LOGAN, Utah (AP) — Seventeen years after a Great Pyrenees sheepdog was rescued after faithfully guarding three stranded sheep in Logan Canyon, the man who brought the public’s attention to the plight is telling his full story.
Jim Stone, a longtime Bear Lake guide and business owner, has teamed up with friend Karen Stone to write “The Legend of Big Boy: Safe or Stranded," the Herald Journal reported.
The book’s subtitle is a reference to the headline of a 2004 Herald Journal article about the dog. After the article, there was a public outpouring of support for the dog.
“The next morning after I went public, the Search & Rescue was there, the cops were there, the game wardens were there, the public people were there with signs about rescuing Big Boy,” Stone said.
Before the article, however, Stone had been visiting the dog he called “Big Boy” for about four months.
Co-author Karen Stone, a friend not related to Jim, helped bring that effort to light.
Karen Stone said she’d heard Jim tell Big Boy’s story before, but reading the manuscript was something else.
“Oh my gosh, I was just overwhelmed with the story,” Karen Stone said.
Karen Stone felt Jim was leaving much of his personal experience out, however, so she collaborated with him to include more of what she sees as “a very emotional and spiritual experience that I clearly saw Heavenly Father’s hand directing,” she said.
So in addition to editing the book, she wrote some portions of the book after interviewing him about his experience.
Jim Stone originally spotted the dog near the Beaver Mountain turnoff while he was driving through Logan Canyon and thought it odd for that time of year. On his next trip through the canyon, he saw the dog trotting along the side of the road as if he were looking for something.
“I went home and got thinking about it,” Stone said. “I thought, well, the ranchers over there, they use those dogs quite a bit. So I was kind of worried about the dog.”
Sheepdogs are occasionally left behind in summer range when ranchers pick up sheep in the fall.
Stone started bringing food for the dog, but since Great Pyrenees sheepdogs are bred to be wary, it took a couple of visits before the dog would come down the cliffs to eat.
“He trusted me, but he was bred not to come to humans,” Stone said, “so he would never actually come right to my hand, and I couldn’t actually get him in the truck.”
Stone tried throwing meat up the cliffs to Big Boy, then “skipping” flat pieces of frozen meat up. Eventually he started taking the sticks out of corn dogs and “rifling” them up, throwing them with a football spiral.
After about a month, Stone followed a hunch and discovered the reason that Big Boy hadn’t just left the canyon even though snow had started to fall.
“Finally I had to hike across the mountains on the other side with my binos to look up to see what was going on, then I could see the sheep up there, stranded,” Stone said. “And it was just amazing that the dog would not leave those sheep.”
After Stone spotted the sheep, he started bringing bales of alfalfa as well as food for Big Boy. Stone was amazed when the dog would take wafers from the bales and carry them up the mountain to the sheep. Stone saw him break off rose hips and carry them up to the sheep, as well.
As the weather continued to cool, at one point Stone said he tried to bait the dog close enough to grab him. After more reflection, he gave up that strategy.
“I decided not to try to grab the dog,” Stone said, “because it wouldn’t have been right of me to take the dog away from something he was so passionate about giving his life up to protect.”
Eventually, Stone spoke with his friend, then-Herald Journal photographer Mitch Mascaro, who encouraged him to take the dog’s tale to the newspaper.
The book includes details that apparently haven’t been previously reported, including the fate of Big Boy and the sheep. According to Stone, Search & Rescue volunteers brought all of the animals down from the mountain.
Stone said after the rescue, he believes he found Big Boy working for a rancher and would visit him periodically for about five years afterward.
“It was kind of a bond that I had with that dog,” Stone said. “He knew that I had rescued him and he knew that I’d fed him. We had kind of one of those silent-language friendship type of things.”
Gary E. Stevenson, an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, told the story in the church’s 2018 General Conference. In his talk, “Shepherding Souls,” Stevenson mentions clipping the newspaper article about Big Boy and compared the dog’s dedication and demeanor to Jesus Christ.
Stone said he likes that analogy, and extended it further:
“The book really portrays that everybody needs help at some time in their life,” Stone said. “When he (Stevenson) compared that dog to being Jesus and the sheep being us, well, even at one point Jesus needed Heavenly Father to step in.”
About seven months ago, Stone decided to put Pickleville Country Store up for sale and head up to Alaska, where he’s been living in his truck with his dogs and writing books. He’d wanted to write “Big Boy” for years, but was inspired to finally make it happen by his best friend, Allen Warner. Shortly before Warner’s death, he gave Stone a “little red desk.”
“At the time,” Stone writes in the first chapter of his book, “it was just a dream in my friends mind that I would carry this desk to many different and beautiful places where my memories and my thoughts could be transferred onto paper through a pencil or pen.”
So rather abruptly one morning after Warner’s death, Stone decided he’d make that dream a reality.
“I decided about 3 o’clock in the morning, ‘I’m going to Alaska and I’m going to write that book,’” Stone said. “So I loaded up that desk in my truck and all my camping stuff and dogs and guns and fishing poles and headed for Washington. Put the truck on a ferry and ferried all the way across the Pacific Ocean to Sitka.”
Stone writes on the desk when he can, and when the weather or the terrain won’t permit, he uses a cutting board as a writing surface. He takes his manuscript to public libraries, copies them off, and mails them to Karen Stone.
“This book is about two living angels,” Karen said, referencing both the dog’s dedication to the sheep and “Jim’s breakthrough in his personal and spiritual life that came into fruition through that experience.”
“The Legend of Big Boy: Safe or Stranded” is available through Balboa Press for physical or Kindle ebook purchase on Amazon.