When my dad was a kid, his family had a series of border collie’s named Harvey. Yes, all of them were named Harvey. And they were all buried in the backyard with a ‘Harvey’ headstone.
When I was a kid, we had a fox terrier who died at the age of one year… very sad. A Sheltie who was a pain in the ass – she hated us kids. Hated us. She bit my sister in the face and practically tore her nose off.
When I was an older teen, we got a collie/German shepherd mix, who was not only beautiful, but brilliant, just brilliant. Boaz was a great dog. My dad says Boaz was the best dog ever. And yeah, he was, until my husband and I got Louie.
Louie wasn’t our first dog. Before Louie we had a Golden Retriever, Rosie, the sweetest, most perfect dog for a young family with little babies. Rosie put up with anything. She treated our babies like her own puppies.
I could say, “Rosie, watch the baby.” And she’d lay right down next to the baby on the floor. Or, “Rosie, clean the baby.” And she’s clean up the baby’s face and hands. I know what you’re thinking – “Eww…gross!” Not really. Rosie wasn’t one of those poop-eating dogs and I figured her mouth was at least as clean as the sand my kids ate out of the sandbox. I’m not a clean freak and my kids don’t suffer from allergies so I guess I did something right.
After Rosie died, I couldn’t bear to get another Golden because I knew we’d always be comparing the dog to Rosie, so I got Louie, a German shepherd cub. The long-haired shepherds look just like bear cubs. Louie was the cutest, the smartest, the easiest dog I’ve ever had. He wasn’t perfect. Just ask Jane, the Jack Russell Terrier he nipped in the butt. She never forgave him. Never. And I had to keep a spray bottle of lemon juice handy because he liked to use those sharp little puppy teeth on the kids. He dug a hole in the backyard – one hole – obsessively. When he went to the vet, he’d never bite or nip, but he’d thrash. Imagine a hundred pound dog thrashing while you’re trying to look in his ear. It would take four or five of us to hold him down for the simplest problem.
Louie was terrified of really small children. He’d always run away from them, but one afternoon we were hiking and a little boy, maybe four or five years old, ran up to him and threw his arms around Louie’s neck. I was horrified. I just knew Louie would rip that kid’s face off and it would be terrible and there would be hell to pay. But Louie held perfectly still. I could see the effort it took. His eyes were saying – “Don’t bite him. Don’t bite him. Don’t bite him.” By sheer force of will, he controlled himself. This is the same dog that went after the man who attacked me, the man wearing a ski mask and carrying a knife. Louie probably saved my life that day. Certainly he saved me from being raped.
Those of you who know me know how devastated I was when Louie died suddenly a year after that incident. A German shepherd is not a dog. These dogs are people in hairy suits. I know we all say that about our dog, but German shepherds really are people in hairy suits. (Once you have a GSD, it’s hard to go back.) I was so distraught at the loss of my best friend (sorry honey) that I went out and got Jake – known around these parts as Albert Einstein on meth.
Jake is now a year and a half. He’s the talk of the dog park. Everybody knows him. He’s the playinator. He never tires. His best friends are Zoe, Daisy, Hector, Ford, Eddie, Winston, Callie, Riley, Winnie and Rufus. There is only one dog he doesn’t like, so we avoid that dog, and there’s one dog who doesn’t like him (a teacup chihuahua who would like to tear Jake’s head off except he’s only as big as Jake’s ear – Zini). Jake’s social problems, when they arise, stem from his high energy level, his speed, and the fact that he’s bred to herd sheep. If a dog runs away at high speed, he’ll chase the dog, cut him off, nip at his butt, and turn him back towards us. Some dogs and their owners take offense at this behavior. They freak out when a German shepherd chases their dog, even when their dog initiates the play. Christ, my dog doesn’t even lift his leg to pee yet! He’s still a baby.
I have to be so careful with new people. I need a sign that says, If your dog runs, my dog will chase him. He won’t hurt him, but he may nip his butt.
Mostly I have to anticipate and gather Jake in. If I can tell a dog is going to run, and if I sense fear coming from an owner, I leash Jake and we walk on by like it ain’t no big thing – he’s the perfect gentleman on leash.
Jake’s favorite day to chase? When the Vizsla club comes to the park. Talk about speed! He gets to herd a dozen dogs around. He thinks they’re deer.