Photo Essay

Meet The Snowmen - Frost and Duke


Sometimes a collection of snapshots shared and taken by friends tell a better story than one that would make the news.

If you're a dog lover, a veteran or the family of a serviceman, you might like this one.

I know a wonderful couple, friends for more than 20 years now, know their adult children, the stories of their lives, watched the babies come and grow. They all call me Aunt May. And I watch their son – let's call him Jim, go to war in Iraq and come home with wounds you can't see. Jim did three tours over there. He won't ever be the same. During the last one, an IED exploded under his vehicle, killing his two buddies and leaving him with a brain injury. His parents are his caretakers.

His wife took their twin daughters and left him before he came home. He and his son who is now in his early 20s, live together next to Jim's parents on the same property.

All of them are serious dog lovers, and Jim needed a companion.

Checking at the local county animal control just up the road, they found the Snowmen – two littermates named Frost and Duke – and they came home with him.

Frost (the one with the narrow face) and the bigger boy, Duke, were perfect gentlemen from the start. Purebred Great Pyrenees, they were introduced to a pack of small dogs, Rat Terriers, tiny mixed breeds and cats (later on, even a squirrel), and never batted an eye.

Duke immediately took over the night watch and slept with Jim, calming him when the terrors came. He hardly left his side.

They were finally in a good home with lots of love and dog doors in each house. Jim's mother bought a loveseat to put in her little art studio for them but only one would fit at a time. The heat and humidity are occasionally insufferable here.

They gained weight, Frost's health problems disappeared, and both turned into really big, wonderful, gentle, well behaved fellows.

Life went well until a few weeks ago.

My friend's health is suffering and she is in and out of doctors' offices and the hospital often. Her husband lost an eye in an accident, works full-time in shifts and recently had a cancer scare. We're all getting up there. The last time I visited, she mentioned that there may be a need to rehome the big boys. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. My inner voice was shrieking..."You can't do that!"

On the telephone earlier in the week, I spoke to her and she asked me to help them place the Pyrs sometime in the future. Her voice was tense and I knew how she felt. There are more problems than I'm privy to.

The Pyrs would have had a wonderful home here with me if I hadn't all the dogs I've rescued and kept. She asked for help; how could I turn my "family" down? I've done the impossible a few times in my life with animals, but placing these two together in a permanent "forever" home might be a problem just because of their size.

I wondered if they'd get along with my three little guys without hurting their feelings. If conditions were impossible, and a home couldn't be found, I knew they'd come to me and like every other time, we'd all just move over and make room.

What did we ever do without the internet?

I was on the computer as soon as she hung up looking for a rescue contact for Great Pyrs in Florida, and almost as soon as I made contact, I received a response. Terry emailed me that she probably had an immediate home with a retired couple in south Florida for both of them. The couple was still grieving after a year, over the loss of their Pyr. Could the family help with transport? I gave her their numbers.

I heard that Terry and Jim had a long, long discussion and he's been really so depressed it's sent him to bed. It's a terrible thing to have to give up your dogs. I've been through something like this before and it ended up a tragedy. You never know who your dog will go to, even if you screen them. That is why I gave up breeding and showing, and why I will only adopt rescue dogs.

But dealing with rescue is an entirely different situation. Even if the loss breaks your heart, there is comfort and assurance that in this case, they will always remain together in approved homes with people experienced in the breed.

It took a couple of days to set up the relay. Jim will take them to Live Oak tomorrow. A transporter will meet them at a certain place and time (usually at an intersection with a Burger King at a highway ramp or some sort of landmark), and since their journey down the peninsula of Florida is long, they will probably spend the night with the transporter. That's how it's done.

I am a little weepy writing this. My heart aches for Jim and the family who loved the Snowmen so much, and for the dogs, who will be bewildered and lost for a little while. I know they have long memories. I've witnessed that first hand. I wish I had just scooped them up into my van and taken them home, but I know that they needed more attention than I can give. And I can't go over to say goodbye because I'll cry and we'll all be more upset than we have to be.

I know they will be happy, cared for and loved...forever.

Blessed are the rescuers.

Note: The Snowmen went on their journey; the people involved in the relay were impressed with their good manners and sweet nature. They are at home in South Beach, Miami – so if you see an older couple with snowdrifts on leads, please introduce yourselves. You read their story here.

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4 responses

  • Kelly Nichols

    Kelly Nichols said (24 Oct 2012):

    This is such a touching story. I had a tear in my eye. I am a dog lover and wish I could rescue them all. I have a golden retriever who is now considered a "senior", as he will turn 13 this February. I couldn't imagine my life without him. I have no children, so I consider him my son.
    Your story is so moving. I love large breed dogs, and the Great Pryenese are amazing. The "smowmen" are beautiful and they sound even more so in their hearts. I feel for Jim, his parents and you for your loss of these great snowy family members. I am glad you were able to find them a caring, loving family. We are all truly blessed by the love of dogs.

  • David de London

    David de London gave props (25 Oct 2012):

    Great story May. Even better it has a wonderful ending, or maybe beginning.

  • John Tanner

    John Tanner said (13 Nov 2012):

    One of the best and most touching stories I've read on JPG.
    I'm glad these sweet giants will be together in a good home.
    All dogs deserve good responsible owners and loving homes.

    And of course I wish "Jim" well and hope he can recover and live a full happy life.
    Our vets deserve anything they need to get well and live out their lives in peace.

  • Victoria Lisowski

    Victoria Lisowski said (10 Jun 2013):

    This story is close to my heart. My first pyr died of cancer . My second pyr lived to be 12 years old. Every Summer we would take a trip and be gone for a month. How ironic on our last trip we arrived home, I greeted her with love and kisses and that night she died in her sleep.

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