F. U. R. B. A. L. L. S.

(For Undeniably Rabid Boosters And
Lovers of Large Snugglepupples)
(a/k/a giant furry dogs)

<bgsound src="Specialangel.mid" loop=infinite>

(The song you are listening to is
"My Special Angel", another of my favorites
and placed here in honor of all our furballs
but especially my angels in heaven,
Farley, Tessa, Gus, Colby, Heidi, Archie, Jesse, and 17 sweet guinea pigs.
Enjoy! But if you must, to turn off the music,
right-click on the arrow and click "stop".)

Dogs Live Here (author unknown)

If you don't like to be greeted with paws and swinging tails,
don't come inside .... because dogs live here.

If you don't like the feel of a cold nose or wet tongue,
don't come inside .... because dogs live here.

If you can't step over scattered toys or prostrate animals,
don't come inside .... because dogs live here.

If you can't tolerate dog hair here and there,
don't come inside .... because dogs live here.

If you think a home ought to smell of perfume,
don't come inside .... because dogs live here.

But if you don't mind all of the above,
you will be instantly loved when you come inside because....

This section of my site is a mini-salute to our furry "children": Susie, and our dearly departed Farley, Tessa, Gus, Colby, Heidi, Archie and Jesse, our wonderful Great Pyrenees and Samoyed dogs. We adopted Farley and Tessa at age 6-1/2 weeks in September, 1992 (when Farley looked just like the pup in the picture on my intro page), and we adopted Heidi and Colby as 4-year-olds in January, 2002 and February, 2002 respectively. We adopted Archie (born 12/11/01) on 7/26/03, and Jesse (born 2/12/03) joined us on 4/23/04. Susie, our newest "furkid", born 9/10/08, joined our family on 12/9/10. Gus, a heaven-sent adoptee, joined us in March, 2000 and suddenly left us on 1/13/02 at approximately age 7. I will tell you about all of them in addition to supplying some (hopefully) useful information about how we selected the Great Pyrenees breed and how YOU can select the right furry companion!

My "furballs" section is now three pages! You can read about Farley, Tessa, and Gus on this page. Heidi, Colby, Archie, Jesse and Susie are featured on Furballs page 2, while our many guinea pigs now are on Furballs page 3.

Tessa (left) & Farley, age 10-1/2 months, June '93

Tessa & Farley, age 8 (July, 2000)

Gus (July, 2000)

June, 2008: This page had originally begun with a few detailed paragraphs about our (at that time) five past and present guinea pigs, as of May '06. Since that time, we gradually adopted many additional piggies. (They have sadly all passed on as of 2014.) So I decided it was way past time to give our many sweet piggies their own "Furballs" page on my refuge. "Cavalcade of Cavies", a/k/a "Furballs 3", is dedicated to the many sweet piggies who brought us so much enjoyment. But first, continue below for the stories of our original lovable, cuddly, giant canine furballs, dating back to '92.

And now for our shaggy dog stories....

I grew up always wanting a dog, as an only child with two old-fashioned, older parents who did not believe in "having an animal inside", and living in city apartments with small yards and extreme Chicago weather, where you wouldn't want to keep a dog outside all the time. Before Rex and I were married, I only had two very brief experiences having a small dog, which I won't bore you with. But it was definitely enough to show me what I was missing....

Rex's family had poodles while he was growing up, and he was also a dog lover. But the first 11 years of our marriage, we remained in apartments in Chicago, in addition to both working full-time -- AND going to school part-time during many of those years. We knew we would not have the time to give a dog the love and attention it deserved. Then, once in Seattle with degrees in hand, our home for the first 21 months was a TINY loft apartment downtown, half the size of what we were used to, where the largest pet I would consider would be a bird! BUT once we moved onto acreage in the country in March '92, we knew we soon wanted to welcome a dog into our home and hearts -- make that two dogs, so they could keep each other company!

