By Beth Hill, daughter of Martha Rehmeyer, CGPR Founder
One blistering hot summer day in 1992, my brother found himself confronted by a large, fluffy, white dog wandering in Winston-Salem. At that time, he was living in a small apartment with a medium-sized dog of his own. There was no way he could keep this dog. Fortunately, our mother lived nearby. He coaxed this hundred-pound stray into the back of his Suzuki and called to warn her of his arrival. Mom, an animal lover, would know what to do with this monster.
And, of course, Martha Rehmeyer did. She took in the animal, provided him with a cool basement to get away from the summer heat, a bowl of refreshing water, and another bowl full of food. She contacted the appropriate agencies to report this lost dog, only no one seemed to be looking for him. She had worked in a veterinarian’s office and knew that this was a Great Pyrenees. She had been intrigued by this breed and had considered adopting one when the time was right. Little did she know that time was now.
After a few days with no owner coming to claim him, she contacted the nearest Great Pyrenees rescue. They were willing to take him but would not be able to pick him up until the following week. She agreed to keep him safe and well-cared for until then.
If you cannot guess what happened next, you have not had the experience of spending time with a Pyr. They make you do things you would not have considered before. Forget about all those pre-conceived notions of dog rules: no dogs on the furniture, no dogs that shed a lot, no dogs that drool, etc. You meet a Pyr and all of a sudden reality hits: Pyrs are lap dogs with the only problem being that human laps are too small. Pyrs inevitably end up on the furniture. Their hair can also be used to make soft sweaters and line bird nests—recycling at it’s finest! And isn’t this why they make vacuums? What a good excuse to support the economy by purchasing a newer, improved model! And drool, it is only water…slightly slimy…but still water. I have never been told that it ever hurt anyone.
When the Great Pyrenees rescue called for him a few days later, her answer came easy: “Thank you, but never mind, he can stay.” He had won over her heart and would win over many more over the next eight years.
His name became Sir Charles of Scarsborough, otherwise known as Charlie. He was special. My mother started taking him to local nursing homes and adult day care centers. He made people who had not smiled in years smile once more. People who could not remember their own name remembered his and looked forward to his visits. He made caregivers believe when a woman who had not spoken in years called his name. He even knew when death was near and made a point to sit a moment longer with those who may not be there for his next visit. He was usually right.
He was special. Over the years the two of them received several awards including volunteer of the year. He had shown her the true spirit of these gentle giants and in doing so, inspired her to reach out and help his brothers and sisters. And so it started. My mother started rescuing other Great Pyrenees that first year with Charlie. It started slow with only eight dogs entering the rescue. This past year, CGPR accepted 127 dogs into rescue. The unfortunate side of this story is that more than 300 had to be turned down. My mother is a strong woman, but even strong women cry. It hurts when she has to say “no” to any dog in need. I have come home to find her sitting quietly in front of her computer. I listen as she talks about the “bad days.” My mother realizes that she cannot save them all, but it does not stop the pain of knowing what probably happens to those that she cannot offer sanctuary.
There have been numerous times that she has talked about “getting out.” This past year, the 501(c) 3 tax-exempt status was scheduled to be renewed, and she did not plan on doing so. She was making mental notes on how to “shut down” the operation, but the lure of this majestic breed and the understanding of what would happen to all of those “Charlies” if there were no CGPR kept her—and still keeps her—going.
October 10, 2000 was a sad day. Charlie collapsed on the living room floor. It took both my mother and my brother to gently roll him onto a blanket and carry him to the car. The typically short drive to the vet’s office was painfully long that day. My mother was there when he took his last breath. His body may be gone, but his spirit remains.
This one stray changed so many lives, especially that of my mother. In my eyes, it keeps her young. I hope that she continues this wonderful mission as long as possible. Thank you, Charlie!