Rufus, the Rescued Great Pyrenees
by Carie Broecker
Jim and Julie Montgomery had two Great Pyrenees, Cleopatra and Andre, who helped guard the family’s pet goats and chickens in a rural neighborhood in Santa Cruz County in California. They had lost two goats to predators in the past, but for the past five years with Cleopatra and Andre on the job, their small pets had been safe.
Great Pyrenees are best known as livestock-guardian dogs. They typically weigh 115 to 140 pounds and stand up to 33 inches at the shoulder. These dogs have been bred as guardian dogs, keeping flocks safe from bears and wolves for over a thousand years. Keeping their territory safe from predators is engrained deep in their DNA. At the same time, they have been bred to be exceptionally patient and kind to the livestock they are protecting.
Jim and Julie were involved with Great Pyrenees Rescue of Northern California, helping with transportation of dogs and doing general volunteer work. They kept up with the stories about dogs being rescued by following the Pyrenees Rescue Facebook page.
In 2012, a week before Christmas, Julie saw a post on the Facebook page about Rufus. Rufus was a six-year-old Great Pyrenees who was currently in boarding, but the boarding facility was full for the Christmas holiday. Rufus needed a place to stay for a week. Randy, the CEO of Pyrenees Rescue, was asking for short-term, temporary care for Rufus.
But Rufus had a rap sheet. Between being given up to shelters, placed in "forever homes" that did not work out, short-term kennel care, and his most recent stint on a livestock-demonstration farm where he failed as a livestock guardian dog, he had eight stops in six years. One of his main issues was that he had been labeled an escape artist.
Julie’s and Jim’s hearts went out to Rufus. The poor pup had been through so much being bounced around from home to home. They felt like they could make him happy if they brought him home to foster for just one week. They knew they were taking a huge leap of faith, but they really wanted to help him on his journey to his forever home.
They drove an hour to La Honda to pick him up. He was happy to meet them and jumped right in the truck like he’d been expecting them. They were told he didn’t get along with other dogs, but when they got home and introduced him to Cleopatra and Andre, the three of them hit it off right away.
What they learned about Rufus within the first few days was that he is not a typical Great Pyrenees. He had no interest in sleeping outside and guarding the property. He had no interest in protecting livestock. He was a “people dog.” He was a house dog. He wanted to be inside with a roof over his head, and he wanted desperately to be with people.
The other thing they found out about Rufus, much to their surprise, given his background as a “problem” dog, is that he had perfect house manners! He was well behaved and calm indoors, he was housebroken, and he was content within the confines of a home environment. They set him up with a bed and food and water in the kitchen, and he was happy.
On Christmas morning, Rufus found a cozy spot under the Christmas tree and sprawled out for a nice nap. When Jim and Julie walked into the living room, they found him there, under the tree, like a Christmas gift from the universe. They knew that this stop—home number nine—would be his final home.
The hard part was convincing Randy, who they had the utmost respect for, that this dog was a perfect fit in their home; that he was a bona fide house dog not a ranch dog, and that he was not the troublemaker he’d been made out to be.
Randy had 40 years experience with Great Pyrenees and his fear was that Rufus was on good behavior, but that once he gotten real comfortable, his true mischievous, destructive personality would come out and he’d be returned again. After two months of harmony with the Montgomerys, Randy agreed to approve the adoption.
It’s been two years now, and Rufus continues to be a sweet and perfect gentleman in Jim and Julie’s home. They do keep him on leash when out in the yard with the goats, but he has never shown any aggression toward them. He loves to ride in the car, loves to go for walks, and wants to meet every stranger he passes. He has shown the Montgomerys that he knows basic commands. Someone in his past had trained him well to sit, stay, come, and lie down. He is so well behaved that he often travels with the Montgomerys and is always a hit when they stay in hotels.
Rufus had been misunderstood when, because of his breed, he was locked away from people and expected to behave as a livestock guardian. His story reminds me of the children’s story of Ferdinand the bull who would rather sit and smell flowers than fight with matadors. What a blessing that Rufus was allowed to step outside of the stereotype of his breed and be his true self. We can all learn something from Rufus and from the Montgomerys for giving him the chance to shine.
Great Pyrenees Rescue of Northern California (GPRNC) is dedicated to helping recover lost Great Pyrenees; to keeping Great Pyrenees out of the hands of laboratories, animal dealers, and puppy mills; to keeping Great Pyrenees out of animal shelters; and to placing Great Pyrenees in homes where they will get the highest level of care. For more information, go to www.gprnc.org.