A family's best friend.
Updated: Feb 20
Life has a funny way of sneaking up on you and this Valentine's Day, life did just that. Except after it snuck up, it proceeded to hack at me like Jason taking out a bunch of camp counselors. Honestly, a few wacks from a machete would have hurt less, because sometime between 10 on the 14th and 2 on the 15th Montana the Anatolian Shepard mix passed away at the age of 11 1/2.
And even though my wife and I have been preparing for that day for a few years now, it came as quite a shock. I want to share a few stories and pics of one of the best puppy dogs you might ever meet...or the worst. It all depended on what she decided. If you were one of the select few that passed muster with her, you were one of the lucky ones. If not, well don't feel too bad...it was a small club. There's even a secret handshake...stand still, don't make eye contact, try not to move or make any threatening motion, and maybe...just maybe...she'll come to you and touch your hand with her nose. Now that wasn't the end of the handshake, you then had to continue to ignore her and stand pretty still for a bit more before she'd let you know you passed her test. Of course, she reserved the right to change her mind at any time.
Her story begins for us in Feb of 2009. My wife, Dawn, decided it was time for the Butler family to have a dog. Up until that point we had shared our house with 3 cats, although no more than 2 at one time. And while cats are great, it was time for a dog. Our son was 6 and all children should get a chance to experience a dog's love if it's possible. Well at the time I was pretty sure I had a good idea what kind of dog my wife wanted...a little dog. Or better known as the bane of my existence. Now before people with little dogs start making signs and planning marches through my yard, understand I don't care about your little dog. That's between you and God, but my mission was to make sure that if a dog was going to be introduced into my house it would be at least 40 lbs.
Now I'm going to let you in on a secret about my wife. Nothing terrible like she's killed 14 people, or is a Seahawks fan...nothing that would make a sane person demand a divorce. No this isn't much of a secret, but it can be a hurdle when it happens. My wife has a funny way of making her mind up and then that's it. - When we went house hunting, I knew immediately that we no longer needed to see any other houses. Didn't matter that we hadn't seen very many, and didn't matter how many the realtor had scheduled to visit. Our house was the only one that would pass muster(I see a theme developing)- So when she said it was time for a dog...I knew one thing for sure; we were getting a dog. So I prayed the type of dog had not been decided yet and I'd have some wiggle room.
I was in luck. Not only was there room to wiggle, we were on the same page about the type of dog we wanted in the house. Luckily she was leaning to a larger dog, one that would make her feel safe when she was alone. One that she could have with her out front and by its very presence would stop people in their tracks. So we started the deep dive on Petfinder.com and looked for a dog we both liked. We both gravitated to brown short hair with a shepherd look. We had a few close calls, and I say close calls because we didn't find Montana for a few weeks. But one icy, cold February day she popped up in Richland Hills pound page. I wish I had the picture but that was a few computers ago but you'll have to trust me...this dog was cute.
We decided to brave the elements and go right after work so not to miss out on meeting her. Nothing worse than going to the pound and the animal already being adopted. Now when we got there the place was loud. It was like something out of an old 60's exploitation prison movie. Dogs barking, running their cans back and forth against the bars, and telling you they were innocent of all charges. But in the last cage, there was a little tiny brown puppy, we've always thought she was no more than 4 months at that point.
She was so scared, and you could just tell the whole place was overwhelming her. Now the moment of truth was here because it didn't matter what Hunter or I thought, oh we had a "vote" but when it was all said and done the person who started the process was going to have the final say. And Montana must have known that because quicker than a blitzing linebacker, she was past us guys and at Dawn's feet dancing and being super cute. "Pick me...for the love of God get me out of here." And we did.
It was fairly obvious right away that she experienced trauma in the short time she'd been alive; Abused, neglected, and terrorized. First and foremost, she was aggressive toward men. Second, she was terrified of bridges, street drains, and drainage ditches. It took years to get her comfortable enough to walk over them without issue. And third, she had a general mistrust of adults. Usually, women would get a pass, but not always and we had to be careful around adults. Anytime someone asked to pet her, no matter their sex or age, I always just said, "She's not that type of dog." They would look at me strangely and we'd keep walking.
But she didn't act that way with us, or the extended family she was introduced to after she got home. And she bonded instantly with our cat Brick. As you can see they were about the same size when we brought her home. They would play and sleep together always. When Montana had to be in her kennel the cats would sleep on it to keep her company. And most importantly, she bonded with my wife. And when I say bonded, I mean to say if there were an emergency and Montana had to decide who to save, it was 1-Dawn, 2-Brick, 3-Hunter. And honestly, I was okay with that because I'm pretty sure I spent the first few weeks wondering out loud how a dog got in our house.
And although she was my wife's dog first and foremost, she was our family dog...until she grew up and became our family horse. They estimated the biggest she'd get was 70 lbs. Her heaviest was 115 lbs and even then she was built like a tank. There were times I would look at her and wonder what ancient man was thinking when he introduced giant killing machines into his house...Sure hope this works out and it doesn't eat my family. As Montana got older, she continued to distrust adults, love children, and protect my wife and house in a way that was awesome to behold.
Awesome and a little intense; she went through a bedroom window to get to someone who got to close to the house, someone decided to ignore the rules and stared at her for a moment too long and I'm just lucky my friend was there to catch her before she put the guy in place (he dropped out of our fantasy league the next year and I have to believe Montana was the deciding factor), and nipped another person who was putting out too much of an alpha vibe around her and my wife (because Montana only allowed 2 people to be Alpha over her - and I had to work years to prove I deserved it). But I tell you this, if Montana excepted you as family you were one of the lucky ones because her love was special.
I could go on forever with stories of her 11+ years on this earth, but instead, I'll share some pics and hope one day you get to experience a friend as wonderful as Montana.