So I crave dogs. It’s a thing I’m dealing with, and apparently not that well. I’m especially besotted with German Shepherds. My mother had GSD’s growing up, as an adult, and when I was a baby. I grew up wanting a dog so badly, but we didn’t get one until I was 18. Then our pup became my life. This post is a bit of a tribute to my extreme obsession with my dog, still a puppy at 3 years old.
And yes, the title is telling the truth. We registered our beautiful GSD with the AKC as Tzigan of Sparta. In retrospect, the least we could have done is name him Tzigan von Sparta… At least that would keep him in touch with his heritage and roots… haha.
A week before we were to pick him up from the breeder (and my parents pick me up at the end of my first year of university), a wildfire broke out in Bend, OR and my family was evacuated from our home. Luckily my parents had friends who could take them and our 2 cats in for a couple days, but for a while it looked like we’d have to push back the arrival date of our puppy. Luckily the firefighters and response team that was brought in from all around the country to combat the Two Bulls Fire managed to get the wildfire under control and we picked up the baby as scheduled.
He cried the entire way home in the car, all 3 hours, but was soothed by me singing along to Abba songs and seemed to quiet down. Since then he’s always been calm whenever I sing the Mamma Mia soundtrack to him, which I find hilarious. About an hour from home we stopped off at a quiet lake to let him out so he could stretch his legs and do his puppy business if he needed to. And that’s where his first photo-shoot occurred and he discovered his now life-long love of biting at water… And for the next couple months, he always had someone sleeping with him at night to make sure we could let him out every couple of hours for house-training purposes.
After a week, we decided upon the name Tzigan, which means “gypsy” in Polish when spelled “Cygan”, but the phonetic spelling was so much more exotic. My love for my little gypsy is what inspired the name of this blog actually. “Gypsy of Life” in Polish is cyganka życia. Within the first few hours of meeting our new baby, all of us were thoroughly wrapped around his paw. As I slept on the floor with him most nights and puppy-sat him all day, and spent the next 4 months constantly with him, I think I may have fallen the hardest.
When you talk to breeders about dogs and how to pick one, they always tell you to think about temperament. Why are you getting the dog? Is he going to have an official job like K9 work, or is he a family pet? Do you want a high protective and prey drive, or are you more interested in a dog that’s calm and good with children? With our boy we got exactly what we wanted… A sweet and loving pet (more a part of the family, but for the sake of this paragraph “pet” will suffice), a marvelous guard dog that only ever barks when he feels that there’s a direct threat to his property and family, and a companion when hiking alone in the woods. My mom got a new child to care for as her last human child was leaving again for college at the end of the summer, and my father got a project he could work on, training our beautiful pup.
Every time I visit home my boy is even more beautiful and loving, ecstatic to see me again, and a “velcro dog” the entire time I’m home. I love that he follows me to whatever room I happen to be in. I love that he lays outside the door when I take a bath and regularly checks to see that I haven’t drowned. I love that he always wants to be with me, wherever I happen to be at the time.
I love having adventures with my boy. I love having a friend to hike with and someone to be silly with as we play in the water and jump over logs. We go on bike rides together, and I am always so proud of him when he learns something new. He knows directions, he knows commands to speed up and slow down, and he anticipates my movements. He’s still learning some things and he may never be good around other dogs, but he tries and that’s what counts. He is my life and I will always protect him. I throw myself between him and other dogs when we come across an aggressive one that wants to fight, and I know he would do the same if I were in trouble. He is simply my heart and soul and it’s incredibly painful to be parted from him for months at a time.
My boy and I go skiing. We go hiking. We’ve even gone to the beach, although he wasn’t a fan because he doesn’t care about chasing birds and the water was too salty for him to drink. He loves playing in rivers though, and chasing deer (still trying to stop that bad habit)…
Tzigan is my life, he’s both my little brother and my baby, but he’s a family dog. He’s not exclusively mine. He acts differently around all of the members of my family. He is macho and focused with my dad, a complete puppy pushover who refuses to listen to any commands with my mom, and pretty much thinks my sister is a visiting chew toy that gives out scratches somewhat absent-mindedly. With me he’s focused and attentive, but still silly and puppyish. I think he’s under the impression that we’re on the same level authority-wise. Most of the time he respects me as the boss when we’re out walking or training, but I’m also that sibling he can annoy constantly. However, he also sees me as protector when something makes him nervous and at the same time takes his job as my protector very seriously when he senses I’m nervous. It’s an interesting confusion of “roles”, but I don’t mind.