The End of the Beginning of the Epoch of Ergo

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A year ago, on March 15, the ides of March, is when we agreed to meet Ergo’s old owners in the Cost co parking lot and took our new dog home.  The old owners did not come clean with me, even though they told me some odd things about her, including that she was an escape artist.  I was nervous about that because that is one of the hardest things to train out a dog.  The reward for the dog is just so built into the activity that you have to be a lot more clever than the dog to fix it.  And although you might think you are more clever, the dog actually has more time to think about it. 

I thought it was Nine Month Syndrome.  If you think about how German Shepherd dogs can be seeing eye dogs or junk yard protector dog, it isn’t surprising that the cute fluff ball you brought home at 9 weeks may not match up to your lifestyle.   Some of those dogs will need to work or have such a prey drive that they are unsuitable for families, or …  Starting at about nine months and going to about a year and a half you will see something like 5% of GSD’s re-homed.  Nine months is when puppies generally enter adolescence and will cop they same kind of attitude as a human teenager.  

After Chiwa and Akhen died people would ask me about where I was going to get my next GSD, even down to what bloodlines I wanted.  And I did something rather different than I usually am.  I would answer, “The right dog will find us.”  I was thinking of one of these stranded Nine Month Syndrome dogs and I wanted to be there to catch one.  I knew these dogs and families must be in horrible shape.  Just because you know the dog needs a different lifestyle than you can give it doesn’t mean that you don’t love them.  And it was easy to see that this situation was the kind that probably would get worse, maybe a lot worse, before the owners would commit to giving up their beloved puppy. 

I knew there was a dog out there that needed us to catch it before it was named a “bad” dog and was broken by living in a dog shelter without a pack and finally put down because it was unadoptable.   And I knew that this dog would find me.  I tried to advertise in Craig’s List but their rules in this area are amazingly draconian and never managed to put up an ad that they would accept.  However, Ergo’s old owners saw one of my ads during the 5 minutes it takes Craig’s List to reject an ad.  And even though I said I wanted a boy, I hate sable, …  They got in contact with me.  And pushed me once when I got a little overwhelmed by the idea of really moving on from my grief from Ahken.

And that was it.  She found us.  She needed us.  She would not have lasted three days in a pound.  But mostly, I know now, that we needed her.  She has brought so much sunshine and laughter into our house that it’s like a dessert wind covering everything with a fine spray of joy.   I’ve dealt with enough rescue animals now that I am very sure they understand a lot.   Animals live in the minute, and a rescue lives every moment thankful their lives have turned around.  They have lived the word “doomed” and they will never take their rescuers for granted. 

It is a heady feeling to be that person to a dog.  And it is a heady feeling to have done something extra, gone the extra mile for a fellow being.  But adding those together and then adding that on top of the already over the top loyalty of a dog and the man dog relationship transcends.  I love all the GSD’s we have had over the years so much.  They were all beyond great.  But they never had missed a meal or were tied outside alone or pushed away time after time after time.  They loved us, but they didn’t realize they needed us. 

And this is what Ergo knows and it has made all the difference.



A Year Ago


At one point last night I woke up with her stretched out across my whole back.


Now she likes to sleep on HER back with at least one back foot hitting my face to remind me that I could be rubbing her belly.

This is gone.


She sleeps all over the house now but never on top of us.  She make sure that each of us gets a long cuddle session when we go to sleep. 


How afraid and tired must you be to sleep on top of somebody so that they can not leave you?  It just seemed extra sweet at the time.  

Even though she is submissive and flows around us, she is occasionally unmovable when it comes to making room for us on the sofa. She will take being smashed up between a body and the back of the sofa over defeat.


This has only gotten worse. Now she goes limp like a protester making it almost impossible to shift her.

I don’t remember that this kind of stubbornness ever seemed abnormal.

Every time I walk by the door to the garage she tries to stop me to let her in there.


There are mouse traps so we have never let the other dogs go in and so they basically ignored that door.


But every time, and since it’s between my desk and the kitchen, that is a lot of times, she trips me up and noses at the door.

This is gone.


I finally took her into the garage and all she really wanted to do was to stand in front of the magic box where her morrow bones come from and look cute. 


Her back is not American style GSD though. I have already complemented her on her intelligence making that call.


Her mind is very GSD.  She makes up her own rules for herself and they are much harder than we would do.  I.e.  We wanted her to sit down before we open the car door.  She goes to this one spot that is the farthest from the door we use. 

