I’ve had seven dogs in my life, Copper Belle, an AKC registered Golden, Schultz, a Shepard mix, Sammi Jo, a Shepard mix, Hunter, a Golden mix, Dakota, a Hound/Lab mix, Blue, a Walker Hound and my boy Max, a Shepard mix that’s still with me. This story is about Schultz, or “Shootzie” as my niece Laura called him when she was little (since she couldn’t say Schultz, and the name stuck).
Schultz came to us as an 8 week old pup. It’d been a while since Dad had put Copper down, and I guess he missed having a dog around the house when, one day, he said “I saw an ad in the paper for free puppies on the other side of town. Do you want to go and look?” Of course I was interested and off we went, to check out the “shepherd – weimaraner” mix puppies. When we got there, there were two left – a female and the runt of the litter, a male. Dad wanted a male this time around, so we took the runt.
When we got him home, we put some food down for him and he shoved his face right in, cleaning the bowl. So Dad gave him more, and he finished that too. At that point Dad commented “if he keeps eating like that, he’ll look like Sgt. Schultz on Hogan’s Heroes”, and that’s where he got his name – Schultz. Despite his large appetite, he was always a skinny kind of guy, never getting much bigger than about 50 pounds. He looked more like a Belgian than a shepherd, and although he came from a cross of two relatively short-haired breeds, he had a thick coat of fur.
Schultz had a number of endearing qualities about him. He loved to go for rides, either car or boat (sometimes he’d just go sit in the boat and wait – his way of letting us know he wanted to go for a ride). He had a bent ear, could do a vertical jump of at least 4 feet and liked to sit on the couch with his butt on the back and his front paws on the seat. When he did sit on the floor (or in the car), he’d end up “sitting goofy” as I called it – kicking his back legs out to either side and sitting on the “round” of his butt. This last one provided no end of entertainment, as all I had to do was grab his two front paws quickly and lift them up, and he’d roll around like a weeble.
Schultz was also my first dog to participate in “drive-by barkings”. We worked out a deal – if I pointed the dog out, he couldn’t bark. But if he saw the dog first, he was free to let go. The funniest of these was the day I pointed out a full-size shepherd walking along the side of the road. Against the rules, he started barking like all get out. So, I pulled the car over, whipped open the door and said “go get him.” Schultz didn’t know what to do – he liked to bark from the car because he was safe – now he had a shepherd coming straight for him and no car to protect him. I prodded him a couple of more times, but all he did was look over at me as if to say “let’s get out of here NOW!” So I closed the door just as the dog got there and drove away. He always kept his end of the deal after that.
When Dad had open-heart surgery and sold the house, Schultz came to live with me. And so began what I refer to as “the rental years”. Despite his being quiet and housebroken, no one wanted to rent to someone with a dog. Finding places wasn’t easy, but we did. He helped me through some tough times in my young life – a marriage and divorce, always there to listen, with his head on my leg looking up as if to say “it’ll get better, really”.
I moved a lot over those years, with Schultz by my side all the way. Until one day in January, when our neighbors knocked on our door to let us know that they thought he’d been hit by a car while crossing the road. I ran down to the road and there, on the side, was his lifeless body. While always aware of traffic, when my future wife called him to come in, he just bolted home like he’d always done – forgetting all about looking around first. I wrapped him in his favorite blanket and took him down to the vet for cremation.
I promised myself after he died that I wouldn’t get another dog until I owned a home of my own. A place where I knew a dog was welcome and I could ensure that they’d be safe. It was a long 12 years later before I’d fulfill that promise, with a girl named Sammi Jo – but that’s another story. The memories of Schultz and the life we shared together helped carry me along. He wasn’t big of stature, but he was big of heart. He was my little brother and my best friend.