Wary of petting, dog relents in company of former, current master
Patti is more like a wild dog than a pet to the families she's belonged to. The shepherd mix is a recluse — refusing to be petted, running away from humans. Until one weekend, during an exchange that would send Patti back to her original masters, she surprisingly let down her guard.
The big, elusive dog lay sedated in a ball on the floor of an Armstrong County family's basement.Skip to next paragraph
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Nearly a dozen people who share a love of the 8-year-old Anatolian shepherd-Great Pyrenees mix gathered around, crying and marveling how a dog so leery of humans attracted such a devoted following.
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"You don't even like people, but so many love you," said Jackie Deems, an Ohio woman who once owned the herding dog and on Saturday drove eight hours to claim her after a three-year separation. "Look at all these people here, just for you."
The approximately 170-pound dog — originally Patti, but renamed Lily by the Apollo family who wound up looking after her for the past two years — has had many homes. Deems hopes this move is Patti's last.
Her story started on a farm in Appalachia, Ohio. Deems bought Patti and her sister, Sweetie, from a family there when the pups were 10 months old. Deems said the family did not know how to care for the animals and kept the roaming, herding dogs in a small metal cage with no protection from the hot August sun.
"I said to my husband, 'Whether we want these dogs or not, we've got to take them,'" Deems recalled. "They need to be out, doing their job. No wonder she doesn't trust humans."
The Deemses run a farm in Perrysville, Ohio, about an hour west of Canton, where they have 70 sheep. Patti looked over them as if they were her children, Deems said. When one sheep died, Deems found her in the morning, still on guard by its body.
"When she guards animals, they're all she cares about," Deems said.
Patti kept predators off the property, but also patrolled outside the Deems' fence. Neighbors complained and threatened to shoot her.
Reluctantly, Deems found a family in Avonmore, Westmoreland County, to take her. The family raises sheep and had an electric fence surrounding the property. Deems sedated Patti for the drive and handed her off.
Patti did not approve.
Ten minutes after she awoke, she jumped the fence and ran into the woods.
Racked by guilt, Deems spent months searching, handing out fliers and buying ads in local newspapers. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review wrote of her search in 2010.
Patti ended up 10 miles away in Apollo, at the home of Randy and Laurie Williams. The Williamses have horses, and the dog made it her responsibility to watch over them. The dog would not let the Williamses touch her, but they were determined to gain her trust.
In early 2011, they heard about Deems' search. We think we have her, they said in a phone conversation. Deems arrived and confirmed the dog was Patti.
She tried to trap her, but the dog, which the Williamses called Lily, evaded capture.
Randy Williams said she could stay, and he promised to care for her. Deems, consoled by the knowledge that her dog had chosen a loving family, relented and left.