God, but we were stupid when we were young.
It was late when my still-youngish husband and an even younger me arrived home from a night on the town. We were both very tired.
Our aged German shepherd, Greta, had been cooped up inside all night long and half the day. Her plumbing didn’t work so fast any more, she being an indeed very aged Ger-shep. We’d acquired a new Ger-shep, Brandy, who we hoped would take the illustrious Greta’s place when the time came for Greta to pass through the veil. But Brandy was still a puppy. She knew from nothing.
Greta, however, could open and close the screen door into the back yard. So, that night, not wanting to wait for Her Ladyship to do her endlessly slow Thing, we left the back door into the fenced yard open and the screen unlatched, so she could visit the doggy facilities at her convenience. Without a second thought, the humans fell blithely into the sack.
Well, my not-so-very-young husband, pushing early middle age, was beginning to snore. The volume had yet to reach the stage where I was forced to spend all my nights on the sofa (and eventually in a bed far from his house). But at that time, on occasion when he was very tired he would snore loudly enough that I couldn’t sleep. So it was that night.
After he started sawing logs, I got up and repaired to the living-room sofa, where I pulled a blanket over my altogether naked body and stuck my head under a pillow.
Greta the German Shepherd, half-deaf, was at her usual station, asleep in the hall right outside our bedroom door. Brandy…who knows? Probably somewhere near the bed, or in the baby’s room.
Along about three in the morning, I awoke and heard Greta go boof? A quiet, tentative inquiry, launched from the hall outside the bedroom. Blinking the sleep from my eyes, I saw a light in the kitchen: a flashlight beam.
Here’s what goes through the mind of a youngish mother at three in the morning:
Oh! John must have gotten up to get a bottle for the baby, and the power must be out and he had to get a flashlight to get into the fridge.
I go, “John?”
And from the the back of the house a flickin’ NUCLEAR EXPLOSION ERUPTS!
Greta comes blasting into the front of the house with both afterburners roaring.
The flashlight is jerking around frantically. Greta’s savage rage is splitting the air. John and I each shoot up about three feet off our respective sacks. The flashlight goes berserk. Greta goes even more berserk.
Still innocent of what’s going on, I drop the blanket like Venus Rising from the Shower Drain and walk toward the kitchen. As I flick on the light, John comes in from the other direction. Greta is at the side door, hackles on end and mad as Hell.
“Who was that man?” he asks.
“What man?” say I.
“The one who just went out this door!”
The light dawns on the lush young society matron. “Oh, my god!”
He opens the door. Greta charges outside. He slams the door shut.
The guy had come in the back screen door—develops he’d been seen trying someone else’s back door in the neighborhood—and wandered into the kitchen. When Greta heard me call her name from the living room, realized I wasn’t in the bedroom and that wasn’t me in the kitchen either, she went ballistic and got between him and the door he’d come in. Those old houses in the Encanto district are like mazes, with their various additions, so he had a panicky search for a way out.
Fortunately, the burglar had the presence of mind to shut the backyard gate behind him as he fled. So Greta is not still chasing him around and around the world. Still, I imagine by now the poor guy has circumnavigated the globe about eight times.
One thing you have to say for an angry German shepherd: it’ll get your attention. Having an asthma attack, need a shot of adrenalin? Piss off a German shepherd.
The cop who eventually showed up after John called remarked that someone who comes into your house when he knows you’re there doesn’t mean you any good.
It wasn’t the first time Greta saved her humans. Wasn’t the last. But it probably was the most memorable.
Image: Botticelli. La Nascita de Venere, ca. 1486. Public domain.