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The perfect dog. January 11, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in pets, Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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As faithful readers know, our friend Ben and Silence Dogood are currently the proud parents of Pioneer Hawk’s Haven Shiloh von Shiloh Special, a black German shepherd female who’ll turn two years old this February. Prior to Shiloh, we’ve owned two wonderful golden retrievers, Annie and Molly.

We loved our golden girls, and I know OFB had his heart set on a third. But when our Molly died after a horrific bout with liver cancer, I was determined to return to my first choice, a German shepherd. I grew up with Afghan hounds, poodles, cocker spaniels, Springer spaniels, and my all-time favorite, my brilliant and loving Hapilus, a half-cocker/half-Springer mix I got in sixth grade. Yet, exceptional as Hapilus was (how many dogs play piano, drive a car—or at least hop into the driver’s seat, put their paws on the wheel, and stick their head out the window—and climb trees?), as an adult, I wanted a German shepherd.

Why a shepherd, when I’d never had one, known one, or even seen one on TV? I can’t give you a good answer; I just knew. So I went to the local Humane Society shelter and signed up for a youngish female German shepherd who was up for adoption. And was turned down because I was single and worked, despite my assurances that I would love and care for her as my own. I hope they didn’t euthanize that poor dog rather than allow a single working person like me to adopt her!

By the time I met OFB, I’d adopted Annie, a beautifully behaved 1 1/2-year-old golden retriever female who’d been retained by her kennel for breeding purposes, then found to be recessive for cataracts. Rather than breeding her anyway, the responsible kennel owner put her up for sale, and I bought her. Our friend Ben loved Annie as I did, and it killed us when, just a year after I brought her home, we lost her after a heroic battle with bone cancer. Then we got Molly, our big, beautiful, smart second golden retriever. She was OFB’s special girl, and we both adored her and she us for ten years. Then we lost her.

It was impossible for either of us to imagine life without a dog, but after two goldens, I was ready to find the German shepherd of my dreams. I wanted a smart, brave, funny, companionable dog to brighten my days, and I found her online at Pioneer German Shepherds’ website. They were outside Gettysburg, just a couple of hours away from Hawk’s Haven, the cottage home our friend Ben and I share in the precise middle of nowhere, PA. They had two puppies left from their latest litter, and one of those was a black female. Another couple was coming to see the pups that weekend; could we come as well?

Well, no. OFB had commitments that wouldn’t let us go down, and I certainly wasn’t going to pick out a pup without Ben’s input. We’d have to go the following weekend, assuming the black female was still available. We’d have to take our chances. But you know, I just knew she would be. I knew she was going to be our Shiloh. I bought a puppy-size collar and leash, and OFB and I headed down to PA apple country. The couple who’d come down the week before bought the black-and-tan male; Shiloh was still available. We signed the paperwork, and a still-dubious OFB and I settled Shiloh in her carrier for the long ride home. (She was an angel; not a peep the whole way.)

A year and a half later, I can say without doubt that I’ve never had or heard of a dog that approached Shiloh. She’s smart, kind, affectionate, beautiful, and hysterically funny. Topping out at 75 pounds, she’s light for a Pioneer German Shepherd but is strong enough to pull a car. She can run like the wind; in motion, you can’t even see the dog, just a black blur. Her herding instinct is very strong: She herds our cats, her toys, our chickens, and us, and is never happier than when all of us are together. She not only understands English but tries to speak it at every opportunity. She keeps a close eye on all of us, and is plastered to our side, whining nervously and nosing us continuously if OFB or I aren’t feeling well. I’m sure that with any encouragement she’d be out hailing an ambulance.

When our friend Ben and I were down in North Carolina visiting family last weekend, OFB took me to a Barnes & Noble (bless his heart, he knows too much family togetherness can just be too much), and I found a copy of German Shepherds for Dummies by D. Caroline Coile, Ph.D. Flipping through the book, I found this passage:

“The German Shepherd Dog standard emphasizes temperament perhaps more than any other breed standard… :

‘With an effervescent temperament, the dog must also be cooperative, adapting to every situation, and take to work willingly and joyfully. He must show courage and hardness as the situation requires to defend his handler and his property. He must readily attack on his owner’s command but otherwise be a fully attentive, obedient and pleasant household companion. He should be devoted to his familiar surroundings, above all to other animals and children, and composed in his contact with people. All in all, he gives a harmonious picture of natural nobility and self-confidence .’

“…The perfect German Shepherd would conform to every point of the [breed] standard and trot with great, sound strides. Beyond that, he would be of strong and noble temperament and of robust health. There is no perfect German Shepherd…”

Oh? We beg to differ. We happen to know a German shepherd who’s picture-perfect, whose gait is breathtaking, whose temperament is strong, noble, loving, and kind (not to mention funny in private moments). Whose health is robust. Whose intelligence is almost on a human order. Whose concern for all under her protection surpasses most human caretakers, and whose perception of health or other issues is exact and immediate.

Her name is Pioneer Hawk’s Haven Shiloh von Shiloh Special. (That’s just “Shiloh” to you.) She’s our friend Ben’s adoring companion and my beloved protector; she would call 911 herself if she thought I was ill, or joyously join me and OFB for movie night, sharing a big bowl of popcorn and lying attentively between our chairs watching the film. She’s not yet two years old, yet she’s already everything a dog could ever be, and more than most of us could ever hope to be.

Shiloh, Shiloh. We love you so. God grant you health and long life, so you can continue to show us what it means to be truly human.



1. Jen - January 12, 2011

Awww – I remember when you first got Shiloh. It’s so nice to read an update and know that she is loved and thriving. No perfect German Shepherd?! Indeed!! Credit must be given to the owners, too.

“Awwww” is right, Jen! We love our Shiloh. But, despite your kind words, she has very imperfect owners! We’ve just been very lucky in our choice of dogs. (In all three cases, seeing calm, friendly parents and relatives was extremely reassuring. Good temperament plus high intelligence makes for a wonderful canine companion!)

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