This is still true.




Her old owners kept her tied up in the yard during their work day and tied up or in the kennel downstairs at night. They came down a few days ago and she was hog tied and they knew they had to give her up.


Of course I don’t condone that, but I will say she is the hardest dog we’ve had. The dog training cliché is that you must keep some dogs engaged and exercised or they will eat you sofa. 


Six hours before our weekly trip to the dog park. She ate our sofa.


If she gets a marrow bone or 2 every three days,



And if she has a large assortment of goat hooves, rawhide and the like spread around the house,



And if she has a huge pile of toys,



And if she is getting lots of love and love,



Then she will not eat the sofa.


Ok, it was only that one time.  But I do have to pay attention to this kind thing to keep our house a happy house.

I no longer believe that she was this master escape artist that would leave so she could find joggers to run with. She is terrified of leaving and even more terrified of joggers.


Every night at dusk we try to let her out to run and run and run,  She all but loops the house.  Flying over logs and rocks, no toys,  no “fetch”, just the sunset and the wind,

There was one time it almost happened.  She hadn’t been out enough and we went to the neighborhood park to play stick.  She had never given me a worry about her taking off even though she was 100% off leash.


I went over to pick up the leash and she started trotting away without me and wouldn’t stop when I called but just looked over her back with a “hard” look in her eye. 


I was starting to panic because I was sure that she was about to give me the paw.  So I used the atomic option. 


I said “Ergo is a bad dog.”


Full stop and she almost did a belly crawl back to me. 


So we stayed and played stick until he tongue started dragging the ground. 


I’ve never said those words any other time in a year.

I saw her do the beginnings of a puffy-cheek smile.


She is a one cheek smiler.   Hold the presses, she did a full smile in context yesterday.

Geeze, she does a million things to coax us to play with her. 


She even will beg by putting her chin on your thigh and then looking up through her eyelashes with big sad eyes. 


Can’t imagine what she will come up with by next year.

I snapped open a garbage bag and she was across the room in 1 second. Then she came over and I could pet her with the bag. So maybe its sounds that scares her? Maybe I’m just used to German GSD’s that have to be able to stay in a down while a gun is shot in the air 20 feet away.


She is much calmer now. She still gets scared of the strangest things. Things that she was OK with yesterday. It seems random to us.




Things like this are still going on.


She decided that she was afraid to come into the kitchen for a while. 


Think about it.  What would be so bad to keep a normal dog out of the kitchen where there is food in play?


She was obviously taught to stay out and has been testing that all year by putting her toes across the door jamb. 


It was only at 11 months that she would come in and sit quietly for short periods of time while I was cooking. 


Now she quietly woofs as if to say “Hey, here I am.  You are forgetting to reward.”


I’ve seen this twice now, but the strangest thing with a rescue dog is that you look forward to them breaking the rules.  I probably should have reinforced the some of her quieter behaviors that I’m sure were so painfully gained.  But it is kind of like the legal concept of “Fruit of the Forbidden Tree.”   Those behaviored were gained by painful meathods and do not want to be a part of it so I will not reenforce it.


Hence she has some rally bad habits (like jumping up on you) and I’m not sure if I can turn this other extreme around.

I swear she didn’t know the sit command yesterday. She didn’t even clue on it being a key word. So we did our usual make them sit before they go out or other nice events like food and today she has it down. So much so that when Mike and I were discussing that she now had “sit” down she came over and sat. She not only learned the word, but now she is pretty reliable sitting before the nice events without being asked.


This is still true. If you concentrate on it 3 hours. If you don’t (like saying “let’s get ready for bed”) she has it down in 3 or 4 days.


Except if you want to un-training from something she likes. We have high hopes of actually succeeding in this area some time.

I’ve learned that I can not get off target when training her.  There is this whole training theory behind the idea that you should catch the dog doing the right thing and then reward it.  That’s all well and good, but what if the dog is always doing the right thing?  Followed by another right thing and another…


‘Shake hands’ went from her putting her paw gently on my palm to flying across any distance and taking a big leap and landing both her paws on my palm at speed and heights. 


I can be standing and give the command (snap) with my hand out and she will gleefully jump into my arms.  This is what I seemed to have taught her.  And it’s hard to change the words of a command.  All I can imagine is the surprised look of some stranger when they ask her to shake hands. 


The first time we did this on one of our walks was I think the only time in my life when my response to something was to say “We are beyond cool!”

