See pictures of all our dogs here
ALL ABOUT OUR DOGS
Whatever I write, I cannot do justice to the superb pets and friends we have been privileged to own over the past 40 plus years, but the following notes are some of the happy memories we have.
Tanya was meant to be our first dog. It was 1969, I was newly married and my own parents had relentlessly forbidden me to own a dog, on the basis that I would not look after it and they would have to feed it and take it for walks. They were probably right, as when you are single it is difficult to accept any responsibility. But now I was married and a dog seemed right for us. My wife had always had a dog in the family and so we had discussed the matter and agreed that we would acquire one sooner rather than later. On holiday with her parents in Cornwall we had befriended a couple with a German Shepherd and thought how intelligent and beautiful he was. Several weeks later I visited a building site and in the Site Agent's hut was a bundle of fur that was a German Shepherd puppy. I was enthralled and was told that there were several more in the litter at a nearby farmhouse. That night we hurried to see them and chose Tanya, mainly because she was the runt of the litter and looked as if she needed someone to care for her. So we had broken rule number one. "Never choose the runt in the litter." But we had not - she had chosen us!
We had also broken rule number two. "Do not take on a dog if you are both working." We always managed to get home to see her during the lunch hour and I often took her with me in the car, as I drove around in my job selling ready mixed concrete to building sites. She would sit in the back of the car while I carried out my calls. One day I picked up my hard hat to take on to site with me, and as I lifted it to put it on my head I realised it contained some liquid. A very narrow escape for me, as Tanya had used it to perform a call of nature, and avoided watering my car!
Sometimes she was left on her own and when we returned there often was a disaster zone in the house. On one occasion she found a cola can and managed to open the ring top, resulting in cola all over the walls in the lounge. She also decimated a foam cushion. Have you ever taken out all the foam in a cushion? It covers about ten times the area you would expect. Due to boredom, she often chewed at anything in the house, including doors and door frames. We never smacked her, but she always cringed when we arrived home, even when she had done nothing wrong.
We took steps to give her company while we were at work. My dear parents were persuaded to take her in the afternoons, thus fulfilling their predictions that if I had a dog, they would end up looking after it. We also found a local kennels, where the owners would take her (at a price) for the afternoon hours, allowing her contact with other dogs and getting exercise in a large field. We always gave her walks each day, normally on a lead around the local roads, with long walks in the New Forest at weekends. Tanya loved splashing in puddles and on the heath there was a large but shallow lake, formed by heavy rain. An endearing memory of her was running amok up, down and across the lake, totally uncontrolled, but doing no harm.
One day my wife visited her mother and took her by car to the local railway station to collect two elderly friends who were visiting from Scotland. The two friends and their luggage were put into my wife's car and mother-in-law decided she would walk Tanya the short distance home. On seeing the car disappearing from view Tanya decided to chase after it, pulling mother-in-law completely over. Luckily there were no bones broken, but we had broken rule number three - "Do not entrust a large dog to someone who is unable to handle it."
Some people never learn from experience, and we are within that number. A short time after, mother-in-law stated that she would be very willing to look after Tanya for an afternoon. The dog was duly delivered and Mother took Tanya for a short walk, leaving her own cocker spaniel in the front porch area. On her return she opened the front door and Tanya, full of excitement at seeing Shandy the spaniel, lunged forward and through the partly open door. Tanya was still on a lead, and the thrust forward took mother-in-law completely through the glass door, crashing onto the floor of the porch. Amazingly, she was unharmed, and the glass showed the silhouette of her body passing through. Tanya was in disgrace, so was put outside in the garden for the remainder of the afternoon. The in-laws kept chickens in a fenced off area of the garden. On of these unfortunate birds ventured close to the border and was rushed at by an excited German Shepherd, who thought that this would be a splendid game. The chicken did not respond in kind, but dropped dead out of sheer fright.
We never left Tanya with mother-in-law again.
