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Taryn Sherlock of Pinehurst
Irish Goodwill Ambassadog
“I will give thee dog which I got in Ireland.
He is huge of limb and, for a follower, equal to an able man.
Moreover, he hath man's wit, and will bark at thy enemies
ut never at thy friends.
And he will see by each man's face whether he be ill
or well disposed towards thee.
And he will lay down his life for thee.”
– The Icelandic Saga of Nial
It is impossible to walk my Irish Wolfhound, Sherlock, without drawing a crowd.
Taryn Sherlock of Pinehurst comes from good stock; a long line of United States Champion and Grand Champion Irish Wolfhounds. Just this year, Taryn Hamilton of Pinehurst was the 2020 Westminster Best of Breed (OS). The 2012 Best of Breed was Grand Champion Pinehurst Garrett, and the legendary United States Champion Pinehurst Haxton is Sherlock’s Great Granddoggy. My dog's pedigree ancestry is documented back to the mid 1800’s. Sherlock’s AKC/IWDB Database page: https://www.iwdb.org/cD0xMDAwMDI0NDkmZz00.html
Yes, Sherlock is indeed quite large at 185 pounds and 35” tall at his shoulder. And, yes, his big brown eyes speak of intelligence and his gentle disposition. But most impressively, his very presence in public brings out a childlike sense of wonder in young and old alike. On our ventures about town, we are barraged with questions and requests by those who want to pet him, complement him, or take a photo with him.
Just last week we arrived at our daily walk at Massabesic Lake Park and met around 200 bikers. The Addiction Awareness Motorcycle Club welcomed me and Sherlock and, after a half hour of petting, hugging (him, not me!), and taking photos, the leader invited us to be at the front of their group photo. We were honored. These cycle enthusiasts have made it their mission to help addicted people get clean and sober. Good people.
Years ago, I was a stand-up comedian, so I have a variety of wisecrack responses to break the ice before answering expected questions from strangers.
Some recognize his breed, others say, “I’ve never seen a dog that big before!”
“You never saw one like this before because he’s a Chihuahua on steroids! Actually, he's a Reverse Werewolf... at night he becomes a Romanian proctologist!”
A Mom holding her tiny "pocket pooch" asks, ”How much does he eat?”
"He eats EVERYTHING! But he really likes small dogs… if they are properly prepared.”
An old-timer quips, "Who's walking who?"
“I don’t take him for a walk, he takes me out for a drag.”
A budding comedian girl cracks, "He looks like a pony! Does he have a saddle?"
"Yes, but unfortunately I can't locate a 3-foot tall jockey."
A guy with his Dad-cap turned backwards asks the big question. "How much does he poop?"
"Well, in his kennel I have a dumpster and a snow shovel. And, remarkably, each load is enough to fill a baseball cap."
Laughter and smiles all around.
I know it’s a bit of Carny mixed with Blarney, but no one walks away until they get all their answers answered. The ice being broken with a laugh, the serious Wolfhound spiel begins:
“His name is Taryn Sherlock of Pinehurst, he's is as gentle as a puppy, and he loves people. He’s one hundred and eighty-five pounds on the hoof and 35 inches tall at his shoulder. If he stands on his hind legs, he’s over seven feet tall. Sherlock has his own baby crib mattress on the floor next to my bed – but his head and behind hang of the sides. For breakfast I hand-feed him five hot dogs, two plain donuts, and two apples, all cut into chunks, then make him three scrambled eggs chopped up and topped with a half cup of milk in his bowl. During the day he free-feeds around two pounds of dry food, but when you pet him, you'll find that he is very muscular with virtually no fat. Tell him `Sit and give me a high five!' and he'll shake your hand with his big right paw. When I let him run free in a field, he can hit 40 miles an hour."
These images cast a spell on kids, who stare in wonder.
Wide-eyed wonder fills ones heart with grace and light. - MJH
Sherlock simply stirs the imagination and brings out the humanity in all those he meets.
The history of Ireland includes many stories about Wolfhounds. These large sighthounds are mentioned in a description of the Celts attack on Delphi some six hundred years before the birth of Christ and subsequently became the preferred dog among kings and royalty. Many were kept as hunters, personal protection, and often bred into huge packs for warfare.
Greyhounds of Ireland - sometimes referred to as Wolfdogs, Big Dogs, or the Great Hounds of Ireland, became so popular around the world that, by the 1600’s, they had been exported into near extinction. Ireland restricted their export, but they had become so rare that the breed was nearly lost. The bloodline was revived in the late 19th century by Captain George Graham by collecting a few dozen remaining dogs and conscientiously breeding over 300 pedigrees. (http://www.irishwolfhoundtimes.com/graham99.htm)
The Wolfhound’s legacy as a fierce War Dog is commemorated by New York City’s “Fighting” 69th Infantry Regiment. This elite military unit was founded in 1849 by Irish immigrants preparing for a return to Ireland to liberate it from British occupation. They are the most decorated regiment in the United States and have been active from the Civil War to recent Afghanistan deployment.
The Fighting 69th later provided security at West Point and vital transportation hubs before being selected to deploy to Iraq in 2004/05 as the core unit of “TASK FORCE WOLFHOUND” (named for the Regiment’s mascots), as part of the 256th “Tiger” Brigade Combat Team.
Nineteen soldiers of the “Fighting 69th” were killed in action in Iraq.
The Regimental Motto is “Gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked,” and each March 17th, the Sixty-Ninth Regiment leads the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City. Their rank and file is lead by two fine-looking hounds.
The 1928 Irish sixpence was struck with the image of Finbarr, the international wolfhound champion, and the coin remained unchanged into the mid 1960’s.
