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The women’s movement was transforming some of these outdated notions.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,

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Fantasy Meets Reality: The Dao of Pushing Through

Four hours, a dozen properties, an intense drive through the neighborhood I favor, and fantasy meets reality. I have arrived at the dao of pushing through.

Staircase with Trophies, NYPL Digital Collection
Staircase with Trophies, NYPL Digital Collection

Goals and dreams are the wellspring of vitality. Without them, a person might as well be dead. It’s important in late life to have another project on the horizon.

The desire that illuminates my quest is having a well-trained, well-bred Doberman Pinscher.

Affordable homes for myself and my faithful companion are, so far, underwhelming. A home can look good when the photograph crops out every undesirable aspect.

One is next-door to a double-wide mobile with a platoon of kiddies’ bikes and a tree house on the property line.

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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.