Many years ago after we had purchased a new home, on a whim my wife and I bought an Old English Sheep Dog. Although initailly intended for the kids, Ragtag soon became as much my dog as theirs. She was huge for her breed and sex, growing to over 95 pounds, and she remained an oversized, playful puppy until slowed by age and accumulated infirmities. At 13 years, when she could no longer stand up on her own and obviously was suffering, I was compelled to take her to the vet to put her down. I have visibly cried only twice in my adult life, once at my mother’s funeral and then when Raggy was in my arms as the vet put her to sleep. I think the staff at the vets were somewhat confounded by a 60 year old man bawling like a baby.
Ragtag (Raggy) as an adult
For a long time I wasn’t sure I wanted another dog. But once we had built our log home on our 30 acre mountain farm, I began to explore the possibility of a new companion. I’m not sure how I decided I wanted a Mastiff. I had encountered a couple some time ago and was impressed not only by their size but also by their friendliness and good nature. Once I decided that I wanted another dog in my life, I began researching the breed on line and ultimately agreed to purchase a puppy sight unseen from a breeder in Pennsylvania (I know, this was not the best way but we got lucky this time). When the litter was eight weeks old, we journeyed north to pick up our new family member.
There were only three remaining puppies from the litter when we arrived, a huge brindle male, a smaller fawn female and the aproicot male we had purchased who at 20 pounds was about midway between the other two in size.
As you can probably discern from the picture below, it was love at first sight.
I named him “the Lone Ranger of Staffordshire” (“Ranger” for short.) He quickly settled in as a beloved member of our family.
From the beginning we had decided we wanted a second puppy of about the same age as a playmate for the big boy. My wife had grown up with German Shepherds and we soon arranged for the purchase of a puppy from an Amish breeder also in Pennsylvania. (Only much later did we learn that the breeder family had several charges for animal abuse and/or neglect and were running a “puppy mill”). Meeko was a cute and lovable puppy but soon we discovered she had multiple problems. We noticed almost at once that her gait was odd, with her front feet spred and pointed outwards, but initially we assumed that this was only a puppy characteristic. We soon began to notice other issues. She actively resisted walking on a leash and seemed to be in pain. Although initially playful, she often cried out when playing wth the big guy as if in pain. Her condition rapidly deteriorated. After several visits to the vet, X Rays and an MRI at the local vet school animal hospital, she was diagnosed with canine wobblers. Soon she was virtually paralyzed , whining in obvious pain almost constantly especially if touched even gently. During this period my wife and I became very attached to the poor girl but in the end there was no choice but to have the vet put her down, an event almost as traumatic as with Raggy. It seemed so unfair for a puppy who never had the chance for any kind of life.
Meeko with Fran at breeders (Ranger in background)
Meeko and Ranger (best buddies)
We decided that Ranger, who seemed lost without his friend, still needed a playmate. We ultimately contracted to purchase a Shiloh Shepherd, a larger and somewhat calmer version of the German Shepherd, from an as yet unborn litter. After the expected due date had passed, the breeder informed us that the breeding had not taken (although too late, shortly after we had purchased Shadow, he discovered this was incorrect and the breeding had taken). Unable to find any other Shiloh puppies then for sale, we agreed to buy a German Shepherd from a South Carolina breeder. Shadow (so called because she scarcely left my wife’s side for the first several weeks after she joined our home although her registered name is “Lady Gizmo of Staffordshire”) was 16 weeks old when we picked her up from the breeder and was very shy. We suspect that the breeder essentially ignored her and the other puppies in her litter since he was wholly concerned with expensive show dogs, not mere working dogs like Shadow. She has made considerable strides in the past 2 years but still tends to be shy in public even though at home she dominates the big guy. She is dainty for her breed (to the point we have wondered if she is really pure bred) even though she weighs in at 75 pounds, a big dog by most accounts but tiny compared to Ranger. She is a lovable and very intelligent pooch but also very hyper.
Ranger and Shadow in car
Ranger and Shadow
As for Ranger, he is huge at 210 pounds even though we restrict his diet somewhat hoping to avoid or delay some of the health problems common in the giant breeds. He is a handsome, loving, goofy , low energy delight who has never met a person, child, cat or horse he did not love (he is somewhat more reserved with strange dogs perhaps as a result of being bitten by a pit bull he was ignoring at a local dog park). He seems to believe he is a lap dog, sitting on my lap but usually with his front feet on the ground. Alternatively, he paws at me until I join him on the carpet where he curls up in my lap, sometimes with crushing results.
Ranger is a lap dog
I never thought any dog could replace Raggy in my heart but Ranger has become my best buddy. I love him dearly.