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BBHQ Boomer Essays:

My Little Girl, Princess

Our Boomer-In-Charge at BBHQ, Hershel Chicowitz, writes about boomer memories and current events... from a boomer’s perspective. He is sometimes funny, sometimes provocative, some-
times a little of each. We hope you get a kick out of our Boomer Essays.

Australian Shepherds are known for being extremely intelligent, loyal, and dedicated to their owner. I may be guilty of spoiling Princess, but we do have rules, boundaries and consequences. Intelligent dogs are just like kids: they require a lot of training and discipline when they are young. If you do it right, the rewards are wonderful. If you take shortcuts, you pay a hefty price. I have little tolerance for ill-behaved dogs.... or kids.

This essay is available in its entirety to all visitors. Enjoy!

I had an e-mail exchange with one of our regular visitors last week. I mentioned Princess to her; but she had no idea what I was talking about. Well... that is a huge oversight on my part. It is time to correct that glaring omission.

Princess is my adorable, 16 year-old Australian Shepherd. Absent a spouse and children of the two-legged variety, Princess is my little girl.

I am a fortunate, second-generation dog person. I don’t know if it is hereditary, but you either are a dog person or you are not. Though some people are dog people and just don’t know it. One unfortunate experience with a dog does not make you a non-dog person. I am not trying to convert anybody here. I’ll settle for just opening some doors.

My mom set the tone in our family. My dad began, at best, as a dog-tolerant person. But my mother won him over; she was the real dog person. We had a German Shepherd for most of my childhood; Chark was like a member of the family. That’s the two of them sharing some quality time together (separate beds in those days, of course).

Chark went just about everywhere with us. Put him in a kennel when we went on vacation? Not a chance! This is the four of us touring Silver Springs, Florida. Note (in the blowup on the right) that Chark is in the back seat with my sister:

Chark was like a brother who never hit me and never talked back... which is a whole lot more than I can say about my...... ah, never mind. That was uncalled for.

When my sister went west to college, she was exposed to Australian Shepherds. They are kind of like Border Collies, only smarter and more well-behaved. After she graduated, she began breeding and raising them. She offered me one while I was in grad school. I jumped at the opportunity. Over there is the two of us. Note that RJ knew right where the camera lens was. (RJ is the one on the left.) Beneath is RJ caught napping on the bed.

I got Princess when she was about seven weeks old. It’s important to start their training early, though she has never been able to find the camera lens:

The most distinctive feature of the Australian Shepherd is the absence of a tail. One of the first questions new admirers ask is, “What happened to her tail?” Depending on the circumstances, I might answer, “Oh, it was an unfortunate and painful incident with a faulty elevator door. We don’t like to talk about it.” About half the time, they buy it.

Aussies are commonly used out west for sheep herding. They love to run, but their best skill is eye contact. They can tell which way a sheep may jump by looking at its eyes. They keep the sheep from bolting, and then they kiss and make up. They really are sweet dogs.

But in full fanny regalia, their long and furry tails pick up mud, spurs and dirt. At the end of the day, the herders had to wash off their dogs’ tails before they could jump into bed. That was a real pain. So, one efficient herder decided that the tail was expendable. And the rest, as they say, is history. Now they typically bob (that’s the polite word for “cut the sucker off”) them when they are a couple days old. Honest, it’s like that other procedure about half of us endure at the same age. It’s no big deal... at least, not in my case.

Princess had only one encounter with sheep; even then, it was with the protection of a fence inbetween:

And she is timid with cats, too; though she is fascinated by them. In this picture, she is asking me for permission:

Though, even when given a green light, she is skittish:

Australian Shepherds are not from Australia; they never were. That’s just a clever title the Outback Steakhouse marketing people made up when they owned the franchise. And, like “Donny Osmond,” the name stuck.

Aside from the unusual physical attribute, Australian Shepherds are known for being extremely intelligent, loyal, and devoted to their owner. I have been very fortunate; I have had two wonderful Australian Shepherds. I have spent a lot of time training them. I may be guilty of spoiling Princess, but we do have rules, boundaries and consequences. Intelligent dogs are just like kids: they require a lot of training and discipline when they are young. If you do it right, the rewards are wonderful. If you take shortcuts, you pay a hefty price. I have little tolerance for ill-behaved dogs.... or kids.

Princess loves flying... and she is fearless:

But she still has no idea where the camera lens is.

RJ, a male, was smarter and more photogenic than Princess. He understood me better. Princess, a female, is cunning, and not surprising, extremely stubborn. When she wants her way, she wants her way! She is currently trying to find a way to get into the kitchen trash can without setting off the motion detector I installed. RJ never would have tried that. Princess has a better disposition. Nothing bothers her... except setting off the motion detector. She has the best disposition of any dog I have ever known. Maybe that is because she is an Australian Shepherd; maybe it is because she is a pure-bred dog; or maybe I am just lucky.

Princess reminded me of how much fun camping is. We go camping every time we travel north. You have to look closely, but that’s the two of us at the Lincoln Memorial. And, on the right, over her shoulder is the Washington Monument:

Nope; no PhotoShop. It’s all real.

Princess herds people when I take her out in public. She always attracts a crowd. Again, it’s all in the eye contact. That is particularly rewarding when you are extremely shy. (Look at her giving encouragement to the little girl on the left.)

The best part about Princess... about having a dog... is that it makes me a better person. Yep; I am a happier and kinder, gentler person with a dog than without. Some visitors to BBHQ claim that some of my essays are mean-spirited and vicious. Ha! They should have seen how I wrote before Princess came along!

 Princess, herding

Even as she has aged, she is eager to have fun. At age 12, we frolicked on (what we used to call) a jungle gym at Ft. Desoto Park, near St. Petersburg, Florida:

Would have I done that myself? Not a chance. But with Princess, it was a blast!

Of course, I am always on the lookout for a photo op. The jungle gym was a bonanza!

In her elder years, Princess has developed an affinity for television, particularly Fox News:

And, on rare occasions, she is able to find the lens.

Princess has aged gracefully. At 16, she retains her charm, but she spends a lot less time chasing cats and running up and down hills. She knows what she likes.

Imagine coming home to a completely empty house... every day of your life. Now imagine coming home to a four-legged, tail wagging (all right... a rear-end wagging), happy-as-can-be puppy dog who is excited to see you, and who thinks that you are the greatest thing on the face of the earth.... every day!

For a dog person... it’s a no-brainer.

So... Princess is my family; she is my little girl.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

When all is said and done, a human’s greatest contribution is to “go home and make your dog happy.”

- Charles Schulz

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