As it was unfair on Tanya to leave her for extended periods and also difficult to place her, we found the perfect answer to our problems by having our own baby, which forced my wife to leave work and therefore devote much more time in looking after the dog. Tanya readily accepted the new arrival and gave our daughter the occasional lick to indicate her existence. One evening a friend of my wife's came round to give a quotation for re-covering our three-piece suite. He walked through the door into the lounge, and seeing our daughter on the baby mattress on the floor, said "What a lovely baby!" and moved towards her. Tanya leapt into the air, jumped at him and gave him a nasty gash on the forehead. He had broken rule number four - "Never come between a dog and its family."
A job move meant that we left the New Forest area for Farnborough in Hampshire, where our son was born. Tanya was excellent with the children and we trusted her implicitly. She was now five years old and tragedy struck. We had noticed her limping, so took her to the vet. When it failed to get better, an x-ray identified cancer in her front right hand leg. We were devastated and asked the vet what could be done. He recommended that we had her put down, but gave an option that had a chance of success, being the amputation of the leg. We grabbed this outside chance and he performed the operation. Within days Tanya had recovered and after a week or so she was racing around, going on walks and chasing rabbits whenever they got within her range. The operation was a spectacular success and we still had our beloved dog. However, our euphoria was short lived. Several months later her shoulder swelled up and the cancer had returned. We took the only option and had her put down.
Overall she was the sweetest of dogs, who gave us the total love that only a German Shepherd can give.
There was emptiness in our house without Tanya and I was determined to get a replacement as soon as possible. We had previously noticed a breeding kennels on the A30, just before Basingstoke and visited them to discover that they had a litter of puppies ready for sale. At the weekend, the family duly went to chose their new pet and a gorgeous GSD bitch was purchased, managing to be sick during the short drive home.
Whereas Tanya had been a short-haired, Lara had long hair. Tanya had been somewhat nervous at times, but Lara was really mellow and fitted in to our way of life from Day 1. She considered herself one of the children and joined in when they played. At the bottom of the garden was their swing and next to the house I had built a patio. The children and Lara devised a game of tag, where the swing and the patio were both "Home" and in between was a chase area. When Lara caught the children she would nudge them with her nose, but was never rougher than that with them. She also treated each member of the family with a different mode of play. She would never rough play with my son, however much he tried, even when he grew up old enough to have a play fight. Lara would soft mouth a fight with my daughter and her jaws got a little stronger when pulling a rubber ring away from my wife. With me she would grab my arm and "fight" me until it had red marks all over and I told her to stop. Whenever I put on my wellington boots I would shuffle them and soft "kick" her and she would grab my leg and worry it until I screamed in pain and shouted "Stop!" which she always did immediately.
On occasions we all visited a children's playground, where she would follow our kids up the slide and rush down after them. Also she would get on the roundabout with them while we pushed it round. The children loved her and when my wife collected them from school, all their friends would run up to Lara and stroke her. She was completely trustworthy with everyone she came into contact with.
In the early days, my son had whooping cough and this worried Lara, to the extent that she would go to his room at night and sleep beside his bed. This continued all her life, and we always found her in his room each morning.
In the meantime, we had moved house to Baildon in West Yorkshire. This was a lovely part of the country, being a few miles north of Bradford and close to Ilkley Moor. During these years we spent most week-ends exploring the Yorkshire Moors and Dales and Lara always came with us. On one winter's day we were walking on the moor when suddenly Lara sped off at a fair rate towards some sheep about 200 yards away. Despite our shouting she chose to ignore us and started to chase three sheep. They disappeared behind a hillock and came racing out of the other side. By now I was running across wet and boggy ground towards the melee. Lara saw me approaching and decided to come back to me. She got a smack and a sound telling off from me, as most farmers will shoot dogs that worry their sheep. I put her on a very short lead and for the rest of the afternoon walked towards any sheep I could find, smacking her nose and shouting "NO!" at her on each occasion. From that day she never worried sheep again and we were much more careful to keep her close when walking the moors.
In 1981 we moved back to the New Forest which was an ideal location for dog walks. The years had been kind to Lara, but in 1985 at 11 years old her back legs began to cause problems. Somehow, you know when the time has come to let go, and we reluctantly took her to the vets for the final injection. Lara was probably the best all round dog we owned and was with us during an especially happy period of our lives.