I told MC, but I figured out the father was a Belgian Shepherd. A specifically.


We are still guessing. Czech Shepard is a must. She has very rare features that they breed for.


But otherwise … I’m going with whippet. I’m think Mike is still on the tervuren.

That glorious golden sable coat leaves little doubt to the genetic roots out of the Czech GSD lines.  Nobody else has anything like it.


The other parent was said to be an American GSD, but we have a problem with size.  She is one-third the size of Ahken.   And maybe two-thirds the size of Chiwa.   So we have to find something that can drop her shoulders six inches and we are still not sure.


Just when we were 100% walking away from the tervuren idea, she started jumping like one.  And just when we started trying to capture that on camera, she went back to normal. 


I’m still going with whippet. 

I wish I knew what really happened in her past.


We are pretty sure they had her in a Electric Bark collar.

I have become rather empathic towards her old owners.


She is so full of joy and so smart that she is a constant challenge to heard in the right direction.  The good kind of constant challenge, but still it is constant.  It is so easy when I am  tired and distracted and have a cold and just want her to sleep for a day. 


It would have been worse through her puppy years.  I think they did their best for her.  They were first time dog owners and they mistakenly went with pain based behavior modification methods and couldn’t pull out when things started to crash.


They cranked down on her and her world would get smaller and smaller. Until there was no where to go and no options for anybody but to re-home.



That is another lesson I’ve learned.  When things go in the weeds, GIVE.  I keep her on a 30 foot leash and so if she needs to get 60 feet away from something she can.  And that extra time gives me a second to think of how to react.  So many situations that would have been a “thing” in close quarters, just never happen when the dog can retreat.

Marrow bones are a revelation to her. First she got into some of Ahken’s that we hadn’t found to throw away. I glad she did because I was wondering if they would work for her little mouth or not, but not to worry! It’s more of the case of an ant eater .vs. a wolf. When we bought her some fresh ones just for her, it was easy to see that we rocked her world.


She has more toys most of which are tucked somewhere around our bed.  Generally on the path to the bed. 


Occasionally, I put them all in her toy box just to make her crazy.

 When she can’t get the marrow out of a bone she brings the slimy, smelly, gross bone to me and drops it in my lap (or if I’m unlucky, my pillow) and looks at me with her chin on the cushion until I dig it out for her. 


Burglars:  Do not attempt our house.  You will not be able to go 20 feet without stepping on a squeaky toy or sharp bone or scatter a mound of chewed toilet rolls. 


The sofa is a land mind of squeaky .  It is almost impossible to roll over or sit up without a loud noise. 

Oh God she is beautiful. Her eyes pop. Kind like Akhen’s.


Right now she has what looks like golden parentheses on each side of her eyes.


She has a sable coat, which I have never liked, but she pulls it off. (Think Dark Coyote??)   This means her long guard hairs are black and her undercoat is gold. But she also has lots of stripes and swirls hanging out in there. She never quite looks the same for moment to moment. From the front and side, she looks mostly black. From the back, gold. It’s part of what makes her hard to photograph.)


I asked the girl at Petco what breed she thought Ergo was and she said Coyote/Wolf.

It amazes me how often the sables change how they look.  I don’t think you get this in photographs because the flash seems to punch through the layers of coat and shows a still shot of something that should be in motion. 


Like a picture of a diamond glittering is not the same as looking at a diamond glittering.


One odd note is that as we are up and out people do not come over to pet her. I don’t know if they pick up on her vibe or if she looks enough different than a shepherd that they are backed off.


Now they come over but as soon as they do, she runs away. This really hurts people’s feelings.


She does like a small group of strangers, but I have no idea why those people are OK. We think it maybe they are GSD or at least dog people.

She loves Mike and me. 


Nobody else really gets near her.  I have a friend who has given her gobs of peanut butter every week and Ergo still doesn’t let this lady pet her.


I know, having a dog this unsocialzed isn’t cool.  She does like kids, so it isn’t as dangerous as it could be.


It makes me tear up to think that when we first met her in the Costco parking lot, she flew out of her old owners car into Mike’s arms. 


She had to have known what was up.  That just isn’t how Ergo is.    We are the only two people that she has just let in anywhere near her heart.    But then you have to ask, why else would she have made the leap?


Any suggestions on how to work on this, please let me know.


She alerts on people and will go so far as to step back and turn away over the sight of three adults walking towards her on a sidewalk. After they pass, she will zoom behind them and touch the back of the legs with her nose.



