by Fred Heal, Jagermeister Dobermans
I knew an old Doberman a while ago. He was 15 years old and lived on a farm with two other medium sized dogs of no particular breed. When he was younger he used to be top dog on the place, but that was years ago. He still protected his food bowl though and was let out to cavort with the other farm dogs every morning. The afternoons were for sleeping and dreaming.
When someone came up the drive he would bark up a storm. A deep bark, that crackled a little because he didn’t have the force to do it like he used to. When the other dogs went hunting in the fields he went too. When he came home he would go to the kitchen door and woof to be let in. When he was admitted he would go to the center of the kitchen floor, make sure his mistress was watching, then open his mouth and let out the mouse/gift he had caught in the field. The mouse would usually run away unhurt because the old boy really had no teeth left in his mouth, only a couple of ground-down molars that he used for holding bones or other prized possessions. The rest had been ground away by a life of eating dry dog kibble, gnawing bones, and even chewing rocks on occasion. He had a smile that was all gums.
The rest of the old Dobe was not like it used to be either. The tan markings on his muzzle were grizzled and white. His rear legs seemed wizened and straighter than they used to be so he couldn’t run too well anymore. He stood with his rear legs well under him, it was easier to keep his balance that way. His eyes were always slightly moist looking now. They were rounder, less sharp, and didn’t seem to be as sinister as they did years ago. His shoulders still looked muscled, but his ribs stood out and his coat seemed loose and less sleek than before. Although at first glance he looked fierce, because he was still a Doberman, a second look showed the age.
A few months later, when I walked up his drive he stood looking at me like an old warrior. He didn’t run up and bark. Now he just stood blocking your path. If you walked around him he would turn slowly and follow you to the door. Even knowing he was old, it still made you nervous having him behind you. After all, he was still a Doberman.
The last time I saw him, it was summer and he was lying in the sun near his back porch. He watched me come towards him, the old eyes glazed over with age, looking at me with a puzzled expression. A look of “I think I know you… but I’m not sure”. He didn’t lie on the porch, I guess because it was small and he would have to move when someone came or went. Lying beside it was just as good…..he could still protect his family. I looked at him for the last time. I had seen that look before. He seemed to know what I was thinking. He moved to get up but I went to him quickly. I crouched beside him and scratched his ears, his head sank slowly to his paws and his eyes closed … God, I had to leave.
I went in the house and spoke to the owners. Not about the Doberman but about whatever it was I came for. When I left I made some excuse to use the front door … I couldn’t take seeing those eyes again.
The old Doberman is gone now.