By Gisele Zilberman Excerpted from "The International Great Pyrenees Review'

Waff! Waff! If only our little friends could speak, what stories would they tell us! Would they speak of our world of stresses and wars or more willingly of “their” world of love, attachment and fidelity? I’m not sure. They conceal their riches remotely behind their voice and expressive eyes. Yet, we can observe and appreciate their silent love, listening attentively to every detail and pass on to others who perhaps cannot see for themselves, the simple examples of values so rare in our human world today, but still very much in evidence in our canine friends.

If you allow me to do just this, dear Reader, I shall recount the touching story of Udine de Neoubielh d’Aure, a Pyrenean Shepherd.

Udine, a grey bitch, was of a litter of 7 pups born in 1970. Six of them went to work with sheep.

At that time I was Principal of a special school for handicapped children in France, and through my work I was put in touch with a family. They lived on a large farm and needed a sheepdog. The boy wore leg irons and his infirmity was also apparent in the arm and hand reactions. When holding something he would at times be unable to relinquish the object until he was helped by someone. The difficulty was that unwillingly he could hurt the dog as his movements were often uncontrollable. Would a dog, sometimes unexpectedly hurt by a kick, or frightened by a false movement, retaliate by biting?

I suggested to the parents that they should try a “petit berger”: Udine. She was sweet tempered and calm, but very loving and quick in her reactions .I was confident that a “petit berger” has a developed sense of judging people and would tolerate a child who would not hurt on purpose, whereas it would not do so with one cruelly teasing.

So Udine, whose puppyhood had been that of a loved animal, went off to her new home, full of enquiring interest, but also somewhat reserved, as always is the case with a Pyr Shep.

And now, when I look at a photo given to me later on by the child’s parents. The boy is holding on to the tractor while the photo is being taken, he is not wearing his leg irons: and look at Udine on the seat – watching him with that determined expressions “Beware if you dare touch him!”

When I visited this charming family, they could not stop their enthusiasm and praise of Udine: “She goes on her own with the herd of cows to the drinking trough. The first time she took the herd one of the cows gave her a nasty kick which sent her flying into the air We feared for a while that this would put her off, but not at all. She learned to keep well out of reach of flying hooves and horns and now she keeps all the cows I order.

“When the boy is brought back home from his school at four in the afternoon, Udine has finished her farm work and is waiting to greet him. In the same way as she learned to beware of cows hooves, she also takes care to keep a sharp look out for the boy’s heavy boots and leg irons, but she loves him and is always there to protect from any danger she thinks may be threatening him. And, if he is sick, she hurries to his bedside.

“We never had to train her, yet she can work with the cattle, or guard the house or the car. We wonder at her resourceful character and dedication to her work.”

By now, Udine must be nearly 9 years old, and she well may no longer be alive. Still, in the long winter evenings in Southwest France when the family and friends get together near a log fire – cracking nuts and singing in the dialect of the Comte, the story of Udine lives on.

So once again, praise is the music divine to my ears when my beloved “petits bergers” show their worth and value.

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