She still does this.

She got all frustrated energetic and we couldn’t play with her and needed to be careful taking her for a walk with her heat cycle and were at our wits end of what we could do to work some of that energy out. We ended up taking her to the dog park but we didn’t get out of the car. She had fun looking around for 45 minutes and afterwards she was calm again.



We got her spayed.  Thank goodness.

She has the cutest toes. It’s like she is wearing black toe nail polish.


These are called “Pencil Toes” are very sought after for Czech dogs.


We actually see a lot of this at the dog park and when we point it out to the owners and tell them what it means they get so excited. 


It seems like Czech lines are being used quite heavily now. 

She hates it when Mike is gone. HATES. Sad, heartfelt wines and cries. This is a dog with pack issues. She does calm down after about 10 minutes. (I still haven’t left her and some days (i.e. after vet) she really doesn’t like me to close the bathroom door. She will lay half under my desk and keep her foot on mine to make sure I don’t leave her.)


We still haven’t left her alone but that is mostly because we always forget to train her on my going away.

She is better at this but still gets sad when Mike is gone a lot. 


As far as being with me, I hate to admit that I always take her with me.  I have a goal to occasionally leave her with Mike or 100% alone for small periods of time, but I just keep forgetting.


She is great waiting in the car and has the whole back of the RR with toys and blankets and sticks and rawhide. 


It is hard to push these lines sometimes.  When we first got her it was one small step forward, six large steps back.  We did everything we could not to put her in a position where she would ever melt down.


She is much stronger now, but being 100% alone in the house for 8 hours might be asking a lot still.   Or, I could be projecting and I would be the one melting down all day and when I would come rushing in to “save” her, she would lift her head as if to say “Hey, did you leave?”


She is terrified of joggers too, but I think that is only logical. (What are they running from? ‘eh???)


She is afraid of the Park.

The park has been too muddy, or at least that is what I tell myself when we manage not to go in there day after day. 


Seems like this is a training blind spot I have.    Good to know.

She is the biggest cuddlier. When she got out of the car of the previous owner she bounded into Mike’s lab and gave his face a bath. The first of many, many, many today. She gives hugs and leans and is generally all over you, only she is light enough that it’s very sweet and loving rather than too much. My cat-person therapist said this.


When we watch TV in the evenings, she likes it best when she can have her head close enough to Mike to be petted and her belly close enough to me. She can become very, very long to achieve this.

She will walk over to you and hook her head around your shoulder and squeeze.  A real doggie hug.  She generally leans into cuddles and just loves them. 


She still does the petting bridge about every night.  She has updated it so that she and Mike can be playing games and I can be smothering her with cuddles at the same time and woe to the human that breaks that circle!

She leaps. Seems like the GSD’s didn’t really like leaping. Yes, under moments of excitement they would take little leap but it wasn’t a habit. She likes it. Out of nowhere she leapt on to the sofa yesterday from about 4 feet away and about 3 feet too high.


She goes out of her way to jump things. Her favorite thing to jump is two Large tree branches that are spread out enough that she has to go over 6 feet with a wall just beyond.

Her favorite loop where she just runs like the wind for around ten minutes at a time has four jumps.  One of which is a bottle of dog shampoo that she goes out of her way to clear.


She seems to like loooooong jumps over high jumps.

She really likes the sofa. We sometimes call our sofa the “coma couch” and I’m not sure Ergo has learned to avoid its orbital pull yet.


Now if she is alone on it she wedges herself and lays on her back with everything spread out.

This is so funny, but she always wakes up and moves if I get a camera to catch it.


So I guess I will slowly keep exposing her to this kind of stimuli. This is a match for what I need to do for myself too, and isn’t it cool how that worked out!!


I think she will be discovery things for a while, but I don’t have her on any kind of schedule around this any longer.

 I don’t even think about this any more. 


I trust her not to do something stupid like run away when she is afraid of something rather than run towards me for comfort.


She has made her house with us now and it seems like now it is about just living and loving each other. 


And occasionally singing the “We are the Best Pack” song whose words are “We are the Best Pack!”

We had the meter guy come by this morning and she had no idea what to do. She was excitedly watching him and you could tell that she KNEW there was something that was missing, but couldn’t figure it out. Not a bark or wine or anything.


Now I think this is because of the Barking collar.

Well, she sure got the hell over this.    The first sound she did was a almost like a swallowed wuff.  She even looked around to see where it came from and then looked at us very sure we were going to come beat her instead of praise her.  


