It's a new year, though I'm still me and Elka is still Elka, but I thought that post could use some attention. I thought maybe I could reevaluate, and reconfirm, why I feel Doberman is the breed for me. You with me?
All right, now that we know each other a little bit, I'll confess that some of my Doberman pride is snobbery. You don't see a whole lot of Dobermans around. They are intimidating dogs, and they are not necessarily the dog for everybody, with their energy and intensity. Sometimes I get impatient, that's very true, but I am human. And Elka is a dog. Even if she isn't of champion potential herself or working bred, she has some good dogs in her family tree, and sometimes the focus and drive of working potential comes through of its own accord. That can be pretty hot stuff, and not what you get in some other more laid back breeds. And, like I said, she isn't a potential Shutzhund dog; a dog bred for that purpose would be Elka turned up to 11. And here, it sounds like I'm faulting my poor Elka, which I am not. She is my pretty, smart girl, and she is the Doberman for me, right now. Snobbery aside, I couldn't handle a dog turned up to 11 with our current work schedules and my current level of dog training. Or maybe I could, but it would be very hard, and very exhausting, and frequently frustrating.
Brains! This is something Elka possesses that constantly amazes me. Her level of comprehension when she is spoken to is wonderful. Granted, I talk to my dog, and always have She looks at you when you're talking, and does seem to be trying to focus on what it is you mean. And her responses are not just to tone of voice, though obviously, our body language betrays so much to dogs that we aren't even aware of. But, at Christmas, when I said "Do you want to stay here?" in a big, happy voice, meaning "stay with my grandparents", Elka gave me a look like "really? You think I want that?" and I gave up the charade. Elka also tries to "talk" to us a lot, but her range of sounds, though impressive, is still limited. She's got "out" for going outside to relieve herself down pretty well (though she does have to work up to it sometimes), but sometimes will say "out" even when we know she's empty. So then it's 20 questions. "Are you thirsty? Do you want water?" If yes, she'll nose her cup. "Are you hungry, do you want food?" If so, she'll nose her food bag. That kind of thing.
Also this year, more than in the past, I've come to truly appreciate Elka's "migraine dog" abilities. There was a single day this year where I had a full-blown migraine. One. I had other migraine activity, and other times when I had a very bad headache and migraine symptoms, but any time I start that and I'm at home, Elka alerts me. So, I guess I'm getting better at paying attention to her alert, which means I can work with her to make it more clear. When I (or Jim!) has migraine type activity, she won't leave us alone. She'll stare, she'll pace in the immediate area (i.e., not a circuit to the kitchen and back or the window and back, but right there). She'll "talk" about things, but she doesn't want Out, or Food, or Water. And she doesn't want to play. And then, dim humans, we go "Oh, I should take painkillers", and she stands down. My full-blown migraine? Visual symptoms, neurological symptoms (numbness in my hand and lip; don't worry, this was doctor diagnosed, not Internet diagnosed), pain (obviously), the whole 9? It started at work, where Elka is not, and before you think she missed the prodrome, she didn't. It was triggered by the way sunlight hit a computer screen at an angle, which sounds weird and simple, but has happened to me more than once. She was very dismayed when I came home, and came to bed with me after I took painkillers. I know other dogs, and other breeds, could do this, but Elka has decided on her own that it's her job.
Does life with a Doberman have its downsides? Sure, life with everybody has its downsides. Sometimes we call Elka a horse, because she stomps on us and knocks us around a little just in basic movement around the house. Sometimes she's inappropriately pushy when we're eating and she wants some. Sometimes we're doing something that doesn't involve her (gasp!) and she will not settle down when asked to. And this can be frustrating things. But the way she makes us laugh, and makes us proud, and makes us happy....these things far outweigh the bad. I'm happy to have my Doberman, and wouldn't have it another way.