What a unique, strong, and consistently challenging shepherd he was, shown here with his best friend Toby, a chow mix. Unique in this case had both good and bad aspects. He was loyal, intelligent, mostly obedient, and very athletic (easily the best animal or human I’ve ever seen at catching balls). However, he never completely accepted his hierarchical role as a dog in a human family, constantly trying for the alpha role. His ongoing issues with authority were completely confined to the family “pack”, as he was a trusted playmate of neighborhood children and consistently friendly to any human outside his pack.
We got Jasper from the Humane Society when he was about 7 months old. He had possibly been treated badly, because when we approached the steps he absolutely refused to climb them, and I had to carry him up into our second floor apartment. When we moved into our house he still refused to go up the stairs, so we let him stay downstairs. After about a week, curiosity overcame his fear, and one day he peaked around the corner of our second story bedroom. After that, stairs didn’t bother him a bit, and in fact stair ball became a favorite indoor activity.
The built-in family conflict over who should be alpha frequently resulted in comical situations. For example, a nightly bedtime ritual involved him approaching the bed in search of attention. Any resulting attention and petting provoked intense growling and snapping (missing by design), yet suspension of attention would make him put his paw on the bed, as if to ask for more. He absolutely _hated_ being told what to do, but he usually complied, though with constant growling protest. I read a lot of books and watched a lot of shows learning various techniques that would effectively communicate to him his expected role and attitude, all without success. Eventually, I realized he was different enough from normal dogs that traditional techniques weren’t appropriate. He wasn’t aggressive, just defiant, so with a few occasional reminders of basic rules harmony was possible.
I consider myself very lucky to have known him and to have been his guardian, and grateful he spent his life with me.