Sebastian became a part of our family after being dogless for a whole 13 months. We had been waiting and pondering about who our next giant would be, but nothing had stuck. One day, I got a call from my friend and past co-worker that the people that lived next door to the shop where she worked in South Carolina were moving. They had four dogs, 3 tiny ones and Sebastian. Sebastian was not included in their moving plans which included downsizing to a smaller place with less yard; since he was so huge and had spent his entire life 100% outdoors, only the small dogs were coming with them.
I was sent a few pictures and videos so we could get a feel for his size and temperament around his people and other animals. He was definitely a bit of a wild card to bring into this house that, at the time was still chock full of cats. He had lived with a cat in his puppyhood, but that cat was hit by a car early on and was his only experience with cats.
He was not neutered, had never been to a vet, did not go for walks on a leash and had no training other than “sit”. He had NO SHELTER, when we arrived! Yes, I know he was a Pyrenees, but that does not matter, he should have had the option for shelter, they are tough, but not invincible. They said he had a doghouse early on but he wouldn’t use it, so they got rid of it. He had about a one-foot overhang around the roof of the shed, and he had dug himself a hole in the clay under their deck and that is where he slept. Clearly flea and heartworm prevention were also off the table. I remember when we pulled into the driveway I said to Jake, “I hope he is really big, what if the videos were deceiving?” In my mind, it is a good deed that we want to rescue these giant beasts as they can be hard to handle and expensive to care for, not to mention a lot of responsibility to keep groomed, so I want to go BIG or bust! We pulled in the driveway and Bash met our vehicle at the fence, he stood. He was nearly six feet tall, and his head was ENORMOUS. I was in love before I even stepped out of the car!
The below photos depict how unkempt he was when we met him.
As we entered the yard, he switched from guard dog to boisterous and welcoming! I noticed his stainless-steel food bowl hanging from a fence post, filled with kibble and rainwater. His meal was literally floating in water and debris. Sigh. I sat down in the grass, and he smothered me! That was it! We were taking him, he made me so happy, and Jake was so happy to see me so happy!
If he didn’t jive with the cats well, then we would foster him and find him safe haven, but we couldn’t leave him there. I remember the woman said to me, “So glad it rained so he got rinsed off for you, he was black a few days ago” (insert eye-roll emoticon here). That was enough, let’s get him in the car, I thought to myself. It was bad enough that he was completely gross to the touch, matted and orange. The car was another thing Sebastian had never experienced. We coaxed and attempted to lure him but ultimately Jake had to pick him up and swiftly close the hatch behind him. Let’s remember, Pyrs are stubborn and not easily bribed by food! The family never even said goodbye to him, in fact, as we were parting I learned that the husband wanted me to pay for him! Yea, no.
On the ride home I sat in the back and combed and brushed the ENTIRE drive home to Atlanta from South Carolina. I weighed the fur and I had exactly ONE POUND of fur that I had combed and brushed out of him. I was filthy when we rolled in the driveway. I was reddish and my arms were textured. He was almost white again however, and you know what? Not a single flea or flea dirt to be found!! Blown away. We needed a bath plan, it started to pour rain just as we got in the yard.
We took cover under our little gazebo, not that Sebastian cared, he was like, “What is this fake plastic grass and where is all of the mud?!” I went inside and got the tub ready with a bazillion towels. He tolerated us, but just this one time. He did stand up, completely erect, covered in soap in the tub! He was A LOT from day one! From that day forward, he became the first dog that was always a two-person job to bathe, all of the other four dogs I could do entirely on my own, but not these Pyr boys, they have opinions!
When all was said and done, Sebastian settled down on his hand me down bed in the living room and chilled. He was so calm and delightful. He was immediately respectful of the cats. Our cats were so dog savvy, they didn’t really give him a choice, “Hello pup, I’m going to rub my face on your face, and you shall stay there and like it! Signed Hitchinson!” He was home. The crate was a different story. Did I mention Pyrs are not so bribable and not always the most food motivated? We struggled for three days to get him in the giant dog crate that we always have set up in our master bedroom, 24/7/365, even if a dog doesn’t use it is a feline hospitalization center should someone need to be on an IV catheter etc. He said no, this was an insane crapshoot but we just could not get him in the crate and we did not want to close him in a room and have him chew through a door, and he was so good….it was stupid, but we left him out in the main kitchen, living, dining space where all of the dogs have had free roam, baby gates separating some of the “feline only” areas and he was an angel. He respected the baby gate. He never ever ate the wet cat food, could leave it on the floor all night and if the cats didn’t eat it all it would still be there in the morning, he didn’t eat cat poop or his own, he didn’t chase the cats or eat their toys. He never ever chewed up anything that was not a dog toy (none of our dogs did-still have all of our remote controls!) He was perfection.
