Scruff o’ the Neck

sheba4She was still fairly young – only about a two years old – our German Sheperd dog Sheba seemed to have boundless energy and the enthusiasm of a young pup. Sometimes this wasn’t such a good thing.

As fall closed in and the days got colder, Kim and I began wearing thick parkas with fur lined hoods. They were warm and cozy, but I quickly found out that when I had my hood up, I couldn’t hear very well. So most times when Mum and Dad weren’t around, I kept my hood down.

One day as Kim and I were watching the horses and cows in the nearby pastures, Sheba though it would be fun to play tug of war with me. Sheba’s idea of “tug of war” was to sneak up behind me, grab the hood of my parka in her mouth and madly crank her head back and forth! Why she did this is still a mystery to me today. Maybe the fur on my parka hood set her off. Anyway, there I was yelling and flailing my arms as Sheba flipped me around and pulled me right into the ditch. I couldn’t do much about this since she was behind me and out of my reach. I remember seeing ground, sky, a bush and then the ditch. Luckily the ditch was dry, but some of my hair had been pulled out and I was all covered in dust and dirt.

The next thing I remember clearly was Dad running down the road towards us cursing the dog and waving a scrap piece of 2×4 in his hand. Dad was absolutely livid! He wolloped Sheba a good one on the rump and she dropped me and yelped off into the distance. Still a little stunned, I rubbed the back of my head and brushed some of the dust off my pants. “That damn dog’s going to have to trained” Dad growled.

Over the next weeks (maybe even months), Dad took Sheba out on a leash in the evenings. He kept her on the proverbial “short leash” while she learned to heel and obey verbal commands. After a while, she got to know “Sheba! Come!”, “Sheba! Stay!”, among other classics. Slowly she learned, and before too long, whenever Dad barked, Sheba listened.



Ah, spring had sprung and our dear girl Sheba had become ever so popular with the local males! On more than one occasion Kim and I had observed her coupling with different breeds of dogs. We didn’t really know what they were doing of course. It made for quite a curious sight.

“I think they’re stuck.”

“No – they’re exchanging puppies”, I ultimately decided.

Now, picture two dogs stopping everything to look at us while we vainly tried to figure out the purpose of their bizarre activity.

I’d seen an Aerdale around Sheba once and I’d even heard that there was a Wolf prowling around the property somewhere. The Wolf was later confirmed when we saw a proud grey and white Wolf-like dog standing tall in the distance, watching our home intently. No doubt he was looking (or sniffing) for Sheba.


“Madonna and Dog” – Mum and Sheba sharing a moment.

About 20 yards into the bush behind the Transmitter Shack, there was a little creek, and we all went their once, taking Sheba and a nice picnic lunch.

Even though it was a hot, bright summer day, the thick brush and trees provided a lot of shade, so the creek-side area was cool, shady and comfortable. We sat on a blanket eating cold cuts and Mum’s potato salad, and delighted in watching Sheba splash around in the crystal-clear water. Wanting to join her, Kim and I whipped off our shoes and socks and started wading in. The water was as cold as ice! My little toes gingerly stepped over rounded stones and pebbles, but after a few moments the thrill had worn off since it seemed like my feet were going numb, so I hopped back out onto the warm grassy bank.

Dad watched Sheba intrepidly splooshing her way through the shallows, chasing water skeeters and her reflection in the water. Then, without warning, Dad shouted “Sheba! Sit!”. He’d been training Sheba to obey his vocal commands for months, and she had made a lot of progress since first piddling her way into our hearts many months before. When she heard Dad’s command, she stopped what she was doing, looked right at him, and like a good dog, she sat right down. And then stood right back up again! Her face said it all: “Why on earth did you make me sit in that cold, cold water?” We couldn’t stop laughing…


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The memoir and family history of E. John Love