After that incident, noise and barking  came back very quickly.  She is now the most talkative dog ever.  We can hear her grunting her way around the house and believe it is like she has joined the people that talk to themselves all the time. 


This is another place where we are all happy about her overcoming her programming and learning to bark.  So, we haven’t called her on it like we should.  To say she is a barky dog is a vast understatement. 


Every time a door bell goes off on TV she jumps with joy and runs to the door merrily barking all the way.  I bet that many people, including me previously, do not realize just how often a doorbell rings on TV.  It is a lot.

We still haven’t found any way to play with her. She doesn’t’ like any toys. (We have found that the early puppy games like “Got your nose” work for small bits of time. I think we are just going to build up from the ground here.)


This is no longer true. It’s like she read this and set off to prove me wrong. I have never seen a dog so toy obsessed. She takes her toys for walks. She tucks her toys into the sofa. She will have her favorites arranged carefully around her.



I have never seen a dog this much into her toys.


Every day we have to visit them together and squeak or pet and name each one and then tuck it under her like it’s an egg.  


Part of her greeting is to find the toy that best expresses her mood.  The Taco, now that is her at her happiest.  The nasty vinyl, torn dumb bell means she is sad. 


She also has had a teddy-bear that she moves around to every place she sleeps and has not even torn an eye out.  If I wiped off the dried spit it would almost be as good as new. 

When she alerts on something and we say “That’s OK” she doesn’t trust us at all. (She used to be kind of like the old “Talk to the hand” but now she gives us a quick look. Still doesn’t trust us but we’ve made improvements.)


This didn’t last three months.

Wow, I had forgotten all about this.



When she gets panting and drools her tongue out to the side, it is long enough to reach her neck ruff.



Still true.  She has developed black spots on her tongue and they keep growing.  I don’t understand it, but it is cool.

She can get so frightened that she will run from one end of the leash to the other .  You can tell her mind is gone and she is in a full panic attack.  This is about the only time I can figure that she would run away.


It has happened about three times, but only really bad once.  She wasn’t thinking, she wasn’t particularly home, if you know what I mean. She could have ended up anywhere.


She is pretty good at standing behind me now, but occasionally she needs more distance. (Scary geriatric neighbor hood Beagle!!) She hasn’t crazy bolted since the second month or so.

I just use a horse lunge line for a leash.  The long dog leashes never lasted around Ahken. 


This hasn’t happened in a while.  Hopefully she trusts us enough that she is much less likely to lose it..

When you ask her a question, she does the sideways head-tilt that brings the cute quotient up to nose-bleed levels.


One day we played a bunch of different kinds of music for her and each type of music had its own head tilt.

 She I used to music now, but still does the head tilt, especially when we are reprimanding her.  


We are like “Ergo, don’t claw us.” and she is all like “Whaaaa?”   “Whaaay??”  She will be wagging her tail like a mad dog and to cuddle. 

She likes big delivery trucks like UPS. I have to chase after her and drag her back to our yard so she won’t go greet the drivers. I’m very, very, very sure she is doing this to confuse us.

They are not really on her radar anymore.  I wonder why?



I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into getting a dog this mind screwed.  At first I didn’t think the situation would ever approach anything livable.  But, a nice wise lady sitting on one of the benches in the dog park with her rescued pit bull said to give it a year.  That I wouldn’t even remember being frustrated about these things in a year and she was right.


Now it’s my turn for advice:


 Rescue a dog.




Just do it.  Take the leap.  Trust the universe to put you in the right position that the dog who needs you will find you. 


It is may not be the noblest of all causes to which to give your time and energy, but the rewards seem to make it feel like it very much is the most noble of pursuits.   If you have the space, perhaps you should rescue a human child first and then get them a rescued dog.   


I wrote this post for myself (and even I can’t believe how long it has gotten.)  I have delusions about updating it every year, but I doubt I will.  Rescuing a dog is something I did last year.  Now we just have a three being pack to which to share my life.


One thought on “The End of the Beginning of the Epoch of Ergo

  1. This is so wonderful. She is a real gem and a light in your life now.

    Funny, the two Maltese we rescued never had that scared gratitude like they knew they were saved.

    Chloe, the beautiful border collie that Lewis and John rescued from the Virginia Humane Society, did have that attitude of gratitude. Maybe it was a shelter where dogs were “put down” if they weren’t adopted, and she knew it. But she was extra-loving all her life because of it.

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