As a little girl growing up in the former Czechoslovakia, I went to summer nature camps along with most children. My favorite part of camp was the annual demonstration of competitive K9 sports. Police and Border Patrol would bring their dogs to show their skills in running, jumping, tracking, obedience, protection, and other practical tasks. I was always most impressed by German Shepherds. They were the most beautiful, powerful, and intelligent of the breeds, yet when their job was done they would roll around, play, and love on the children at the camp. I always dreamed that I would someday own an amazing animal like this; a huge teddy bear that at one moment can wrestle playfully with children, and at the next moment, snap to attention at the owner’s command and be the protector. Unfortunately, I grew up in a small apartment in the city and couldn’t have a dog.
While all my friends in elementary school read adventures and fairy tale books, I spent my time reading books about dog training and behavior. I wanted to be ready for the time I could have a dog someday. I constantly practiced what I read in books on every friend’s and neighbor’s dog. One day, I saw book about exotic dogs, and on the cover there was a photo of a white shepherd. I already knew that I loved shepherds, but this was “it”; my absolute dream dog.
On the weekends, we would visit my grandmother in the country. One summer, a stray dog (I named him “Brok”) was often in the area. He never trusted anyone and would keep his distance from people. He became my project. I would follow him and talk to him for hours. He would always trot off several paces and turn his head to keep track of me. Clearly he didn’t trust me, but I didn’t give up! One weekend, I came prepared for the routine again but, to my surprise, he came up to me wagging his tail, happy to see me. This was the beginning of a special friendship. Every week, after that point, Brok would wait for me to arrive to our weekend cottage, sitting in front of our gate. We had so many adventures together and I would practice my training skills on him. Sadly, my family escaped from Czechoslovakia and I heard that he waited for me to return, each weekend, until he ultimately passed away.
When I was 19 years old and living in my “new home”, Germany, I finally had the chance to own my own dog. Of course, I had to have a white german shepherd. Her name was Shewa (shay-vah). She was my constant companion, my angel, and best friend. She came with me to America, which has become “my chosen home”. My husband often reminds me that when I met him, all I had was “a dog and a suitcase”.
Shewa was amazing. She would lay outside of the classrooms and wait for me for hours as I attended classes at UCLA. She would sit and carefully watch every person that came nearby while I read at the beach. We competed in agility, she could do high level obedience, could jump a five foot fence on command, and leap over any bench in a park. She would even pull me when I went rollerblading. When I adopted several hurt birds that fell from their nest, she would gently hold them between her paws and lick them tenderly (she also did that with my pet rat :). She was an extremely loving and loyal dog.
I will never forget those two dogs that mark two different eras of my life, and got me started on my new chapter – my own breeding program.