Top Gunner: Malamute/German shepherd mix is a guardian in South Powell neighborhood

Posted 6/18/24

When Wilbur (the pig) escaped from his pen just south of the Powell city limits, Gunner raced to Wilbur’s side as he saw the possibility of  making a new friend. In early April, the …

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Top Gunner: Malamute/German shepherd mix is a guardian in South Powell neighborhood


When Wilbur (the pig) escaped from his pen just south of the Powell city limits, Gunner raced to Wilbur’s side as he saw the possibility of  making a new friend. In early April, the hulking 4-year-old canine with a friendly smile comforted the mischievous swine, laying next to Wilbur under a nearby camper trailer during tense moments that saw police, pet owners and business employees trying to wrangle the swine.

It worked. With help from Gunner, Wilbur eventually emerged from under the camper parked at Ryan Bros. Trucking on Road 9. As traffic was stopped and Wilbur was guided across the highway, back to his home, Gunner was insistent on seeing the rescue through to the end. When a malamute/German shepherd stands about 5’9” on his back legs, you learn to compromise with your pet while on walks. 

Now Gunner looks forward to frequent visits with his new (temporary) friend and Wilbur seems to enjoy the visits as well. The long-tailed pig actually wags his tail faster than Gunner when they meet. The two will nuzzle each other. It’s pretty sweet to watch.

However, if you didn’t catch the hint from the word temporary, here’s another: Wilbur is currently near the perfect market weight.

Befriending the pig is a typical response for Gunner. He’s a gentle giant. Cats, small dogs, bunnies and people visiting during office hours at Cross Auto on S. Fair St. are all welcomed by the mass of muscles. He’s Jim and Joann Cross’ fur baby and the three rarely separate. However, if you spend just a few minutes petting him — especially in spring and summer — you might be able to collect enough hair to make a sweater. 

The couple had a similar dog prior to adopting Gunner. They almost passed on getting a second mammoth pooch because of all the hair, Joann said. Hair in the car, hair on the furniture, hair on their clothes and occasionally a tuft of hair in their mouth.

“They’re hairy. But their temperaments are awesome,” Joann said.

She suggests using a currycomb, a comb made of rows of metallic teeth or serrated ridges and used especially to curry horses, while the wind is blowing to help keep it off the couch.

“It just flies off him,” she said.

Realistically, simply getting used to the hair is really about the only option, Cross said. There are many issues to consider when bringing home a dog that outweighs the average person — especially in summer, she said.

Joann often takes Gunner to the Cody Dog Park for a cool down in the warmer months and the feature of a fenced-in section of Beck Lake shoreline. A cooling bath in the lake, a trip to the groomers next door to the shop and a quick shop vac in the backseat of her truck is routine for the Powell family.

According to the American Kennel Club, Most breeds like Gunner are built to conserve rather than dissipate heat. They don’t have sweat glands, and most of their body is wrapped in fur with little or no exposed skin. As a result, they lose heat through the pads of their feet and through their mouths by panting.

The AKC suggests letting your dog drink as much water as possible during a hot day, and, if you have a working freezer, make cold treats, like frozen chew toys or dog-safe ice pops.

Along with plenty of cool water, the most important thing to do to keep a dog cool is to keep it indoors or in the shade. If your air conditioning turns off on an extra-hot day (and you can’t get it back on), go to the coolest area of the house you can, such as the basement. If possible, stay at a friend’s house until your air conditioning is restored. 

In spite of your best efforts, your dog could develop heatstroke. Symptoms include: Unusual breathing (rapid and loud), high rectal temperature (103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher), extreme thirst, weakness and/or fatigue, frequent vomiting, disorientation, dark or bright red tongue and gums, skin around the muzzle or neck doesn’t snap back when pinched (dehydration), difficulty breathing, thick saliva, rapid heartbeat, heavy drooling and unusual agitation.

If you suspect that your dog is overheated, immediately take them to a cooler area or to the vet, the AKC suggests. Once in a cool room, separate their fur with your fingers so the cool air can penetrate the skin. To cool your dog down as quickly as possible, pour cool water over their head and body, gently hose a very gentle stream of cool water over them, or, where possible, submerge them in a tub of cool water.

Even if your dog seems stable, it’s a good idea to take them to the nearest vet for evaluation and treatment if you think it is showing signs of heatstroke.

Large breeds are harder to be placed if they wind up in an animal shelter, so being prepared well before the actual adoption is critical for your pet’s welfare.

They also have shorter life spans. That shih tzu may have twice the lifespan of some large dog breeds. Not a pleasant thought, but something to definitely consider before adopting a dog large enough for its own queen-sized bed.

Cross wouldn’t have it any other way. She loves large breeds, she said.

“He’s so personable. I love him like my kids,” she said, adding that the breed is also very smart. “He always seems to know what you’re talking about.”