In the late 1980s, I had a county commissioner riding with me. It was not only election time for half of the commissioners but also budget time. We at the sheriff's department were trying to show our local lawmakers how much we deserved a raise and they were showing the public how concerned they were with good law enforcement.
In the early morning hours, I spotted a city police car, clearly marked K-9, in an empty parking lot near the city limits. To impress the commissioner with how closely local agencies worked together, I pulled up alongside the four-wheel drive vehicle to pass the time.
As the K-9 officer and I chatted, the commissioner in my car kept trying to peer into the back of the vehicle, which had tinted glass. Finally, the commissioner asked, "Where's your dog?"
"He's sulking in the back," the officer answered.
"What's he sulking about?" the commissioner inquired.
"He likes country music and I like easy listening. I've been playing my station all night, so he isn't speaking to me." At that moment, a large German shepherd stuck his head through the sliding panel from the rear of the unit. He looked around briefly to see what was going on, then disappeared again.
After we pulled away, the commissioner turned to me and asked: "Was that officer pulling my leg about his dog sulking because he didn't like the music?"
"He was probably just kidding," I answered.
At the time, I was almost certain the city officer was joking, but if the same thing happened today, I wouldn't be so sure.
In 1990, I acquired a German shepherd of my own for home security after my daughter's purse was stolen from her car. I had the locks changed the same afternoon, of course, but the incident reminded me how vulnerable houses are during the day when most burglaries occur.
Within a few days, I had bought a female German shepherd called Maxie. Her real name, the one on her pedigree, was written in German because that's where she had been born. Her family line was a lot more impressive than mine. She had been trained by a soldier who had brought her home and gave her up only because he was in a situation where it was impossible to keep her.
Within a month, Maxie was pretty much in charge of the house. She ate on her own schedule, which I quickly learned, chased a tennis ball for entertainment and scared away uninvited visitors by fiercely barking when anyone approached. In fact, I found religious pamphlets scattered all over the yard the first Saturday we had her, when a startled missionary apparently fled after he rang my door bell much too early in the morning.
Our take-charge canine only brought one tennis ball from her previous home but she has had a fresh supply ever since. In fact, she generally gets several new tennis balls every Christmas, not just from the family but from people who have visited at one time or another. She unwraps her own presents by holding them between her paws and meticulously stripping away the paper.
Since the first week when Maxie came here to live, we have been allowed to use our living room couch during the day, as long as we have a cover on it by nine o'clock so she can go to bed. When my son was young enough to have sleep overs, and there were sleeping bags all over the living room, Maxie would remain patient until about midnight. If the boys were still keeping her awake at that time, she would stalk into my room and nudge me with her nose until I got up and corrected the situation.
A long time ago, I gave up on trying to make people believe some of the things Maxie does, and I'm not going to have you calling me a liar either. Let's just say she has a large vocabulary of words she understands and has absolutely no problem communicating her instructions to the family and intruders alike without the use of words.
If you've ever lived with a German shepherd or been lucky enough have one in your patrol car as a partner, I don't have to tell you how intelligent the breed is. If you've never had one, you won't believe the stories, anyway.
These days, Maxie has an assistant, another female shepherd called Greta, who was rescued from the animal shelter. Maxie has trained her well and lets her assistant pretty much handle the strenuous activities. Like me, Maxie has slowed down a lot, has bad joints and is happy to watch youngsters do most of the work. We just supervise and give advice, and it's not a bad life, at all.
Oh, by the way, Maxie has never been fond of country music.
Our "Stupid Criminal" contest continues
The response to the official "Stupid Criminal" contest has been great. You have one more week to get your stories into to the running for an autographed copy of any book listed on my web site: http://hometown.aol.com/tnbard/index.html. Sit down and e-mail your best dumb criminal story of 2000 to me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Hunter's column, "The Beat Goes On," appears exclusively on the Internet at PoliceOne.com. For information on purchasing Hunter's latest novels, "A Whiff of Garlic," and "The Dancing Savior," or where to obtain Hunter's other works visit his Web page: hometown.aol.com/tnbard/index.html. You can contact David Hunter directly by writing him at P.O. Box 1124, Powell, Tenn. 37849. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
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