Thursday, May 6, 2010

The downside of having a ferocious guard dog...

When I was still a preteen, we moved to a new house and thought that it was a good idea to get a guard dog. (The Bichon Frise just didn’t cut it, seeing as he’ll love you forever if you so much as dangle a hot dog in front of his nose.) When we were visiting relatives in Germany we went to check out some Doberman puppies, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so terrified. The father was a short, solid kind of guy who sat perfectly still and eyed you with a look that said ‘I may be chasing Frisbees and being nice now, but if my master steps out of this garden I will eat you alive.’
I wasn’t even allowed to see the mother. Not that I wanted to. Her barking made me shiver.

So, a few weeks later my grandma brought back a three-month-old Doberman puppy that was so terrified on the plane that he refused to pee until he was safely back on a patch of grass. (I think my grandma was secretly relieved about that part.)

My dad wanted a killer guard dog, so obviously we needed to find him a killer name. ‘The Terminator’ was too long and the shortened ‘Termie’ sounded like the funny character from a cheap horror film, so we settled for ‘Zulu’—short, appropriate and simple enough not to get butchered by Turkish accents.

Zulu lived up to his killer name. Although he was pretty friendly with us, he had two pet hates: strangers and cats. Most dogs chase cats, bark at them, and they might even snap if they get too close. They’re too weak and too chicken to do much else. Not Zulu. He meant business.

One day I walked over to visit him at our barn (he went on holiday there when we had guests) and noticed two things. The first was that he had tiny scabs all over his ears, but he’d had some sort of fungal infection so I pretty much ignored it. I couldn’t ignore the second thing—an absolutely horrific smell.

I scanned the ground and almost missed the slowly decomposing cat, because it didn’t look much like a dead cat. It was a mangled lump of bloody, fly-ridden fur that sat in a heap on the ground between cowpats. Zulu grinned up at me, tongue lolling. I wiped my hands on my jeans, praying that he hadn’t somehow licked my hands during this visit.

‘Mom!’ I yelled. ‘Zulu just mauled a cat! And it stinks!’

After I assured her that it was not, in fact, still alive, she walked over in her squeaky blue welly boots with Hayri, who helps us out at the barn, in tow. He shoved a large stick under the body and flung it over the fence and into the bushes. It flew with its limbs outstretched  like a bloody parachutist and landed with a rustle and a snapping of twigs.

Zulu looked wistfully in the direction his prey had been chucked, and the words ‘there goes my lunch’ seemed to float in a thought bubble over his head.

“You’re digusting,” I told him.

He just nudged my hand with a wet, cat-blood infected nose.

Zulu passed away from a stroke earlier this year after a year of living with Wobbler syndrome, a condition endemic to large dog breeds and commonly found in Dobermans. I miss him very much, but the good times we had together still make me smile. Keep an eye out for more of his amusing escapades- some of them have gained enough fame among my classmates that I'm pretty sure he'll go down in history! I think he'd have liked that idea.



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