05 May 2011

About a dog

There's been some notice taken of the dogs that work with SEALs and others on combat duty.  The dogs that can fight are usually Belgian Malinois or German Shepherds.

OK, here's the deal on the Belgian sheep dogs.  Three varieties:  Gronendael (black hair), Tervuren (straight brown/black hair), and Malinois (short tan hair).  Same dog underneath.  I adopted a Belgian Tervuren mix 10 years ago. 

I trained him with Jan Fennell's 'Amichien' technique. He was a working dog for me, a companion for long midnight walks in neighborhoods where the threat was mainly from coyotes or bobcats.

These dogs are not for everyone. They need not just a job, but a career.  They are problem-solvers. When properly trained they are fearsome, able to focus in even chaotic situations, and worth enough in utility alone to justify their expensive armor.

Mine became an intuitive, attentive guardian companion who earned many, many compliments through the years for his handsome appearance and reliably impeccable manners in all sorts of situations. He was trained to gestures as well as sounds and words. His pre-adoption life had left him fearful and ignorant of home life, but with consistent training he gained poise and courage. His accomplishments were no less valuable or impressive to my family and me than those of the trained war-dogs.

I speak of him in past tense, but he's still alive, just very old and tottery.  Through the grace of God, when I left California behind, the woman who bought my house fell in love with my gentle friend, after he went up to her and leaned confidentially against her and put up his head for a pat.  It was as though he knew she would be his new leader.  Because he is nearly blind and going deaf and unsteady on his feet at times, it was wonderful to know he would be in the same house where he'd always lived, no steps, instead of in a place with steep stairs and harsh weather.  If I didn't know the two of them were going along together - he still doing his job to the best of his ability, watching the house and her - I would grieve for him terribly.  But I've been back to visit a couple of times, and he's happy with her.  She says extravagant things to him and rubs his belly and he loves it in ordinately.

He will break our hearts one day, unable to keep on going.  I hope for her sake and mine he just drops dead, or is found in the middle of a nap with no end.

I always felt like I was getting away with something, having this beautiful, intelligent being in my life when he could just as easily done all kinds of valuable work elsewhere.  How God has blessed me.

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