Gus is the resident greeter dog at Beaver Creek Farm Sanctuary. Any visitor who arrives at the Farm is first announced by Gus, whose deep bark sounds the call that someone has arrived. Gus is no ordinary dog, he is a survivor and has lived and thrived, against all odds.
It was February 2012 when we gave him a name, a home, a full tummy, veterinary care and all our love.
He’d lived ten years on this earth without a name, a kind hand, a brush to untangle painful mats or to have medical needs met.
He arrived in the back of a truck with a heavy tow chain used as a collar and twelve foot lead. His owners said he kept wandering after the sheep went to slaughter, so they chained him to a wagon and left him.
“What does he eat?” I asked as the big dog wandered to my side.
“Eat? I guess whatever we have around.” said the man.
The dog smelled of infection and rot. The collar was imbedded into his fur and we needed scissor and heavy duty bolt cutters to remove the chain.
He came to us broken and ready to die. He lay still as we palpated his infected face, the solid mats along his back and the ears full of black poision.
We fed him and watched while he ate to put some flesh on his emaciated body. We fed him twice a day and everyday we came with a bowl full of food he seemed surprise.
We watched hope flicker back into his beautiful soft tawny eyes. It was a week before he wagged his tail and a month before he licked our hands.
We cut out the mats, treated his infected face and gunky ears. We gave him a bath and judging by the way he stood stock still, it was his first ever.
Our first vet trip revealed testicular cancer and a positive heartworm test. They are both death sentances and both are preventable. With a heavy heart we went home to consider our options.
Our vet at the time said surgery to remove the testicular cancer would likely lead to death because of the heatworm. He suggested we make Gus comfortable and watch for the tell tale signs of laboured breathing that would indicate the heartworm would take his life. A few months… maybe.
Everyday we watched and every day he flourished. As summer turned to fall and fall into winter Gus put on weight and turned a beautiful white to match the snow.
As we came to the one year anniversary of naming Gus we saw no quick end in sight. Another vet visit and the same prognosis. He probably won’t make the year.
We took Gus to see three different vets and all said the same thing: surgery would most likely be fatal. Keep him comfortable. He only has a few months left.
We had an intruder of the human variety one night who thought it would be fun to open up all the gates on the farm. When he came to the horse paddock and began to push the gate open, we can only imagine his surprise when he encounter our night security. The horse paddock was locked tightly when we checked in the morning and Gus seemed quite proud.
Year one turned into year two and it didn’t look like heartworm was going to be the demise of our giant, but his testicle was growing.
We had switched vets the beginning of January 2014 and we took Gus to Dr. Racheal. The testicle was so big that it was going to rupture and that would lead to a horrible and painful death, so it was time to risk the odds and try and remove the testicle. If it was impossible to remove or if the surgery was taking a fatal turn Dr. Racheal agreed she would euthanize Gus and give him a good end of days.
The night before the surgery I brought Gus into the house and gave him a bath. I brushed and cuddled and kisses his furry head. As I tucked him into bed that night I watched him with hope.
I thought of the community that had watched Gus transform into a beautiful happy dog. I thought of the donations given for his food and his comfortable bed. I gave thanks for the love and support that would carry us through to whatever end may be.
My anger at his neglectful owners had ebbed years ago. It was time to educate. It was time to turn pets into companions. It was time to honour Gus.
The morning of the surgery felt like any other morning. We fed animals and took dogs out. When it came time to load Gus into the truck we felt the tears burning.
It was a long drive to the veterinary hospital and I kept watching Gus who was laying comfortalby watching the world through the window. He had light in his eyes and he had hope. He knew love.
April 29, 2014 Gus went for surgery.
Gustav the Kuvasz
February 23, 2012
This is the tale of an old Hungarian kuvasz sheepdog who lost his job due to downsizing, forcing him into early retirement at the tender age of ten. The only bit of his past we know is that he was born in a barn in central Tennessee, tossed from home to home honing his guarding abilities for four years before landing a career job on a sheep farm in a small town outside of Wainfleet.
