How can it be that a devoted cat-admirer turns into an enthusiastic dog lover? That‘s hard to believe, but it happened. Well, the cats are still being loved, but the author of this book had no idea what to expect when this dog, a Schnauzer named SPORT, moved into her house and worked himself straight to her heart with his many antics and his charm. The author will share with you her experiences with SPORT the Schnauzer from the time he arrived at her home as a tiny pup until he became a senior. She will talk about his pranks and adventures inside and outside the house, his youthful rebellious acts, his contacts with neighbors and visitors, how he behaved around other dogs and animals, and much more. It is a heartwarming story about the joy that a canine companion can add to your life.
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For George, my dear Husband, who brought this canine friend into my life and let me experience all the joys that a four-legged companion could give
How it came all about
At the Breeder’s
Little Fluff Ball
Getting to know each other
Mop, Vacuum Cleaner & Co
Adventures outside the House
Romping in the Park
Sticks and Balls
Trouble in the Park
Riding the Car
Bus and Subway Stations
Automatic Glass Door
SPORT goes Shopping
Raining on his Parade
Order of Ranks
Is he a Rowdy?
Learning it the hard way
Different kind of Grooming
Is SPORT a Star?
The Irish Wolfhound
Species of a different Kind
The Feathered Species
Man out of Space?
Neighbors and Visitors
Every Dog’s special Friend
Friends of the House
Unexpected furry Visitor
Visiting Other People’s House
At a neigbor’s house
The Home Buddy
Alone at Home
Bringing a Surprise
Where is George?
The Bath Attendant
Is SPORT jealous?
The Big Helper
Doing the Laundry
The Delivery Man
SPORT, the Gourmet
The Food Taster
Jungles of Madagascar
Visits to the Vet
Did he suffer a Stroke?
The Vet Clinic
Back with his Pack again
New Baby in the House?
SPORT, the Senior
About the Author
There he was, jumping and racing through the house. Pure joy of life had taken him over. He just had to release his energy, looking for something to get into. He kept us going, more often than not having something mischievous on his mind. Just before, he had nudged George, my dear husband, dropping one of his favorite toys at his feet, in classic play bow pose with front legs down and butt up in the air. Wagging his little stumpy tail, he was bribing George with the most intriguing look in his eyes, smiling “come on, I want to play tag”. If he put on his charms like this, perhaps accompanied with a slight “woof”, nobody could withstand this lively little rascal.
George had named him SPORT. He was everything we had visualized, when, some time ago, the idea of getting a dog came up. We had wanted a buddy, a comrade, a road partner and a friend who would be at our side no matter what, going with us through thick and thin, listen attentively when we spoke to him and sense any of our moods, cheering us up and making us laugh with his little antics. One who would be loyal to the end and trust us totally. Who would defend us if someone acted strangely toward us, and who definitely could expect our special care and comfort if he happened to be in need himself. Who would enjoy accompanying us on long walks and entice us to go on a rabbit chase, or run eagerly bringing back a thrown stick, a ball or a chestnut. In short, we envisioned a partner always ready for some action. And that was exactly what SPORT the Schnauzer proved to be – best friend, buddy, and companion – in other words, a true sport.
Now, all you felines out there may hiss at me, this little fellow called SPORT was able to convert me – an avowed cat-enthusiast – into a flying canine-lover. And that came about like this:
Downstairs in our house there was a barbershop. One day, Markus, the owner, decided to have a new dog. And he came home with the sweetest little Schnauzer girl. Gipsy was her name. Her pepper and salt shaded fur was neatly cut, her ears cropped and the tail docked, and her beautiful brownish and slightly sloped eyes were nearly covered by the long curtain of her eyebrows. And, for being a girl, her beard was outstandingly attractive – after all, she was a member of the Schnauzer-family. She was almost grown and a real sophisticated little lady in her posture and behavior.
