Now that he's been gone for over 20 years, I think I can write about him.
It was 1980, and Madge, our motherly Irish Setter, had just died of cancer. The children were in elementary school, growing like weeds, and my lap was empty. They wanted a dog, and I needed a puppy—something to coddle and train that would follow me around with a loving gleam in his eyes.
I read what books there were about dogs at the time, and came across various hymns of praise for the German Shepherd Dog—his courage, his devotion, his intelligence.
Being one of only a couple of women on tenure-track at the college, I was heavily into intelligence. Courage, too. And God knows I wanted devotion—someone to stick by me as I clawed my way to Associate Professor.
I looked in the local paper and behold, a breeder nearby was advertising German Shepherd puppies. I drove over one afternoon after class. There was kennel after kennel of dogs—all big and beautiful, all throwing themselves in a slavering rage against the fence as I appeared.
I was shown the mother. She was dark and regal and mostly ignored me, busy with her month-old litter. Then the father, a gorgeous sable, was pointed out, and he tried to burst through the fence and kill me.
Well, I wasn't expecting a bunch of pussycats, was I? These were no-nonsense dogs. And I was a no-nonsense woman, wasn't I? Before I left, I handed over a deposit for my pick of the male of the litter.
The minute the pups were eight weeks old, I showed up with the girls--my husband, as was often the case in those years, being away on business. The breeder led us into a kennel and the litter came tumbling out. Immediately, the biggest puppy rushed towards me, jumped up on the jacket of my suit, and gnawed on my fingers. What a thrill--I'd been chosen! Feeling touched as well as honored, I told the breeder this was the puppy I wanted.
The breeder opened the gate to let us out, and the puppy took off around the building, with the kids, the breeder and I in my high heels running after him. The breeder finally caught him by a hind leg and, panting, put him in my arms. I handed over the rest of the money.
The girls piled into our VW bus, the puppy between them. As I drove home, still shaken from the chase, I looked into the rear-view mirror and thought how unfazed and in control the puppy seemed. These German Shepherds, I thought with satisfaction, really are something else. (To be continued.)