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“The Dog Ate My [Chanel] Homework”: Apollo – Kafkaesque

I never thought I’d ever use “The dog ate my homework” — that old hoary chestnut, cliché, and excuse that some kids use when they haven’t done their homework—  but Apollo actually ate my homework! Well, to be precise, he ate a good third of my draft of the Chanel Le Lion review. No, I’m not joking.

It’s at this point that I will tell you to stop reading if you are uninterested in puppy photos, puppy shenanigans, and the wonkiest of wonky GSD puppy ears.

My Chanel Le Lion draft is hardly the only thing that the little stinker has eaten (quite apart from multiple cannibalistic attempts to eat my arms, face, nose, toes, ankles, calves, and ears). He’s chewn shoes, toilet paper rolls, kitchen paper rolls, socks, linen, clothing, kitchen utensils, Nivea jars, hair brushes, tv remote controls, and even stolen my underwear to hide in his crate where he could eat it peacefully.

Apollo is also THE most talkative, grumbly, opinionated furry child that I’ve ever had. Ever. He far surpasses my grey Persian, Pushkin, who was nicknamed “Ivan the Terrible” by 4 vets in 3 different cities. No, Apollo will not just talk nonstop, he will tell you off vehemently if YOU tell HIM off. Like when he’s caught red-handed:

Caught red handed!

Mildly remorseful? Arguably not. Apollo told me off for telling HIM off. And trust me, German Shepherds really WILL tell you off when they’re indignant.

This is his peeved look at being interrupted in the middle of a really good chew. Pffft.

GSDs have many nicknames: Velcro Dogs, German Shedders, “Land Sharks” (for the biting as pups), and German Shredders are only a few of them. So far, we’re batting 3 out of 4, but I could take the shredding if it had not been my 10-page, single-spaced, hand-written Chanel Le Lion review. I write everything out by hand on a legal pad because law school taught me to write like the wind (far, far faster than even my fast typing speed) and because my thoughts can flow uninterrupted if I’m not being OCD about typos, spacing, and the rest. But man, it HURT when Apollo swallowed the entirety of the first page other than a tiny scrap, then also major sections of pages 2, 3, and 4.

I like puzzles as much as anyone, but it’s extremely difficult to reconstitute a puzzle when a good one-third to one-half of the pieces are in a German Shepherd’s stomach and some of the remaining scraps are basically saliva-smeared specks.

Paper isn’t Apollo’s greatest love; my face and body remain his most prized teething objects. The German “land shark” has given me my fourth bloody wound on/in my nose; my arms look so bad that the vet tech at Apollo’s last vet visit said it looked like I’d been mauled by wild cats; and I have deep tooth marks on my ankle and toes.

Trying to tire out the little hellion and holy terror has usually resulted in me being so sleep deprived that I’m too tired to eat and sleep, while he just continues to be chirpy as if nothing happened. It’s insane! I take him on 2, 3, or 4 walks during the day, have roughly 4-6 short 15-20 minute training sessions to engage him and wipe him out mentally, then finish with two late night walkies. And you know what? He’s STILL trying to eat the stone and wood floors, still galloping around like Seabiscuit inside and out, and still cavorting like the Roadrunner combined with the Energizer Bunny.

His Highness may have had the best time when my city and state were struck by an anomalous blizzard, blackout, water freeze, electrical freeze, and food and water shortages. But, boy, Apollo was ecstatic in the snow, perhaps because he remembered his native Michigan, the place of his birth and first 7 weeks. Have you ever seen a happier pup with triangular ears?

Apollo was roughly just 12 or 13 weeks old there which makes his size, as you might guess from the photos, exceptionally large! At 11 weeks, he was already 35 pounds and my vet (who has treated my last 2 German Shepherds) estimates that Apollo will be over a hundred pounds, “easy.”