The first week we were eating dinner on the sofa watching TV as many of us non-breeders do and he simply jumped over the arm of the couch, over Jake and landed right in between us and well, we suddenly had a dog we allowed on the couch. We would check in on the home cameras to find him belly up with his head on the pillows. Sometimes he would bark into the air, but not be so bothered that he had to get up. Ridiculous! This dog took in all of the comforts this home had to offer.
Back when I was trying to get to know him better and asking his previous owner about his likes and dislikes I was told he likes tennis balls and milk bones. Could there have been a more standard answer? I thought to myself, guess you don’t really know him or have not offered him much. Nonetheless, I was sure to have a box of Milk bones here at the house upon is arrival. I’m a big believer in trying to give adoptees all the things they were used to, know their preferences, their nicknames, how they like to be touched and pet, so often we are never privy to this information, but sometimes people just don’t care enough to find out.
Bash, as he affectionately came to be called, because he bashed into things, learned to forage (no surprise), was offered a repertoire of enrichment items and was trained. He was a spectacle, and we couldn’t get through a walk without being asked, “Is that a Polar Bear?”, “What kind of dog is that?”, “How much does he weigh?”
Initially, Bash was more bonded to me, I trained him, groomed him, taught him how to be part of society. But shortly after we adopted him Jake’s job changed, he was home more, walked him more, Sebastian would hang outside with Jake for hours. They became really close, and I would say that Sebastian was probably the first dog that was more Jake’s than mine.
One day, early on in his time here, Sebastian FOUND A DOG! He was freaking out at the back corner of our yard and there Jake found a brindle and white pit pup with a mangled and twisted harness hiding in our neighbors’ bushes. We thought it was so sweet and they seemed to dig each other at first…we did try to find the owner and also a home, but then we thought, well, we’ve had three before, we can manage two. Well, we could not. Was it testosterone poisoning or just a bad match, I really do not know, but these two would fight, sometimes weeks in-between the spats so we thought things would be ok, but when it happened it was really vicious, and it was all we could do to get them apart. There was blood, dog and human, and that just could not go on. We were quite fortunate to be able to find a home for Lil’ Gus, and he is still living his best life and literally has an entire room in his house filled with hundreds of tennis balls, so that worked out. Bash was into rescue but was not in to sharing his home. And perhaps that was part of it, perhaps it was all just too new, and he was finally the center of attention and he was not about to share that.
We walked, we hiked mountains, we traveled to Delaware to visit family, we cuddled with kitties, we helped out around the house, helped Jake build his workshop where all of the Fundamentally Feline action happens, we made other BIG friends and TINY friends, Sebastian made up for 2.5 years in solitude, we tried very hard to give him loads of fun experiences and a full life.
He inspired aw. He was so graceful and agile for someone so huge. Even his orthopedic doctor was blown away by his agility. So powerful, you usually do not see dogs this size jumping like this, he was not a boarder collie after all. He always gave great hugs. I would say “give me hug” and he would stand up and tightly hold his legs at my waist. He was SO TALL! He makes Sven look like Lil’ Short Stuff. Another funny trait he had was to stand completely erect at the fence. People would be coming by, and he would just stand up, he didn’t even need to lean on the fence with his paws his core was so hardcore. Hello, don’t mind my six-foot-tall dog barking at you as you pass by. Always felt safe here, no one would come in the yard with Bash here.
Freyja really loved him, she "herded" him around-hilarious!
Hitchinson loved all of the dogs so much.
Despite his menacing size, he was truly a gentle giant. Having had little to no experience with children, his instincts told him all he needed to know. If we were on a walk and there was a crying, hysterical child on the street, Bash was immediately alerted and had to go see what was wrong. This could be a little intimidating for some, but most parents welcomed his approach. He would sniff all around the child’s face, nuzzle his head up under their hand, lick their salty tears, and when the crying stopped, he was like, “My work here is done, let’s get on with the walk.” And that was it, he completely lost interest and moved on. It was really cool.
We would also call him Pouchiere (Poo cher) as if he were French. He enjoyed cheese rinds that jake would bring him from work and he would specifically bring him cheese from the region where his breed was from so it would be authentic. Yeah, guess he was kind of bougie too, but he deserved it!