ZOE and AMY
We knew that we had to find a new puppy as soon as possible, and it was a matter of a week or so before we sought out a replacement for our beloved Lara. We scoured the local newspaper and found an advertisement for GSD puppies. It was a private house in Southampton and we made the first appointment we could for viewing at the weekend. The whole family went to chose the new addition to the household and without any real method of deciding which was the best or strongest of the litter, we quickly chose a bitch that was not already sold. We had decided long ago that rule number one was not written for us to obey! Zoe was short-haired and black and tan, with a very pretty face. A couple of weeks later we collected her and took her home.
From the outset Zoe was a sweet and somewhat shy puppy. She quickly adapted to our ways and soon settled in to being the spoilt baby of the family.
Around this time we had decided to open a video and gift shop in our village, which meant we were very much tied to our work and home, with little chance to holiday or socialise. When Zoe was around 18 months old we decided to have another dog as companionship for her, and we acquired another GSD puppy, who we named Amy.
We had become friendly with a lady living in our village who owned a couple of gorgeous GSD's. She had temporary problems when moving house and my wife had offered to look after her dogs for any time she needed someone to take care of them. The offer was never accepted, but the lady was so grateful that she promised us the pick of the next litter of puppies she bred. The lady moved house, months passed, and then we received an excited telephone call telling us that we should visit her new home to choose our new puppy. The family arrived at the earliest opportunity and found a litter of some eight puppies, mostly long haired. Each puppy was held aloft and examined in detail, although their eyes were not yet open. Our friend suggested that one little bitch in particular looked very healthy and full of bounce, and so we were easily talked into choosing Amy as our next pet. Amy turned out to be a very open natured dog, with no faults at all. She was not used to children, as our own were now in their teens, but she got on well with people and also other dogs.
Zoe and Amy were great friends from the start. At first Zoe was by far the mother figure, but as time progressed they became equals, with only one short spat where they had a bit of a dog fight. On one occasion we were walking along the edge of the forest on a summer evening, when a deer appeared out of the ditch and fled into the trees. The two dogs were so close they took up immediate chase, but Amy came quickly back to our frantic calling. We shouted and shouted, but after twenty minutes Zoe had not returned. We stayed in the area she had left us and continued calling. Around the thirty minute mark, which seemed like a lifetime, we saw Zoe emerge from the forest some fifty yards away. When she got to us she collapsed, panting and fighting for breath. The heat of the day and her constant running for such a long time had completely exhausted her. It was at least a further quarter of an hour before we managed to continue our walk back to the car and home.
The two dogs were very fit and swift and many of our walks were on the open heath. They had much fun in chasing after rabbits and a couple of times caught a poor rabbit, by teaming up during the chase and blocking off the pursued creature's escape. My wife was very distressed at such savagery and told the dogs off, whereas I was content to let nature take its course.
Zoe died at nine years old in 1994 with her back legs giving up all strength, with Amy going the same way in 1996.
When Zoe died, we did not have any immediate plans to replace her. By now we had disposed of the shop and I was working as Accountant in a motor dealership. One day the service receptionist at the garage told me that one of her customers wanted to see me. I walked round to the reception area and was introduced to the lady chauffeur of a customer's Bentley. I was informed that her own GSD had recently produced a litter of puppies and that I was going to buy one of them! I protested and suggested that I was not really in the market for another dog, but mentioned it to my wife that evening. The rules in buying a dog, which I mentioned earlier, should also state "Never let the heart rule the head." However, in our family no major decision has ever been made by thinking logically about any matter, so that weekend we drove up to Crawley to look at the puppies. We have never yet looked at any puppies where we haven't ended up getting one, so in reality we drove up to Crawley to choose a puppy. And yes, I suppose we did get the usual runt of the litter.
Lucy was jet black and a tiny little thing. It was just before Christmas when we drove back to Crawley to collect her, barely eight weeks old. Amy readily accepted her as part of the family and they never looked back, remaining very close friends until Amy died.
