We couldn’t get the pick of the litter because they planned on breeding more. He was “papered” which had, prior to this purchase, meant nothing to me. His coloring was beautiful with large paintbrush splaterrings of gold on his otherwise all-black mane. The right ear would stand up, just like the left did already, in due time. The cuisine would be cottage cheese and kibble those first weeks and later would graduate to his normal food.
We named him Hobbes after the cartoon strip Calvin and Hobbes, the “E” stood for our first names and Siegerhaus was his own father’s name. Hobbes was my first, and last, German shepherd. After thirteen years, thyroid medication and arthritis, Hobbes passed away after his favorite meal of Ed leftovers three weeks ago. And the death of our family pet is not anything I’m in a hurry to deal with again.
Ed had been raised with German shepherds. To me all dogs, within each breed of course, looked inanely alike. I was raised with mutts. Of course my mutt was named “Pudgie” while Ed’s was “Duchess”. I was soon to learn why Ed loved German shepherds and why I was destined to as well.
I told Samantha the famous “Duchess and the bear trap” story to help her get through Hobbes death. Ed listened with a small smile finally creeping from his reluctant lips. Duchess followed Ed everywhere. (Insert clips of the film “My Dog Spot” that you can borrow for free from our library.) I could picture Ed playing catch with Duchess over his little brother Jimmy’s head. Ed giving away anything not resembling tuna fish from his lunch bag to his panting pooch before getting home from school. (The “tuna fish” story may actually be better than the Duchess story but it has to wait for a time that I’m really mad at Ed to tell everyone in SCV about it. Suffice to say Ed will do practically anything for a tuna fish sandwich, anytime, anywhere.)
Anyhoo, one late afternoon, Duchess followed Ed into the deep woods behind his back yard in St. Paul Minnesota. (After Ed’s usual chores of feeding the chickens or tipping cows I gather.) You see, Eddie says that no one has fences between their property and others except to pen or fence or corral in some kind of farm-type animal. (Please allow some leeway, Iowan Tim Myers, for this city-girl translation.) So, that said, it was easy to traverse the pigpen, chicken coop and barn to get to the real outdoors, the woods behind it all. And back there, behind it all, Duchess, descendant of wolves, somehow managed to get lost.
Ed came home (Whether he forgot Duchess or mom was making tuna fish sandwiches, I’ll never know.) but with no Duchess was in tow. When the stars blazed through the smogless (This was some thirty plus years ago and in Minnesota remember.) night still no Duchess appeared. Ed was not going to sleep without her and they did some kind of search, to no avail. But Duchess did return before Ed fell asleep, but she was a little more worse for wear.
She had gotten herself caught in a bear trap. But, being a German shepherd, in love with her little Eddie, there was no way that she was going to stay caught. She pulled and tugged and finally chewed her way out of it. She dragged what was left of her foot and leg all the way back to home, metal bear trap noisily dragging behind her in defeat.
I’m sure that there were countless times that Duchess proved her allegiance to Eddie in his youth. Not unlike the more modern German shepherd does. Waiting to jump you when you come home from work. Protectively napping by the door of your house. Licking off any excess food from your chin, lips, eyelids and ears. (Not to mention the inside of your mouth if he can get there.) Enjoying a car ride way more than we are even capable of understanding. Regally presenting himself as a lap dog for petting. Being foreboding enough to make you feel safe when your husband is at work. Staying just ahead of you during a walk. Protecting your child with circling and barking when another dog approaches. Hobbes did all of these things.
But by the time Samantha was old enough to enjoy Hobbes, he was too old to play with. On our last weekend together we sat, the three of us, in the sun streamed driveway of our house. I was on the cellular phone talking to Ed working an overtime day. Samantha was trying to encompass the entire driveway with a sidewalk-chalked garden. And Hobbes lay at my feet. I’d scratch his neck, Samantha patted his back a few times when he managed to rise and we reported to Ed that he looked pretty tired that day.
Ed said Yea; Hobbes was getting old. When he passed away two days later Ed wasn’t surprised but his eyes reflected more. Because for Ed, dealing with Hobbes’ passing wasn’t just for Hobbes, but for Duchess as well. And, knowing the compassionate nature of my husband, there was plenty of thought for my own Pudgie and anyone else’s too.
That’s why I guess I can’t be sure that Hobbes will be my last German Shepherd. Because there will always be another dog that will make my husband remember Duchess. And all of the wonderful dogs out there that are just waiting to be man’s best friend.