Now the question was -- what breed? We had really only been around small to medium size dogs, but since we now had land for the animals to romp around, AND we wanted protection as well as companionship, we agreed we wanted a "large" dog which, initially to me, meant 70 - 80 pounds. We now consider THAT a solidly medium-sized dog! You'll know why in a moment!

To help us decide, we enlisted the help of the wonderful book pictured above, "The Right Dog For You" by Daniel F. Tortora, Ph.D. Dr. Tortora gives a profile of every dog breed recognized by the AKC, then categorizes each breed in such diverse areas as watchdog and guard dog ability (two different functions!), emotional stability, how the breed reacts to strangers and to children, size of household and personality types the breed is best suited to, shedding, sturdiness of build (does not depend entirely on size), and many other important characteristics. It is the best book we have found in really discovering what breeds are right for you, and after doing our research we narrowed our choices down to:

  • Great Pyrenees - an extremely large white dog, originating from the Pyrenees region where France and Spain border, rightly described by the AKC as "majestic" in appearance
  • Akita - a pretty dog originating from Japan and coming in a variety of color combinations, regarded as one of the best watchdogs
  • German Shepherd - the classic "police dog", also used frequently as guide dogs for the blind because of their gentle intelligence combined with a protective nature
  • Labrador Retriever - now the number one breed in the country because of their beauty, intelligence, and watch/guard dog abilities; I especially admire the yellow variety

There were other large dogs we researched. But some, such as Newfoundlands, St. Bernards,and Mastiffs, although large enough to discourage intruders, are so friendly to everyone, they would likely want to play with the intruder! Other large breeds such as Rottweilers, although we have met some nice ones, have more of an inborn tendency than other breeds to show aggression towards even friendly visitors. We wanted that perfect balance between protection when needed and gentleness the rest of the time.

The more we read about "Pyrs", the more it seemed they were the breed that best represented that balance. And growing up, reading dog books and practically memorizing all the breeds in anticipation of having my own, I always admired their beauty. But the size! They grew considerably larger than the other breeds on our short list. And we knew we'd have to have them in our small mobile till we had the property fenced (as it turns out, they chose to live inside the first 7 years of their lives). Still, our thoughts kept returning to that breed. That summer, I went to the Seattle Dog Show to see some Pyrs in person, and met a breeder from a town not far from ours. After speaking with her and seeing her beautiful dogs, I was convinced this was the "Right Dog" for us!

One problem....they were expensive. We figured on signing up with the Seattle Purebred Dog Rescue, who would then contact us when one or more Pyrs became available. Then late that August, the breeder I had met called to say she had a friend with an unexpected litter of purebred Pyrs she needed to move fast! We went to see the litter in early September when they were 6-1/2 weeks old -- old enough (being a "giant" breed) to be taken from their mother. Six beauties, four girls and two boys -- and the boys both had the brown & tan "mask" (like the pup at the top of the page) that usually only 10% of Pyrs have, while the girls were all white. We selected the largest girl (14 lbs.) and the largest boy (16 lbs.), and off we went with our new "children".

The babies had all been given names, and we liked the name of our new girl puppy - Tessa - and kept it. But we didn't care for our boy puppy's name - Rembrandt. It didn't take us long to decide what to rename him. We both loved the comic strip, For Better or For Worse, and its lovable, furry, large pet dog, Farley (who has since been replaced in the strip by Farley's son, Edgar). We felt our pup even looked like the Farley in the strip, though the cartoon Farley was supposed to be an English sheepdog.

Being novice dog owners, the first few months, with all the messing and chewing, were hard -- but we all got through it. I joked in our Christmas letter that year that we never liked the ugly 70s avocado and gold flooring in our kitchen anyway, and neither did the dogs so they were helping us uproot it! As they grew a little larger, they even reached up and destroyed a few of my favorite refrigerator magnets! Thankfully, this stage never lasts; it only feels like it at the time!