Apollo is now roughly a few days over 16 weeks and I estimate that he’s around 55 pounds. To put that into context, most German Shepherd adult males are around 65-75 pounds, maybe 85 at most. In other words, I have Godzilla on my hands combined with Hannibal Lecter, Jeffrey Dahmer, and a barracuda.

“Godzilla,” however, is being a very, very good boy in his training. (Minus *ahem* one recent incident with a wild cat last week, but we shall not talk about that.) Instead, I’m going to praise him for how quickly he’s learnt commands, each in 3 different versions or languages: German, English, and hand/sign language. There are a few practical reasons for the sign and hand language, as well as the German, and you can read more about why the trio is recommended for Schutzhund German Shepherds here if you’re interested. (Scroll to the middle of the page.)

He learned the difficult Aus/Drop It/Leave It command in under 15 minutes (which is amazing!), picked up the recall Komen/Hier/Come command in a few days (minus that wild cat that taunted him), and is doing really well on his Sitz, Platz, and even his Bleib/Stay, though I grant you that one is a wee bit rough. I posted all sorts of videos on Apollo’s Twitter page showing him in action but since I’m using my infamous Gollum “my preciousssssssssss” dog voice that only my friends and family normally hear, I shall not repeat them here. You guys are a much larger audience than Apollo’s Twitter peeps, so I will not so willingly or easily embarrass and mortify myself with my “Gollum.” But look at what a good pup Apollo is at fetch indoors, something we do when he’s still got a load of energy at the end of the day.

If there are any GSD people reading this, I think he has potential with regard to his “bite work,” no? He doesn’t let go to reposition much, if at all, which I think is very promising for SchH down the road. (Assuming we can get all the basics down pat, first.)

By the way, if you’re wondering about Apollo’s amazing ears, they are very typical of his people. GSD puppies are famous for the wonkiness of their auditory appendages. Up, down, sideways, up, triangle, down, sideways — rinse, lather, and repeat for many, many months. Apollo first had one ear go up, then both, then they became a triangle, then each one flopped in turn. They should repeat that course a few more times until his teething is over, which could be as late as 8 months of age.

Here are a few photos of his glorious ears and their progression:

Oh, Apollo may look like a little angel all right but trust me, this is a German Shepherd on steroids. What’s funny to me is how obviously Apollo is a “high drive” and also “high prey drive” German Shepherd when he was supposed to be the mellowest pup in the entire litter!

Part of that conclusion was, I think, because his mother produces extremely mellow pups, but methinks the nature of his father was overlooked. One doesn’t become a World VA champion —in the global equivalent of the canine Olympics where the top, best Schutzhund dogs from every country from Japan to Brazil compete— SIX TIMES over unless one has a little extra…oomph.

In fact, Apollo’s vet — who is the vet for the GSD and Malinois K9 officers of both the Police and Sheriff’s departments in my city— told me at Apollo’s last vet visit that he was not a “typical” German Shepherd but “hard-headed— even by German Shepherd standards,” “feisty,” and particularly “cocky.” Which may explain why Apollo has driven me on more than one occasion to the breaking point. (And that’s without discussing the issue of cutting his nails which….ooof.)

My greatest obstacle up until now is that Apollo has been extraordinarily limited in what he’s been allowed to do and where he’s been allowed to go because of Parvo and other infectious canine disease health concerns. He won’t be cleared to go to a dog park to burn off his energy with other dogs until his third, final Parvo shot, along with distemper, rabies, and other things. Since Parvo is in the ground everywhere where animals go (and even many human places), he can’t even go on walks in regular parks or hang out with neighborhood dogs, so I’ve done my best with what’s available to me and medically safe. But, man, I’m telling you, on the 5 day mark after his final set of vaccines, when it’s finally safe, we’re off to a dog park to let other creatures deal with my little terror and agent of chaos.

