09.20.97 - 06.30.07
(Ch. Lionsire Run’n Bear’s Samson x Running Bear’s Tulip)
From Louise Yeiser, Winston’s owner
I have a special love for this gentle soul, partially because he was my first mastiff, but also because he was a natural teacher and guide. I used to think of Winston as a canine copy of the Dalai Lama, since he displayed the same kindness, wit, humor, and wisdom. From time to time, he would give me a certain look, inviting me to sit with him, so that he could put his head on my shoulder, and engage me in deep, slow breaths, his own brand of therapy, reminiscent of the techniques used in equine therapy. This only occurred when I was terribly emotional or upset. If I initiated the "session", he wouldn’t participate, making it clear that he was the spiritual guide, not me.
One afternoon years ago, my son Jeffrey and I had finished class with Winston at Misty Pines Training Center that has a small swimming pond on their training site. Jeffrey and I invited another friend, Robin, with her rather enthusiastic, energetic Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy, Rhodey, to come with us to the lake to swim and play fetch.
At the lake, Jeffrey and Rhodey were behind us somewhere, Winston was in the water fetching a tennis ball, and Robin and I were engrossed in conversation. Winston brought me the ball, I picked it up, and threw it again as hard as I could. Robin and I continued talking while Winston swam around in circles at the far end of the lake, with the fluorescent, yellow tennis ball in his mouth.
"Help!” I heard Jeffrey yell from behind me. Robin and I both whipped around to see Rhodey jumping all over him. Jeffrey was trying to protect himself with his hands. “Somebody help! I can’t get him off me!”
"Rhodey, come!” Robin yelled, as we started to run. Rhodey ignored her. Jeffrey was moving backward, trying to get away from the puppy. Thin, blood-red scratches had formed on his chest.
All of a sudden, I saw a blur of reddish-tan streak by. "Uh oh,” I thought, wondering how Winston had negotiated the lake, the banks, and the hill, in about two seconds.
Of course, he got to Jeffrey first. To my amazement, there was no growl, no physical contact, no obvious correction or warning, nothing. What I observed was Winston running up behind Rhodey, catching his eye, giving a play bow and holding eye contact for a few seconds with his tail wagging, and then both dogs running off. They didn’t go into the lake right away, but instead ran a lap before diving in. Robin and I could see that Jeffrey's only injuries were his pride and the scratches on his chest; and he joined us, watching the two dogs swimming together, weaving in and out of huge tangles of weeds.
"Can you believe what Winston just did?" he asked.
Robin touched my arm. “I'm so glad everybody's alright. I thought Winston was going to kill my puppy, but he didn’t even touch him.”
"He never even stopped wagging his tail!" I said.
I’d never been in a situation like that before, and I didn’t know what Winston would do, although I knew he would find some way protect Jeffrey. As it turned out, he was looking out for both of them, creating a win-win situation.
I am still awed by my many, wonderful memories of Winston's winsome ways, not just with me, but with our other mastiffs, puppies, children, groomers, pet-sitters, trainers, and many others. For a long time, the house was filled with strangers, who were working on a major remodel of my home, and Winston used to run up to them, face sideways, and lean his greeting against their legs, before trying to engage them in a dribbling match with his favorite ball in the yard. He wore his heart on the outside, where everyone could see. I wish I could have kept him with me forever.