“If she had done that to me, I would have thrown that crate upside down, with dog and all.”
We silently stand side by side, staring at Xara and Loup sniffing each others rear end.
“Do they recognize each other as mother and daughter?”, I hear myself ask.
“Yes”, the breeder says. “It’s obvious.”
Before we left home we took some pictures together. A family portrait, the three of us in the garden. In the most beautiful picture she is looking at herself on the screen. Her tongue hangs out of her mouth, our eyes are focussed on her. The other picture is just Loup, at her spot under Norbert the tree. She loved laying there, chewing something, like the remains of our plants.
A dog. Our dog. The big dream of the little boy in Husband came true. We read books, watched video’s and compared different breeds. He or she had to be loyal, eager to learn and walk through fire for his or her owner.
“A German Shepherd”, Husband said. “That is the dog of all dogs, the most dog-like dog.”“And they have cat ears”, I added.
On a warm summer day in the Vondelpark I nudged him.
“Look, over there.”
Deep brown, a little bit of black. Controlled pace, sturdy paws. Next to him an elegant lady looked around calmly. The animal was walking freely among picnicking tourists and playing children.
“This is the most beautiful German Shepherd I have ever seen”, I said. First to Husband, then to the lady.
We found the breeder and wrote to her. We had time and space, a house by the sea. It would be our first. We didn’t have any experience. We would take classes, I worked from home and wanted to raise our puppy well. Did we want a dog or a bitch?
Right before Christmas Loup came to live with us. Born from a litter of eleven puppies. We cuddled and corrected, taught her to walk on a leash. She made somersaults and bit everything she could get her fangs on. Ten times a day we were outside, she didn’t understand why. In the middle of the night on a rainy piece of grass, poo on your shoe. Every few hours the alarm went off. Loup cried and squeaked. She had diarrhea and was sick. We went from vet to vet. Slowly things got better.
House training came naturally indeed, as long as we kept paying attention. Calming down did not. Put her in her crate with blankets on top was the advice. Bite the bullit, sit it out and don’t succumb to squeaks. Outside of the crate it was mayhem. Big sister Lola slowly became smaller than Loup. Private dog training helped. With a clicker and treats I empirically observed the Pavlov-effect. Sit, down, paw, come here. Come here. COME! I was proud when she did what I asked her to do, but saw that she only did so when she felt like it.
She frolicked on the beach and loved every dog she came across. Catching leafs, digging holes in the sand. Our dog was a sea dog: literally ‘zeehond’ in Dutch, which means seal. When it stormed, Loup stormed along. Chasing foam heads and forgetting everything else. Including me. I chased her in our upside down world.
“She has to go, today”, we said to each other this weekend. We had thought about it more than once over the past few months. Each time we tried harder, each time it got a little better for a while. When is it enough? Suddenly, not just like that. She had woken us up again, barking. It was new. It piled up on top of pulling the leash, wrecking everything she encountered. Loup did what she wanted, when she wanted.
The day we picked her up I could hold her with one hand. I used two, just in case. The same fence, the same driveway. Four months later. We can’t do it anymore, picking her up and the rest.
“Maybe I bred them too strongly”, the breeder thinks aloud. “Maybe dog sports could work for her.”
I call her over to me.
“Loup, come here!”
Our wolf, my rascal. She is not coming. The breeder grabs her by her collar and puts her down in front of me. For the last time I knead her soft floppy ears and give her a kiss on her snout.
I hear a short cry while we move out of sight.
We return home, to silence in an empty crate.