The Christmas Doberman

Molli (Melrae’s California Girl) arrived on Solstice.

Her tummy was a little upset. Whose wouldn’t be after being bounced around in a crate for 9 hours or so.

She was good-natured about it, asking to go out several times during the night. I missed one of her calls: My bad; I didn’t respond quickly enough. She tried, poor thing.

I’ve learned a new thing: Worms can lie dormant and be activated by stress.

Now that we are deworming, she is a typical lively Doberman puppy.

Dobergirls Just Wanna Have Fun

She loves to run around the walled courtyard, barking her head off. I am teaching her to recognize ordinary sounds of neighborhood life. I don’t want neighbors terrified to walk past this house!

I’m quickly recalling that few toys survive those powerful jaws — and certainly not the children’s Turtle and Christmas Bear. Ball and the tough bone have done better.

Total Life Change in 8 Days

I finished my last teaching contract in Fort Lauderdale,  moved to Melbourne, FL, five days lates, and two days after that, Molli The Divine Miss M, came into my life.

I planned for this for a long while. It feels good to have things come together.

Looking Forward to Training

A main joy of having a Doberman is training together so that we move and act as a team. Classes resume in the New Year.

After intense weeks of packing for the move from condo inhospitable to doggies to a house, I’ve gotten most of what I need out of boxes.

It will take weeks to put the pieces of the puzzle of a household back together. So Mollie and I are enjoying a few days of holiday rest and getting to know each other.

Happy holidays, peace and blessings to all.

Duty of the Doberman Owner

The Doberman is a breed like no other — bred with purpose for a purpose. If an owner doesn’t understand this, you deny the animal its purpose. It is like having a child prodigy and refusing to provide it any opportunities to develop the talent.

 

Why Doberman Breeders Are Picky

Doberman breeders are sometimes criticized for being picky and prickly. There is truth to cliques and competition; there also is a lot of good will and help for those who are genuinely interested in the breed.

This elegant breed is designed for obedience work; like the Sheltie, a Dobe “will work its little heart out for you” as one Airedale owner remarked to me.

What Is Your Duty to Your Prodigy?

If you are fortunate enough to share your life with a Doberman, it is criminal to consign it to a life of lounging about and chasing balls. If you had a child prodigy, would you deny that child the best education you could get her?

I was mentored by amazing breeders and trainers who had a passionate respect for the Doberman Pinscher — even when some of them preferred other breeds themselves.

Breed Temperament Is Critical

I have shared my life with a standard poodle, an Airedale, and a selection of good-natured All-American mutts. Each breed has its temperament. It is critical to understand the temperament of any breed for a happy experience for animal and owner. For example, a friend spent years rescuing “shaggy dogs,” because the Disney films create a false profile of animals that are endlessly cuddly. In fact, sheep dogs like to herd their charges — and that may include some ornery nipping, especially at heels. It is not what the family expects.

The Doberman Pinscher is singular in its devotion, intelligence, and focus. A Doberman has a job to do as a personal companion. I loved going to training and our daily training sessions after walks. L’Ombre was a dog about town, at my side at many places were supposedly dogs weren’t allowed because he presented himself as the service dog he was. He loved showing off his ability — going to parties and discussion sessions at church where he was much admired.

The Joy of a Symbiotic Team

I never thought of L’’Ombre as a fur baby, and I am a little offended by the idea. We were a symbiotic team. I loved him dearly. I dreamed of him routinely for a decade after he had passed. I wish he’d been with me longer than 9.5 years.

Remember, when acquiring a Doberman, your animal needs training and desires to accompany you at all times. To live that life, the animal must be well-behaved. “A well-behaved Doberman can go anywhere,” Roz Terhune (who helped create the Marines Devil Dog unit) told me. She was right.

Are you in or out?

Roz Terhune Was A Character & Other Notes of Past and Present

“There’s plenty of puppy left.” Roz Terhune dismissed my longing for a puppy and advised me to buy the 9-month-old L’Ombre. He already  knew more about obedience work than I did.

Roz spent her life among the doggie set.  In her era, the sport of conformation showing became a society enterprise. It was often supported by wealthy women who kept kennels, sometimes even employing a kennel master.