Gipsy was very shy. She spent many hours of the day in the barbershop, lying in a corner on her cushion, watching customers come and go and probably yearning to be taken for a walk. And that is exactly what happened when George, with his big-hearted self, walked in and took a liking to her. He began to take her out to the park and the green strips in the neighborhood, and she loved it. They made this a habit, and many times early in the morning George went downstairs, picked up Gipsy and took her along on his trip to get his paper and then made a round through the park with her. Almost inevitably, sweet little Gipsy fell in love with him (and that – knowing my husband – was the most logical thing to happen). Soon, about every morning at the same time, she began to sit quietly at the front entrance of the house or – if the front door happened to be open – she would sit there right in front of our apartment door on the first floor upstairs, patiently waiting for George to appear.
This went on for a while. Then, one day, George began to talk about having his own dog. He was hearing me out what I would think about it. After all, since I was leaning more toward the members of the feline family, we had been kidding each other constantly about who would be smarter or make more fun, a cat or a dog. I knew cats very well, always having had some around when I was growing up in the country. I had observed their playing and hunting rituals, seen them depleting the mouse population and occasionally bringing home a rabbit or a blackbird. I had watched their hilarious attempts to catch a squirrel, chasing it up a tree, where the squirrel – scoffing and loudly chattering – waited for the cat to climb up just close enough before it, the squirrel, simply jumped gracefully from one treetop to the next, while the cat had difficulties to back down the stem again and try another assault up the next tree, only to fail anew, accompanied by some more ridicule of the intended prey.
Cats had really grown to my heart when I watched them raise and teach their own kittens and being smart, intriguing or just catty, and of course – best of all – had experienced their cuddling and smooching, their purring tenderness. Could a dog ever be like that?
I had seen some dogs in my childhood neighborhood. Fifi the Spitz for instance, a white unpleasant and constantly barking nuisance. Or the big red-haired Chowchow, who suspiciously watched the front yard of his owner where my mother always sent me to fetch some fresh cow’s milk. One day I came back home without the milk, being ashamed and therefore lied to my mother that the milk had been sold out, while in reality I had just been too darn scared to pass by this growling monster.
And then there was Hugo the dachshund. He lived around the corner at the end of the dirt road leading away from our house and that of another neighbor. Hugo was not exactly the smartest of all dogs, but at least he was not mean. As a matter of fact, everyone thought that he was a masochist. Every day he came strolling harmlessly down this dirt road to pay the two houses at our end a visit. And every day Peter, the neighbor’s big black and white tomcat, was hiding maliciously behind the corner of the house next to ours, kneading his feet impatiently and stooping his back, waiting for Hugo’s nose to appear at the curve right in front of him. Irresistible opportunity for Peter, who jumped on a shocked Hugo, hissing, slapping and scratching him while the poor victim tried to escape, howling and hobbling as fast and far away as his short dachshund legs would take him, tail way under his belly. It was clear, this was cat’s territory! But nevertheless, the next day Hugo showed up again….same procedure as always.
These episodes did not exactly have me develop an emotional line to dogs, I did not care much, they were neutral to me. As I had never had a dog of my own, and actually was nipped by a jealous German Shepherd when I was a child, it was kind of hard to convince me of the joys of having a canine companion.
But then again, I must admit, aside from the above insignificant events, I have always loved most animals. And now, where George was talking my ears off trying to persuade me to get our own dog, I melted and became confident that a dog and I could become friends as well. A very important part was that we would have enough time to care for a dog and give him all the devotion that he needed. As George was already retired – he had spent his working life in the Air Force – the time factor proved to be no problem. So we became all open to add a four-legged friend to our household.
But what kind of dog should it be? Should it be a male or a female? Both having their advantages and disadvantages, the female perhaps being more soft and subtle while a male could be more hardheaded. Should we get a purebred or rather a mixed breed? We would love either one. Should we go to a breeder or check out the animal shelters? Going to the latter would probably make us come home with half a dozen lonely souls.
We were undecided, especially as we really had a puppy in mind that we could raise and mold ourselves. We wanted a dog not too small and not a constant barker and actually fancied the bigger kind, like a German Shepherd for instance, who is known for his intelligence, devotion and nobility. Or perhaps a Labrador, also said to be intelligent as well as high-spirited, good-natured and playful? What about a Golden Retriever, the animated sunbeam with his open, lovely and friendly facial expression that automatically makes you smile back at him? Maybe one of those healthy, bold and energetic bundles of muscles, a Giant Schnauzer, who is also known to be intelligent, absolutely loyal, sensitive and playful? Or rather a mix of some of these?
