FLASHBACK: My First Dog
So, ‘Nam was good for my ‘condition’. When my ‘tour’ of duty ended in ’70, I was also discharged from the USAF with high hopes for a future WITH dogs.
In early ’71, I returned to my pre-‘Nam college town, Durango, CO., to visit classmates I had left behind when I enlisted. Eager to get my first dog, I told everyone that my allergies were ‘cured’ and asked if they knew of any dogs that might be available. Luckily, an across-the-street neighbor of one of my friends had a litter of mixed-breed dogs that they were giving away. My friend drove us to his neighbor’s house so we could take a quick look at the pups. Both parents were on-premises – a female Border Collie and a male Siberian Husky. The owner said it was the ideal time to adopt – the pups were 6 weeks old and ready to be weaned. I fell for a black female w/white markings on all her paws, tail-tip, chest and back of the neck. I named her “Karma” and from that moment on we were inseparable [I actually carried her inside my trench coat for our first 2 weeks together.]
Training books and other resources were scarce and extremely limited in scope – a lot of ‘old wives tales’ lacking credibility. Anxious to start training, I sought out hobbyists and other non-professionals for any training information that made sense. With determination and persistence, I eventually found people who provided practical tips & techniques to help me train ‘Karma’. She was a ‘natural’. It only took about 4 months before we could do on & off-leash obedience, some ‘tricks’ such as ‘beg’, ‘play dead’, the ‘chicane’, ‘cover’ or crawl and protect my trench coat – whenever I dropped it on anything, she would automatically lie on it and prevent anyone from stepping on it or trying to remove her from it.
Encouraged by this minor success, I prepared to select my next dog. I came to realize that if I wanted something specific from a dog, pure-breeds were obviously the simplest, most predictable choice. So, I made a list of 5 breeds that I thought would fit the bill: GSD, Laborador Retriever, Great Dane, Rottweiler, Doberman Pinscher.
I also listed the traits or qualities I wanted my future dog to possess. Since I wanted to take my dog to Hawaii with me, the weather became Determining Factor (DF)1 = short-hair, single coat breeds ONLY. DF 2 = minimum of 90 lbs. to a maximum of 140 lbs. DF 3 = intelligent, loyal, protective, tenacious, fearless. By process of elimination, the Doberman became my dog of choice! Although it would be 1&1/2 years before I actually got her, I christened her “Drache von Blitzkrieg” (German for ‘Dragon from the Lightning War’) right then and there!
In FEB ’73, I bought my first Doberman – a 7 week old, black & tan female after an impromptu temperament test. In my research for reliable training information, I found a book called ‘The Koehler Method of Guard Dog Training’ which also included an extensive section on Obedience training. Applying the principles & techniques from the book, I trained ‘Blitz’ page by page for the next few months. Again, she was a quick-study, so most of the credit goes to the dog. By this stage, she did on & off-leash obedience and would ‘alert’ when prompted. Not bad for a couple of novices….
By 14 months old, ‘Blitz’ responded to overt aggression – in kind – the harder she was pushed, the harder she pushed back! She also elected herself as the ‘official’ babysitter, protecting our kids whether we were present or not. Also, she went thru ‘jump’ training at the local parks – over & under the swings; up the ladder & down the slide; ride & push on the carousel, etc. I even got her to climb the back-stop at the pee-wee league baseball field and jump from the top, +/- 35 feet high, into my waiting arms! What a trusting soul she was – I EARNED IT – by NEVER letting her down, literally…
Anyway, we went on to become the Security Team at Larimer Square, Denver’s historic renovation area, for about 4 months. During that time, the Denver PD responded to several of our ‘open-door’ calls and, after seeing ‘Blitz’ do her search work, invited us to visit their K9 facility to share some training tips and work out with them. We accepted readily and had a great time competing with a couple of their K9 teams.
Stay tuned for the next ‘flashback’ episode…
Thanks for your kind attention.
Please, leave a comment – and help me “Improvise, Adapt, OVERCOME!”
Mahalo & Aloha, Charles K. Warren