A breeder in the Midwest said the same thing — there’s still plenty of puppy left — as we discussed the difference between bonding with an older puppy and one you get so early, you are a replacement for  Mom.

A Working Girl Doesn’t Need a Puppy

Roz was right when she looked at me and said, “You’re a working girl. You don’t need a puppy.”

I came to agree with her some two decades later. I was still a working gal when I got a feisty two-month-old Airedale puppy. He was well-bred, smart as game-show contestant, friendly, and showed signs of aptitudes for scent and spatial problem solving.

I was ready for a Doberman even then.  I tried to tell my beloved, who was fixated on the Airedale, this was a hunting breed.  I shared anecdotes about hero Airedales cornering mountain lions.

It’s always a mistake to buy a breed because you like the way it looks. Appearance is no predictor of temperament. Stanleigh spent years rescuing sheep dogs who can be protectively snappish, because people watch Disney’s shaggy dog series and get the impression this is one big cuddle bug.

People Don’t Understand the Notion of Breed

The Doberman was bred on purpose for a purpose.

Roz Terhune bred Collies at one point, and she knew Dobermans.  She went around the country for FDR asking some of the best kennels to give up their dogs for the war effort inception of the Marines’ Devil Dogs unit.

I met her decades later, at the end of her life, when she was  dog editor for the News American where I was working as a feature writer.

A Generational Torch Was Passing

A Sunday dog breeder column was among those fading conventions of women’s news, a section  newspapers devoted to brides and engagements, club and society party news, advice columns, and news about prominent breeders and kennels. For the ladies, you understand.

The women’s movement was transforming some of these outdated notions. I was part of that new wave. Roz sat at a desk adjacent to mine when she came in once a week to write her dog column for the Sunday paper.

I didn’t know of her expertise with Dobermans nor her government war service until after she died when I wrote a commemorative obituary.

Sometimes she brought stale baked goods and insist I eat them. Sometimes I hid in the library from her chatter.

How I Ended up with a Doberman Pinscher

One night after finishing my day at the newspaper, I was mugged on my own front door steps in daylight hours.  I was dragged down 11 cement steps on my back.

I missed a lot of work for most of the next year.

When Roz asked why I’d been out and heard my story, she insisted I needed a dog for protection.

 

A Labrador, I suggested. She looked at me with something between scorn and amazement.

She  took my clueless self to an obedience training club at a high school in the suburbs. She leaned heavily on the arm of the photographer, a tall man who showed her the great respect.

There were at least 100 dogs on the floor, in four groups representing various levels of training.

“Go talk with that man over there,” she told me. “He breeds Labradors. Tell him what you want it for.”

Next Time, They’ll Take Your Dog, Too

The man chuckled. “Next time they’ll not only knock you down and take your purse, they’ll steal your dog, too.”

I reported back to Roz, seatedat the edge of the auditorium, cane between her knees. “That’s right.

You don’t need a dog that’s dumber than you are,”

she observed with satisfaction.  “You need a dog that’s smarter than you are.”

She was another a wise crone who mentored me without my knowing it. She introduced me to the world of Dobermans and dog training, and I want to spend some years now among the doggie people.

Thank you, Roz. Thank you, L’Ombre. Thank you, Linda Coggins, for breeding Martin-L’Ombre and his early first-rate training and your induction of me into features of the breed.

 

The Dao of Standstill Is Gratitude

Waiting seems like standstill. It is uncomfortable for this old dame.

I started The Doberman Project eager to press forward with my tlotal Life change.  I was full of concrete plans and an end-of-year deadline to enact them.

Future Is Unknown and Unpredictable

Circumstances beyond my control have intervened in my retirement plans.

Indeed the whole world is waiting to see whether the USA plunges into fascism, or the president-elect sparks a nuclear holocaust, or if the world economy goes into a tailspin as a result of the nativist tendencies sweeping the world.

movie still from All Quiet on Western Front
From film All Quiet on the Western Front.

The antidote to standstill is gratitude.

Gratitude is the antidote for any ill that befalls us. In the smallest pleasures of life we find redemption.

