For the Love of Dogs



One day I thought I wanted to trade my desk job for a dog-walking job, and then it rained.


I’m definitely in a funk like Monk.

Much like those travelers who need to know where the nearest U.S. embassy, Apple store, running path, public restroom, free WiFi, outlet, etc. is at all times, I need to know the location of the nearest large breed dog. I was raised in a family where a dog wasn’t considered a dog unless it weighed at least 100 lbs, and frankly, I don’t mind limiting myself to large breeds. The “term” gentle giant is oft overused, and I hate to use it myself, but it perfectly describes the type of pup that I was put on this earth to look for and love.


Pre-Europe backpacking trip practicing with my Grandma’s Great Pyrenees puppy.


I was also put on this earth to travel (says my birth certificate I think), but doing so with a large dog is about as easy as it was for Beethoven’s owners in whichever Beethoven sequel it is that they rent an RV and go on the most-stressful road trip in the history of sequels. So how do I manage to fulfill both of my earthly duties at the same time? Easy. I travel to other people’s large dogs.


My cousin’s Great Pyrenees and I. Having huge dogs is a family affair!



For example when I was studying in Europe  during college my classmates planned a spring break trip to the party island of Ibiza, Spain. I should have been pumped to go with them, but instead I was emailing dog owners located everywhere from Russia to England to see if any would host me for my spring break. I found them by going to Google and typing in Europe + Great Pyrenees because that is the breed I always had growing up. After contacting everyone whose contact information was online, I finally heard back from an English couple living in southern France.


Where is the IAMs? I AM pretty sure these dogs eat better than most of France.


Yes, they would be willing to host me for a few days in exchange for help taking care of their thirteen  dogs. These weren’t just any dogs. These were micro-chipped Great Pyrenees who met my weight requirements and possessed incredible pedigrees along with their own frequently-used UK passports. Without knowing these people, I followed their directions to fly into the airport in Toulouse where I was picked up a couple of weeks later by a car full of dogs.


Here I am being pulled by 300 lbs of dog in the south of France.


While my classmates were getting wasted and sunning themselves on the sand during their spring break in Spain, I was wiping drool off my pants and trying to eat enough food to fuel me for days comprised of three-mile walks in the French countryside, two dogs at a time, twice a day. Honestly I’ve never had so much fun or swallowed so much fur.


If you’re a dog lover, you MUST check out Staveleigh House. Excellent bed, breakfast, and I didn’t even hear barking!


This past fall, I took my parents on a leaf-peeping trip in New England. As the person responsible for finding (not paying for) accommodations, I used my Google skills again to find a bed and breakfast owner that had Great Pyrenees. It was a long shot since the breed is not that popular, but I hit the jackpot when I found Staveleigh House in the Berkshires. The innkeeper, Ali Winston, fosters rescued pyrs, so it was a no-brainer that we’d stay there.


Be careful, Leonbergers have licker licenses and they’re not afraid to use them.


And then there was that Christmas when I used Google to find the nearest (and probably only) Leonbergers in the state of Montana. Leonbergers are really neat dogs and both males and females easily exceed my weight requirement. I emailed their owner (you can find anything on the internet) and asked if my family could visit over Christmas break. She said sure, so I printed out  directions to their house and wrapped them in a box which I labeled To: Dad, From: Santa. I tried to leave the destination a mystery, but he is very familiar with my hidden agendas. He drove 4+ hours, and had to dig our Honda out of the snow because it was during a typical Montana winter storm, but the road trip which resulted in the love fest above was well worth it!

Next on my agenda is to get my family to come visit me in upstate New York where I am spending the summer. Thirty miles away is New Skete, a religious community where the monks train German shepherds and the nuns make gourmet cheesecake!


L-R, in Central Park, dog-jacking a busy walker’s pack, high in the Austrian Alps, Madison Square Garden with Moose the therapy dog, and Apollo, a pyr I traveled to Martha’s Vineyard to visit.


L-R Top-Bottom: In Harlem before an animal blessing at the cathedral, at a birthday party in the Hamptons, at home with my late dog Zoe who wanted to travel with me, and in Chicago with my favorite kind of Chicago-style dog.


In Florida I had to visit the town of Dunedin, a.k.a. “Dog Eden” where renditions of the deceased dogs of locals grace the sides of a building downtown. R.I.P. all past pets!


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