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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Dog Days of Summer

I'm dog-sitting again and it's for a brand new client. The pooch in question is a geriatric German Shepherd. To protect her privacy, I'll refer to her here as "Sweetheart," a moniker that she definitely embodies!

Focused on the task of hunting bees.
When my parents were growing up, German Shepherds were simply known as "police dogs" and people were afraid of them. The military and law enforcement still use German Shepherds for intimidation purposes, but I would say that most people think of them now as intelligent, easily-trainable, highly-focused, hard-working, loyal, and perhaps rather humorless dogs. They're a "working breed," the kind of dog that "needs a job." I have a postive view of German Shepherds, but before looking after Sweetheart, I'd had little actual contact with the breed. 

What a goof!
Now, thanks to Sweetheart, I've had a LOT of contact with a German Shepherd. Much of that contact has been with her tongue. She's the type of dog that, as they say, "has trouble holding her licker!" Any time she's happy to see you, out comes the tongue! And since she's always happy to see you, well, a whole lot of licking goes on! Other adjectives that come to mind when describing Sweetheart are "goofy," "dopey," "playful," "friendly," and "mellow." Sweetheart likes to play ball, hunt bees, gleefully rub her face in the bushes, ride in the car, snooze in the sun, get her belly rubbed, and other typical canine pleasures. She's definitely loyal and she's demonstrated some real smarts in enhancing the fun of a game, but focused, driven, hard-working dog she ain't! Sweetheart has been raised as a family pet since she was a pup, so this surely contributes to her goofy vibe, but she was clearly born with a sweet, friendly, and playful disposition. Remember, folks, never judge a dog based solely on its breed!

A sleeping senior.
Sweetheart is ten years old and it's funny how much "older" she is than Mr. Gorgeous, who is also ten, or Lady, who is thirteen. She's got hip dysplasia, common among German Shepherds, that has gotten worse with age, so her back end is on the feeble side. She needs a boost to get into the car and you can see that her hind leg muscles have started to atrophy. That means Sweetheart has a bit of a wobbly, limping walk and she can no longer play with her ball as much as she wants. Her owners explained that they limit her to ten throws when she plays with her ball at the park because otherwise she'll be in pain later. Sometimes she'll whimper just a bit if I bend a paw in a way that's uncomfortable when I'm wiping off her feet. And you can feel her bones beneath her fur and there's a knobbiness to them that reminds me of how the Ancient Kitty felt when you petted him. Sweetheart's spirit is still very bright, but her body feels old.

She's always ready to play!

However, a loving old dog who shouldn't walk far or fast is a great fit for my needs, so the two of us are having a very nice time. We both sleep a lot and enjoy playing silly games in the living room and I pet her and she licks me. I've brought her along on a couple of errands and then rewarded her with a trip to a new park. She's been eating all of her meals (sometimes she's peckish, I'm told) and she's already figured out that when I pull out my camera, it's a good thing! She's a good girl, would never think of stealing people food or getting up on the furniture, and is, in other words, a real treat to hang out with. Her house is lovely, too, large and quiet with a serene view of a wooded greenbelt. We're enjoying our lazy days together, each pursuing our individual interest in bees (I like to photograph them, she tries to catch them), and taking snoozes. Her family is out of the country, so I've still got a couple weeks yet to enjoy with this senior Sweetheart!


  1. Sweetheart is a gorgeous girl. I love German Shepherds. I've had a couple growing up and had one as an adult. Best dogs ever!!