German shepherds have long gotten bad press. You see them snarling in Nazi movies or snapping at rioters on the TV news. When the dogs are wearing muzzles, you assume their menacing teeth are ready to sink into flesh. That fearsome image may have been in the minds of people who have crossed the street to avoid me when I’ve been out walking one of the six German shepherds I’ve had as pets over the years.
Because of them I view the breed differently from the stereotype, and in my new novel, A Healing Justice, I’ve more fairly presented Justice, a German shepherd K-9 drug sniffer. Like all police dogs of his breed, he can be ferociously protective, and he works hard to do his job. But in the evenings he goes home with his human partner, watches Animal Planet, and sleeps with his teddy tucked between his paws, as Noble, my fourth German shepherd did.
This dual nature of strength and gentleness is more than fiction. It was clearly evident in Esco, a handsome sable-coated German shepherd I recently met. Two years ago, he was sent from Serbia to work with Officer Chris Faidley in the Bremerton, Washington Police Department, and they spent four hundred hours in training so Esco could become a grab-and-hold tracking dog.
With relentless laser-beam intensity, Esco follows a suspect’s scent until he finds him; then on command and with amazing speed Esco charges, bites into his arm, and hangs on until Faidley calls him back. In a video, I watched Esco become a terrifying weapon as he lunged and chomped into the shield on a man’s forearm. Faidley says, “Once bad guys hear him bark or see him, they usually turn themselves in before he jumps on them.” No surprise.
What may be a surprise is Esco’s loving, gentle heart. When Faidley stands, Esco jumps up, rests his paws by Faidley’s neck, and hugs him; when he sits, Esco crawls into his lap, and Faidley kisses his forehead. “We have the tightest bond,” Faidley says, and the closeness continues after work when Esco goes home to live with him, his wife, Lab/Great Dane mix named Louie, and two young children.
Esco loves children. I watched them run to pet him, and he was gracious about it. Unlike what you may see in movies, nobody was afraid of him.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kristin von Kreisler is a bestselling author known for writing articles and books that uniquely express the love of animals. Her newest novel, A Healing Justice, is a richly insightful, heartwarming novel about a woman police officer forced to commit an unthinkable act and the German shepherd who helps her to heal, both spiritually and psychologically. Her novels have been translated into twelve languages. She lives in Washington with her husband and their beloved rescue dog Bridget, who is their sixth German shepherd. From Kristin’s desk she watches ospreys and seals, and most afternoons in good weather she works in her garden. She says she’d rather do that than breathe. Visit her on Facebook and Instagram or at www.KristinVonKreisler.com.