It reminds me of the soldier’s hand stretching from the foxhole for the tiny singing bird in the great film All Quiet on the Western Front (novel by Erich Maria Remarque). This last act of remarking beauty and life becomes his death.

Hexagram 12: Standstill or Stagnation

The 12th hexagram, P’i, in the I Ching is Standstill or Stagnation. The powers of heaven and earth are out of balance and pulling away from each other.

P'i: Standstill or Stagnation

“The way of inferior people is in ascent; . . . But the superior people do not allow themselves to be turned from their principles. If the possibility of exerting influence is close to them, they nevertheless remain faithful to their principles and withdraw into seclusion.”

I have been even more reclusive than usual. Having a Doberman to train and exercise would do me a world of good. An intelligent Doberman Pinscher is a true companion dog, noble, watchful, and protective.

The notion of standstill and stagnation appears repulsive. Yet smelly things transform in stagnation; from compost come the best fruits, vegetables, and flower.

From Stagnation Comes Transformation

P’i, read in its entirety, is a hexagram of hope.

Man in prayer

Line Three states, in the Wilhelm translation, “Inferior people have risen to power illegitimately do not feel equal to the responsibility.”

Fifteen USA security agencies say Russia meddled in the US election that has put this ignorant narcissist into office.

“In their hearts they begin to be ashamed, although at first they do not show it outwardly. This marks a turn for the better.”

The final three lines promise, “First standstill, then good fortune.”

I have a comfortable apartment.  I am in good health.

I mostly enjoy my teaching job and the chance to be with my terrific, hard-w0rking, hopeful students. I can increase my savings for The Doberman Project, retirement, and my total life change.

A few close friends and family are a treasure.  All my needs are met, by the grace of the Dao. I give thanks.

Two Things L’Ombre Taught Himself

I’ve burned a lot of pots boiling water for tea since L’Ombre died.  He taught himself several things, and one of them was coming to get me when water started boiling.

The breeder, Linda Coggins, whose name shall forever be blessed on my lips, had me start him off by mixing his crunchy food with canned food and hot water. So he came to associate boiling water with meals. Realizing he had prevented me from ruining another pan, he always got lavish praise for this.

 

How L’Ombre Came into My Life

I never really thought of myself as owning L’Ombre.  It was more like he just “came into my life” in the way that friends and lovers and mentors show up. Kismet. We were a symbiotic team. He protected me, and he had a great life going places most people can’t bring their ill-behaved hounds. He was invited to parties,

Read moreTwo Things L’Ombre Taught Himself

AKC Dog Shows: Sporting Fun if You Are Prepared

I launched my experiences at AKC dog shows by illustrating the old Firesign Theater line: “She’s no fun. She fell right over,” (which appeared with masculine pronouns in the original).

Frightened man supporting fainting woman
She’s no fun; she fell right over.

Dog show information for the clueless, like me, does not include such preventatives for fainting as

  • Bring your own small folding chair
  • Hydrate
  • Snacks, especially if you shy away from hamburg and hot-dog fare.

Avoid Fainting if You Are Older

You do not want to faint when you are old, because people will be afraid you are going to die on them.

Everyone at the show was very kind, including the five workmen who were standing over me when I awoke with my chin flat on the gravel, grateful that the tunnel of white light wasn’t a portal to forever and feeling like an ass.

“Are you hurt?”

“Only my pride.”

To become better informed about Doberman Pinscher conformation, I happily rode off to the three-day AKC Dog Shows at the Orlando fairgrounds recently.

How Attending Shows Helps You Learn

I ran into a breeder I knew from the Facebook Doberman Pinschers breeders’ page. She took me under her wing, generous with her dog show information about what to look for in conformation.

A show is sporting fun for breed enthusiasts, and I learned some useful things.

For example, in obedience training, I want the dog to look at me; in conformation, the animal must look straight ahead so that the set of the legs and gait may be properly evaluated.

I left home early for me — 9-ish — with a bracing mug of hot tea. I didn’t stop until I reached the Orlando Fair Grounds and found the building where the Doberman Pinschers would exhibit on the first Friday of these AKC Dog Shows.

