Local residents share homes with uncommon canines

Looking like a polar bear cub, the huge, white dog loped through the living room of his Princeton home.  Gingerly his large frame bypassed the coffee table, chairs and sofa, as he headed for his target: a stuffed animal in the comer.

Swiping the plush toy up in his mouth, the dog ran back to his spot by the couch, plopped down and politely began to chew the Teddy bear’s feet. His owners, Dr. Mario and Ella Mae Cardenas, simply smiled as they watched the dog’s antics.

Paco, a great Pyrenees, seems to draw attention wherever he goes – and home is no exception. Weighing in at 82 pounds – slightly less than the norm for his breed – Paco’s large size, long white fur and soulful eyes make him the focus of many adoring gazes.

“Every time we have him out, people ask, ‘What kind of dog is that? He’s so pretty,” Mrs. Cardenas said. And that’s a legitimate question. Most folks are familiar with typical big dog breeds – German shepherds, rottweilers, Dobermans, chows and labs.

But some residents of Four Seasons Country have chosen to share their homes with more uncommon canines, such as the great Pyrenees, m astiff and Saint Bernard. The Cardenases bought Paco in 1989 when he was a puppy and he quickly found a place in their hearts.

However, Paco did go through the “chewing” stage, which can be a bit unique with big dogs. “I collect hats. He destroyed them – but he has never done anything wrong,” Dr. Cardenas said, voicing his affection for the dog. “I have never in my life got attached to anything like Paco,” he said, once he gets in it, “he won’t get out.”

‘Don’t eat the couch!’

big dog on couchAnother Princeton couple, Jim and Elizabeth Osborne, also favors large dogs. They share their home with Coramonde, an English mastiff. Because Coramonde tends to… well, cop an attitude while at the veterinarian’s office, his exact weight is not known, but it is estimated at 225 to 250 pounds. Although Coramonde will be 9 years old in August, Mrs. Osborne says he has kept that “puppy personality. “He’s a baby,” she said. The Osbornes bought the mastiff in Richmond, Va. “My husband says he wants a dog he doesn’t have to bend down to pet,” Mrs. Osborne said, noting Coramonde stands 32 inches at the shoulder.

“He’s big-boned,” she said. “As he gets older, he keeps getting wider.” Mrs. Osborne said they, too, went through a chewing stage with Coramonde. “I have an antique buffet that has puppy chew marks pretty much through it,” she said. “I have an antique rocker that has puppy chew marks. I walked up the steps one day and heard this gnawing… now we have a nice bottom step all chewed up.

“In (the movie) ‘Turner and Hooch,’ th ere’s a scene where he (Tom Hanks) says, ‘Don’t eat the couch!’ I actually have a vinyl couch that has teeth marks in the vinyl,” Mrs. Osborne said. “But we love it,” she added. “It just adds character in the house.”

Mrs. Osborne said mastiffs tend to be “laid back” and are good with children. The Osbornes also have three smaller dogs. “It’s comical when we go walking in the woods,” she said. “The two little ones will go off after something and they’ll turn and look behind to make sure Coramonde is behind them.”

Big dogs, big business

For Bill Taylor of Brushfork, big dogs are a business. The owner of Alpine Kennel breeds Saint Bernards and Newfoundlands. Taylor currently has 14 grown Saint Bernards and more than a dozen puppies. His two largest Saint Bernards weigh in at 230 pounds. Taylor’s dogs find homes all over the world. Two puppies out of a current litter are going to Japan, while two others will go to New York.

Who buys these large dogs? “It’s mostly young girls looking for large dogs,” he said. “Mostly women buy Saint Bernards. A lot of them buy them as house dogs.” While many people have heard Saint Bernards eat as much as a horse, Taylor says that’s not true. His Saint Bernards eat two quarts of 24 percent protein dry food a day.

Many of Taylor’s Saint Bernards are winning honors in dog shows. One of his females, Alpine’s Apple Juice, has won two first place awards, and the brother of one of his males is now ranked No. 5 in the nation, after placing second at the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Taylor said his interest in Saint Bernards began as a child, when he was hunting in Bland County and got his first look at the breed. “I said, ‘If I ever get big enough. I’m going to buy one.’ ”

He did just that in the 1960s. Taylor said he bought a female and decided to breed her, but encountered one problem. “I couldn’t find a male in four states.” He decided to make it a business, and been raising saint Bernards since 1968. At his Littlesburg Road kennel, Taylor also provides boarding facilities where he houses all breeds – big and small – from across the region.

Although some people may be wary of large breeds due to their unusual size, Taylor says most big dogs are pretty mellow. “I like all big dogs,” he said, adding, “the little dogs are the ones you’ve got to watch.”

by By SAMANTHA PERRY of the Daily Telegraph staff


By the numbers

Following are average weights of some of the larger dog breeds

✓ Mastiff: 175*190 pounds
✓ Saint Barnard: 110-200 pounds
✓ Newfoundland: Males, 130-150 pounds; females, 110-120 pounds
✓ Irish Wolfhound (the tallest breed of dog): Males, 120 pounds; females, 105 pounds
✓ Great Dana: Males, 120 pounds; females, 100 pounds
✓ Groat Pyrenees: Males, 110 pounds; females, 90 pounds
✓ Rottweiler: 90-110 pounds
✓ German shepherd: 75-95 pounds
✓ Doberman: 66-88 pounds

On the other end of the scale, the average weight for chihuahuas does not exceed six pounds.

Source: „The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds,” by Joan Palmer (Wellfleet Press, 1994).