German Shepherd Dog Zack joined our family in the summer of 1999
He was a cute little bundle of fur at first, but quickly became “legendary” among mail carriers, delivery people and bicyclists in the area. His thunderous bark and menacing presence was enough to make anyone who didn’t know him more than a little nervous. Just to make sure everyone knew he was serious about his position as “Chief of Security” here at HoofPrints and on the Keesling farm, he often escorted (read: chased) visitors off the premises whenever they left.
He was a challenge to manage, with all the barking and menacing etc. we had to be pretty vigilant to keep the uninitiated from being terrorized and keep Zack from putting himself in danger by making errors in judgement while escorting vehicles (read: chasing cars) I always felt safe with him here, and he never bit anyone – though I feel this is only because he never felt he needed to, fortunately.
We laid Zack to rest in winter, 2011; his old body was failing on multiple levels and it was time for him to go. I made a very amateur tribute video (slide show set to music) that you can watch below.
THE BEST PLACE TO BURY A DOG
There is one best place to bury a dog. If you bury him in this spot, he will come to you when you call – come to you over the grim, dim frontier of death, and down the well-remembered path, and to your side again.
And though you call a dozen living dogs to heel, they shall not growl at him, nor resent his coming, for he is yours and he belongs there.
People may scoff at you, who see no lightest blade of grass bent by his footfall, who hear no whimper, people who may never really have had a dog. Smile at them, for you shall know something that is hidden from them, and which is well worth the knowing.
The one best place to bury a good dog is in the heart of his master.
By Ben Hur Lampman from the Portland Oregonian Sept. 11, 1925 – complete verse is here
Some thoughts on herding dogs
It’s a brilliant plan – teach that energetic canine to dash down through the pasture, and round up that herd for you…
…saving you an infinite amount of time and effort!
Few who have watched skilled herding dogs at work can remain unimpressed. However, owners of these herding breeds are often less than impressed when their dog-without-a-real-job takes it upon himself to round up pedestrians, bicyclists, or worse yet, motor vehicles. There is a downside to selectively breeding dogs with the tenacity that it takes to herd difficult stock with out wimping out when the going gets tough. You end up with an opportunistic herder of things other than livestock – that doesn’t give up.
Here’s a story on this subject that I shared about Zack in a HoofPrints newsletter:
A few years ago, our German Shepherd Zack’s best effort to turn back the mail lady’s truck proved unsuccessful. He did all the things that worked for him before – ran alongside nipping at the “heels” – went to the “head” to force a change of direction – dove in front as a final display of dominance. In the past, this did the trick, and the SUV was “subdued” there in the driveway, only to be released after we hear a honking horn and yell at him; “ZACK, CUT IT OUT!” That time it didn’t go as he planned, and she accidentally ran completely over him. “It felt like a speed bump” was her account. Yikes.
After several tense hours at the doggy ER, six days in doggy ICU, and a big pile of money, Zack, sporting a cumbersome splint on his once-dislocated elbow, came home. Now, anyone who has played “dog nurse” to a 110+ pound, unable-to-walk-unassisted, incontinent canine who is in total agony will know that it is not an easy task. I had not been so sleep-deprived since my son was a baby. Adding to the misery were the comments from nearly everyone who saw him;
“I am sure he learned his lesson on that one.”
“Well that should break him of chasing cars!”
“I bet he won’t do that again!”
Yes – he would. Like the good herding dog that he is, he would pick himself back up, and as soon as he was able, he again diligently worked at controlling the speed and direction of everything he encountered. Including the mail lady’s SUV. We, on the other hand, DID learn our lesson, and made a much bigger effort to make sure that he didn’t have the opportunity to exercise his herding skills on motor vehicles.
There are a few pictures in the tribute video of Zack sporting a splint; these are the result of that altercation. The other picture with the face wound is proof that a small, barefoot pony can indeed inflict serious injury on a very large dog if sufficiently annoyed.
Remember that old cartoon with the sheepdog (Sam) and the wolf (Ralph) who would clock in and then spend the rest of the episode deviling each other? That was pretty much the situation between Zack and Jack (our Hackney pony and hoofprint model). The pony is so smart – once he learned Zack got in big trouble for barking and chasing him – would deliberately entice him into the forbidden pasture for a rousing game of chase – complete with barking and kicking. This would result in Zack getting yelled at, or tied up if our nerves were frayed enough.
Our best efforts to TEACH him not to chase things failed. For a while we thought he was just dense – and that he couldn’t REMEMBER that he’d gotten in trouble for deviling the horses for the umpteenth time in the same day. Out of desperation we bought a “correction device” (read: shock collar) in order to give our requests to him a little more “emphasis”. It seemed he just couldn’t get it.
Then I read an article that talked about specific breeds of dogs being bred to be “independent thinkers” vs. breeds that look, always, to their human for specific direction. If you’ve ever had a dog who watched your face all the time – hanging on your every word and gesture, waiting to see what comes next… that kind of dog is NOT an independent thinker. The dog who takes initiative to get his own agenda – and herd whatever he sees fit – whenever he sees fit – is an independent thinker. And notoriously hard to train. When you’re not there to supervise them, they take matters into their own hands (paws).
While it would seem that owning a dog like this would NOT be worth the trouble unless you specifically needed herding done all the time – it was not without it’s merits. Even though our warehouse (and our home) is located in a rural area, we saw our fair share of uninvited solicitors. I am never quite convinced that their motives are really that of selling products or services – but instead perhaps to observe how easily they might come back later and pilfer our stuff…
Well Zack certainly made that idea much less attractive I am sure. Even the salesmen that WERE legit were treated to Zack’s imposing presence between them and me, always. No matter where we were, a big black hulk would quietly appear and carefully position himself where he could take action if needed. We never taught him to do that, he just knew it was his job and he did it well.
An Appropriate Memorial
Zack was nearly 12 years old when he died; he had lived a very full life as “Chief of Security” here on our farm and in the HoofPrints warehouse. He was a vigilant dog who took his job very seriously. Much of the time, he looked just like the concrete statue shown here. Now, I am not much for concrete lawn decorations. In fact, most of the time I think they look pretty tacky. Kind of the redneck version of a bronze? But, I have made an exception. I mentioned to my mom that I would like to find something to mark Zack’s grave, and she promptly found this. It’s more spectacular than I ever could have imagined. See additional pictures, and read about the other dogs’ reactions to the statue on our Facebook page here.
It would be years before an appropriate Zack replacement came along.
Stay tuned for the next chapter. For now, you can read the rest of my dog stories here.