Updated: Apr 5, 2020
Review : "You don't need to be a dog lover to fall in love with this book! I've only had small dogs like Karen's rescue, Taxi terrier cross - this book is fabulous! Written straight from the heart, I've never laughed so hard! Reading this book was like sitting on the porch and having a cup of coffee with Karen as she tells me her story. I seriously couldn't put it down and can hardly wait for the next one!"
Heart Dog - Gunner's Story by Karen Grzenda Amazon purchase link : https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07JCDRRK8/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_wan1CbT8TTBS8
Chapter 3 ~ And Then Came Gunner
At Isaac’s first stroke, it was painfully obvious to me that there would come a time where I was going to be alone. Alone living in a nasty area of town and without my ears and protection.
I’ll openly admit, this time in my life was particularly difficult as while my aging Isaac sat beside me, I started researching his “replacement” and I felt like a “cheater”. How weird is that, I mean this is a dog, only a stupid dog right? I felt like I was cheating on my best friend. I knew Isaac’s time was running shorter and here I was, looking for a replacement? How could I ever replace him?
The truth of the matter is, I was terrified. I lived in a poor neighborhood that had drugs, gangs, gun shootings and death. I was losing my best friend but also my ears and my protection and facing that, scared the hell out of me. I started my research and Isaac helped me every step of the way.
The more I read on breeds, traits and behaviors the more I realized that I really liked the German Shepherd breed. But as I looked at German Shepherd breeders, the more I felt overwhelmed at the thought of the “replacement’ dog always being compared to Isaac and probably always falling short.
So here I was, needing protection, intelligence, loyalty, fearlessness, strength and whatever breed I picked, it needed to be as far from looking like a German Shepherd as possible.
I had “raised” Isaac “successfully” from a puppy into a full grown German Shepherd who lived a very long, happy life. He was an amazing dog and no one could deny that! I literally felt at that time that I obviously knew everything I needed to know about raising a dog and in particular a working dog.
When I started looking for my next dog, I did my “due diligence” and read constantly about a variety of Working Dogs. I spent hours with Isaac talking about Rottweilers, Dobermans, Giant Schnauzers, Bouviers, Malanois, and even went back to St. Bernards. However I started to notice that I was starting to read more and more on the Doberman.
Doberman Pinschers are considered people-oriented dogs that are affectionate, even sweet with people when they are socialized and trained properly. You can read that on multiple sites online and it’s true. I know many Doberman owners say that once they have a Doberman in their family, they’ll never have any other kind of dog! They say they’re special and in my heart and mind they truly are.
It has been documented that a rescue Doberman after a few short weeks in his new home, saved the family baby by grabbing the baby and throwing it out of harms way from a poisonous snake. In that story, the family was mortified that this Doberman would grab the child and throw it naturally assuming that it was in fact a vicious attack! When they noticed that the Doberman had been bitten by the toxic snake, they realized that what looked like an attack was actually the works of heroics. In that story, the Doberman almost died from the snake bite but did recover after intensive vetting.
Another story had a mamma Doberman go countless times into a burning building, each time coming out with one of her puppies only to leave it curb side and return back into the burning building. She only stopped when she had retrieved all of her puppies. Again, an act of heroism.
A woman with Alzheimer’s survived seventeen hours lost in the woods, confused and alone. What kept her calm through the whole ordeal was the fact that her Doberman never left her side. The woman stated that she wasn’t scared because her dog was with her the whole time until she was rescued. When she was found, her Doberman even tried to accompany her on the ambulance ride to the hospital.
Many are unaware, but during WWII, approximately 75% of dogs used during combat were Doberman Pinschers with the other 25% being German Shepherds.
The island of Guam which has been an American territory since 1898 had been held by the Japanese for two and a half years until the U.S. Marines landed to retake the island. The Marines took both the 2nd and 3rd War Dog Platoons to assist in this venture with the War Dogs “jobs” being to explore the island’s cave system, detect land mines and protect sleeping soldiers.
Currently, a bronze statue stands of a Doberman named Kurt at the War Dog Memorial along with 24 other brave Dobermans whose names are also inscribed on the memorial.
Kurt has been attributed with saving the lives of 250 U.S. Marines July 23, 1944 on Guam. Brave Kurt went ahead of the troops, pointing to alert them to a presence of approaching Japanese soldiers. Sadly, Kurt was mortally wounded by a Japanese grenade and became the first to be buried in the National War Dog Cemetery located at the Naval Base Guam.
There are multiple stories of Doberman heroics and amazing pet Dobermans but most people only hear of the attacks or vicious Dobermans. I’m not sure why this is other than maybe as humans we have a tendency to focus on the negative a lot more than the positive. I have always prided myself on my ability to see the positive and from what I researched, there was a lot of positive on the Doberman.
Further to all these great stories, in my search for my new puppy, while I wanted a puppy with Isaac’s traits, I also wanted a puppy that didn’t remind me of Isaac as I worried I would compare the two. Isaac had a full coat, long body, and a tail that cleared the whole coffee table off when he wagged it. The Doberman breed on the other hand, was completely the opposite in appearance but yet shared very similar traits!
