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Josh Comes Home

We met Josh about six years ago. He was a rather stoic German Shepherd who lived in immaculate housing on the property of a wealthy couple whose passionate hobby was showing dogs competitively. Along with 28 other dogs. His home was a 6-foot wide by maybe 20-foot long chain link kennel with a cement pad.

Tom and I had just lost Tecky and wanted to give an older shepherd a new home. Josh's my fourth. I'd already fought through male-shepherd adolescence with three others . . . and decided I wasn't up for the task again, so "older" it was.

Josh's owner gave him to us. He'd won every championship available, and she said, "I just want him to know what it's like to live in a real home. He's earned it." He was in "model" condition -- underweight, beautiful coat, sparkly eyes soaking everything in...

But really quite reserved. At six years old, he was already several years into adulthood, so I wasn't surprised at his stoic mannerisms. Shepherds are like that. While younger shepherds may be like, "Blahb, blahb, blahb, pet-me pet-me pet-me," by the time they've grown up they're like, "Who the hell are you?"

His owner gave us a 25# bag of food and helped us load an absolutely terrified Josh into our backseat. She cried as we pulled away. A mile down the road, we had to stop and put the bag of food in the trunk. He'd chewed through it and was eating up a storm. (Show dogs are often intentionally kept underweight so they have nice lines. Underweight = practically starving.)

When we got him home and brought him in the house, he was scared.to.death. The phone rang. He ducked and covered. The doorbell? Same thing. The dishwasher. The TV. I felt so sorry for him because he watched us like, "Okay, when are you going to kill me? Just get it over with already!"

I'd already planned to stay home from work for 3 days to get him accustomed to his new home. I'd be on the laptop working in the living room, and he'd be sitting in the dining room at attention on the edge of the rug . . . just watching me. I have to admit it was more than just a little disconcerting. But it was always obvious he was a good egg.

After the first day, I started to "leave the house" for a few minutes at a time. When I went to the door, he'd jump up on me, claws extended, digging into my flesh as if to say, "Noooooo!!!! Pulleeeeze!!!! Don't goooo!!!!!" I'd go out to get the mail, wrestling with him at the door so I could get out . . . and come back in two minutes. Then longer; Then longer. Until, when I was ready to go to work, he understood, "Oh, okay, she'll be back!!"

He'd lay at the back door whenever I left so I'd have to step over him when I got home. Still does that. And what a greeting!! There's nothing as heartwarming as a dog happy to see its master. Other than the few times I tripped over him and almost went flying because he'd tap-dance in front of me incessantly and I could hardly get in the house, my homecoming was met with great jubilation.

Eventually, he settled in, trusted us implicitly. A wonderful watchdog is Josh. All shepherds are. He's king of his castle now, presiding over Shorty Pants and Bob-Bob, our two cats.

He's 12. I wish he were 6.
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