In the meantime, I have an ornery little stinker on my hands who tells me off at a variety of things when he isn’t talking profusely to me about the time of day, his toys, how he is entitled to chew on my arm as his personal teething toy, how he wants water, how he wants to pee, and everything else. In fact, Apollo is THE most talkative, opinionated grumbly, furry child that I’ve ever had. Ever. He far surpasses my grey Persian, Pushkin, who was nicknamed “Ivan the Terrible” by 4 vets in 3 different cities. No, Apollo will not just talk nonstop, he will, in fact, go so far as to tell you off vehemently if YOU tell HIM off.

I’ve always said that I really adore loudly grumbly, opinionated, talkative pups, but I never imagined one who would talk QUITE SO MUCH! And boy, is he mouthy in terms of a full set of razor-sharp pterodactyl teeth while he’s telling me off (especially during bath time or nail-cutting attempts):

Bath-time REALLY sets him off. He was so mad the other day! It makes me laugh to think about it because, my god, his loud tirade lasted like 5 whole minutes!

As my vet said, Apollo is “exceptionally hard-headed— even for a German Shepherd” so all attempts at “redirecting” when he’s biting me fail, as do attempts to desensitize him to getting his nails cut by feeding him a constant stream of treats, letting him have the Dremel as background sound, feeding him treats off the clippers, and so on. Last month, I gave up and asked my vet if his techs could do it. It took THREE of them to manage an 11.5-week old pup. So, I’m just doomed, especially when Apollo reaches the expected 100+-weight as an adult.

Meanwhile, all attempts to desensitize him to the vacuum cleaner worked within two tries and he’s fine with brushing— both of which are things which dogs normally have great issues with when they’re babies.

To put it another way, I don’t think it is fear, lack of desensitization, or lack of redirection that are responsible for him trying to eat off my face like Hannibal Lecter when we’re hanging out or for him to have a meltdown and lunge for my arm or face when he’s been held for a manicure before even the nail clippers appears: it’s just him. Being a barracuda is his “love language” and I think my arm or nose is operating like a teething pacifier for him. Obviously, this does not bode well for a pup who is probably well over 50 pounds at just 16 weeks of age and will be over a 100 as an adult.

I’ve decided I will get private lessons for him with a professional trainer, separate from puppy group classes, once he’s medically cleared with all his shots. One of the most highly respected, best reviewed dog training places in my city costs $250 for a single 60 minute session. I may look around for someone more affordable because that is a heck of a lot for just one session, but the person who my vet has recommended unfortunately does negative correction training. That is something with which I vehemently disagree on a theoretical and practical level’ I believe in positive reinforcement training. On the other hand, I recognize that super high drive dogs, like Apollo, could probably do with a few corrections (so long as no choke, prong, or electric collars are used and so long as the “correction” is just a short snap on the leash or squirt of water in the face.)

I have to admit, I’m torn as to which direction to go, but every single fiber of my being bristles at the thought of punishment/Cesar Milan/Alpha Dog/Dominance training and rejects it. The last time someone did that to a high-drive GSD of mine (an Army K9 trainer), I ended up with a dog that was a loaded weapon and had to be watched at all times because his fear-aggression was off the charts. And, yet, I recognize that Apollo is, as one GSD person told me recently, “totally EXTRA” (emphasis in their words), so I really need to find the right fit for him as well as someone experienced in dealing a dog like him (as opposed to all the unflappable, mellow Labradoodles or Goldies out there).

So, that’s what Apollo and I have been up to. I’ll keep you updated with a post next month after we’ve been to the dog park a few times. There is a huge mini-lake or large pond at one place and I basically threw poor puppy Zola straight in, much to his initial dismay. But within 15 minutes, he loved swimming more than anything and it became a lifelong passion. I will get baby Apollo swimming right away, too. I’ll share videos if I don’t sound too much like Gollum cooing over his Precioussssnesssssss, but we’ll see.

In the meantime, enjoy the very rare photos of Apollo taking a nap or just chilling quietly on the bed because trust me, it doesn’t occur often. Ditto the deceptive angelic sweetness. (This angel will use your nose and arm as his personal “Chianti with Fava beans”… ;))




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