Lap Dog

Lap dog

Don’t try telling Preacher that he wasn’t a lap dog. He wouldn’t have believed you. He and Zac napping.

About 13 years ago, our little Minnesota small town neighborhood had a peeper who lived 4 doors down. He was also known to go ahead and walk right into the neighbors homes when he pleased. Unpleasant to say the least. In addition to other security measures, I decided we needed a dog. A guard dog to be precise. Around that time, our local Kennel Club had their dog show and I decided to take stroller ridin’ Oz and the Z’s for some free entertainment.

Of course, I’ve always been partial to big dogs so we hung out around the big rings. That is where we first met Lynn & Connie, breeders of the Kuvasz. The what? I’d never heard of the breed but these Hungarian big white dogs were gorgeous and when they were done showing, we asked if we could talk. The dog Lynn was holding was perfect head height to the, then, little Oz man who at that time still liked to suck his fingers Hook’em Horns style. While we were talking I noticed that Oz would take his fingers out of his mouth, Annie (the, then, still almost puppy Lynn was with) would lick them and then look at him when she was done. Oz would then proceed to put them back in his mouth and start the whole process over. Sooooooo, Oz is a dog person I guess. (I don’t want to hear how gross that is. I agree but not the point.) Lynn watched this happen and said, ‘Sure, we can talk.’ (I later understood that if I’d reacted differently or Oz would pound on Annie’s head toddler style, we wouldn’t have talked;) Heh.

I talked to them about what I’m looking for in our future pet; big and scary but great with the kids; big bark and even a bite if necessary; fun and mobile, likes hockey. Ya know, the important stuff. I THEN needed to answer questions of what THEY’RE looking for in an owner of one of their treasures. Wait, whut? I’M being interviewed? Huh. I guess we passed muster because we were invited out to their country home to meet a few potentials.

Preacher at the gym

Preacher keeping watch of his boy at WFAC

Our first visit was a blur of fur. Meeting many mini big white dogs was fun but none jumped out and said I’m your dog! Except one, but he wasn’t for sale. Preacher was six months old and just came to Lynn and Connie from the PNW as a future stud. He quietly came over and sat down next to Zandra and wouldn’t leave her side. But he wasn’t for sale so it wasn’t even a thought that we would take him home. Well, the selection process proceeded while we were preparing the house for our new guard pet but with each visit, we just didn’t connect with potential pups. But always, with each visit, Preacher would recognize this little girl he already decided to love and plop down next to her and watch closely as some of his pals were brought out to play. Needless to say, each time we left our new friend’s home Zandra would say, “I wish we could bring Preacher home.” I’d have to remind her that he’s not for sale and we’ll find our dog.

As the finishing touches of our new fence was being put in, Connie called and as we chatted she nonchalantly asked, ‘What about Preacher? I think he loves you guys.’   I thought that wasn’t an option??? But good breeders know their dogs and they determined that he loved us and belonged with us. Trying to hold in my excitement, I went outside where the young Z’s were supervising the fence installation (I bet that was fun for the guys working) and said Connie may have a dog for us. As excited as they were, I saw in Zandra’s face a twinge of disappointment. Cuz as awesome as a new dog is, she thought it wouldn’t be Preacher. Which made it all the better when I said that Lynn and Connie thought Preacher would be our boy. The screaming that ensued was enough to stop the fence workers just to make sure she was okay and within minutes she was packed up ready to go get her boy. Although disappointed that we wouldn’t be getting him THAT moment, she could wait a day knowing Preacher was indeed the one we’d be bringing home.

preacher and za

Snow puppy & his girl

When we arrived home with our new family member, he jumped out of the back of the truck and one of our neighbors made a quick beeline over to see him when a very interesting thing happened. Of course Zandra had a hold of his leash and as the nosy neighbor (she was ok, but nosy and bossy and had enough negative energy around her that always made me on alert when she was around) approached the driveway, Preacher got in between she and Za and started pushing Zandra back towards the car. See, nosy negative lady was getting close to his girl and he didn’t like it. He was never rude, he just put himself in line of fire and sat down closely watching her. Huh. Seems like that’s his girl. (Interestingly enough, he loved the rest of the neighbors including nosy lady’s husband which annoyed the ever livin’ out of her. Yeah Preacher.)

We brought him into the house where he climbed the few stairs of the split level entrance, grabbed a nyla-bone we had bought and plopped down. He was home. Easy as that. As if we’d never lived a day without him.

12 1/2 years gives a person a lot of dog stories. I’ll spare you that. I whill say that no one ever entered the house without knowing we had a big dog on site, he made sure of that. He loved going to all the kids’ sporting events, including hockey. He felt it his personal duty to try to eat every mailman on the planet. One told us she would stop putting the mail in the box that was just below a small window in our entry way for fear of him leaping through said window and chomping her to bits JAWS style. I assured her that the window was secure and though it maybe startling to have a big white dog suddenly in the window, as long as she didn’t make eye contact she’d be okay. (Stupid lady. FOK.)

He was never dog aggressive and LOVED having friends back at Lynn and Connie’s or even if we’d board him for a weekend hockey tournament. He’d always look at me with questioning sadness if a little yippy dog would lunge for him (or rather, the part they could reach so like his front paw) in aggression. What’d I do mom that this little talking chew toy doesn’t like me? Nothing, I’d say, it’s a stupid little dog, don’t sweat it. (By the way, little dogs that are acceptable in the world are Pugs and Westie’s. That’s it. True story.)

