Saving Grace

Early in December two snowmobilers were sledding in the Hardware Ranch Wildlife Management Area on Monte Cristo mountain in Utah. They chanced across an unlikely surprise—a Great Pyrenees adult female and three of her pups. The woman, Kat Perry, tried to save the dogs herself but she had no way to lure them over to her. She contacted the Weber County Sheriff's Office who sent out a search and rescue team to help save the dogs.

The team showed up with a rescue sled and was able to save the three puppies, who were about seven weeks old. It is likely there were more pups who perished, as Great Pyrenees are known to have large litters, frequently eight or more. The rescue team was unable to capture the mother of the pup but no one wanted to give up on her. The rescued pups went to the Great Pyrenees Rescue, Montana, to find homes and happily, all have been adopted.

The Great Pyrenees Rescue, Montana, is all too familiar with this type of situation. Finding abandoned pups and rehoming them can happen more than once during the Fall. They recently rescued a litter of puppies abandoned in November, victims of the same situation in the mountains of Colorado. Unfortunately this keeps happening over and over again, when ranchers move their flocks off the mountains in the Fall and the dogs, who are not spayed and frequently pregnant, get abandoned and are left to fend for themselves and their puppies.  

Ranchers in the area are members of the Utah Wool Growers Association which is aware of the sensitivity of the situation. They have issued the following statement: "Unfortunately (as all pet owners know), sometimes pets/livestock run off, get lost, get stolen, etc. Hence, the need for a lost and found pets page. Sheep dogs aren’t the only dogs who get lost. Producers do their absolute best to keep all the animals together and make sure they all come home, but sometimes accidents happen (and sadly sometimes guard dogs get killed in the line of duty by bears and cougars). Guard dogs are very expensive and very valuable team members who protect the livestock 24/7. If this mama had her pups seven weeks ago, she might have snuck off to have them and that’s how she got lost.”

Great Pyrenees Rescue, Montana's local representative, Shauna Thompson (far left) says abandonment is a problem that’s been going on for years. According to Thompson, "Every year at the end of grazing season, we do see several litters abandoned. Some of them are injured and caught in traps. Some are left up on the mountain and they don’t survive. Too often when the snow hits, we don’t get to the animals in time and we find them deceased.”

Guardian dogs are not protected under animal cruelty laws because they are considered livestock. According to Thompson, “We have tried for a long time to work with the Utah Wool Growers Association and ranchers to get protections put into place so that these kinds of situations, like the one yesterday, can be avoided.  These are amazing dogs. They’re not just used for the mountain. They make great domestic family pets too. They are wonderful service and therapy dogs.”

Thompson says some ranchers don’t register, vaccinate, spay/neuter, or retrieve their dogs once the cold winter season hits. “There are good ranchers that will vet and care for their dogs. But there are some who don’t and only consider these dogs disposable tools of the trade. Not all Great Pyrenees are good at their jobs. If they fail or don’t want to watch the sheep, then they are no longer valuable, so they get left behind.”

No one has come forward yet to claim the Momma dog. She was sighted mid-December with two male dogs and a Facebook page was established to track the progress of Grace as she is now called. Traps with food have been set, vehicles are dispatched to search her for almost daily and a helicopter was donated to fly over the search area. The state's wildlife management officers have been supportive. The media are on alert and a growing number of volunteers and a fundraiser help maintain the momentum. No one is giving up. The search for Grace goes on.