An old friend knew of my interest in owning a Great Pyrenees and alerted me in the summer of 1998 to a couple of Pyr pups who had just been rescued. I understand that folks had been trying to catch the mother and her pups wandering on some old farm land. The mother got away, abandoning two of the puppies. The pups were only about ten days old; they were malnourished; and they were infested with parasites, internal and external.
I made arrangements to meet the puppies in their foster home (foster parents Lynn Provident and Jeff Davis are two of God's protectors of animals here on earth), and I had an opportunity to bottle feed the four-pound puppies, cradling them over my forearm. Over the course of the next few weeks, I diligently attempted to convince the puppies' foster parents that I was worthy of adopting one – the mischievous one then called "Rex." Before he was ready for adoption, though, Rex's health took a nosedive. He was hospitalized, and the vet wasn't sure he would live. But his foster mom never gives up when it comes to the life of a dog. She persevered; he persevered; and finally he was ready to come home with me. Oh, how I loved that dog; we were as close to soul mates as a dog and a person could be.
I named him Huckleberry Finn, and he proved himself remarkably like his namesake. I like to say he was “delightfully rotten,” certainly capable of civility, but occasionally delighting in absolute mischief. A typical Pyr, he was an independent thinker. You'd tell him to do something and could see him considering whether that was something he actually wanted to do. When we signed up for obedience class, my colleagues wagered how quickly we'd be expelled. (In the end, we did graduate. In fact, we got a standing ovation during our final exam when I commanded Huckleberry to come and he came!) When we were in public, he was remarkably well-behaved. He was friendly with other dogs, loving with humans, and extremely gentle with children. I later fostered another Pyr puppy, and I adopted him as a result of, in large part, Huckleberry's love for him. Huckleberry and Klondike became inseparable. They wrestled and played, they lounged on the couch, they snuggled on the hearth. Huckleberry lived in a wonderful balance of good behavior and mischief – resting his head on the dining room table during dinner, relaxing at concerts in the park, stealing a hot dog from my boss' hand at a company event, serving as a terrific companion on long walks. (Klondike was lacking in mischief; he was just along for the ride.) It was a pretty good life.
Our Klondike had always been a bit "sickly," so although he was younger than Huck Finn it wasn't a great surprise that we lost him first. My sweet Huckleberry had a very human reaction to Klondike's death. The two of us moped and mourned for months. Right around the time Huckleberry returned to "normal" I came home to find pools of blood all over the floor and splattered on the walls, and the blood was coming from Huck's nose. We consulted our vet, and we suspected that Huck had broken a blood vessel in his nose. Things were fine for a few months…until it happened again. Our vet did probes, x-rays, biopsies, and blood work, all of which were inconclusive. Ultimately, we went to University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine for a CT-scan. There, clear as day, was a massive tumor literally consuming his nasal passages (nasal adenocarcinoma).
After many tears and much discussion, my husband and I opted against radiation. In the end, I couldn't bear to abandon him for nearly two months while he was undergoing what seemed to be unbearable treatment. Instead, we tried to combat the spread of the tumor with medication. The UT Vet told me he wouldn't last a month, but I didn't believe them. I knew our time was short, and I did everything I could to give him as much enjoyment as possible. We went to the dog park; we went for countless rides in the convertible; we visited his human friends; we went on long walks; I prepared a myriad of home-made food to help him keep weight on, and when he tired of that, we went to the McDonald's drive-thru for plain hamburgers; and, of course, he had a gob of peanut butter with every pill he had to take. His quality of life was pretty darn good. Huckleberry Finn gave me a wonderful birthday gift that year – hanging around long enough to spend the day with me. Five days later, though, his body decided it had enough. Huck Finn died on November 21, 2008 more than a year after he first showed signs of cancer. He was ten years old.
I love my other dogs immensely, and I'll always have dogs. But I doubt I'll ever love another dog the way I loved Huckleberry Finn. He was the greatest dog in the history of dogs.