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Meet Jasper: The Great Pyrenees turning heads in Ann Arbor

Photo: Meredith Bruckner
Photo: Meredith Bruckner

ANN ARBOR – It all started when I was sitting in Sweetwaters on Washington St. one afternoon.

Several staff and customers began to rush outside excitedly, some peeking their heads back in the door and exclaiming, "You have to see this!"

I went to see what all the fuss was about, and saw that Jasper, a massive, purebred Great Pyrenees, was the root of all this excitement.

His owner, Arash Javanbakht, could barely get through one email or a sip of coffee without passersby stopping to pet Jasper.

Javanbakht, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist, said he is used to his dog getting all the attention.

"There was a time that this lady, we were walking, she just comes to Jasper and is petting him for a couple minutes, then looks up at me and says, 'Well, hello to you, too,'" explained Javanbakht. "A lot of times, I feel like his PR. And sitting here, I feel like he gets all the attention, but it’s fun. It’s cool to tell people about the breed, and I learn about people, too."

In a twist of fate, he got Jasper a year ago when the family raising him had to let him go.

"When I was a kid, I used to watch this show, 'Belle and Sebastian,' which was a show about a kid and a dog in the Great Pyrenees mountains and I’ve been in love with this breed since then." 

Javanbakht and Jasper have gotten worldwide attention in The Washington Post and The Daily Mail. Jasper even has his own Instagram account.

"Every time we were out, 80, 90, even 100 people would stop by and want to pet him and ask about him, learn about him and take pictures," said Javanbakht. "I thought that would be a (fun) way to share his pictures with his fans."

This past weekend, he met Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor.

Another name for the breed is "gentle giant," and Javanbakht has brought Jasper to events to help those suffering from trauma and anxiety.

At one event at University of Michigan addressing fear of dogs, he recalled, "There was this mom who had for all her life been scared of dogs. At the end she was hugging Jasper, taking a picture."

Keep your eyes out for this local celeb. At his size, he's not hard to miss!

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