When the puppies were a few months old, we came close to losing them. As puppies are prone to do, they both ate something they shouldn't have while outside, and it was infected with a parasite. They both became quite sick, but with some expert care from our vet, they recovered completely. Farley did have some chronic allergies, and in '99 we learned he developed arthritis in his rear joints. Despite that, he remained happy and frisky till May '03; he seemed unusually lethargic most of the month. On the 30th, his scheduled vet appointment, he was not able to take his usual morning walk and had to be carried to the car and into the vet's office. The vet found that Farley had developed a nerve condition which had now paralyzed his entire back end, nothing could be done, and he would be miserable and helpless if allowed to remain like that any longer. It broke our hearts to say goodbye to our dear boy, and we prayed his sister would be OK without her lifelong pal and littermate. We are grateful to have had him for 10 years and 10 months. But when you are blessed with a dog that is this wonderful, you wish he could break all longevity records.

As for Tessa, well -- let me preface this by stating, the AKC says the "normal" weight range for Pyrs is 90 to 115 lbs. for females and 100 to 125 lbs. for males. Our dogs are NOT "normal"! Farley weighed in at 149 a few years ago (and was very agile for his size). Tessa tipped the scales at as much as 178, but stayed in the 160s her last few years. Our vet treated her thyroid for some time and this was fairly successful in controlling her weight. She actually was in fine health otherwise; she was just a BIG GIRL! Tessa gradually became less active in her final couple of years, and the evening of July 2, 2004, Rex realized her breathing had become labored. We went on a planned outing the next day, and when we arrived home around 5 p.m., she was gone, 18 days short of what would have been her 12th birthday. This is considered a good lifespan for a giant breed. But when you have had a dog since she was 6-1/2 weeks old and are suddenly left with just memories, needless to say, it's always painful.

As with human children, this brother and sister had very different personalities! Both were generally very sweet and lovable, but Tessa, by far the larger, was also the more assertive or, as Rex puts it, "the 'A' Dog". She had the personality of a cat, if you can picture a 164 lb. white house cat! She liked being fussed over, but only when she was in the mood, whereas Farley was almost always in the mood and would whimper if he sensed you were not paying attention to him at that moment! He was a VERY sweet, gentle, mellow, docile dog virtually all the time. Yet, if he heard something strange, he could let out a low-pitched "watchdog bark" that would make an unsuspecting stranger assume he was encountering a man-eating wild beast! He was actually too sweet to attack anyone (unless he saw one of us being attacked), but that bark is enough to deter anyone! I felt very safe when alone at home with my huge furry "babies", whose leashes were actually made for horses! (Rex could actually walk both Farley and Tessa at once, although sometimes they walked him!)

We discovered, when first having to give Farley pills, which he would not take unless they were wrapped in a bit of melted cheese, that both dogs adored cheese (so does their adopted mommy!). So we didn't get away without giving them some cheese every day - though we gave Tessa smaller pieces due to her weight problem. Something else they loved (and shouldn't have had) was whipped "cream" in a squirt can! A few years ago, Rex squirted some on a slice of pie and the sound attracted the dogs' attention. He squirted a tiny bit on each of their bowls of food (dogfood sundae!) and they loved it. Ever since then, they recognized that sound, even when we didn't use the "cream" for awhile and pulled it out during pumpkin pie season, and looked up expectantly, then would stare with their puppy dog eyes when we couldn't oblige them!

Knowing Farley and Tessa were getting on in years, we had wanted to introduce at least one new younger dog to our household to ensure we would never be without "furballs". We were going to wait till we got our entire property fenced. But an opportunity came up in March 2000 we couldn't pass up. Rex went to our vet's to pick up some dog shampoo (as he puts it, "I went for shampoo and came home with a dog!"). The vet told him about a customer who had a five-year-old male Pyr/Lab mix, named "Gus", who he needed to find a home for. Rex went to see him the next day. He was a small (compared to our other two, 93 lbs. is small!) but beautiful fellow who required more attention than his current family, which also had four terriers in addition to horses, was able to give him. Rex brought him home, and he was quite nervous the first couple of days, understandable since this was at least his third home (in addition to some time at the pound).