Breed standards for the Doberman said short coat, tight and square body, and a nubby for a tail that couldn’t move a fly when wagged. And let’s face facts, they looked scary! I didn’t want temperament scary but I wanted others to see him and to think “holy crap! VERY scary! I’ll go rob the next house!”
The Doberman breed, was said to be highly intelligent, agile, and powerful. They have a very strong working capability, and are very loyal to their family which in turn results in a protectiveness. I spent almost two years reading about Dobermans and learned everything I could with Isaac’s support.
I learned that Dobermans aren’t just scary black dogs with cropped ears like in the movies where they attack everyone with frothing mouths. They come in four “allowed by standard” colours: black, red, blue and Isabella (or fawn).
I read up on possible “health issues” including Cardio Myopathy, Thyroid problems, Von Willebrands Disease and Wobblers. I read that while I spent a half hour each day brushing Isaac while watching Jeopardy on the television, this new puppy might only need a wipe down with a wash cloth for grooming. I read that a Dobermans life span sadly was not that long, many saying that nine years was a blessing. The more I read on the Doberman the more obvious it became, and after weighing all the pros and cons, Isaac and I decided that my next breed would be a Doberman.
As time went by, Isaac’s tumor grew and started applying pressure on his anal gland and a discharge of stinky fluid started to secrete. While I shaved the area so as I could have access for cleaning to prevent open sores, I decided that I needed to start researching for Doberman breeders. With Isaac missing all his hair on his one hind leg, we took the next step together and went back to the computer.
I know many are sitting here now wondering why I didn’t get a rescue, why didn’t I “save a life”, why wasn’t a cross breed good enough. Was I too arrogant and I NEEDED a pure bred?
Not at all! I mentioned before, I’ve had crosses, and I’ve had rescues but when you commit to a dog you have to insure you are getting what fits your family.
I had very specific needs, and I felt at this time a purebred Doberman would suit those needs. I will also state, that at this time in my life, I also had Taxi, that crazy little rescued terrier cross and loved her dearly. But as great a killer she would prove to be in the future, she wasn’t much of a deterrent when it came to a hopped up on drugs gang banger with a gun. A Doberman looked like he “meant business”!
So why research breeders?
There are piles of “breeders” out there, some good and some bad just like any other group of people. But if you take time to research your breeders, you will find them all different, and sometimes significantly.
Isaac’s breeders were the ones who got Isaac and I involved in training. They knew Isaacs father most but also his mother and all their traits, medical history and so forth.
Lawrence and Karen knew from their “lines” that their puppies proved to be workers and they wanted owners that would work with their puppies to insure that their needs were met both medically, and mentally. Throughout the years with Isaac, if I ever needed any help or had questions, Lawrence and Karen were a phone call away and only a fifteen minute drive.
When I found Gunner’s breeder, I was looking for a “different” kind of breeder. This time I knew everything. I would never need help or support, just a quality puppy. Because again, I knew everything! How quickly I learned that though I knew “stuff”, I sure as hell didn’t know everything.
The next few years would prove to be the most humbling time and biggest learning experience of my life.
Coming home from Isaac’s last vet visit, I remember my Aunty Dee talking and crying and it was all like a really bad dream. I’m quite certain that she was saying very kind, loving and comforting words but I sincerely don’t remember a word she spoke. When the car stopped, I left the bloodied sheet in the back seat and walked alone into the house to “hair bunnies” floating on the floor that belonged to my Isaac. I’m not sure if I even said “goodbye” to Aunty Dee.
I’ll openly admit, when I opened the door, both Taxi and Vegas welcomed me home but I didn’t even see them. In fact, I think I even resented them.
That night I was so alone, so scared, and just so empty that I didn’t sleep a wink. I heard things that weren’t there, I felt Isaac move when he wasn’t there, I could even feel the bed moving with the breaths he no longer took.
I was very lucky as my employers were amazing during this time and more supportive than most. They had told me that when the time came that they would accept nothing other than me taking time off and as much as I needed. Further to that, they also said that when I was ready, they would support my new puppy endeavors by helping anyway possible up to and including my new little puppy coming to work if I wanted.
That first week without Isaac, I didn’t sleep, didn’t shower, barely ate and sure as heck didn’t go to work. But then, one morning I woke up, woke up in the sense that I felt something other than pain and started living again. I cried the whole day but I cleaned every square inch of that house and it was a big house.
I cried as I vacuumed up Isaac’s “hair bunnies”. I cried as I packed up Isaac’s dog dishes, leashes and toys. I would love this new puppy, but there was no way in the world he’d touch Isaac’s stuff! And I literally broke down when I came across his winter ice grippy booties. That’s when I went back to the computer and sent out three emails to my list of chosen Doberman breeders to see if they had litters.
I feel ashamed of writing this because I’m still shocked that Isaac was gone only one week and there I was emailing breeders! But here’s the thing, when you lay in bed at night, in a neighborhood where you know that it’s so far from quiet and yet all you hear is silence, that silence is truly deafening. Isaac was my best friend but he was also my ears.