Waiting for ring time, so I wandered over to the catering truck. I didn’t think about buying something to drink. This was my First Mistake.

Tattoo Stay Hydrated on the Backs of Your Eyelids

Anyone who has lived in Florida as long as I have should have “Stay Hydrated” tattooed on the inside of my eyelids.

Temperatures were soaring to around Heat Index 100 with nary a breeze to relieve the suffocating heat in this inland location.

I was hungry, but seeing the menu, I decided to wait until after I saw the Dobes to find a restaurant. After all, my new GPS would provide me with an array of choices.

That was my Second Mistake.

Further intensifying my dehydration and lack of food, the air conditioning wasn’t working in the building housing the Dobes’ competition.

To Wrap It All Up

So lesson learned: When attending AKC dog shows, for sporting fun go with everything you need to stay safe.

The dog show information that may save you from being that person who is no fun because she fell right over — bring a chair, bring water, bring snacks, and have a good time.

Doberman Pinschers: Breeding Counts

Breeding counts for Doberman Pinschers, perhaps more than for many other breeds. They are powerful, intelligent, and have a strong drive to relate to humans.

Last night, I was studying the bloodlines of the late great L’Ombre. My heart beat a little faster when I reviewed the many outstanding champions in his background.

The World of Doberman Pinschers does a fine job of tracing the histories of the great kennels in the USA and other countries. (This site earns a small commission if you click through from this ad to the amazon site.)

It also explains the basic principles about the breed I learned from the breeder and the excellent trainers at the Baltimore Kennel Club who taught me to handle this animal of distinction.

Most people just want a family dog who won’t dirty in the house, is fun for the kids, likes to chase frisbees, and barks without being aggressive when strangers come into the yard.

And that’s enough for most people.

Dobermans may make excellent family pets, but that is not what they were bred to do.  Their outstanding intelligence and train-ability is squandered.

Chaining a Dobe to stake in the yard and slopping food and water down is a crime. It is not wonder these super-brains and super-athletes of the dog world go nuts in such circumstances.

Upon announcing my plans to train another Doberman, a reader of another site remarked on my fur baby.

I never considered L’Ombre my baby; he was my best friend and my guardian. We were a team. Training becomes a dao — a path that you follow together in almost telepathic communication.

I urge anyone considering adding a Doberman Pinscher to your home to do your homework. Do you have the time and interest to make full use of the considerable abilities of this elegant, powerful, and active creature?

This dame developed a bit of agoraphobia when I was dragged down 11 cement steps by a mugger. L’Ombre was my escort and was often invited to parties with me — including one Christmas dinner at my minister’s home.

I realize that over these past dozen years I have become isolated, because fear of being alone walking about still affects me. I like walking around my world and seeing the sights, so I am looking forward to this special teamwork again.

It is well worth changing my life to make it so.

 

How to Follow the Dao to Retirement Reinvention

An old flame called me, and I decided to change my life.  Probably not the way you think.

As I talked with my long-ago lover, I realized I had no photo of him nor any other around my home — just one of the man I have been divorced from for decades and will always love.

But there were two of the great love of my life, L’Ombre the Magic Doberman.

In an epiphany, I remembered promising myself I would train Dobes when I retired. And here I am, on the brink of leaving my profession with only the vaguest of plans of when and what I’d do.

The Dao Demands Change

Yet here was the dao demanding a complete retirement reinvention of my late-life self. Once the moment of insight passed, I realized with a slight hitch in my breath that I’d have to change every part of my life.

Changequote

I have to move from my pet-restricted condo and retire from my local job.

I have to re-educate myself about the breed, because L’Ombre was chosen for me by Roslyn Terhune, an expert.  She helped start the Marine Devil Dog unit in World War II. I have no Roz to make a wise choice for me this time.

I’d have to get my financial affairs in order and face all the other end-of-life details I have put off for decades.

Yet I have an inner knowing of the dao.  It is a force inexorably pulling me forward toward my retirement reinvention. .

The Dao of Retirement Reinvention

This blog is about all the details and life lessons I learn about how to follow the dao to my retirement reinvention. I hope you enjoy the ride.