Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Babysitting Dinosaurs

Beefeater Maximus

If there were cycads in the living room, I would almost believe I had been transported to Jurassic Park. Watching my son's dogs move is like watching some prehistoric animal move. They are unimaginably large, and move with a precise articulation completely unlike my dogs.


Beefy and Sequoia are English Mastiffs, one of the largest breeds of dog. It's easy to say they are large dogs, but the reality is so much, much larger than the statement. I can give you statistics- The breed standard puts the minimum height at 27.5 inches tall; Beefy stands 34 inches tall at the shoulder. I don't know what he weighs- my son says about 180 pounds- and he is 48 inches long from his nose to the base of his tail. Sequoia is a little more compact- 32 inches at the shoulder, and 40 inches nose to tail. But those bare numbers don't begin to describe the reality of trying to walk through a small room populated by those two behemoths.
Beefy will be three years old in May, and he is still growing. He grows in odd stages- when he was smaller, you could almost see him getting larger. First you notice that his hind quarters are higher than his front quarter, giving his back an odd little hump. The next week, his front legs will catch up to the back, and his back will be straight again. When he was around 1 year old, we visited them on the way to somewhere else. Beefy was just able to walk under the kitchen table without ducking. By the time we passed back through the next week, he was too tall to fit. Right now his shoulder height is 34 inches, but he measures 36 inches at that odd little hump on his back .

Bart holding Boodles, Chuck holding Sequoia. Neither the men nor Boodles are small...

Both Beefy and Sequoia are sweet dogs- a breed characteristic. Like other teen-age boys, Beefy loves having young ladies visit, and when we come with Boodles and Juniper, he is in heaven. The first time we brought our dogs to visit, Beefy was overcome. While we sat in the living room one evening, watching a movie, Beefy went to the end of the room and began chasing his tail. I could almost hear him saying "Look at me, look at me!"

An interesting thing happens when we visit Beefy and Sequoia. We leave Pennsylvania with 2 large dogs in our car. As we stop at rest stops through West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, we have 2 large dogs in our car. But when we arrive here, suddenly our dogs are just medium sized.

Follow this link to learn more about the history of the Mastiff . They are one of the early breeds, and many sources say that they were brought to Britain in the 6th century BCE. The Romans found them there, and took them back to Rome to be featured in the fighting arenas. They were also used as war dogs.

English Mastiffs are not the right dog for everyone.If you do decide that an English Mastiff might decorate your landscape more attractively than, say, a steer, consider a rescue dog. Sequoia came to my son that way- when Beefy was about 9 months old, Bart took him along to a pet store when he purchase a gift for his girlfriend. The clerk at the pet store mentioned that someone had been in earlier that day with a Mastiff to give away- an elderly lady had 2, and when she was no longer able to care for herself or them, the dogs went to a family member who was afraid of them. The male had found a home by the time Bart got there, but one year old Sequoia was being kept in the cold, dirty garage. Bart took her home, his girlfriend got a larger gift than she was expecting, and Sequoia hasn't stopped wagging her tail since!

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