I grew up with two German Shepherds. Not at the same time, no, but serially.
To quote Stoaty in part: German Shepherds are TEH AWESOME. Stoaty does the best “TEH AWESOME” I have ever seen in print. It just feels right when she does it.
The first one was Rex. He was a good dog but suffered from an ailment that led to his rather young death. I was pretty young so he and I hadn’t really bonded.
Then there was Nemo. I’m not sure whether my dad actually caught the diametrically opposed names or whether he just liked Jules Verne. Perhaps both. He’s a quiet guy who doesn’t speak much but thinks a lot. Very at peace with himself.
Nemo was a cute pup who grew into a big dog. He ran about 125 lbs and more when he did silly things (which we will get into in some detail later on). All my pictures are in transit, being shipped from Oregon and currently being stored, so I can’t show you his picture. What I can show you is a very close likeness. Close enough that if you’d shown me and said “Oh, so and so snapped a pic of Nemo, see?” I probably would have believed it was him.
Now, isn’t that a fine example of a large furry canine? He was strong, very easygoing, and God have mercy on the soul of the person that tried to hurt the family.
A short side story about this dog… (I actually have three or four good ones about this dog)
I had been injured in a plywood mill, which is a story unto itself, and because of multiple compound fractures ended up with a full-arm cast and a lot of spare time until going back to college. I would get up, take my pain meds, and sit around waving at butterflies and being bored when they turned into fluffy pink bunnies (Dilaudid is amazing stuff).
So one fine day, around 8:30 am or so, I got up and took my meds and said “Nemo! We need to go on walkabout! You up for it?”
Nemo was up for putting garbage bags over our heads and standing in the middle of the freeway as long as we did it together. So off we went. Five miles later I took a rest hundreds and hundreds of feet above the valley floor and looked down and out across the valley, watching vehicles go up and down I-5. I sat there in the hot sun and watched hawks flying around us looking for fat rodents to eat. It was a beautiful day that I will always remember as clearly as if I was there. Nemo, well, he was happy to sit next to me and was actually leaning on me a little bit. He knew I was injured so he was pretty gentle. I looked down at my watch and realized that we had been up on the hill for six or seven hours.
“Nemo! We gotta get home!” And so off we went. I had dry-swallowed another pill a while before that and wasn’t due until after we got back so I was good to go. It took us a while to get back down the hill because I couldn’t take the jarring but we got down there.
We walked around dad’s shop and my parents were standing there looking very worried about how long we’d been gone and whether I was OK. Then my folks saw Nemo and that he wasn’t doing so well. They immediately hosed him off and he stood in his water bucket because he was bone-dry parched and way too hot for a dog. I had been a bad master to my good friend and not realized it because I was drugged up and smarting from the hike. Here’s the take-home lesson though – that dog never whined once, stuck with me like a second skin, and wanted nothing so much as to be together – I never forgot how loyal he was from that moment on.
Ok, back-story and personality profile complete, let’s move on.
One day a few years prior to that it was another hot summer day and he and I had been slumming around outside so Nemo hadn’t eaten much – like I said, we hung out together. We went back up to the house and I was doing some important things like watching flies and drinking a pop.
I went looking for him and where do you think he was? He was in the outside pantry – someone (ahem) forgot to close the door. I heard this slurp-slurp-slurp sound and saw from behind that he was going to town on something. This could be nothing good, but what was it, exactly?
As it turned out he had peeled off the lid of a Folger’s coffee can that had previously been completely full of drained-off bacon fat. He had managed to eat about half of the can’s contents.
As anyone who has ever had a dog knows, you can’t make the beasts un-eat something. Dogs are really nothing more than a big fluffy alimentary canal that barks and wags a tail.
I windmilled my arms in a useless blocking motion and yelled “Geez Nemo! Get out of there! GO ON! Shoo!”
He gurgled as he went by.
That alone would be enough to make one say that this particular canine should not be allowed in the house for a while. Possibly as long as three weeks, just to be sure.
A little while later I heard loud crunching noises from near where we kept the animal food. The fool animal was standing there, eating directly out of the bag of cat food. It had been a full bag and was now down to about 2/3 of a bag.
Again with the arm-waving and shooing motions I got him to leave off. “Go on, Nemo. Get out of there. That’s not your food, go eat the food in your bowl, ok?”
He sloshed as he went by.
I went to tell my mother what he’d done. There was nothing to actually do about it but it was my duty to report his infractions. Best pals he and I were, but you didn’t cross The Warden.
I walked out onto the deck and saw him gulping water out of his water bucket. He kept gulping. He kept slurping. He kept lapping. Time passed, clocks wound down, paint dried, whole colonies of rodents lived, reproduced, aged, and died, and still he kept drinking. A substantial amount of water was transferred from the tub to the dog. A shocking amount, really.
I didn’t really clue into it, but I was watching a train wreck unfold.
He bubbled and percolated as he went by.
I went inside the house to scrounge up something to eat and found something suitable for a teenage boy – roughly a half-gallon of 2% milk and Ritz crackers, which was and still is my favorite snack.
Note: There is nothing as tasty as ice-cold milk and a salty-buttery-rich Ritz cracker except perhaps a Hershey’s kiss and a bite of a granny smith apple. We will now return you to the regularly scheduled story…
My hearing has always been bad but I was terrible about wearing my hearing aids even then, as I’ve grown accustomed to and like my silent earth. In spite of the ever-present quietness that surrounds me around the corner I could hear a strange noise. It was a very peculiar bass sound with little hitches in it. I said to myself, “What a peculiar bass sound with little hitches in it.”
I came around the corner into the breezeway and saw the dog lying on his side looking for all the world like he was pregnant with twin hippos. His belly which normally was quite flat and trim because he was an active health-conscious dog (usually) was now swollen and bulging alarmingly above the level of the rest of his body. It was grotesque, is what it was.
Therein lied the train wreck. Who knew that a pound or so of bacon grease, several pounds of cat food, and copious amounts of water would swell up so gosh-darned much?
Groooooaaaaaaannnnnn. Ewwwwwrrrrrrooooowwwww. Groaaaaaaaaaan. Errrrrrrrrrroooooh.
He kept repeating those “I’m dying, please finish me off” noises for at least two more hours. Obviously I can only loosely interpret his dog-speak but I will say that he was probably saying:
Hey, you love me, right? I mean, really really love me, right? If you do… if you have even a shred of decency in you, even the *tiniest bit*, you will grab something – an axe, a pipe, even a big branch – and beat me to death with it. Whatever you choose to use, just do it quickly. I beg of you. Please, Master, I beg you…
I didn’t do any of those things but I did love that critter, and in spite of not really being worthy of his devotion, he still loved me.
Without exception everyone in the family came out every so often to say softly to him “You big dummy.”
This became a regular expression from then on, where he would eat something particularly vile (but to him probably the tasty kind of vile) and then he would pay the consequences for it.
In this case, the consequences to that big furry alimentary canal with a tail were that he couldn’t come into the house for a few days. Details beyond that I cannot say, because we respected his privacy.