I remember the day we brought Tonka home, wow, that was a NIGHTMARE of a night. Sometimes I look back on these stories and just think, “How did we mange through all of this?” Remember, we adopted Tonka because Finn needed a friend of similar age and activity level as he was too much for our existing cats, just keep that in mind as you continue to read. And this totally comes back to Bash full circle.
I pull in the driveway with Tonka in a carrier and I quickly run inside to set up the bathroom where all cats start their life here and Jake says, “ I think something is wrong with Sebastian, he doesn’t really want to get up”. So, I tend to Bash, try to get him to eat something special, try to get him to stand, try to see what if anything elicits a pain response, take his temperature, simultaneously on the phone with the ER, setting up a bathroom for a new cat. Shit! New cat is still in the car in a carrier! We pretty much tossed Tonka into the bathroom and had to get Bash to the ER. Jake’s closing up the porch and house so we can leave, and he can’t find Finn, what did he find? A GIANT hole in the screen on the catio! Really? So, we then turn into search and rescue mode trying to find Finn in the yard, we do, but he is crazy skiddish and practically feral at this point. We had only had him a month and he is bolting all over our yard and the neighbors’ yard. Little bond or attachment to us at this point. It finally got dark and catching him felt futile, and we had a dog that needed to go to the ER, and we needed a Have a Hart trap, so off we went.
Let’s recap real quick, we have a brand new cat in the house that we just set up in a room and left all alone, our other new cat, Finn, the reason we adopted Tonka is missing, and our 100# dog suddenly cannot stand up. I, of course, assume the worst based on our history and think ruptured spleen. Off to a great start to the evening, eh?
At the ER we determined that Bash had some spinal pain, possibly a herniated disc but they thought nothing that needed surgery, just anti-inflammatories and pain meds and rest, ok, cool. Load up the dog, off to the clinic to get the human traps, then a stop at CVS for dinner (yes-dinner of champions!) and junky, stinky cat food for the traps, and we made it home by 3:30 AM! We ended up leaving the screen porch open, the window to Finn’s room open and I made trail of Greenies Smartbites out into the yard as well as setting the traps. It helped that Tonka vocalized and screamed his head off in the bathroom all night, I think that lured Finn in! Tonka was all, “Hi, I’m your new friend, please come back!” When I awoke at 6 am (yup) I checked the cameras and there was Finn sitting in the middle of the room looking towards the windows, content as can be with himself! I ran around the front of the house, careful not to make a peep and closed all of the doors as I moved towards his window and slammed it closed! Crisis resolved, Bash was up and walking by morning. O. M. G!!!!
We had a few good years, five in fact, but Sebastian slipped away from us as quickly as he integrated. We had a few weirdnesses that arose in the weeks before his passing, but like so many of the others before him, labs, exams, preventative care X-rays were all normal, until they weren’t. February 23rd, 2022, we reluctantly entered the ER with him again, this time he never came home. I’m not a vet, but I know enough, and I do not feel as though I was treated professionally this time. The staff were very green and not forthcoming with the information I had to guess in order to leave with a half-hearted diagnosis. The diagnosis I guessed at was exactly what was wrong, another god damn ruptured splenic mass that had already metastasized to his liver. His abdomen was full of free fluid, and he was bleeding internally, just like our others. We cuddled him, we cried, we hand fed him what was to be his last meal and turned him over to the ER staff. I can still recall watching him walk away from me behind those doors. We came back to euthanize him the next morning and I truly regret having left him there to spend his last night alone, scared and painful amid bright lights and hecticness, knowing he would likely never come home. I hate how this ended, I absolutely hate it.
Sebastian was our biggest boy to date. We had high hopes he would be our longest lived giant as he seemed so healthy and robust. Great Pyrenees dogs are supposedly one of the longest lived of all of the giant breeds. When we adopted Sven, our adoption counselor told us her first Pyrs lived to be 22 and 21 years old. Sebastian was seven. We feel so cheated, but at the same time so fortunate to have known him and all that came before him. Thank you, Bash, for all of the fantastic memories, for your amazing personality, for how sweet you were protecting our kitties and our home. For absolutely everything.
Bash, Sven got your title, “Guardian of the Cats” but he has some big shoes to fill, we are working on it!
Jake and I carted his very heavy, limp body all the way home and into the house so that the cats could understand why he was gone. It is VERY IMPORTANT to allow your pets to know and understand where their friends have gone to help them with mourning. They understand the smell of death, they need to know so that they are not lost and calling for them, I find this helps immensely with combating depression and inappetence after the loss of a companion animal friend.