German shepherd wins as ally for alley stroll


February 17, 1993|By MIKE ROYKO

The judging for the grand champion of the Westminster dog show was on TV the other night, and I had no trouble picking a dog to root for.

Part of it was a simple process of elimination. Several of the dogs looked like shaggy blankets, balls of yarn or dust mops. One looked like a man's blond hairpiece with tiny legs.

I have nothing against little dogs that look like dust mops. I'm sure they make wonderful pets and companions. Even fierce watchdogs, should your home be invaded by midget burglars.

And I am definitely not going to make any stupid jokes about them. I did that once and heard from hundreds of angry owners of fuzzy little dogs.

They were really upset when I said that if I owned one of the tiny, fuzzy dogs, I would spray it with Endust and use it to clean under the beds. And I understood their feelings because it was a foolish remark.

Some were even more upset when I said that if I owned one of the tiny, furry dogs, I'd tie it to a long stick and use it to wash the windows, which was also a ridiculous thought.

Others were even upset with a proposal I made for putting tiny dogs to a practical use. I said that the dog's teeth could be filed to razor-sharpness. Then you could carry the tiny beast in your pocket or purse and if a fiend leaped out at you on a dark street, you could whip out the dog and fling it, snapping and nipping furiously, into the attacker's face. A fiend seldom persists after the loss of his nose or a lip.

But this idea was flawed. As several readers warned, you might reach into your pocket for the car keys and the dog could snap off a thumb.

So that's why I vowed never to make any more comments about the possible uses of fuzzy little dogs, and I won't. Well, maybe just one.

I did happen to mention to my wife that I wouldn't mind owning the little dog that looked like a blond hairpiece. If it could be taught to sit quietly on my head, I would have both a pet and a fine head of hair.

She squelched that idea, saying: "What if we went to a party and someone said, 'I hate to mention this, but your hair is growling at me.' Or if we went out to a restaurant and somebody at the next table said: 'Excuse me, but your hair has just snatched food from my plate.' "

But to get back to the dog show and the animal I made my favorite. It was the one dog in the bunch that looked most like a dog: a German shepherd.

When the trainer trotted it around the show ring, the announcer talked about the many qualities of German shepherds: courage, loyalty, versatility and so on.

Surprisingly, though, he failed to mention the single most important quality that has made German shepherds so popular: They can really scare the hell out of people.

That is why I own a German shepherd, rather than one of the many breeds that are best known for being gentle, docile, lovable, playful, sweet, harmless, cuddly or cute.

There is nothing wrong with a dog having these traits, although I have always thought they were more important in a wife or significant other. Even an insignificant other.

But when I take a stroll with my German shepherd (her formal, registered name is Pain Inflicter of Olde Chicago, although I call her Scar for short), nobody ever beams at her or leans over and says, "My, my, isn't she the cutest little thing?"

If you walk a dog that causes someone to beam and say, "My, isn't she the cutest little thing?" that person might also say: "By the way, chump, hand over your wallet and wristwatch."

But felonious types are less inclined to do that in the presence of a dog that has been properly trained to tear out their throats, hearts and gizzards. Not on a whim, of course; only when told to do the right thing.

Imagine that -- giving America's top dog trophy to a spaniel, a breed that is used to chase birds. That's something even a cat can do.

That's why they are used in police work. And besides terrifying criminals, they can be trained to sniff out drugs. I mention that in case you are parents of chronically dazed teen-agers and are thinking of getting a dog. Instead of playing "fetch the ball," you could teach the dog to play "fetch the stash."

So it is no coincidence that 78.9 percent of that most noble class of canines, the Tavern Dog, contains some German shepherd blood. (That figure is based on scientific research, requiring me to make field trips to thousands of taverns to gather data.)

Only once did I see a tiny, fuzzy dog in a tavern. Even then, the tavern owner also had a large part-German shepherd. "I use the big one to watch the joint," he said, "and the little one to wipe off the bar."

For reasons I've never understood, the Tavern Dog is not accepted as a registered breed by the people who run the dog shows. Maybe they're afraid it would disrupt their shows by gobbling up all those fuzzy little Frenchie dogs.

But at least a German shepherd was right there in the finals and looked like the best dog to me, since it was clearly the dog you'd like best to have while walking in a dark alley.

However, the judge thought otherwise. To my amazement, the best of show award went to some kind of spaniel.

Imagine that -- giving America's top dog trophy to a spaniel, a breed that is used to chase birds. That's something even a cat can do.

I'll never understand dog show standards. But if that judge ever takes a spaniel for a walk around Chicago, she'd better hope that the worst character she runs into is a pigeon.

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