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Soul Dog: What ‘The Maremma Paw’ means

    There lies a magic in the touch of The Maremma Paw.

    One simple glance of her rough pads and I know my Maremma sheepdog and I are connected on another level.

    It’s one of the special ways she communicates with me.

    It’s how she lets me know I am hers and I am safe.

    A stolen moment

    Yesterday was a play day.

    We had work to do, so we gathered some friends for a day of dog photos at Farragut State Park.

    heeler puppy on adventure in Idaho
    Playtime with a heeler puppy

    Work is play.

    Bella put in a hard day of work, teaching the other dogs how to model, watching them get rewarded with her treats and hiking 7 miles. 

    We stole a few minutes of rest, sitting together on the rocky beach at Buttonhook Bay while the others milled around. As we all chatted, Bella raised her Maremma paw and placed it ever so gently on my shoulder.

    Our friends squealed with delight, whipping out their phones to record the ever-so-sweet moment. 

    It was over. 

    “Get her to do it again,” they pleaded.

    Bella refused.

    It was almost as if she was saying The Maremma Paw is something only those chosen by a Maremma sheepdog should get to appreciate.

    What The Maremma Paw means

    It’s known as “The Maremma Paw” in our communities on Facebook.

    Whether the dog is a companion or a working livestock guardian dog, all humans fortunate to know a Maremma sheepdog understand what the Maremma paw is.

    This form of communication is consistent through most of the livestock guardian dog breeds: the Pyr paw, the Akbash paw, the Kuvasz paw, the Anatolian paw, and so on.

    And other dog owners reading this will think “my dog does that.”

    The Maremma paw is different.

    the Maremma paw
    The Maremma Paw

    It’s a gesture to let you know a few different things:

    You are owned.

    You are safe.

    I am here.

    Oh, Bella also uses The Paw to let me know I’m not done with scritches.

    Why it’s special

    Every dog lover has a special bond with their dog.

    I know this.

    I see it all the time in my dog photography business. When my clients share The Magic Moment with me, I feel ever so privileged to witness it.

    woman and dog portrait at Farragut State Park
    Kim and Daisy

    They are little peeks into a very special relationship – sweet smiles, little kisses, gentle touches. 

    The human-dog connection inspires me on a daily basis, and I’m fortunate to have been blessed to have not one, but two very amazing connections with a dog. 

    Both Maremmas.

    Both on a different level than I’ve ever experienced with a dog before.

    Not just because I’m an adult and my dogs are my dogs, not shared with my parents or brothers.

    Not just because I am the sole human responsible for their care.

    But because I’ve realized I have a deep soul connection to this breed. The Maremma sheepdog is more than an average dog.

    She is noble.

    She is dignified.

    She is independent.

    She is gentle, yet fierce when needed.

    She is my partner.

    My guardian.

    My best friend.

    The trust that develops between a Maremma and a human is not anything I’ve ever experienced before – with dog or human.

    I know she will fight to the death for me.

    And she knows I am her guardian too.

    angela and bella the Maremma sheepdog
    The risk of being a companion Maremma: super squishy hugs

    The Soul Dog Journey Project

    These stories of Bella, to be told every Monday in 2022, are part of the Soul Dog Journey Project, a mission by my friend Marika at @souldogcreative in Seattle. After losing her Soul Dog, Kerouac, last year, she’s put together a 52-week project that gets us telling the stories of how we are connected to our dogs and what they bring to our lives. 

    Each week, there’s a new story prompt to get our creative juices flowing. This week’s prompt focuses on your dog’s paw and what it feels like to hold it. I knew right away I had to write about The Maremma Paw..

    Don’t be shy. Tell me in the comments about your dog’s paw and what you feel when you hold it. I’d love to hear about it. 

    And if you’ve found yourself here because you have a Maremma sheepdog that brings you a deeper connection than you’ve ever known, well, you just know.


    Dogs. Adventure. Outdoors. These words set Angela's heart afire. Angela Schneider, an award-winning writer and dog photographer, documents the story of you and your dog and the adventures you take together. Your portraits will be a statement piece in your home, art that will make your friends and family beg to hear its story.

    1 thought on “Soul Dog: What ‘The Maremma Paw’ means”

    1. My old man George was super special. He believed he was the King of the world. Not a single person who met him didn’t fall in love with him. I adored him with my every breath.

      Along came baby Ollie when George was four. The cutest little fluff button. George fell in love and Ollie went everywhere with him.

      As George aged, Ollie became his carer. He looked after George so faithfully.

      We all knew about the Paw. We spent many nights with one or the others paw in someone’s lap, often on the floor in front of the wood heater.

      The day we lost George was traumatic. He bogged himself in the dam. I’ll spare you the details…………we lay George on a tarp on the ground and Ollie was distraught but sat quietly by……….with his paw on George. I left them there for as long as I could, George was struggling and desperately needed to get to the Vet. As we picked the tarp up to get George into the car, I realised that each dog had a paw on the other.

      George left the world quietly and peacefully in my arms at the Vet. I thought my heart had broken forever. Came home to Ollie who sat with me for such a long time……..his paw in my lap, my arms around him.

      These days Ollie sleeps beside my bed, my arm hanging over, my hand in his fur. I’m woken when my blood sugars get too high, by a paw on my body. I wake every morning to a big soft nose in my face and a paw on my arm. Im chronically ill now and that paw is ever present. It’s there when my back hurts so badly, it’s there when I do too much, its there when I fall, it’s there when I stop and sit to eat………that paw tells me Ollie is sympathising with me, it tells me I’ve done too much, sit down and rest, it tells me when my blood sugar is high and I need my meds, it tells me life is still good when I ask if it’s worth it, that paw reminds me its good to be happy, it tells me I’m never alone and most of all that beautiful big paw reminds me always that I’m loved.

      Yes, the Maremma Paw, it speaks a language that if we sit and listen, is so intensely beautiful, so strong and so very loving. Never take that paw for granted, never ignore it, never push it away……….love comes in all shapes and sizes and gestures…………….especially in the Paw.

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