Things were going quite well. He was calmer, more manageable, and even polite. It was all moving in the right direction until yesterday. We were walking along, side by side, silently enjoying the beautiful, blue spring morning and, out of nowhere, a small ginger cat jumped out of the bush onto Merlin’s back.
Merlin is a German shepherd. He sprang into action and leapt at the feisty cat. I grabbed the lead, growled at Merlin, and pulled him away. A 50-kilo female is no match for a lunging 40-kilo dog. There is a lot of power behind those strong shoulders. Merlin begrudgingly conceded and let me pull him away. The cat decided that somehow it was a victory to her and followed us down the street hissing and snarling at Merlin. Merlin only just contained his smouldering resentment. Cats can be like that. A little victory and they think they are warrior-supreme.
This is my third boy German shepherd. They have all been the same. Protective, intelligent, full of life. They walk commandingly, ears up, checking out their terrain, ready for any sign of intrusion or misdemeanour. Each time I say, “This will be my last shepherd.” Then I get another one. I am tough on my dogs. Dogs are not humans. They are instinctive and very physical. They want leadership or they will take it. They respect physical and mental strength. I am tough on my German shepherds because I have to be.
These days, we are mostly fine. We usually know where the cats are hiding. I let Merlin know that I am watching and there will be no degenerating into uncivilised behaviour. We know where the barking dogs are; the ones that leap at their fence when we pass. Lots of dogs don’t like Merlin, even when he is casually walking along, taking no notice of them, thinking about the flying paper down the street which is moving suspiciously in the wind.
Merlin doesn’t start arguments with other dogs but he does finish them. Occasionally, a dog will escape and run aggressively towards Merlin. Merlin doesn’t hurt them but he does put them in their place. Unharmed but humbled, they walk off. Merlin forgets about it instantly. Dogs don’t harbour grudges.
Sometimes, people try to give me advice. They, generally, know less than me about dogs. They say patronisingly but kindly, “You know, it’s not really the dog that needs training but the owner.”
I smile and say, “Thanks.” What else can I say? I am tough on my dogs but I still end up with these beautiful, fiery steam trains walking next to me.
Sometimes, more gracious men will say, “Big dog for you. You are doing a good job.” They mean for a woman but they don’t say that in case I get offended. I’m not offended.
“Thank you,” I say, this time, sincerely.
Perhaps, it is not by accident that I keep getting the same dog. All of life is a teaching situation. German shepherds are my antithesis. However, like all things in life, if we look for our balance out there in something or someone else, we will get the balance but then we will also get the conflict between what we are and the thing that balances us. There is a pull in two different directions. The conflict, itself, forces us to learn and move closer to the balance within ourselves. I think this really will be my last German shepherd.
This article is from Love’s Longing