Growing up with a dog was not unusual or extraordinary, Chile was another member of the family, who would take great joy in chasing the cows across the meadows in Cambridge after my mother dropped us off at school. They had a wonderful relationship, her and my mom. Then after immigrating to the US, she was the first one in our Kombi for every camping trip across California. She was a great dog, a whippet cross my father picked up and rode home with her tucked under his jumper on bicycle ride home. Her death was devastating for our family and particularly my mother. She never had a dog again.
Growing up in California in the early 80’s I was from the TV generation of The 6 Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman. It was one of my favorite shows, the strong-willed cyborg German Shepherd ‘Maximillion’ and ‘Jaime Sommers’ was a heroic and inspiring relationship. On visits to Australia on holidays, my grandfather would take me to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane, where young koalas were trained to ride on the backs of German Shepherds. This fascinated me and left an undeniable impact on how I viewed these dogs. The practice was discontinued in the 1990’s but stayed with me, adding to an already strong impression of the breed.
Years later after I relocated to Australia, I would experience that indescribable bond with my own dog and there was nothing ordinary or usual about it. It was a German Shepherd called Rocky who changed my life from feeling completely alone, always cautious and and at times frightened of living alone. After moving into my first apartment as a young mother I had my car stolen and someone had tried to break into my flat on 4th floor from the outside balcony in the middle of the night. Thankfully the window latch dropped jamming it and i was none the wiser until the morning, but it made me extremely anxious and fearful especially at night. So when we moved into our family home a few months later with a low front fence and corner access, my imagination went into overdrive. At the time I was considering a Labrador with a small child but after a quick conversation with the club secretary telling me it would lick an intruder to death,she suggested a German Shepherd. Suddenly flashes of Jaime Sommers and Max came flooding back and I was on the phone to the State’s Club moments later. I did some research and spoke to a couple of breeders and was quickly convinced my toddler would bond with him or her, wonderfully. It was better than could have imagined and I’m still sorry to this day that I took him for granted, thinking he’d always be there. After Rocky passed away, I decided to find others like me that had a similar bonds with their companions as I once had. Maybe it was to fill a void after losing Rocky or to find a somewhat vicarious existence in the love and devotion they had, but it was a project that drove me to discover what laid behind the ownership of the breed and why owners were drawn to the breed.
This is my story along with others who cherish their special companion, friend and workmate, and the lives that will never be the same without them.