photo by Judith Stroh Miller

Rita Stroh Miller

All About Rita--A Rescue Story

by Judith Stroh Miller

I live in Northern New Mexico and do Great Pyrenees Rescue. Last May some ladies were driving north of Taos, found two dogs along the highway, stopped, picked them up and brought them to our shelter. One was a Great Pyrenees female. I arranged to pick this girl up from the shelter after her mandatory 4 day hold. An hour after I picked her up the owner called the shelter. When he heard there was bail set, he was not so quick to pick up his dog. So I called him and found that she had been given to him by neighbors who had lost their home to a large forest fire. She roamed, chased cars, joggers and made a general nuisance of herself. I suggested he build a fence for her, but he was more interested in saving for his retirement. So Rita came into Rescue.

The first order was introducing Rita to my alpha female on neutral territory and since the girls seemed to get along, we all headed for home. I didn't think there would be a problem with my male, but he hated her on sight. I now realize he was probably reacting to her smell, as this little girl had not been groomed in a year.

Rita was blowing coat and the hair just came off her in rolls, just like shearing a sheep. When I got down to skin, there were hot spots trying to form and ticks galore. Her ears were so infected they were bleeding and it took weeks for them to heal. The minute I bathed her, my dogs were accepting and I was able to let them out to play, with a 25' drag lead on Rita, as I did not know or trust her. Rita's first order of business was to check the fence and gates and every corner post to see if she could escape. That accomplished, she decided to settle in.

Feeding time was another matter. Rita was stressed, did not eat and when she did, it took hours for her to finish her food. I had to feed her in the kennel and when the other dogs came around, she would growl, snarl and protect that food. Rita is small, but had an unhealthy layer of fat on her, with dry skin and coat. After three months of living with us, she is healthy, sleek, with a gleaming coat and about 4 lb. lighter in weight. She now eats outside with one of my dogs. Each pays attention to its own food and is not allowed to bother anyone else at meal times.

It did not take me long to realize Rita was extremely smart with a wonderful temperament. Treating her ears was a painful experience. She would cry and cry, but never tried to bite or snap. Also, she was a clown and loved to show off. She grabbed my heart and would not let go. That's when I knew Rita had a home with us. When Rita came here, a dear friend of Pam Batley's from Houston Rescue had suddenly died, so this little Rescue became Rita in honor of Pam's long time Rescue partner. But, Rita is also known as Dirt Bag, Box Car, Short Stuff, Rita. She can get dirtier than any Pyr I have ever seen, is built like a box car and is so short, her front paws cannot reach my shoulders. She's pigeon toed, has different shades of brown eyes (one lighter brown) and has tiny, tiny ears. But also has lovely dark pigment and markings of badger, biscuit and wolf gray and the sweetest expression on any Pyr I've seen.

Rita knew sit and down, amazing for a Rescue. She settled into a crate like a pig in mud. I bathed her one evening, not being able to stand her another hour. It rained that night and I knew I could not leave her outside in the kennel. So in she came and was shoved in a crate, where she snuggled down, not a peep the entire night. Rita has gone to obedience school for a few sessions and the socialization. She already knew the "ole flop on the side when I don't want to do something", has now learned to heel, stay and the recall. She also knew the 'stink eye', in fact is quite good at it, still! The turns were Rita's least favorite; she still balks on about turns. Recently, I took Rita and my male Kazak to class, coupled them and worked them in tandem. What fun! They both loved it, both clowned at different times and did a perfect recall, coupled together, ears flapping, heading towards me with those big Pyr grins. I was sitting talking to them about how good they both were and Rita slapped me with the ole Pyr paw; wham, Zakie could not be outdone, a paw on the other knee. Then they both laughed.

Slowly Rita is becoming more confident. Here was a little gal that had to grow up quickly, before she was ready. She roamed for the first part of her life, and she was dog aggressive, according to her previous owner. I'm sure she had to guard any food she had. She did not learn to socialize with other dogs. Rita has been with us 4 months now, and each morning she and Kazak have a play session. At first Rita would start to play and then get frightened. Now she plays and runs in circles, part of the pack. I don't expect she and Mishka will ever be that comfortable with each other, as Mishka is definitely the alpha of this pack of dogs. But she does stand and watch when Mishka and Kazak have their turn playing.

Every day I learn more about Rita. She loves people and loves to show off and act silly. Some friends came to visit and were introduced to Rita, and she immediately started her woo, woo, woo greeting, her little lips all puffed out like a hippo. The more we laughed, the more she clowned. I also took her to Colorado to meet my breeder. Rita traveled like a veteran, was not at all upset by all the Pyrs and settled right into a house crate while we humans were outside visiting with the dogs. When the grand matriarch of the kennel walked up to Rita's crate to greet her, Rita just said, "hello to you, too."

Plans for Rita: more obedience and a CGC, therapy work, grooming every day (she loves it, even the nails), a controlled, loving home for the rest of her life. Boy, am I in trouble if another Rescue like Rita comes along.

Judith Stroh Miller lives in Taos, NM, with Pyrs Mishka, Kazak and Rita, and Audrey the Blue Heeler, who keeps everyone in line.

East Penn Pyr Rescue, Inc.
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