My first well-bred German Shepherd was a black and tan female whose sire was Grand Victor Lakeside’s Harrigan. I was living in Arizona at the time. I named her “Noche” (“night” in Spanish). I wasn’t impressed by her royal breeding at first; I was looking for a GSD puppy and that was the only litter in the area that had the outgoing temperament and love of life that I was looking for. I was recently married, the marriage had problems from the beginning, and Noche became my comforter and my antidote to worry. She was so talented that I was inspired to get a book on dog training and off we went on a mutual adventure into the world of obedience competition. When I was upset about the marriage, I grabbed Noche and the book and went off to a secluded spot on the ranch and tried something new. We had so much fun with Novice that we went on to Open plus started Tracking, which was our very favorite of all.
We had so much fun in Tracking. Of course, living on a ranch, we had our choice of tracking fields. We did have to share them with cattle and the wild animals, but most of the time things were very peaceful. I’ll never forget the time I laid a long track and aged it one hour. I got Noche out of the pickup, put on her tracking harness, and looked towards the starting flag. Imagine my astonishment when I beheld a young coyote checking out the flag and biting at it. “Now what?”, I thought. I didn’t want to abandon that track, so I decided to treat this as a new training distraction and see what Noche did. She was always an intent tracker but that day she amazed me. The coyote moved off, wandered across the track a couple of times, then sat in plain sight and watched us curiously. We began the track, with Noche sniffing a little more wonderingly at the coyote scent intermingled with the track scent, then she set off confidently. I could tell exactly when she came to the spots where the coyote had walked across the track because she would stop and scent everything very carefully before continuing on, but she never lifted her head. If she had she would have been face to face with that yearling, because he followed us curiously for most of the track, obviously wondering what in the world we were doing. He finally got bored and loped off before we got to the end, so he missed my enthusiastic praise of my super girl and the wild Frisbee game we had to celebrate. I showed Noche in several tracking tests and she always passed. Not too surprisingly.
After getting our C.D.X. and T.D., we embarked upon the next degree. We got our first two obedience titles easily, passing the three required “legs” in three tries. This third one, called Utility (often called Futility), was hard on us. I thought we would NEVER pass the required three times to get her title. We got two “passes”, but then she failed one show after another, about 17 in fact. She would flunk one exercise each time, never the same one nor in the same way twice. I was at my wit’s end when I had a brainstorm. People who don’t live closely with and communicate seriously with their dogs may not believe this, but it is true. I thought about how Noche loved aquariums. Finally, in desperation, I told her that if she would pass the Utility class one more time, I would stop showing her and would get her her own aquarium. The very next show she passed! And not only passed, she took first place!
Whenever I went somewhere where there was an aquarium, she would spend hours sitting in front of it, just watching the fish swim. She would keep turning to me to make sure I was watching too. And she would make sure everybody else noticed those beautiful fish.
So I got a 10 gallon aquarium and everything else, with lots of fish, just for her. She especially loved the tetras, those glittery “rainbow” fish that dart about so quickly. I had to get a top with a light for the aquarium for 2 reasons: one, so she could watch the fish all the time, and two, so she wouldn’t climb inside the aquarium to keep the fish moving. She loved to have visitors come to the house, so she could show them the aquarium. She would take the person’s sleeve in her mouth and guide them to the aquarium. She would then show them how to turn on the light. Then she would “herd” those fish from side to side so the visitor could see all of them, often turning to make sure they were getting a good look. She became quite famous and people would bring friends without telling them what was in store for them and watch their reactions as Noche would take hold of them and drag them into the living room. Nobody would believe it until they saw it. To the day she died, the aquarium was the joy of her life. I have never had another dog who paid any attention to fish.
One night she was outside and agitatedly came to the big picture window and attracted my attention. I let her in, and she ran to the closet where I kept the shotgun. Puzzled, I opened it, and she took my hand and guided it to the shotgun. When I picked it up, she danced to the door, looking back at me, and let me outside to the edge of the lawn. There was a porcupine there on the lawn, close to the house. So I shot it, at which she was satisfied and led me back into the house and settled down, mission accomplished. She was QUITE a dog.
I tried to breed Noche but never got any puppies from her. She truly thought of herself as above the ordinary canine and never liked any of the males. So I agreed never to bother her again with such mundane activities. I have often wished for a pup or two from her, to see if she would have passed on her great qualities. She taught me a lot.