Our fantasy was acting up. But then we thought about the space these dogs need. Our medium-sized city apartment definitely would not have done them right. And besides, as I did not have any special experience with dogs, the larger breeds might have been too difficult for me to handle – butter-hearted as I am.
We came to the conclusion that fitting best to our situation and us would be a frisky, bright, family-friendly and medium-sized dog that could tolerate city apartment life. One perhaps like Gipsy? Yes, why did we not think about that right away! And in addition, Markus had just come up with the news about a breeder, whose dog – a Standard Schnauzer – had recently given birth to a litter of eleven puppies. With shiny eyes, George and I looked at each other, the decision was made, it was going to be a Schnauzer. Sweet little Gipsy had convinced us.
At the Breeder’s
So one sunny morning, Markus took George out to this particular breeder. Meanwhile, staying home and waiting for George to come back with some news, my imagination was running wild. Just think about it, a basket full of squirmy, frisky, little, rubber-boned, fuzzy and cuddly Schnauzer puppies! My heart jumped! Yes, I really liked the idea now of having a little puppy around, keeping us company. George was quite excited too. The puppies George went to see were still too small, though, about five weeks old, and we were to wait until they had grown to be eight weeks. However, George had already made up his mind and picked the one he wanted. When the breeder let Markus and George take a look at the puppies, some of them became timid and tried to waddle away. George had bent down, holding out his hand to let them get a sniff of it. And there, one daring little fellow took all his heart, walked up to this strange hand, let out a deep warning growl that would have made a Doberman Pinscher proud and bit boldly into poor George’s finger. Ouch! This fresh little handful of a would-be-Schnauzer did not only leave a bleeding imprint on George’s finger, but also a lasting impression on his future owner, who couldn’t help it but smile and gently rub the back of this spunky little rascal. Yes, this was the one! This was going to be SPORT! A small portion of his fur was cut so as to mark him for identification later when he was to be picked up and taken to his new home.
Time went by. We eagerly looked forward to picking up SPORT and bringing him home. The coming weekend was planned for this event. We had everything prepared to make him feel comfortable. He would find his own and very personal doghouse in one room. It even had his name written above the entrance: “Gallo von Biedrich”, his name according to his birth certificate. But this was only the official name, he would be called “SPORT”, the name that George had picked and which turned out to really match his personality.
Beside his doghouse, a cushioned basket – his “nest” for daytime leisure – was placed in another room, and – we did not know it at that time – later on in addition he would adopt and fiercely defend a couch in a third room as being his personal property. He had his own towels with the imprint of a “Snoopy”-image. And a special corner in the kitchen was reserved for all his snacks, goodies or rewards and everything else a happy dog might need. Yes, and several squeaky and fluffy toys were also waiting for him. Boy, this dog was already spoiled before he arrived! Or was he? No, I believe these were the bare necessities and basics that every dog should expect and be entitled to in a new home.
Little Fluff Ball
The week before we were supposed to pick him up, I was coming home from work and – while opening the door – I saw a little fluff ball sitting in the kitchen corner on a towel. He stared at me, ready to take off. I stared at him. What was this…? This must be…. yes, this was SPORT! “Well, George, you gooney goo-goo, you couldn’t wait and went out all alone and got him earlier!” Oh, was this little fellow cute! I bent down. He eased away. I spoke softly to him. I did not want to scare him. To him I must have seemed a giant monster in a still strange surrounding, a monster that he had never seen before, and he did not know how it might act. But this monster obviously was friendly, bending down and carefully holding out a hand for him to sniff at. Slowly and cautiously, SPORT made a few wobbly steps toward me, not leaving an eye off of me. He was so adorable, I had to hold myself back not to grab and hug him. But that would have been too early. I had to give him time to adjust to this new situation. Ever so softly, his black shiny puppy nose touched my hand and – surprise – nothing bad happened to him! He looked at me, wondering. I looked at him, also wondering. I had to smile – and it seemed as if he was doing the same. A long and intense friendship had begun!
