needed you,

  • a million times I cried.

  • If love alone could have saved you

  • you never would have died.

  •  

  • In life I loved you dearly,

  • In death I love you still.

  • In my heart you hold a place

  • no one could ever fill.

  •  

  • If tears could build a stairway

  • and heartache make a lane,

  • I'd walk the path to heaven

  • and bring you back again.

  •  

  • Our family chain is broken,

  • and nothing seems the same.

  • But as God calls us one by one,

  • the chain will link again.

  •  

  • Author unknown

  • ~~

If you too are struggling with dog aggression, before you start your search for a "cure" or contact a trainer, I highly recommend that you read through this site:

From the site:

Before you hire a trainer...........

Most dog owners would do anything to help their aggressive dog become a safe and happy pet. Unfortunately, the willingness to "do anything" is what opportunists in the professional dog training industry count on.

You won't find a miracle cure for aggression on this site, but you will find information that will steer you away from training pitfalls and give you the ability to find REAL help for your beloved companion.

For support from people who have been there, done that....join:

k9aggression support group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/k9aggression-support/

To subscribe: send blank email to:

k9aggression-support-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Group Description:

Dealing with dog aggression can be stressful. This is a support group for owners dealing with their aggressive dogs. Many groups talk about training, but the extent of your effort and compliance to a good treatment program is the most critical factor determining the success in treating your dog's aggression.

How do you find good and reputable help when there are so many scam artists and incompetent people who say they can fix aggression in your dog? How can you stay committed when things get difficult? How can guilt or denial hold you back?

We invite you to share your experiences dealing with your dog; with aggressive episodes or with good or bad trainers, behaviorists and consultants. Sometimes an encouraging word is enough to give you the strength you need to help your dog. Sharing your aggressive dog experiences can relieve the burden and helps others.

We do not accept judgments on this list. We aim to keep this list a safe place. Any flamers will be banned - no explanation. Any trainer self-promotion will not be tolerated.

We wish you luck in your struggle....


 

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Revised:  10 Apr 2002 11:43:29-0400

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