Michelle Suter remembers the first time she saw a Great Pyrenees dog. Actually, she saw three.
“It was years ago in Loose Park,” Suter says. “I saw a man walking three polar bears and I stopped to talk to him because I’d never seen dogs that big. Another patron at the park said he’d seen these dogs lounging in front of their owner’s house and they’d taken up the whole yard.”
Little did she know that she’d have “polar bears” of her own some day.
Suter got her first dog from a shelter when she was three. She picked Mugs, a black and tan mix. Growing up, her family owned a Dalmatian, a yellow lab, a cairn terrier, and a cockapoo.
A long time resident of the area, Suter graduated from Shawnee Mission South, Oklahoma State University, and Washburn Law School. As an adult, she was busy starting her own law firm, Commercial Law Group in Overland Park, in 1998.
It was Christmas 2001 when Suter decided was ready to get a dog. A friend called to say she had puppies and asked if Suter would like to come see them. There she met the mom, Gigi, a purebred Great Pyrenees. The nine puppies were a mix of Great Pyrenees and Anatolian Shepherd.
Doing some quick research, Suter learned that Great Pyrenees are wonderful dogs. They are intelligent and sweet. She fell in love with an all white, female puppy that looked like her mother. She took her home, and named her Bella.
After having Bella for three years, Suter wanted another dog and searched for a purebred Great Pyrenees. She added Jolie to the family.
With two large dogs, Suter says that shedding can be a challenge. “They have a top or guard coat and then an undercoat that is soft fluffy fur. The undercoat is what makes a mess.
“For a few days in the summer, when I come down in the morning or get home from work in the evening, it looks like there’s been a pillow fight!”
According to Suter, the Great Pyrenees is an ancient breed from France and named after the Pyrenees Mountains. These dogs are in charge of sheep and goats and live out with the herds.
“Barking can be an issue because they tend to keep watch at your house,” Suter say. “But I found out girl dogs are bred to ‘sound the alarm’ to danger. I just had to acknowledge them and say good job and they’d stop barking. Their job was done.”
Sadly, Jolie died unexpectedly two years ago. In order to aid with the healing, especially for Bella, Suter sought another dog and found Ranger, a purebred Great Pyrenees. He is now three years old and, at 160 pounds, is her largest dog.
“I got Ranger when he was 18 months old and 100 pounds. He came from a family who could no longer keep him. He is great with kids and always excited to see them.”
Suter clearly considers her dogs as part of her family. She loves to take Bella, now 13, and Ranger out and about town.
“We take walks around the neighborhood and go to local dog parks. They come to the office with me on Fridays during the summer. We go to PetSmart, Three Dog Bakery and Land of Paws. They are well socialized.”
It’s impossible for Suter to go anywhere with her dogs and not get noticed! She reports kids love the dogs and come right up to them. She says it’s a good opportunity to teach them about big dogs and how to behave around them.
“Some adults are more nervous at first,” Suter says.
Clearly Suter is an animal lover. But apparently this love extends beyond Great Pyrenees and even beyond dogs.
“I have been fortunate to go humpback whale watching in Hawaii. I swam with dolphins in Key Largo, sat with tigers in Phuket, and fed baby elephants in Thailand,” she says. “I’ve pet kangaroos and wallabies, and held koalas in Australia. I guess you could say I love all animals!”
But closer to home it is her dogs that bring Suter joy on a daily basis. And, when they are away from home, the dogs bring smiles and giggles to almost everyone they meet, so she’s happy to share the joy.