Turns out that the day after I put down Isaac, Gunner’s litter was born to a breeder that lived a few hours away. I think that maybe that was another one of those “it’s meant to be” times.
My email to the breeder came when Gunner was six days old and although she said it was still early, she felt confident that she would have eight puppies for me to choose from, four blacks, two reds, one blue and one Isabella. She called it her “rainbow litter” as although she knew from the genetics of the mother and the father that it was possible, it was not expected to get all four allowed colours in a litter.
I booked our first visit at the litters’ five week mark. I knew that they wouldn’t be ready to go home yet and knew this would give me more time to complete my research and I guess, just simply prepare myself and of course puppy proof my home.
I still didn’t drive at this time but Aunty Dee quickly and eagerly volunteered a number of her friends, commonly referred to as my “adopted aunts” for the road trip out to see the litter.
On that day, Eileen, Shirley, Pat, Aunty Dee and I all piled into Eileen’s van and we started the three hour journey out to meet the breeder and her litter.
It was a terrible day for driving! We were in the dead of winter and true to Winnipeg weather, the wind was blowing the snow strongly which made for the sight of “snow snakes” slithering across the highway. As I stared out the window, my aunts chattered away. This was another time when I don’t remember much of what was said but I remember “you don’t have to pick one if you’re not ready”. I think I was the one saying that, repeating it over and over in my head.
A few hours later we arrived at the breeders.
It was a nice house. Not ritzy schmitzy as most people would believe but it was a nice house. Very clean, and we were immediately invited into the kitchen with eight little Doberman puppies. I don’t say or write this with much enthusiasm because truthfully, I wasn’t enthused. Don’t get me wrong, puppies are amazing but everything and everyone were just too damn happy for me.
We were offered a place at the kitchen table but by the time I had taken a chair, all my aunts had tossed their jackets into a corner and were sitting on the floor with puppies all over them. Again, too much happiness.
Reluctantly, I sat down on the floor too, but only because they did, I would have preferred I think to just sit at the table as none of these cute little puppies were Isaac.
I watched and watched as puppies climbed and barked, played and peed now and then and then went back to playing. But there was one little guy, the “blue boy” just sitting across the kitchen doing the same damn thing as me, watching. He didn’t play, he had this look on his face like “look at these idiots”.
I’m not sure how long we were there but the puppies started to tire and slowly but surely, they started curling up for naps. Some of them curled up to each other, and others climbed on my aunts to snuggle in. That’s when that little blue boy looked at me, crossed the floor and climbed into my arms. I reluctantly held him up and he looked me straight in my eyes and I pulled him right into my chest.
He had the most beautiful eyes I’d ever seen in a puppy, they were almost a lavender colour with little brown speckles! And his skin was so funny, it was like he had too much, almost like a Shar Pei with all those rolls and I remember telling him while he was in my arms to pull up his pants because he had all these little rolls of skin by his butt.
As I held him, he didn’t make a peep just a long puppy sigh and he just nuzzled his nose into the nape of my neck. It seemed like only seconds passed and he was far off to sleep and with the wonderful puppy smell and velvet like fur in my arms, it happened right in that moment. I found my new friend!
My aunts and I left the breeders to “think about it” but there was no thought in my mind. He was going to be mine!
We went into the small town and found a restaurant where we proceeded to have lunch. The topic at lunch table was of course that cutie-pa-too-tee blue Doberman we had just seen. I could still feel him in my arms sleeping!
As we sat there, I reminisced about Isaac when he was a little puppy and it was hard. So hard.
I could remember the first time Isaac was “attacked” by an empty plastic Coke bottle I had dropped by accident and he so strongly rose to the occasion and did his first little aggressive bark! I remembered him being so mortified at all the monsters on the street when we took our first walk together on garbage day but with puppy hackles up, he braved each of them. And I remembered Isaac always chasing his tail, how on earth was this guy going to do that when all he had was a teeny tiny nub of a tail?
We paid our lunch bill, went to the bank where I withdrew my deposit and headed back to the breeders. I gave her the money, and while she wrote up a receipt, I gave my new little boy one last hug. And then came Gunner!
Check out the video to meet the rest of the pack : https://youtu.be/J_4W8foH5D4
5 Stars: Excellent read! Hope it becomes a movie!!! Really good read with a lot of laughs, some tears but also mixed with a lot of excellent information on all dogs! I HIGHLY recommend this book and that others also recommend it!
5 Stars: Loving it!!! I have never read a book like this before. I love that it is written with heart and emotion and truth and that it is not just some stuffy author putting pen to paper for a couple bucks. Thank you so much for sharing so much real happiness, pain, laughter, love and heartache.❤
Heart Dog - Gunner's Story : Available on Amazon in most countries! In Manitoba, Canada : McNally Robinson at Grant Park, and Petfood source.
Heart Dog - Gunner's Story by Karen Grzenda Amazon purchase link : https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07JCDRRK8/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_wan1CbT8TTBS8
Karen Grzenda, Author and canine advocate