Rye Reflections

July 2005 Features

Watson's World

This month I introduce Gundo, a wonderful dog. I tell you about "Tough love" and we have our first vocabulary lesson. I love to hear from my friends and their people. Please write to me at Watson's World


It is my pleasure to introduce Gundo.  Gundo is called "the wonder dog" by his people, Joan and Dave Dawley, but I call Gundo "gorgeous", "glamorous", "glorious", because he is so handsome and has that star quality.  Gundo is five years old.  He came to live in Rye in November, 2004; before that he lived very far north in Maine.  Joan and Dave Dawley adopted him from a man who is a retired Maine State Trooper and also a connoisseur of police dogs since he is a judge for the US Police K9 Association which certifies dogs for police work.

Gundo is a German Shepherd; not just an ordinary German Shepherd but a German German Shepherd, that is to say that both of Gundo’s parents came from Germany.  Over there, a German Shepherd is expected to be a Schultzhund (work dog).  They are bred for that and not to be show dogs. This is why Gundo’s shiny coat is much darker

Gundo with his people
than his American counterpart.  Schultzhunds are expected to be good watch dogs and to excel at police work and search and rescue.  Although Gundo comes from a long line of Schultzhunds, his present duties are relatively light.  His people describe him as an excellent watch dog and an admirable companion. Gundo helps the Dawleys by making sure they get exercise.  He allows them to take him for at least four walks every day.  Everyone in the household gets a turn. He also entertains with his singing.  This is a remarkable talent for a German Shepherd.  I sing, but then beagles are known for that, especially if they see a rabbit. Gundo’s singing is more like a wolf call, but more refined.  As far as I can tell, in spite of his German heritage Gundo does not have a noticeable accent.   We need to be careful and make sure that Hollywood does not find out about Gundo.  With his stunning good looks, his sweet temperament, and his singing talent they might whisk him away.  

On his daily walks Gundo loves the beach in the off-season and the woods behind Parson’s field, but his favorite place of all is the Urban Forestry Center.  His favorite food is chicken and brown rice; his people are very particular about keeping their star in peak condition. Gundo has a few dislikes too.  He’s scared of thunderstorms and like my good friend Tony, the cocker spaniel, he hates lawnmowers. Gundo bites the wheel to show his disapproval.

Like all stars, Gundo has his secrets, such as how one tooth was broken.  Was it broken while he was performing some heroic deed? He’s too modest to say.  How did he learn to sing, and so beautifully too?  Was he training for the opera?  Being German, maybe he had a starring role in a Wagnerian production.  We may never know; stars like to keep their secrets.

Vocabulary Lesson #1

People try to make dogs believe that words have only one meaning.  For example, they say “sit” and expect you to believe that it means that you put your tush in the dust and don’t move until you’re told.  And that is the only meaning that you are to attach to the word.  That’s balderdash.  Perhaps they think that we are incapable of understanding the nuances of language.  However, in this lesson we will explore the different meanings of that same word "sit".

My best friend Tony, the cocker spaniel, comes to visit with his Mom who is MOM’s friend.

“Come in!”  “Sit!”

Does that mean ‘put your tush in the dust?’  Of course not.  It means get comfortable on the sofa; it means there is going to be conversation and laughter; it means there is going to be tea and biscotti.  This is exciting, I love biscotti.  Tony loves biscotti.  It’s almost like a party, and I love parties.  We dance around in anticipation.  Tony quivers so much I fear he’ll break in two.  I jump on the sofa.


In less than a few seconds the meaning has changed. Now it means don’t get comfortable on the sofa; don’t join in the conversation, and, worst of all, it means no biscotti.  Tony understands.  He heaves a sad sigh and slumps on the floor, dejected and disappointed.  He accepts the sudden switch in meaning.  I don’t give up so easily, not when there are biscotti on the line.  Their illogic irritates me.  I need to think, but quickly; the kettle is on, soon the tea will be made, and the biscotti will be gone.

Now here is the important part of the lesson – if the same word can have one meaning and then the exact opposite meaning, it is also possible that it can have other meanings that are somewhere between the two extremes.  For example, "sit" might mean stay off the sofa, but you can join in the conversation and you can have some biscotti.  Or it might mean stay off the sofa, don’t join in the conversation, but you can have some biscotti.  What I have to do is make MOM realize that there are these other meanings, but I have to be quick and decisive because the kettle is boiling.