Though very sweet and lovable, he was very insecure and wanted constant attention. But he adjusted beautifully in the next few days and made himself right at home. He quickly became "my baby" while I was home in the evenings, since Farley and Tessa had by that time decided they wanted to live outside. (It did get very crowded in this 12 x 56' space when it's rainy and all three of them were inside!) I walked him when I got home from work, then he would sit by me, often with his head in my lap, while I checked the E-mail that accumulated during the day. It was challenging trying to answer E-mail with the "little guy" nudging my arm with his nose or pawing me (he loved to "shake hands"), but what I wouldn't give to have him here to do that again. He really was a gift from God. As it turned out, we only had him a week short of 22 months, but grew to love him so quickly and deeply. He was only about the size Tessa was when she was one year old, so it was like having a puppy again but without any housebreaking problems!

Gus and "mom" (July, 2000)

There were a couple of changes in Gus' behavior right around Christmas, 2001. He didn't walk ("prance") outside nearly as fast, and he would come to me a few times a day and literally rub his head into my chest. I thought the latter was just him bonding with me and was sweet, and the slower walking did not indicate to Rex or me that anything was seriously wrong. Other than that, he seemed his happy, frisky self - right up until about 10 p.m. Sat. night, Jan. 12, 2002. He suddenly circled around a few times, as if in a panic. We assumed he had to "go potty" and I quickly took him out. He did "#1" but that was all; he acted like he needed to throw up but didn't. I took him inside (with some effort) and his legs wouldn't hold him up. He would take a few steps and plop down; there was also some strange trembling. We were alarmed, but with it being a late Sat. night, and since he had seemed fine till now, we hoped it would either pass or we could get him to the vet on Monday. I went to bed about 2:00 a.m. with him resting in the living room. Sometime between 4 and 4:30, I heard him make it into his usual spot on our bedroom floor and plop down. Then I fell asleep.

Rex and I both woke up a little before 8:30. He got up a few minutes before me and checked on Gus. He then gave me the news. It didn't sink in at first. He went out and walked Farley and Tessa while I, stunned, reported the news to my online mailing lists. We then got ready to go to church, but it was hard sitting through the service. Instead of going to work that day, Rex went to the lumber yard and bought wood to build a casket. He did a nice job given the short time frame. While he was building it, I went into the bedroom several times to make sure my baby was really not breathing; it didn't seem possible. I always thought that when dogs passed on, there was either an accident or they got sick and their owners had time to prepare. Normal one moment, woozy for a few hours and gone the next moment was not something either of us was prepared for. Then it was time to take my baby out of the bedroom. I stroked his silky fur and told him what a good boy and wonderful baby he was. Now all I have left are his collar, almost 22 months of beautiful memories, and the three pictures on this page. I wish I had taken more.

Rex, by our mailbox that he painted with an appropriate symbol, and Gus (July, 2000)

Now, after enjoying the following Basic Rules for Dogs, please click the Furballs Page 2 link at the bottom of this page (or click here) to meet Heidi, Colby, Archie, Jesse and Susie!

Basic Rules for Dogs (author unknown)

NEWSPAPERS: If you have to go to the bathroom while playing in the front yard, always use the newspaper that's placed in the driveway every morning for that purpose.

VISITORS: Quickly determine which guest is afraid of dogs. Charge across the room, barking loudly and leap playfully on this person. If the human falls down on the floor and starts crying, lick its face and growl gently to show your concern.

BARKING: Because you are a dog, you are expected to bark. So bark -- a lot. Your owners will be very happy to hear you protecting their house. Especially late at night while they are sleeping safely in their beds. There is no more secure feeling for a human than to keep waking up in the middle of the night and hearing your protective bark, bark, bark....

LICKING: Always take a BIG drink from your water dish immediately before licking your human. Humans prefer clean tongues. Be ready to fetch your human a towel.

HOLES: Rather than digging a BIG hole in the middle of the yard and upsetting your human, dig a lot of smaller holes all over the yard so they won't notice. If you arrange a little pile of dirt on one side of each hole, maybe they'll think it's gophers. There are never enough holes in the ground. Strive daily to do your part to help correct this problem.