Wolfhounds are beloved in Eire, represented on postage stamps, bottles of Tulamore Dew whiskey, and Belleek Pottery.
What good could we do in our life to deserve the unconditional love and loyalty
we receive in exchange for, food, water, a place to sleep, and an occasional pet? - MJH
I’m sure my Big Guy is aware of his animal magnetism, and he walks and poses like a Show Dog, but I chose him for a much more important role in my life.
At the end of summer, 2014, my wife Laura was diagnosed with Stage 4 Ovarian Cancer. We knew her treatments were going to be a rough battle and, although we had faced other critical medical procedures together, we prepared ourselves for the debilitating chemotherapy endurance run that lay ahead. Our previous Irish Wolfhound, Preston McGinty, had been acting strange for a couple months; seeming overly concerned with Laura and needing much more affection. We came to understand that occasionally dogs can sense a difference in a person's scent and it raises their anxiety level. We believed this was the case.
Laura said, "Preston knew something was wrong and was trying to tell me."
I didn't know what to say. There was so much uncertainty and morale maintenance that lay ahead I thought it better to let her words fade into troubled silence.
She said, "Preston is nearly seven years old. I fear I will see him die, then I will die."
As I mentioned above, Wolfies have an average lifespan of about eight years.
My breath caught in my throat for a moment until I could form words that made some sort of sense,
"You are not going to die. We will beat this. And Preston just needs a pup to pick up his spirits. We are all going to be okay. Okay?"
I didn't know if we were all going to be okay. What else could I say to make the words stop and our alive-but-worried life resume?
Our daughters were in shock about the diagnosis and I looked to Preston as I would to a son for some sort of bravado support. I couldn't let him worry his life away. I told him he was getting a little brother. It made so little sense then. It makes perfect sense now.
We contacted Karen Catov-Goodell at Pinehurst Kennel in Monument, Colorado, where Preston was born and explained the situation. Karen said she had a litter due soon, but it was owned co-jointly with Taryn Kennels in Texas. She cautioned, "It may be a problem to get on the waiting list for a pup on such short notice... and, if it is possible, it will probably be expensive."
I understood. I also understand Cancer is a medical term that means expensive.
Sherlock was born on February 18th, 2015 at Taryn Kennels in Collinsville, Texas and the owners – Brenda and Gary Fairbanks – graciously delivered him to our home in Parker, Colorado. The following Summer and Winter he truly was Preston’s baby brother and became Laura’s heartfelt sunshine each day.
There was a ray of joy and life in our house.
When I served in Vietnam, I was the Army liaison to Mau Than Orphange in Bien Hoa. Many of the children and babies were handicapped or mixed-race. Some were parentless while others were abandoned offspring of Vietnamese women and military men. These children were shunned by their society, who referred to them as máu xâu (bad blood), and abandoned at the orphanage. I threw myself into helping the priest and nuns make a better life for the children. Chieu Hoi: http://www.martinhiggins.com/chieu-hoi.html
Working with them, helping them, feeding them, I watched a miracle every day. Kids could tune-out the war and play soccer, dress dolls, help in the kitchen, and take care of each other as if nothing posed a threat to them. They knew there was violence war around them, but their “kid energy” was irrepressible. They were fully alive, despite their jeopardy. Living one's life, regardless of the prognosis, is just that important.
I was hoping that Sherlock would bring out Laura’s Kid energy; have her embrace life while she suffered in pain, lost her hair, had bouts of nausea, and grew weaker before my eyes. And, thank you, Big Dog, you did it. He and Preston gave Laura that which filled her heart with joy, the way our first Wolfhound, Brock Enroll, did long ago when each day was a carefree, dream come true.
It was a his Wolfhound miracle; his royal bequest.
Laura died on March 18th 2016, 13 months to the day after her new puppy entered the world. After Laura was gone, Preston, the poor old boy, would walk to the front door to look for Laura’s car, then climb the stairs to our bedroom, hoping to see that she was there. He did that for several days. Then he laid on the floor next to Laura's side of the bed and did not move or respond to his name for two full days.
I woke the next morning to find him lifeless. I am sure he died brokenhearted and defeated.
Sherlock and I have been together ever since. We are joined by Dave the Dog, my 24-pound cat who is, in every way, a canine except for his raspy “meow.”
The sad backstory was not the point of this piece. Sherlock is still “sunshine” in many people’s lives, even if only a brief meeting. Some want to get a photo to show friends who have never seen a Wolfhound in the flesh… children often say he is Falkor the Flying Luckdragon of The Neverending Story or Clifford the Big Red Dog (who grew so large because all the love his girl showered on him)… and attractive women who are spellbound by my “wingman hound” make me wish I was younger and looking for love.
On our walks I’ve had people say, “He is so amazing!” and “I am so glad to meet you, Sherlock!” and walk away smiling and imagining how they might fit a Big Dog in their life.
And a bit of Sherlock’s royalty rubs off on me. I’m not a King, but I walk with my Queen’s dog… I will never forget that.
This morning a guy stopped his pick-up truck when he saw the Big Boy, got out, and we talked for several minutes. He said he wife wanted an Irish Wolfhound but he never realized how big they are or how gentle they can be. He took pictures and I shared with him everything I know about these noble beasts. He said he would tell his wife, “Yes! They are great dogs! Let’s get a Wolfhound!”
I thought of Laura and how Sherlock carries a bit of her spirit in his swagger. I felt my throat tighten and my breath begin to stoke, so I said, “Have a good morning, Sir.” and turned to walk on with My Boy.
Damn it. Four years and I’m still having spur-of-the-moment downpours.
The guy climbed into his pick-up truck and, as he drove past me, honked his horn and yelled, “You two have made my day!”
I felt tears forming. “And you, mine, Sir! And you, mine.”
* * *
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