The sheepdog grew up without much interaction with people, but he got all the companionship he needed from his sheep.
His humans were kind, but not affectionate and the nameless sheepdog carried on guarding his sheep. Years and years passed while the sheepdog protected his flock from all sorts of dangers including coyotes, foxes and wolves. This kuvasz is a known killer, but only to protect.
For years the kuvasz spent all seasons in a open fields protecting his sheep until one morning the old dog watched in confusion as the sheep were loaded into trucks and driven away. The sheepdog had never set a paw inside a house nor knew the comfort of a soft bed, but at least he’d had his sheep.
Confused the old sheepdog lay down beside the wagon and waited for the sheep to return. The human came over and fastened a heavy chain around his neck and tied the other end to the wagon leaving the old sheepdog alone.
Without any sheep the old sheepdog put his head down and drifted off into a deep sleep. Winter was coming and the old sheepdog lay chained to the wagon for months. He would crawl under the wagon when the winter rains became heavy laying in the cold damp earth.
One day the humans came and unhooked the chain from the wagon and put the old sheepdog into the back of a truck and started driving. It was a long nerve wracking drive for the old dog.
At another farm the old sheepdog was pulled from the truck and as he stood confused in the driveway a woman came over and patted his head.
Perhaps it was fear that caused the old sheepdog to stand next to the new lady and lean gently against her leg nuzzling her hand, but when he licked her palm she stroked his head and called him Gus. Nobody had ever called him anything. He wagged his tail in confused delight.
The man picked up the end of the chain and with some reluctance the old sheepdog followed the man. He pulled the screw out of the chain and released the kuvasz into an open field where the woman was standing quietly watching a horse and two goats.
The horse snorted loudly and the old sheepdog trotted over to lean on the woman and gain comfort from her gentle pats. She murmured something, but the only thing he understood was Gus.
The horse trotted nervously across the field attracting Gus’s attention. It was time to give this new animals a good sniff. Suddenly the horse raced off with Gus in hot pursuit. Since neither horse nor dog had youth on their side the race was short lived leaving both animals puffing.
By the time Gus looked back the man and woman were gone. He gave a woof before trotting over to the gate to look for the humans. He howled as he sat by the gate and watched. Sheepdogs are very good at watching.
Several minutes later the kind woman returned with a bowl of kibble and watched as Gus ate. She stroked his head and gently pulled on the mats on his back.
Gus found a dry building and a nest of straw to sleep in that night. He howled several times as the dark lightened to day. In the morning the woman returned with more kibble and scissors to cut out the mats on his back. With some effort she got the tight heavy chain off from around his neck and called him Gus.
During the day Gus checked on his new herd of horse, goat, goat before napping, chain-free in the bright winter sun. He spent another night in the empty shelter on a bed of straw and only howled as dawn broke. The woman came again with more kibble.
Gus moved away as the woman touched his ears and whined deeply in pain. The woman gently examined the ears and the side of his face where the infection had spread. The woman’s hands were gentle and she returned with medicine that helped his pain and infections.
During the day Gus managed to get close to the horse and goats. After some discussion it was decided that Gus would be part of the herd as protector and guardian. Gus had a job again. That evening Gus slept between the horns and hooves of his new friends.
Each day the woman would come and bring him up to the big house where she’d treat his wounds, brush his beautiful coat and give him cuddles.
Gus was patient and trusting as he allowed the woman to shave the side of his infected head to reveal bleeding sores and a large angry abscess. The woman was frowning deeply as she gingerly cleaned the wound and gave him pieces of cheese that concealed antibiotics and pain medicine.
In the weeks that followed his wounds healed, his ears were no longer sore and the old sheepdog realized that the woman was meant to be his sheep. He delighted in her presence and would trot with tail high to great her every morning.
No longer alone and with a kind woman to care for him Gus was fed, sheltered and very happy. Who knew a sheepdog could be so happy without any sheep to guard?
Gus today (March 9, 2012)….