I listen to the conversation.  There is talk of things being "on sale", "cute outfits", "fantastic bargains".  This kind of talk means MOM does not want to be disturbed for a vocabulary lesson. The tea is brewing.  The biscotti are on the table.  Then I get my brilliant idea: MOM hates that the deer eat her tulips.  She praises me when I chase them away.  There are no deer out there right now, but she doesn’t know that.  What if I start barking excitedly, rush out of the house as if to chase the deer, come back, panting and exhausted.  Tony would catch on and do the panting act quite well.  She would be so grateful that her brain might find another meaning for "sit".

I give Tony the high sign.  In unison we begin barking as if the deer are about to devour the very last flower in the garden.  We execute the maneuver brilliantly, return panting.  Tony throws in a flourish by falling down "dead" on the patio, rolling on his back with all four paws in the air. It works.

“All right you two, stay out here.  Sit.  I’ll give you half a biscotti each.”

And, as they say, half a biscotti is better than no biscotti.


Shortly after I was adopted it became clear that I would have to train my people.  I call them MOM and DAD.  Training DAD was not so difficult, because whenever I grrred him to show my disapproval he always stopped his offensive behavior.  MOM was another story.

Then the day came when I had to take a stand. Dogs have rights.  One of these rights is the right to food that is within reach – such as a plate with a juicy, tasty chicken leg left on a coffee table.  At four months old I was barely able to reach it, but I did.  That chicken was mine.  Mine by right.  MOM could not see that and tried to take it away from me.  A battle ensued.  In the end I had to take extreme measures – I sank my pearly whites into her hand.  She had to go to the hospital.

A few days later the police phoned.  They had to investigate to see if a crime had been commited.  DAD was amazed that the hospital would report me to the police.  

“They’re making a federal case out of it,” he said.

When I heard the words "federal case" my ears picked up and my heart sank.  I had heard people on television talking about what happens if something becomes "a federal case' – the charges are more serious; the FBI gets involved; the penalties are stiffer, you could be sent to Leavenworth, or, worse yet, the death penalty might apply.  I never felt so lonesome in my whole life, only four months old and headed for execution.  I hid in my safe place and wished with all my heart that my real mother could be with me.  MOM (my other mother) is a good person, but she doesn’t understand, because she’s not a beagle.  If the FBI came for me, my real mother would sink her pearly whites into them.  MOM said that they were going to take me away, that I would rot in jail.  But I was innocent; surely they’d never convict me of a crime.

The police came.  Hiding in my safe place I could hear the police officer's voice.  I sneaked a peek and realized it was a Rye police officer, not the FBI.  I felt a ray of hope.  The officer explained that he had to act as judge to see if I had committed a crime.

“Dog attacks are serious,” he said. “Where is the perpetrator?”

Not Guilty, Your Honor
I approached slowly, shyly, trying to be brave. I wondered if he would be a good judge.  Would he know that my action was legal, that I was only defending my rights?  Or would I be convicted and sent to jail?

“This is the perpetrator?”  He sounded shocked, disbelieving.  I began to feel more hopeful.  He looked down at me the way the children at the beach did when they said I was “totally adorable”.  Time to press my advantage – I laid a paw very gently on his knee and looked at him imploringly.  He patted my head.

“So how did the alleged attack happen?”

Aha, I thought, he’s getting the facts.  A wise judge.

MOM explained about the chicken leg.  Of course she told it from her point of view, trying to put the blame on me.  But he saw through that ploy.

“You  mean to say that you tried to take away his chicken leg?”

A wise and noble judge!  He knows the law.

MOM tried to insist that the chicken leg was hers.

“No.  If he has it, it’s his.”

A wise judge, noble and enlightened!

MOM was flustered.  “You’re saying that it’s my fault that he bit me.  I don’t believe it.”

“Believe it.  Case closed.”  He patted my head again before he left.

This was a tough lesson for MOM.  Tough but necessary.  It was a turning point in our relationship. Ever since, she has respected my rights knowing they will be protected by the full force of the law.  It was important in another way too – she stopped reading those nonsensical books on how to train your dog. From then on she took her directions from me.



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