In Memory of Ander
Ander (Basque for “manly”) was born the week before Valentine’s Day 2016.
Ander had tucked away 4 fun-filled puppy months when I learned that he had a form of rare juvenile cancer of the jawbone.
Ander crossed over the Rainbow Bridge June 29 2016 at his vet’s office in Porterville, California.
My name is Shelly Fullerton. I grew up on small dairy farm where my parents had a Great Pyrenees livestock guard dog.
My love and admiration for Great Pyrenees continued throughout my teen years. As an adult with my own family to care for, I added two Great Pyrenees from a reputable breeder who produced working dogs: Cherie who was born on a cattle ranch and Tristan, born at a sheep ranch. Together, they had one litter. Cherie passed away after succumbing to dog food poisoning (which taught me to be vigilant about where dogfood was made).
I fostered several rescues - the latest being Wendy, a female Great Pyrenees. Sweet and lovable, she was a one year old who had been abused and neglected. Tristan took Wendy under his wing and mentored her in all things important to Pyrenees: how to walk a perimeter, how to dig the perfect hole and how to bark at night at passing cars. Wendy became a “failed foster” when I officially adopted her in 2014.
Tristan turned 11 this past year, and I realized his time in this life was approaching its completion. Wanting Wendy to have a companion while Tristan enjoyed his golden years, I decided to find a Pyr puppy who Tristan could mentor, as well as show Wendy how to mentor also.
Cassie Mason Hawkins-Hubbard is an American Kennel Club H.E.A.R.T. Certified breeder. This certification by the AKC means she has kept her breeding lines clear of genetic health problems. Cassie had spent 20 years carefully developing a line that is free of genetic defects. This is where I found and fell in love with this beautiful white, male Pyrenees puppy with badger markings that I named Ander.
I have so many wonderful memories of Ander.
Ander was easygoing and playful. He chewed his way through the standard vacuum cleaner chords, tree branches, rope toys and bones.
Ander, the Little Brother
He was whelped in free range country of New Mexico, so felt a natural affinity to all animals - they were his friends. Imagine his dismay as he tried every day to express this to Mary, the family cat, who merely slapped his face on a daily basis. Ander was never insulted nor discouraged.
Coming from such an arid part of the country, it was no surprise that Ander loved water. His favorite sleeping position was wrapping around the water dish. He would get wet, then dig till he was muddy from paw to tail.
One day, as I picked up Ander to get a Pyr hug, I saw that he had been chewing on a branch from a Mesquite tree and, in the process, must have cut his gum, causing it bleed a little. I was unconcerned because - well, puppies will be puppies.
I took a closer look later that day, as it appeared to have become infected. Off to the vet we went!
Regular treatment of antibiotics did not seem to help. The gum tissue swelled, covering some of his teeth. The affected area seem to bleed no matter what he chewed. The vet performed surgery to clean out the wound, but the next few days showed no improvement to his gums. And, it was growing and covering his front teeth at an alarming rate.
Ander’s x-rays showed that part of his jaw had disappeared. He couldn’t determine if Ander had been born this way, or had experienced something to cause it to disappear. At this point, the vet felt that we should get a second opinion, and sent the x-rays out to a specialist.
The news that come back was a shock to all of us; the vet, his breeder and his mom (me). Ander had a form of rare juvenile cancer of the mandible (jawbone). It is a cancer that presents itself as an infection so the labs couldn’t have known.
So rare, my vet who has practiced for fifteen years had not heard of it. So rare that his breeder would not have had the ability to test for it. So rare in puppies that the specialist hired to assess Ander’s x-rays had only seen such a cancer three times in her twenty year career.
Surgery to remove the mandible would cost $4,000 to $6,000; the more impactful outcome was that it would leave five month old Ander without a lower right jaw for the rest of his life. With much prayer and heartache I made a tough decision and let him cross over the rainbow bridge.
I so wish Ander could have been granted a different life story, a different ending. I wished for him what he lovingly deserved; to grow up loved and fulfill his potential as a Great Pyrenees Mountain Dog.
Tristan and Wendy seem to be lost, as they wander around the house looking for Ander. What do you tell the other Pyrs?
My friends at West Coast Great Pyrenees felt that telling my story would be theraputic. They were right... I don't know if my heart will ever heal, but I am glad that I could share my story.
Please consider donating what you can to PyrPaw Rescue. The money will go to the care and feeding of rescued Pyrenees Mountain Dogs who have lost their home and are in danger of being put down due to nothing more than overcrowded shelters.
"Losing a puppy no matter the breed or background is really hard and how a puppy dies is not as important as what we resolve to do going forth.
As loving stewards of our loyal, dedicated canine partners we are gifted with the responsibility to see to the welfare of their lives.
To see to the quality of their lives."