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German Shepherd Dogs I have Known

January 4, 2013
Male German Shepherd at 10 years old

Male German Shepherd at 10 years old

German Shepherd Dogs have played a major role in my life. Some of my earliest memories are of Dutchess, the family dog,  sleeping on the rug by my bed. My parents ran German Shepherd kennels when I was growing up and I reveled in playing with the puppies, doing the chores around the kennels and just being around the dogs. Dad trained shepherds for tracking, utility training and other obedience skills. We also showed our shepherds.

An old photo of me and a basket of puppies.

An old photo of me and a basket of puppies.

Summers were great when I was a kid. Long, warm and free. I spent time with my dogs and reading. Those were the summers I discovered Thoreau, Emerson and The Lord of the Rings.  I would read under summer trees and hidden in the long grass behind the creek at the back of the property. Still, summer was also a time of  isolation for this rural kid.  And the dogs, though my friends, were unfortunately not pets. The decisions made about kennel dogs, show dogs and breeding stock are not the same decisions  you would make about your friends – not if you are a kid. Those aspects of raising dogs are not fond memories for me.  But still, I am still grateful that I spent so much of my childhood  in the company of dogs.

My old female shepherd at the river when she was about 9 years old.

My old female shepherd at the river when she was about 9 years old.

When I went off to university I left with no dog by my side. I felt that absence keenly. Years of more schooling and moving around to different projects followed and I had no opportunity to have a dog. Then I started my Ph.D. and my field work at a wildlife management area. One of the staff had a litter of German Shepherd puppies.    That, as they say, was that.  I cleared brush and did a series of small jobs to get the money to pay for one of the female pups.  I did not actually have the pick of the litter, but I visited so often that the boldest, most playful female started to recognize me.  She became known as my puppy and eventually came home with me.  Miska was my buddy for the next 16 years.  It was a great friendship and she accompanied me through many hikes and canoe trips.  She was a great running buddy and could fit up to 5 frisbees in her mouth at one time.

How much of a hint do you need?  Let's play!

How much of a hint do you need? Let’s play!

I remember one Christmas when a room-mate opened a package of brilliantly coloured  socks. We were laughing and chatting about the socks when Miska came around the corner carrying one of my socks! I guess she had learned what the word meant and wanted to join in. She also taught another room-mate that dogs…well…lie! I was away and left her with this friend.  I usually gave Miska a dog cookie in the morning and one after her meal- only if she sat first. Well, Miska would sit at the counter in front of the cookies and stare at my friend first thing in the morning, apparently waiting for a cookie.  My friend assumed that this was part of the routine and Miska had a well-developed new routine by the time I got home.

Who me?  Young German Shepherd male on his first night home.

Who me? Young German Shepherd male on his first night home.

Miska died in my arms waiting in front of the vet’s office at 5AM one morning. I still miss her. I did not want a dog for about a year and then started looking for another shepherd and Max became part of my family. He is a large male, even for a German Shepherd, and though he loves people, he is aggressive with other dogs on first encounter. But he too is a great dog who enlivens my life every day.  I have shared many adventures with Max.  He has a different attitude to play than Miska, however,  and really does not understand why I would want to hurl plastic disks at him!

You're back!  German Shepherd greeting me on my return home

You’re back! German Shepherd greeting me on my return home

He is a great running buddy, although now at 10 I notice he is sometimes sore and I make sure that he gets  more walks than runs now.

People and dogs have evolved together. Dogs are no longer wild animals, nor are they livestock. We have walked together in the past as hunting partners, herding partners, as companions. Dogs have guarded our families and protected us in the world’s dangerous places.   We may think we have adapted dogs to our purposes, but I know that our association with dogs has changed us too. For the better. We no longer walk alone as a species, or even as an isolated rural kid when we have a dog at our side.  We have a contract of unconditional respect and even love with dogs.  It is our better self that honours that contract.

All photos and writing in this blog copyright J.A. Siderius 2013.

  1. Peter permalink

    One of the greatest companions is a dog, I loved reading your story about your german shepards. It made me think of my Lab. Unfortunately a dog is not possible right now, but in a few years I hope to have another.

  2. This is a lovely post. GSDs have been my favourite breed forever… though I’ve never been in the position to own one… yet 🙂

    • I love Shepherds. I hope I can continue to have them in my life – I hope you have the same opportunity!

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