When we moved to Wisconsin two years ago, I noticed that Preacher was slowing down. Hmmmmmm, that’s not acceptable. He’s too young and too proud to be slowing down. So we brought home a friend for him (and us;) Back to Lynn and Connie’s to pick out an adult girl who we didn’t have to train but has enough energy in her to perk up our boy. And she did.

preacher and dazzle

Preacher & Dazzle keashed out

We did everything we could to eek out as many days as possible with Preacher. This winter, after getting up seemed too much work, we bought a “Help me Up” harness that we could use to get him up or help him down the stairs. He hated it. How dare we think that he needs help! He’d look at us once outside as if we were personally out to steal his manhood. Heh. It was pretty funny. When we’d have to lift him up and out of the truck, we wouldn’t make eye contact. We’d just pretend he jumped himself and was as spry as he’d ever been. True story.

preacher and matt

Bigg dogs hanging out.

About four weeks ago, I noticed a considerable change in Preacher. He was slowing down, at an alarming rate. Fast enough that I called Lynn and told her that I thought our days were numbered. She gave some advice on how to keep him comfortable and we just loved and loved as much as he could take (was a lot by the way.) As we prepared for our upcoming trip to Seattle to visit family and then compete at the North American Championships in Enumclaw, I even considered putting him down before we left. But then his girl moved in to finish some schooling here in Milwaukee and he perked up so much that I thought, huh, second wind. You go big guy.

So when I got a phone call on Saturday morning on the field as Matt was warming up to compete and I was slated to volunteer for a few hours from a crying Zandra that Preacher was barely moving and having a hard time breathing, I was reeling. What!The!Fuck! How was he the day before? Tired, she replied, but okay.

I won’t go into each detail but suffice it to say it was a bad day. Add in the fact that Zandra was home alone, in a brand new town, knowing no one and not being able to get a hold of Matt’s family members to trek the mile or so commute to our house to help and you have one crazy, scared mom sitting alongside a Games field. As I talked to the vet, I heard Zandra crying in the background. Fok. My dog is dying and his girl is there alone to take this. I told him that we needed to do it. He’s given too much to us to make him stay alive and suffer. I also told the Vet that Zandra is completely alone and does he have the staff to help her through this. He assured me he does, and they did. And so, with me on the phone with my daughter; sitting on the edge of the bleachers with Matt by my side; listening to her try to tell Preacher how much she loved him through her sobs, he breathed his last breath.

I looked up to the top of the trees, the tip of Mt. Rainier popping out into the blue sky and saw shadows of my Proud boy. I’m okay, I’m  young again. I can run. I’m worried about my girl. Tell her I’m okay. 

After enough time for Zandra to compose herself so she could drive home, Matt ran back out on the field to get going on the Caber toss; I went over to my family and got an Auntie hug and went to call Lynn & Connie. Connie answered the phone as if she’d already known. They assured me they would check in later with Zandra and I put on as decent of a face as I could to get through the rest of the day.

preacher view

Our peaceful view on Saturday evening’s dinner.

That evening, we were fortunate enough to have a quiet dinner with good friends at their home. It was perfect. We were looking forward to enjoying the Clawbaque with our Highland Games family but I just wasn’t up to it. I couldn’t do festive. Didn’t have it in me.

The next day, I had to compete. Getting up for this one was one of the toughest things I’d done in competition to date. I wanted to be on a plane on my way home to my girl. She was hurting, so much. Luckily by Saturday evening, Matt’s mom walked down and made sure Za wasn’t alone anymore. That helped immensely and I’ll always be grateful to her for stepping in. I actually had a very good throwing day and almost eek’d out a win but after my last stone throw, the last throw of the day, I stepped away from my group; looked back up to the sky, and cried. Now I could let it in. My big boy, my Preacher Dog, my protector, the one constant being in my life who never put himself before me…was gone.

We’re home now and I’m glad. We got Zandra playing games last night (I won both times;) She’s able to sleep without worrying that someone can sneak up on our house that is now without our guard dog. She’s not bearing this alone. That’s all good.

But god I miss him. His footsteps on the floor were heard no matter where he was. Peeking his head up when he heard the cheese drawer open in the fridge when pretending to be sleeping. Walking up to you when you’re in a chair and driving his head into your lap so you’d give him some ear rubs and some love. Being at the door making sure no one bad is going to come into his house. Always on alert. Always on patrol.

Rest in peace big dog. You deserve it. We love you. We miss you. We’re thankful for you. Rest and run.

preacher stairs

Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.

Mark Twain

About tosabarbell

For training opportunities at tosabarbell, call or text Juli at 320-296-9313. e-mail to At tosabarbell, I build relationships cultivated in a strength and learning environment. There is no 12 week magic pill program to strength but rather a lifetime commitment to be the very best and most useful human you can be. tosabarbell is a private, home grown gym with three lifting platforms; squat rack; prowlers; throwing implements; bars, bumpers and everything else needed for an effective strength and conditioning program. Straightforward barbell programming including the Olympic lifts; sound (read: not fancy bullshit) diet advance for weight gain or loss; and strong coaching will ensure you will meet your goals such as becoming stronger, more explosive, and better conditioned. I have been coaching teams and athletes for over 30 years. I grew up participating in various sports at various levels but was always drawn to those that require strength training. I have multiple local, national, and world records in the sports of Weightlifting and Highland Games Heavy Events as well as a combined total of 5 World Championships. My 5 years of training and coaching under Mark Rippetoe provided a wide range of influence from some of the top strength & conditioning and throwing coaches in the country. I will strongly encourage tosabarbell athletes to compete (and prepare you to do so.) However, tosabarbell is also for those who wish to be stronger and go through life feeling better. Matt WanAt is a retired Professional Strongman who competed frequently with Strongman Champions League in Europe. He played a year of D1 football with Iowa before concentrating on his Chemical Engineering degree in Iowa City. He is a native of Wauwatosa and still remains a staunch supporter of Tosa East. This blog will be a mixture of strength notes, coaching and nutrition tips, personal shit; bacon delicacies, and a whole lot of fun.
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