Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A man and his dog

The first thought that came to mind when I heard the word, "Doberman" was that of a formidable, fierce animal defined by razor-like daggers for teeth and metal collars. When my husband broached the subject of purchasing a Doberman puppy soon after the death of my cat (RIP), I was leery. Somehow, I convinced myself to overlook the Doberman part and focus on the puppy part, but as we drove out to Shelton to pick out the newest addition to our family, I sat rigidly until the "pins and needles" feeling became reality and my feet became numb. Arriving at an out-of-the-way trailer with dog, cat and random animal feces all over the place, we made our way to the front door cautiously. An elderly woman greeted us at the door, confused by our presence. We explained that we were the ones who'd called about puppies, whereupon she ushered us into the house, where a large blue male Doberman growled fiercely at us, and an insane white shaved Persian cat ogled us with its gigantic oogly eyes. Entering the back room where the puppies were kept, we watched the poor things scramble upon themselves in an effort to escape the people, oh the scary people that had intruded upon their space. Only one tiny girl stood apart, clearly afraid and yet determined not to be cowed. She wouldn't look at us; she stared straight ahead with her head held aloft. Pulling the puppies apart, the woman grabbed two of the little girls, including the independent little imp that had caught our eye.

This little girl became part of our family. Looking back, I wish we'd been able to do more for the rest of the puppies. We were so inexperienced at this that we never realized we'd bought a puppy from a backyard breeder. Walking through PetSmart one afternoon after Ari was a year old, we met a woman whose Dobermans were from the same breeder; they'd experienced many of the same illnesses and gross ailments that our girl went through: ear infections, severe worm infections that required multiple treatments, nasal infections...

It is hard to believe how quickly puppies grow. She's taken my heart. My initial hesitation toward her breed, I found, was misguided; I discovered the notoriety held by Dobermans was largely founded upon their superior brilliance and ease in training for Hollywood films, making them the most popular breed to use as "guard dogs." In actuality, Ari, as is typical of the breed, is shy, meek and seeks only our affection and gentle reinforcement of good behavior. As a guard dog, I fear she will be highly ineffective; the only safety benefit I've gained from her has been the remaining misguided perception of Dobermans. Rarely do I worry about men approaching me when I walk her. More often, a grown man will cross the street rather than confront me and my dog.

The most amazing thing about Ari is watching her relationship with my husband. As his first dog, it is akin to the young boy and his dog, the loyal, watchful creature that waits patiently at the front door for her master to come home and play with her. Although she has grown to regard me with affinity and has bestowed her loyalty to me as a byproduct of her love for C, he will always remain her first and greatest love.

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