Gunner at 3 months old
Gunner at 3 years old. Always loyal, always committed.
It all began with Gunner. When we got married and were starting our family we knew that there was only one breed that we wanted to raise our children around: the German Shepherd breed. Not knowing what bloodlines to look for, or even that bloodlines matter, we bought a newspaper (yes, a newspaper) and dove through the puppy listings. We struck gold. We brought home this beautiful armload of a fuzzy West German male puppy whose parents were imports, and we started his training.
It didn't take much effort as training him was such a joy. He was eager to learn everything we taught him and we were hooked. He was our faithful friend, loyal companion, fearless guardian and insightful judge of character. We never worried about the safety of our family with Gunner around. He loved kids and endured the overtures of affection they doled out, even if it caused him discomfort. Never once was he aggressive or even cranky toward a child. His character was impeccable. His incredible size and strength offered us a sense of security as well. He grew to be 108lbs!!
Gunner was incredibly trustworthy. We could leave freshly baked pies or cookies to cool on the counters and leave the house knowing that when we came home, whatever we left on the counters would be there when we returned. He never once snatched a child's food from their hand or was possessive of his own food. When he was a pup, we taught him to never take food unless he was invited to. This turned into the benefit of knowing that when we spread a blanket out on the floor and let the kids eat food/snacks while watching a movie, that Gunner would never take their food. We often left him around our food and plates and walked out of the room. Never once was Gunner dishonorable!
We trained him to do jobs for us. When our cell phones would ring, he knew to pick them up and bring them to us. When we told him it was time for bed, he would pick up his toys around the house and put them in his toy basket. During projects around the house if my husband needed a tool that I had closer access to, I would put it in Gunner's mouth and tell him to "take it to Daddy'". He did every time. When our babies were tiny and a bottle, binky, burp cloth, etc. would hit the floor, Gunner would pick it up and give it back to me. He brought us the TV remotes, picked up throw pillows that plopped to the floor and returned our kids' sippy cups to them countless times. He never stopped carrying out his duties. This did not require a professional trainer; this is just who Gunner was.
It is easy to take what we have for granted, but we were constantly reminded of what a special animal we had in Gunner. One of my favorite stories to tell is when friends of our family came over for the day and the husband, Tim, was throwing the ball outside for Gunner. We lived on a private road at that time, so our "road" was dirt that looked more like an established path. The other side of that "road" was our neighbor's open field that eventually blended into the woods. Gunner was taught to never leave his property, even when the coyotes and deer came out into the field. Tim threw the ball across the road for Gunner to fetch. Gunner ran to chase the ball as far as the road and then stopped. Tim kept telling Gunner to go get the ball, but Gunner refused. At first, Tim was wondering what Gunner's deal was until it hit him that Gunner was probably following a rule that he didn't know about, so Tim walked across the road and into the neighbor's field to get the ball. Gunner sat and waited for him to come back, and then they resumed their game. Tim was so proud of that dog's adherence to the rules that he told his wife, Valerie, to come out there and watch. Tim threw the ball into the field and once again, Gunner wouldn't cross the road. Gunner never wore a collar, and we had no fencing or invisible fence. This was all done by simply training him. I always say that you never really know what a dog's character truly is until it proves that it can self-govern in the absence of its leaders. Gunner was a master at self-governance!
As he headed into his senior years, we had more babies and brought more German Shepherd puppies into our home. Gunner loved the babies and mentored the puppies. Some of our kids remember Gunner vividly. Another one was tiny and remembers bits and pieces, while another one wasn't yet born when he died. But the one thing that our whole family feels to this day: Gunner is just as alive today in our hearts and memories as he ever was in our home. The influence of his character has been undeniable. We love the West German Shepherd Dog and want others to "Experience the Difference" in this incredible type of Shepherd.