Gentle giants reunite
Each year the Kennel Clubs from all over gather for the Hickories Circuit Dog Show that is hosted by the Tioga County Kennel Club. But because of flooding at the event’s usual location at Hickories Park last year, the show was moved to the Apalachin Field Day grounds in Apalachin, N.Y. In spite of the flooding, and the move to a new location, a group of Mastiff owners decided to take the opportunity on Aug. 18 to gather for an event of their own — a reunion.
Judee Burrell, a Tioga County resident, owns a Mastiff named Molly that she bred approximately 15 months ago. According to Burrell, Molly’s first litter revealed 14 of the young, gentle giants.
With JoAnne Viera, of Mountainview Mastiffs in Connecticut, arriving in Tioga County that weekend, the breeders of these gentle, friendly dogs decided that it might be a good time for a reunion of the mother and puppies, who have since been re-homed.
Glendale Park, just outside of Tioga County in neighboring Broome County, was picked to be the location, and close to a dozen of Molly’s off-spring reunited with their mother for a first-ever reunion. The amazing aspect of the reunion is that Molly’s offspring traveled far distances to be back with their mother.
Amy and Joe Shepard, for example, who gave a home to young Sebastian, traveled from Minnesota for the reunion.
"It took us 21 hours to get here," said Amy Shepard, who also noted that Sebastian is their first Mastiff.
As the couple arrived with Sebastian, and watched how he took immediately to his mother, Molly, they contemplated owning more.
"You can’t have just one," said Viera said, owner of Molly’s grandmother.
The Mastiff is described by the American Kennel Club (AKC) as one of its largest breeds. The massive Mastiff, as described on their AKC website, loves being around people and is known to bond closely with its "family." The dogs, Viera described, can grow up to 170 pounds for females, while the males can tower to 220 to 240 pounds.
One such male, that was distinctively large in size at the reunion, was Romulus.
Owner Charlie Bell talked of Romulus, and how he was probably the largest of the group, weighing in at approximately 220 pounds. Bell said that in spite of their intimidating size, that they are actually very gentle and friendly.
"They’ll lick you," said Bell, as he proceeded to get a hug from his dog’s mom, Molly.
Lillian and Ben Schupak took their Mastiff Charlie into their home in Central New Jersey, and traveled to the reunion as well. According to the Schupaks it was a seven-hour drive, round trip.
The Schupaks also talked of the reunion, and described what it was like when they all first arrived, and the dogs were reunited once more.
"He was happy," Lillian Schupak said of Charlie when he greeted his siblings.
But the most interesting of the connections made between the dogs was that of 15-month old Sebastian, and his mother Molly.
"He remembered Molly," said owners Amy and Joe Shepard. "He was licking her face, and then laid right below her."
Traveling from not so far of a distance to the reunion was Kerri Lisi of Binghamton, N.Y. Lisi has two Mastiffs, one named Mona Lisi, the other Mugsy. And because of the close proximity to her home, Lisi is hoping that the reunion will continue.
But for the average passer-by, seeing all of the Mastiffs gathered in one location, frolicking and romping with their siblings, would certainly warrant a second glance.
Viera talked of the breeding of Mastiffs, and of how she tries to keep all of the siblings connected. "I try to keep the bloodline going."
Viera also performs Mastiff rescue, and tries to help re-home the dogs, when warranted.
Viera herself lives in Connecticut with 10 Mastiffs and a German Shepherd. For her, she wouldn’t have it any other way.
As for coping with their size, most of the proud owners said that it really didn’t matter.
"They sleep anywhere they want," said Viera of her dogs.
"They train us well," she added with a chuckle.
And Judee Burrell, who was pleased to reunite Molly with her siblings, agreed.
"In my book there are canines, and then there are Mastiffs," Burrell said. "They’re gentle giants."