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Your Happy Pet: Why are there dogs at the Texas Zoo?

Original Publication Date: February 10, 2014
By C. Sue Furman, Ph.D.

There are two residents that most visitors to the Texas Zoo in Victoria never get to see.

They are Jazz and Sarge, the Great Pyrenees who spend their days in the administration office area but patrol the grounds when the zoo is closed.

I wondered and asked Amanda Rocha, zoo director, and Nathan Palmer, zoo public relations officer, why the Texas Zoo has two dogs as residents since most people do not associate dogs with a zoo.

Amanda and Nathan told me that about three years ago, the zoo was plagued with nighttime visits by feral cats and raccoons. The marauders were a physical threat to peafowl and chickens and also created the added risk of bringing diseases to the zoo animals. The staff tried different approaches to safeguard the zoo grounds like using smaller mesh in fences, but the problem persisted. Finally, the thought of guard dogs was posed at a staff meeting.

Serendipitously, Andrea Blomberg, zoo director at the time, knew of two Great Pyrenees that had been brought to the attention of the Texas Great Pyrenees Rescue but were still with their owner. The ancient breed has long been used as guard dogs for sheep and other animals, but the gentle giants are also good companions known for their patience, nobility and courage. All were qualities the zoo staff wanted in a potential guard dog.

The two dogs in question had been raised on a turkey farm where they guarded the birds.

They were also companions to the owner, so they were used to being around people.

Naturally, the owner wanted to make sure the brother and sister went to a good home. Things fell into place, and he brought Jazz and Sarge to live at the Texas Zoo. Perhaps it was a match made in heaven.

Andrea stayed with the dogs the first night, and Jazz and Sarge seemed to accept their charge. Nocturnal by nature, the two fit right in with the peacocks, peahens and others who freely roam the zoo at night.

However, it is clear that Jazz and Sarge now consider the zoo grounds their territory and take their evening patrol of the zoo very seriously. The invading raccoons and feral cats are a problem of the past.

I spent the day with Jazz and Sarge when they volunteered to participate in a canine massage class I taught at the zoo. They are totally gentle, sweet and accommodating to people and really like their massages.

You probably will not see Jazz and Sarge the next time you visit the zoo, but please keep in mind that their vigilance at night makes your daytime visit more enjoyable.

Sue Furman, Ph.D, has published two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at