That same evening we all took it somewhat easy with each other. SPORT had not taken his first car ride so well. He had become sick on the way to his new home and seemed to be feeling a bit under the weather. We were around, but we did not bother him much, while he snooped around a little bit and then settled down in his doghouse, which he took over as his personal property right away. The next day he was all right again, although he looked as if he was missing his mama and siblings. But then, after a day or two, he seemed to have adjusted and began to investigate his new surroundings.
Of course, every dog owner believes that his new puppy is the sweetest, cutest and smartest of all. So did I, even more so. I just have to exaggerate now, because – having always been a serious cat admirer – I did not have the faintest idea how quickly this little fellow would work himself right into my heart and make me understand what “happiness is having a puppy” is really all about. SPORT was a true enrichment to our lives. And yes, he WAS the cutest thing one could imagine. Still tiny, but full of spunk.
He had these giant paws and clumsy rubber-boned movements that you see only in very young dogs. The way he sat down was also typical for a puppy his age. Resting on his rump, he stretched his seemingly boneless hind legs forward, having them reach in a slight V-shape almost up to his front legs, which supported his upright posture, while having his still pinkish little round belly sticking out.
His head was rather big compared to the rest of his body, causing him to get his first nickname: Bighead. This indicated not only the size of his head, but in fact also the strong will he was to develop on his way to adulthood.
Still wrapped in his puppy wool, his fur was shiny, soft and cuddly, while over time it was to become sort of coarse and bristly. The color was pepper and salt, still somewhat on the dark side with slightly lighter areas at the tip of his nozzle and eyebrows. His paws also had a lighter shade than the rest of his fur, which made them seem to be even bigger than they were in reality. And when SPORT turned around, his little meager butt looked as if he had been sitting on a dusty flour bag.
In contrast to his tail, which had been docked to a mere one and a half inches, his ears had been left natural, and at his tender age of almost eight weeks, SPORT was not able yet to make them stand up and move them around. Their V-shaped body was flapping down forward at the sides of his head, giving him this innocent and harmless look. But don’t be fooled, he was a real mischievous character and we learned very quickly – after he finally mastered to twist his ears around, giving him all these different facial expressions – when he was up to something. Yes, SPORT could talk with his ears!
And then there were his teeth, – milk teeth, yes, but oh boy – pointed and razor-sharp like a shark’s teeth. After playing and roughhousing with him, one could look as having been in a fuzz-tearing catfight. We could not bite him back the way as his siblings might have done, meaning that they would playfully teach each other that teeth can hurt and having them develop a sense for their own strength. Therefore SPORT had to listen to a lot of “ooohs!” and “outchs!” and “no-Sport-cut-that-outs!” before he understood not to bite.
At this young stage of his life, SPORT’s face displayed only a clue yet of the arched eyebrows and long mustache and whiskers, which make an adult Schnauzer so distinct. Only a few stubbles hinted toward the beautiful long beard to grow later, giving him this proud and sophisticated Schnauzer-appearance. His eyebrows were still short, not yet falling over his eyes. And he was growing these unbelievably long lashes which were later to keep the then full eyebrows from dropping too closely over his face.
His bright and very alert eyes were brownish and slightly sloped, and he could look at you so intensely that you had to wonder what was going on in his mind. Perhaps he was just a human in a dog’s suit? A sentence I had read somewhere before popped up in my head, where Schnauzers were described as being the dogs with a human brain. Well, we were about to learn how much truth there was in this.
The following time was one of getting to know each other. In order for SPORT not to feel lonely or scared in his new home, especially at night, we had set up his doghouse in our bedroom, where he had our company and we could hear every whimper he made. We became totally focused on him. Every little sound or move our new friend made, had us waking up.
Although his dog mammy had already trained him well enough that he would not soil his own bedding, he still happened to have an accident around the house every now and then. So we tried to watch him closely in order to stop him in time and take him downstairs immediately. For the same reason, we put a gate on his hut and closed it at night. So, whenever he was ready to wee-wee, he started to whine and wanted out. George, the good soul, meticulously took over the responsibility of carrying our new friend downstairs every second or third hour, around the clock, and put him under a nearby tree. SPORT understood very fast where to do his business, and there were no problems any more in his new home. Very soon the gate was removed from his hut also at night and he could roam around freely in the whole house.
