Back in 2011, I wrote a post for Wild Fidalgo about Baby Pictures. Blogger used to put a "Next Blog" link at the top of their pages for exploring other Blogger sites. Every time I tried it, I always found myself mired in other people's baby pictures. Not to be outdone, I wrote that post about Northern Flicker baby pictures. I guess that's what Facebook is for now, and Blogger has removed the link. I now have another opportunity to post my own "baby pictures" of sorts.
Buddy became my best friend last July through the services of the Washington German Shepherd Rescue group. I haven't had a dull moment since. He is estimated to be 2 years old, although some of us think he may be younger. He acts like a big kid. All we know of his history is that he was a stray. All I know is that he is the most charming stray dog anyone could imagine.
Taking the photo above was an interesting challenge. I am sitting with his ball held up in my left hand. That's what he is looking at. The point-and-shoot is in my right hand. His forelegs are standing on my lap while I try to get him framed in the flip screen. With everything unstable, jiggling and at the brink of collapse, that photo happened totally by chance.
When he arrived, he was exquisitely housebroken and never got onto the furniture. These would indicate that he had experienced some sort of home life. His leash manners, on the other hand, were something else altogether. It was obvious he had never done any obedience work. He didn't know any basic commands, heal, sit, stay etc. Just walking with him was like taking a spirited race horse on the leash.
He is not my first dog, and I have experience with obedience training. In the past, I had Doberman Pinschers. Like Shepherds, they are intelligent, eager to please and quick learners. They're also willful. If they don't know your expectations, they can quickly get out of control. I engaged a trainer to guide us through a formal 6 week course. Both of us have learned a lot since that day I brought him home.
He loves to play with his toys and fetch is his favorite game. He loves them so much, I can use them as training rewards. Our newest game is "Hide it/Find it." I hold one of his toys, put him in a sit/stay, and leave the room out of his sight. I hide the toy and return to him. On the release he's told to "find it." The game combines obedience, problem solving and tracking skills. He never lets me out of his sight, so that was the hardest part for him. The rest was a piece of cake. My task now is to keep finding new ways to challenge him.
"I know there's something in here for me." Like I said, never a dull moment. I don't have to break down boxes for recycling anymore.
According to the book, German Shepherd Dogs are "aloof and standoffish with strangers." My dog didn't read that book. Buddy enjoys people and charms everyone he meets. All of my neighbors know him by name. The FedEx and UPS guys will stop their trucks to greet him and give him a treat.
When I took him in for his first wellness check, the veterinarian was also charmed. He was amazed by his outgoing nature and temperament. He noted that Buddy exhibited neither aggression nor fear, and commented that I "hit the jackpot" with this one.
If you come to my house and sit down, he will climb onto your lap and give you a hug. Really. It's an experience. In fact, learning boundaries and to be a gentleman when company comes is something we have to work on. Like my Dobermans, when someone's at the door, they're welcome to come in as far as he's concerned. If he is anything like my other dogs, however, if trouble comes, he will know it. His attitude will change quickly.
I have to talk about his first big outing. I took him to Deception Pass State Park. We walked the Sand Dune Loop Trail, then went over to the amphitheater beach on the pass. I have never seen such unbridled joy in a dog. He loves riding in the car, but this, beyond all doubt, looked like the best thing he had ever done.
I gave him all the leash and just let him do what he wanted. That tail never stopped wagging. There were so many smells, so many bushes to pee on. It was almost too much for him. Of course, he made a friend on the trail, a Labrador Retriever, also a rescue dog. Ever since that day, when we go in the car, he cries if I have to go and leave him in it.
After a big day at the park, there's nothing like a good snooze by the fire. Good boy.