A couple of years ago, I adopted an East German German Shepherd named ANA.
She had been a student of mine and because of her high prey drive and intense personality, had become an inappropriate match for her owners “pack”.
German Shepherds are complicated and sensitive dogs generally and this particular branch of that Family is especially so. Her owner very kindly gave me first choice to take her home and I immediately said “yes”.
Now, I had (ask my friends), emphatically sworn that I would not get another Shepherd until my retirement and yet… Something about this Girl captured my heart and I just KNEW we were meant to be together. I still have no real idea what it was that made me so clear but after living closely with her for over a year now, I have not regretted my decision once. She has many issues and is by no means perfect but she is, without a doubt my dog.
Thinking about our partnership and how it came about provoked this question in my mind. Why do we choose certain dogs? What is it about them that attracts us? What element is it that we treasure about our favorites? What on Earth do we do when we have to part company? A friend recently lost her dog and has not been able to locate him or figure out what happened to him and she is truly devastated. It is a very sad thing to watch. Much like losing part of herself. So I started to think about some of the other dogs I have had the privilege to own and what it was that I was drawn to.
To start with, I have an affinity with these guys and truly believe that they are a gift given to We Stupid Humans to enhance and enrich our experience on the planet…
The pleasure and companionship they offer is beyond measure. Their constant attempts to “fit in” with our crazy society are truly heroic. Their loyalty and forgiveness are boundless and their capacity for adaptation astounding. Because we can be so “picky” about where we live, how we look and what we eat, we have also decide that we can be selective about how our dog friends look, act and behave. Think of all the many dog packages that we can choose from…hairy, smooth, big, loud, tiny, alert, slow, aggressive, friendly, quick, gentle, aloof, workmanlike, intense…and on and on. What a smorgasbord is available! How then, do we decide who, exactly we would like to share a dog lifetime with? Is it a quick decision, like the one I made about Ana? Or do we research, enquire and plan the additions to our lives? Of course, I would be one of the people who would promote the latter course of action especially if this is your first dog, however, humans are going to be impulsive, emotional and acquisitive so don’t worry, I will be there to support your choices no matter how little homework you do! AH, I know, you are going to berate me for that “snap decision" about Ana, BUT I did have forty years of research under my belt and many thousands of dog encounters to refer to…
Help me out here, what exactly is it that attracts us? Many Dog Professionals will say that people are primarily attracted to the way a dog looks and this may really be true in many cases, especially when a dog is acquired without ever meeting her…Mail Order Brides? Some people will “rescue” a dog from a shelter or a puppy mill and feel that they have not only brought home a friend but contributed to a good cause. Some people will simply “fall in love” and strongly want to bond with a certain animal. Some people have such fond memories of a past dog that they are hell bent on repeating that
experience…Yes, I have met a person who cloned her beloved dog with two genetic replicas!!! There are so many choices these days as to how we decide which dog to get. So let us for a moment, think back on who our favorite dogs were…why they were our favorite dogs…and why we can NEVER replace one unique being with another.
Let us think about whether our lifestyles, likes, attitudes and energies will support the kind of dog we think we should have and what exactly it is that really “floats our boat” in a dog companion. Let us also remember that the beloved German Shepherd or Rottweiler from our childhood was “trained” by our parents. Thinking back on the many dogs in my life, it is hard to isolate that one thing that connects me to this particular dog but regardless of all my fond memories, I must say that the dog who is currently sharing my heart is always the Best Dog Ever!!!