The German Shepherd – Sierra
A fierce but loving friend
Sierra was 6 years old when she came to us. A friend, who was going through some life changes, asked if we could take her because he would not have room for her in his new environment. He brought her over, and one look was all it took for me to fall in love, and then she tried to eat my face off. Well, not literally, but as he walked her towards me, she decided he was in danger and she must protect.
It didn’t take long for her to get to know me enough that all three of us could go on a walk together. Once she found out that I was walking her she accepted me as part of her herd and all needs for aggression ended. I had to repeat that process with each of my other dogs – Flour and Oreo – so that she would accept them as well. Wash. Rinse. Repeat with the kids when they came home from summer vacation, when my parent’s visited (and brought their dog), or when friends begin to visit more frequently. Once they have walked with us around the block or to the park, they are part of the herd and she will ‘herd’ them – bumping up against each person as we walk, almost as if she were counting us.
She accepts my dogs and kids without question, as well as my parents and their pets, and family friends. She still gets confused sometimes if the shape of the person changes, for instance carrying a yoga ball around or wearing a hat. Fortunately she can quickly be calmed by a quick call of her name.
Aggressive behavior doesn’t have to be part of the german shepherd breed, but as I learned about her from my friend, I would be her fifth owner. She has an allergic reaction to some foods, and that causes a film to cover her eyes. And, to top off all that anxiety, it seemed as if one of the previous three had been harsh with her. When she first arrived at my home, sudden movements would make her sulk, and if you were to hold a pole like tool (shovel, broom, pogo stick) she would cower significantly and try to get away. Knowing that someone treated her poorly makes me so sad, and allows me to understand better the great bond she and I have.
As I mentioned, she has an allergy of some sort that will cause a film to cover her eyes. She also gets very itchy skin and will scratch at herself until there are sores. I control this by giving her a high quality diet of grain-free dog food that contains a high amount of protein. Controlling her diet has significantly improved her vision and her skin, though I feel like there is a better source of food out there. A valued colleague of mine has two german shepherds and she believes in raw feeding as suggested by Dr. Ian Billinghurst in Give Your Dog a Bone: The Practical Commonsense Way to Feed Dogs for a Long Healthy Life. Its closer to the natural diet that they were raised in, and her results have been that the dogs are healthier and stronger because of it. I completely agree with this type of feeding, but still choose to find higher quality commercially created dog food for her.
Regardless of the socialization issues, and the allergies, I love this dog to death. At home she is my constant companion, often folding herself in tight spaces just so she can sit near me while I watch TV. I know she will protect me, and I am fairly sure that no one will ever enter my yard uninvited. She keeps an eye out on the family, and alerts me to things that are abnormal. One time I brought her with me to drop off MsKittyKat at school and as we started to drive away she began to whine – because we were leaving someone behind! She has found her forever home, a place where she is cherished and nurtured.