Previously we had never subjected any of our dogs to organised training. They had always accepted we were in charge and would obey our commands readily. Lucy was good at instructions such as sit or come, but when she met a strange dog she was uncontrollable. This proved to be somewhat embarrassing when encountering little old ladies with small dogs on our walks. You could not convince them that a black GSD rushing towards them and barking madly was "No need to worry, she does it all the time!" Also, Lucy's behaviour when in the car on the way to a walk was deplorable. She would get very excited and bark madly at everyone she saw outside the car, hysterically yelping at imaginary dogs all around her.
The problem did not diminish as she reached adulthood, so we decided to enlist professional help. We contacted a man who called himself "the Dog Whisperer". He duly arrived at our house and we agreed to drive to one of our regular walks where we would meet other dog walkers. On arrival he put a special collar on Lucy, which could squirt a high powered spray at her to shock her into stopping whatever she was doing. He then attached a lead and decided to walk her away from us, in a large circular walk. We spend nearly an hour following his instructions, with little result. Lucy was particularly ill-behaved when he was attempting to control her. He was most put out with the fact he was failing miserably, and stated that she was the only dog he had ever had such a problematic session. He left us the spray collar, which we returned within a week, and he charged us around £40, for virtually no result.
Undeterred by failure, we took Lucy to an animal behavioural specialist at Southampton University. Her solution seemed to be to ignore Lucy at all times and offer little affection. The problem was that if Lucy was ignored when rushing at other dogs in a barking frenzy, she did not stop but carried on regardless. We also had experience of our other dogs and could not ignore Lucy. She was a sweet and delightful dog in every other aspect. In the house she was very demure and was wonderful with our young grandchildren. She was very affectionate with all of us and with our friends dogs that she knew was extremely friendly. So we paid another £40 for the session, again with no result.
Time mellowed Lucy, although at thirteen years old she still barked away in the car. On a walk she would still make lots of noise at other dogs, but was now easier to persuade to change direction and move away. In all her time, she never attacked another dog. Most other dogs were not fazed by her and looked at her with astonishment or disdain. When they got up close, Lucy's hackles went down and she would sniff and even play with the other dog. After this, when they moved away, she might have gone in again for a rush and bark. It had obviously got something to do with status and territory, but none of our other Shepherds suffered from such psychosis.
Lucy's other claim to fame was that she frequently carries two large stones in her mouth at the same time. All of our dogs have carried sticks and stones during a walk, but she was the only one to manage to pick up and balance two at a time.
She slowed down a lot over her last year or so, with arthritis in both her front legs. However she still walked daily and could (just) manage the climb upstairs every night. We had been giving her Syn-flex, which contains Glucosamine in her daily meal and this has definitely improved her condition, in easing those stiff joints, allowing us to reduce the painkillers prescribed by the vet. She continued to greet us with bright eyes and a wagging tail, right to the end.
We took our lovely Lucy to her last visit to the Vet on 31 March 2008, where she had the final injection.
When Lucy died, we decided not to have a dog for while. After 39 years, this was a complete change from our normal lives, but we had a couple of holidays planned and it seemed a good idea to have a break from the responsibilities of dog owning. I was desperate for another dog, but Penny (sensibly) resisted and enabled us to have a few months of freedom, where we could go away for a week or two or even out for the day, without having a dog-sitter, or worrying if our pet was ok.
However, our hearts eventually took over from our heads (as usual) and after a seven month gap, we now have a lovely Labradoodle puppy named Maisy. See pictures here. I was emphatic that I wanted another German Shepherd, but due to a number of reasons, Penny decided she wanted a Labradoodle (a cross between a Labrador and a Poodle.) One of our grandsons suffers from Asthma and we had heard that the wooly coat of a Labradoodle was less likely to affect him. Also the breed was quite unusual and Penny liked the look of them. After some discussion, as usual, Penny got her way. Although we both wear the trousers in our relationship, Penny decides which pair to wear every day! So we looked on the Internet and came up with a litter of puppies for sale, near Fordingbridge in Hampshire, which is about half an hour's drive.
We arranged to go and see the puppies and in line with the usual rules of choosing a puppy, decided on one straight away. The owner Jacqui was a very caring breeder and of course we got the best looking and sweetest puppy there. Early days have indicated that we made the right choice and within a week she had taken over the household. The story continues ...........
See pictures of all our dogs here
Return to My Favourite Things to read more about my dogs and see pictures of them.