Before we went to Hungary and Romania, our first dog was a small, mixed breed terrier. After we returned, my father bought a female shepherd-wolf mix from a sailor. She became my dog and I named her Beauty. Her howling may have annoyed neighbors, but it was music for my ears. Beauty was aloof and dangerous to all but the family. Her affect on me has lasted all my life and my favorite dogs were German shepherds. Years later, after my marriage to Edythe and the arrival of our first son, Bruce, I bought a shepherd pup from Margo Mor, who had given up flying and was raising German shepherds. Through her I met Dr. Sachs, a veterinarian and a director of the Seeing Eye Foundation. For many years, as a hobby, I raised and donated shepherds for the Seeing Eye Foundation. Kutcha (dog in Hungarian) was a former Seeing Eye dog and the last dog I owned. He died at age fourteen in our Garden of Edythe home in Merrick in 1994. . .
While the children were growing up we only had shepherds. All female shepherds we named Dexe, and all male shepherds were named Kutcha. They were trained to obey silent hand signals as well as voice signals. Certain commands were in German, mainly the attack orders. All dogs we owned were trained to only take food that we gave them, and only if we gave them the order to eat. We could put a steak in the floor and leave it there, even if we left the area, and the dog would not eat it until we would give the command to eat it. All food eaten had to have the smell of our hands on it before they would eat it. This prevented someone from intentionally poisoning them. Only once did this prevention fail. There were only two other dogs we owned while we had shepherds that were of other breeds, a white-eyed Weimaraner and a miniature Pincher.
The Weimaraner was a beautiful male but never as trustworthy as the shepherd. When we lived in Laurelton, we had a fenced-in back yard. Someone had thrown in pieces of poisoned meat. The shepherd would not eat it. The Weimaraner could not resist the temptation and died. Dr. Sachs tested the meat and found it was laced with cyanide.
The miniature Pincher, Trystie, a bitch in every sense, was acurious, bundle of energy, scarcely larger than a Chihuahua, obedient but with the untrustworthy disposition typical of Doberman Pinchers. Trystie very often bit children that came to visit us in our house or the boat. Trystie would annoy and tease Kutcha, our large tolerant shepherd. Trytie had never seen male canines before we got her, and she copied one of Kutcha’s urinating habits. Kutcha would lift a hind leg when he urinated, and the female, Trystie, would do the same. As a joke, I trained my dogs to lift their right forelegs when I raised a forefinger. I was gave the signal and said, “Heil. Hitler,” and I would remark that Trystie
was typical of German dogs to be Nazis. It did not matter if I said, “Cood Morning,” or other words, the dogs would respond to my hand signal. One day, at the marina where I docked my trawler, Tryst. Little Trystie was coming down the dock after relieving herself in the dog run. As she approached me, I signaled and called, “Heil Hitler.”
Three boats away, a man sitting in the stern of his boat got up and faced me with a smile as he sad, “Heil Hitler.” He had not seen the little dog trotting astern of his moored boat and thought the greeting was for him. I learned that I had an anti-Semite and Nazi sharing the marina with me. I pointed to the dog on the dock and he leaned over his stern transom and saw little Trystie trotting up the dock. As he turned to me his puzzled look became a scowl as I said, “I was greeting my dog. I name all my dogs, ‘Hitler’.”.
Dog training has many ramifications and some of them may seem humorous or cruel, depending on one’s views. Pavlov initiated many concepts of animal responses to stimuli. Pavlov’s and Skinner’s methods have been applied to animal training. Rat and mouse traps were part of the equipment that Dr. Sachs and Margo used to quickly train dogs from sleeping on the sofa, beds or areas where they are not to go. First the traps are set and sprung accompanied by a stern, “No.” The dog would soon associate the snap of the trap with a command to stop from continuing a particular procedure. The traps would then be set and placed under sheets of newspapers in areas where the dog was not to go. When the dog would leap on a sofa or bed that had a set trap hidden under newspapers, the trap would snap under the newspapers without harming the animal. The dog would leap from the sofa or bed and soon learn that certain items were out of bounds.
The paper matches from matchbooks are used to housebreak dogs, preferably puppies. After feeding, the ideal time, or before retiring for the night, I would stand over and grip the dog between my knees with its head behind me. I would hold four or five unlit matches by the heads, and insert the matches in the dog's rectum. With small puppies, I would hold them on my lap and proceed with inserting one or two matches. Then I would quickly take them outside. The response is immediate. The dog tries to expel the match suppository, and this stimulates the flow of fecal matter. A few applications of this procedure are usually adequate. When the canine in training would see me tear off a few matches, the dog would race to the door, often pawing at it while impatiently waiting to be let out.
Leading a dog’s life is not bad, if the animal is accepted as part of the family.