Sometimes clichés are really much more than, well, cliché. Many of us have seen a bumper sticker or t-shirt or cloth shopping bag with “Who Rescued Who?” printed on it beside the graphic of a dog. This is not a rhetorical question or one suggesting that the dog rescued does not benefit. Actually, it’s not a question at all. It’s a statement alerting others to an opportunity to expand the meaning of their lives while changing the life of a dog that has never been more in need of compassion.

To say Monty was in bad shape is an understatement. The suffering caused by the conditions he had been subjected to, described by one of our volunteers as “horrific,” was visible on his thin frame and in his behavior. Monty was terrified of his surroundings and ready to bolt at the first opportunity. The veterans in our organization were not certain that Monty could ever be healed enough to enjoy the life a dog deserves.   

In 2012 Monty was an abused dog in Kentucky, left to starve in a filthy cage by a man whose wife left him and the dogs behind. He let them run loose on the highway for a while, and when Animal Control came calling, he decided to let them starve to death. A very kind neighbor took these dogs from him and brought them to her home. She re-homed one of these Pyrs on her own, and asked for rescue help for the two remaining dogs. They were fearful, but made great progress in a few short days after NGPR moved them to an excellent boarding facility in Louisville.

Then along came Karen Gipstein in Connecticut. It is a strange process, the way a single dog—out of hundreds that might be in need—can attach to a human in an instant. But that was the case for Monty when Karen came into his life.  Karen was there in the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel when Monty first came into the care of our organization. She fostered and then six months later adopted him.

Karen has written that “to help a dog become a dog is a privilege.” And dogs like Monty return the favor. With compassion and care they thrive, returning to their owner the same loyalty, love and commitment shown them. After two weeks with Karen, Monty was already starting to look and feel more like the Great Pyrenees he was. He became confident enough to exhibit the intellect and determination that distinguishes the breed. And, yes, he also found his voice.  

There are a lot of emotions that come with rescuing dogs. If they have suffered as Monty did, it can have an impact on any hope held out for the human race. And, as with Monty, there can be an apprehension about the ability of the dog to recover from the abuse.  But people and dogs have been together for a very long time. The same amazing spirit that provides enough strength for the dog that survives abuse long enough to be rescued resides in people like Karen who consider their service to that dog not simply a gift given but one received as well.

Karen has been on many adventures with Monty. There was a trip to the farm, where Monty, according to Karen, behaved like a fox being shown a henhouse or a child entering his first candy store.  And there was the evening walk that transformed into a big game safari when Monty caught the scent of a deer.

These adventures and the joy Monty found in them is testimony to the resiliency of dogs in the hands of someone with a commitment to them. Our organization has witnessed an increase in dogs who have been subjected to abuse. Karen’s relationship with Monty is an important reminder of the role we can play in returning them to a place that heals them enough to enjoy a normal life.

And, as you might expect, given the love Karen invested in rescuing Monty, when he left for the bridge, she came to feel that his life could only be honored and his absence could only be filled by another Great Pyrenees in need of fostering. She chose Romeo who came to us from a Mississippi rescue.

Karen writes, “He is another boy who is very shy, insecure and in need of someone to bring him out of his shell and show him how to trust and feel safe…I will work with him and get him ready for a home of his own.”  

So many people who participate as volunteers in helping rescue and foster this wonderful breed are motivated by the relationship they have with their own Great Pyrenees. Imagine the depth of a relationship with an animal saved from abuse that grows a person’s love to such a size that it is big enough to enter the fray to find others awaiting rescue again and again. Who rescues who, indeed?