DOORS: The area directly in front of a door is always reserved for the family dog to sleep.

THE ART OF SNIFFING: Humans like to be sniffed. Everywhere. It is your duty, as the family dog, to accommodate them.

DINING ETIQUETTE: Always sit under the table at dinner, especially when there are guests, so you can clean up any food that falls on the floor. It's also a good time to practice your sniffing.

HOUSEBREAKING: Housebreaking is very important to humans, so break as much of the house as possible.

GOING FOR WALKS: Rules of the road: When out for a walk with your master or mistress, never go to the bathroom on your own lawn.

COUCHES: It is perfectly permissible to lie on the new couch after all your humans have gone to bed.

PLAYING: If you lose your footing while chasing a ball or stick, use the flower bed to absorb your fall so you don't injure yourself.

CHASING CATS: When chasing cats, make sure you never -- quite -- catch them. It spoils all the fun.

CHEWING: Make a contribution to the fashion industry. Eat a shoe.

More Rules for Dogs (author unknown)

I will not chew crayons or pens, especially not the red ones, or my people will think I am hemorrhaging.

I will not take whatever I please and hide it under the bed so my people can have a scavenger hunt looking for it.

When in the car, I will not insist on having the window rolled down when it's raining outside.

We do not have a doorbell. Therefore, I will not bark each time I hear one on TV.

I will not steal my Mom's underwear and dance all over the back yard with it.

The sofa is not a face towel. Neither are Mom and Dad's laps.

My head does not belong in the refrigerator.

I will not bite the officer's hand when he reaches in for Mom's driver's license and car registration.

I will not stand around Mom when she is cooking or when she is carrying her coffee, so she won't trip over me.

I will not beg for food at the supper table, and especially not eat someone's food if they leave it for just a moment.

I will not tear up the patio furniture, or put holes in the screen so I may jump in and lounge, just because I don't want to stay outside for more than 2 minutes.

I will not chase the cat and knock over breakable things in the process.

I will allow Mom and Dad some room and covers when we go to bed.

The garbage collector is NOT stealing our stuff, even though I haven't gotten the chance to rip the bag to shreds to see what was in it.

I do not need to suddenly stand straight up when I'm lying under the coffee table.

I will not roll my toys behind the fridge.

I must shake the rainwater out of my fur BEFORE entering the house.

I will not eat the cats' food, before or after they eat it.

I will stop trying to find the few remaining pieces of clean carpet in the house when I am about to throw up or have an accident.

I will not throw up in the car.

I will not roll on dead seagulls, fish, crabs, etc.

I will not lick my human's face after eating animal dung.

"Kitty box crunchies" are not food!

I will not eat any more socks and then redeposit them in the backyard or house, depending on which end processes it first.

The diaper pail is not a cookie jar.

I will not play tug-of-war with Dad's underwear when he's on the toilet.

I will not chew my human's toothbrush and not tell him.

Please go to Furballs Page 2 to meet Heidi, Colby, Archie, Jesse, Susie, Ty and Jazz.

Please go to Furballs Page 3 to meet our past and present guinea pigs.

The Rail

The above tracks link to the "Canine Line" section of a terrific web ring alternative called "The Rail", which seven sections of The Evergreen Refuge have joined effective Dec. '08. Click the left or right arrows to visit like=minded sites belonging to the "Canine Line". If you have your own web site, click the tracks to learn more about "The Rail". It's a great way to generate traffic for your site and get acquainted with similar sites!

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(The site of the creator of the darling graphics on my "furballs" pages, Lil Kitty Graphics, unfortunately disappeared from the Net sometime in '06. If anyone knows what happened to Lil Kitty's site, please let me know!)

My Furballs and Funstuff pages were created in the fanciful font "Minya Nouvelle" by Ray Larabie. If you don't have it, get it here for free; you'll love it!
Music MIDI from Gary's MIDI Paradise