For All the Dogs I’ve Loved Before

Who’ve traveled in and out …
and in and out…
and in and out….
my door.

In backwards order, here are the top 5 dogs of my life:

5. Pilgrim Pee Dog – the neurotic German Shepherd
4. Deacon D. Dawg – old Iron Tum, the Yellow Labrador
3. Memphis – the mutt who looked like a black Lab, but who was actually part Golden Retriever, part Short Haired Pointer
2. Rommel – the Butt Head, half-breed German Shepherd

1. Gustav Von Rommel (aka Gus):

Because I need a German Shepherd picture, I’ll insert one of Pilgrim Pee Dog, here, but this is not Gus.

He came to us, the unwanted runt of the litter. “Little Pup”, the owner of his mom called him. He spent the days of his puppyhood doggie paddling in the Coal River of West Virginia, before he came to our house to live. Before he moved into my heart.

Gus was a German Shepherd. That, alone, says more than my mere words could ever say to some of you, that is, to those of you who are familiar with the breed. German Shepherds have one guiding mantra: “Must. Guard. Perimeter.” And Gus knew that was his sworn duty.

 He was my first, and probably my best dog, (but don’t tell Memphis I said that) and I am sad to report that I have no pictures of him. He was gorgeous in that true-to-the-breed Rin Tin Tin kind of way. Absolutely classically beautiful. And even better that just looking good, he was a good boy, with a heart the size of Texas.

 German Shepherds choose one family member to whom they especially bond, and Gus chose my Mom. Afternoon nap time/reading time and bedtime, you could find Gus, parked on my Mom’s side of the bed. Keeping watch. Guarding the perimeter as best he could.

I always wanted him to love me best, and spent the better part of my childhood attempting to woo him away from Mom. And even though he didn’t love me quite in the way that he adored my Mom,  he definitely saw me as his responsibility. There was no doubt about that. When my little girlfriends would come over to play Barbies, and we’d have the Barbie cases opened and unpacked in the middle of the floor and, Gus would come and lie down in between me and my girlfriends. Just where I didn’t want him. But he had to keep me safe. It was his sworn duty. Sieg heil.

Gus was the one to whom I turned whenever my heart was broken. He listened to my childhood woes, allowed me to cling to his neck while my tears soaked his ruff, and then licked the remainder from my cheeks when I was done crying on him. I don’t know that he understood all the troubles that I poured out to him, but he regarded me with great seriousness and sincerity, and certainly acted as though he did

One day, Gus brought home a huge white pet rabbit. He carried it home by the scruff of the neck, and lay down on the porch with that poor bug-eyed, panting rabbit, its little heart racing, but its body frozen with fear, lying between Gus’s large front paws. When the rabbit tried to move, Gus would put his mouth around the rabbit’s neck again, but he never broke the skin nor left a mark, nor harmed the bunny in any way. We got the bunny back to the family to whom it belonged, (still don’t know how it escaped from its hutch) which was a house that I passed on my way to school, but about a 5 minutes walk from our house. We still don’t know how the bunny came to rest on our front porch between Gus’s paws. And he never told us, either.

Gus was a great walking companion, and kind of famous in our neighborhood. He was not a barker or a growler, and he loved to go on walks with Mom, or me, when I would take him., He was alert, but dignified. Just doing his German Shepherd job. My little neighborhood friends used to drop by my house and ask if Gus could come out to play. I am not making this up.

 He would fetch a stick for what seemed like world without end. Amen. And the quirkiest thing of all? Whenever Dad would mow the lawn, he would go to the woods behind our house and bring back a turtle. Weird, huh? Who would have thought that starting up the lawn mower was the international dog signal for “Go get a turtle,”? But, apparently, it was, at least, for Gus.

We had a guinea pig named Peter, who was a female. (Don’t ask.) Peter loved to graze on the grass in the front yard, when we’d take her out on a nice day, but every once in a while, she’d make a break for the bushes that were up close to the wall of the house. When she did that, she was really hard to recapture. Gus would lie outside watching her. Herding her. Keeping her out of trouble, away from those bushes, but also keeping her from leaving the yard. Must. Guard. Perimeter. really was his life’s calling. One day, and one day only, Gus left Peter in the yard and ran up in the street two houses away to bark and growl at another dog, a dog with whom he was normally friendly. It took us a few minutes to realize that he was warning Shadow to stay away from our yard, and our guinea pig. That herding instinct is strong, and if you don’t have a flock of sheep to shepherd, I guess you have to make do with a guinea pig, if you’re a German Shepherd.

We had Gus from the time that I turned six, until the time that I was 19. Thirteen years is a very long life span for a German Shepherd. I had started school in a state that was a 24 hour drive away from where my parents lived, away from Gus, when I got the news that my folks had to have him put to sleep. You might as well have told me I had lost a sibling. I cried and cried and cried, like a baby. Never got to say goodbye to the old feller.

He was the very best dog I ever had: he set the bar impossibly high for all the dogs who ever followed him. There will never be another like my noble Gus.

Gentleman Gus, my Mama used to call him.

If ever a dog went to heaven, Gus did. And if Gus isn’t in heaven, I’m just not sure how good heaven could possibly be.

P.S. I did this post in response to a writing prompt given to me by Mama Kat. For more great posts like this one – but probably even better! – you can click on this link:

Mama’s


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