There was a short fallback though. As we had barred SPORT from the living room area during the first weeks or so for the reasons given above, he promptly had a mishap right there when he was finally allowed in. What was going on – why did this happen? SPORT was still too small to intentionally mark a new territory this way. He surely did not even know at this young age what marking a territory was, not to mention the technique on how to do this, as will be described later. But then something dawned on us. He had already learned that the space around his bedding and adjacent living area in the house was not to be soiled. But because the living room was still strange to him, he may have looked at it as not being his immediate and standard living zone. Could it be that SPORT’s first impression was “mmmh, sure doesn’t look or smell familiar here, nice room though – but what the heck, I have to wee-wee…” and there came the waterfall? If that was the case, we had to change our attitude. We tried it, although it took us a bit of effort to let SPORT also roam around the living room from now on despite his occasional unappreciated action in there. But we hoped that he would stop this as soon as he looked upon this room as also being part of his usual and permanent territory in the house, meaning that it was a no-no to make a mess there.
And it worked. Not long after his first incident, SPORT gave up any ambition in this respect. Anyway, just as well as we began to understand the miraculous thinking process of our dog, he also grasped very quickly the overall rules of what was allowed in the house and what should rather be done outside, and soon this whole matter was no theme any more.
It was real fun and a great experience to watch SPORT developing. One of his greatest joys was – naturally – to eat. While his dish was being prepared, he didn’t leave an eye off his master. Sitting on his tiny butt, he would squirm impatiently, moving his front feet to and forth, the tip of his little pink tongue moving in and out of his watery mouth “hurry up, hurry up”, and – in his excitement – he produced these gentle, rolling and anticipating sounds. Then, when he was finally munching away, he growled “Grrrrr!” at anybody daring to pass by too close. “SPORT, don’t talk with a full mouth!” However, in time he understood that we were not – like his siblings – trying to compete for his food. After he was finished, he would turn around, lick his chops, then take a slurp of water, walk away and – very self-contentedly – belch like a Great Dane. “Burrpp!” He was a real character!
Coming home from work in the evenings, I usually reserved the first hour or so for SPORT. George didn’t mind as he had had him already all day. SPORT used to come running to the door, look me up and down, jump around my feet, his little stumpy tail going like a windmill. I greeted him with a “scritch” on his chops, and then off he was, racing into the living room, “tag me, tag me”, stopping and turning around looking to make sure that I was following him. And the chase could begin.
He loved being chased around in the house. He was wild, he would jump up on the couch, fly across the lower table, race into the bedroom, take a leap up on the bed and turn around in midair to see if the chase was still on. In his excitement he used to smack his front legs as if to take off, just waiting for you to come close enough. He always managed to find a way to tease you about which direction he was going and then slip by and zip back into the other room. When he eventually became tired, he slumped down on the couch or simply on the floor, out of breath, but happy-faced.
That was the time to cuddle. I used to hold him and rub him all over. He could never get enough of this, loved being crawled behind his ears. He would lick my hands and then roll over on his side or his back, letting me rub his little round tummy. There I sometimes came across his funny spot and he would toss about with one of his hind legs. These were happy moments where I could not resist smooching him behind his ears – mmmmh, this little puppy smelled so good! After such an affectionate pause, SPORT kept lying there for a while, being content and anticipating the moment. But just as often he would get up, walk into the kitchen, take a slurp of water, and get ready for another round of romping.
We were curious as to how SPORT would react to the first toy that we presented to him. It was a soft rubber chew toy, shaped like a real-life juicy hamburger. We were sure, SPORT didn’t care much about the looks of it. But it rolled around so enticingly! This looked like fun! He jumped on it. Eeeek, it squeaked! It seemed to be alive! He jumped back, looking at us, being puzzled. We rubbed the hamburger lightly with our finger. SPORT watched carefully, but nothing bad happened. So he cautiously sneaked up on this strange thing, touched it with his paw, jumping back again, just in case. Yes, it did squeak again, and at the same time it tumbled over from the clumsy tap SPORT had given it. Now he became really curious. He had to investigate this more closely. He sniffed at it, it didn’t seem to bite! He tapped it again, chasing it while it rolled away. Picking it up, chewing it, making it squeak some more, throwing it high into the air, catching it, rolling around on the floor with it – SPORT was having fun!
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