Joy, the “guard dog”

One Love

I follow Wild Currents, a very moving blog and today was inspired by her post.

This entry moved me to write about my purebred German Shepherd, Joy, named to counteract her malfunctioning tear ducts, which were cosmetically disturbing enough that her breeder considered doing away with her.


I’m afraid I don’t care who that offends.

I had always wanted a big ole German Shepherd. My best friend throughout my teens lost his vision and had the most wonderful guide dog, called Rue St James. I adored that dog.

And when I discovered my neighbor up the street was a well known breeder, with champion Shepherds, I made it known that I wanted one. Unfortunately her dogs went for thousands of dollars which put me out of the running….until my accountant asked me if I needed a Guard Dog for my therapy practice. Hmmm. I started saving money even though I never had any intention of teaching any nasty habits to a pet of mine.

One day I got a call saying if I wanted a dog for free, I could have a damaged one if I came for her right now. This precious puppy had been kept in a separate cage for the first four months of her life, no other dog or human contact, waiting to see if she would outgrow her birth defect to the degree her owner could at least breed her. I jumped at the chance.

I fell immediately in deep love. Joy grew up to be such a beauty the breeder wanted to buy her back. By then she was all mine, though that did not exactly come easily. She spent her first few weeks with me hiding under my bed.

Eventually I was able to take her to work with me. I’m a psychotherapist in private practice. Right around this same time I had started accepting clients referred by the courts and some of them were actually pretty scary. Several people suggested…strongly…that I have Joy “protection trained”, but I just wouldn’t do that. She was already pretty skittish and not reliably nice to strangers.

As it turned out, I didn’t need to train her. I hoped that her mere presence would imply protection for me. And in a bass-ackwards way, it did.

I was blessed to have Joy for 16 years, completely healthy for 15 of them, highly unusual for such a large dog of her breed. And you know what, she never so much as curled a lip at a client of mine. Not even when one of them showed up at my home at 2 AM, in a rage of negative transference, and carrying a baseball bat! Joy spotted this client out on my deck and started barking her “I’m so glad to see you” bark, tail wagging furiously. When I let her out, she simply ran to the client (her buddy from numerous therapy sessions) and attacked her with 110 pounds of slobbery kisses.

Joy protected me alright, by winning over the most hardened of hearts, and making instant friends with the innocent “child” part of them all.

Joy died in 2001, during the same trauma-filled stretch as several of my family members passing, both my other pets dying, AND then, 9/11 happened. I was devastated by all the jumbled loss in my life, and though I have grieved much of that loss, I still have not had the courage to adopt another dog….yet.


JOY and Bandit

Joy, and her cat Bandit

I call her a Grandmother of the Service Dog, because she was here before we really knew the power and healing a therapy animal can have…..

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Thought a blog might help me develop better writing habits so I could finally finish my book, 16 years in the writing, but so far it's mostly photos and FUN!

15 thoughts on “Joy, the “guard dog””

  1. What a beautiful memory. Thanks for sharing it today with us. Joy was aptly named – she obviously brought lots of ‘joy’ to a world sadly in need of it. And I’m sorry for your loss – unique and devastating as it must have been. Therapy dogs come in all sizes and shapes…mine own was a long-haired chihuahua who (paraphrasing James Herriott) “brought me out of a dark depression on the end of his leash.” He died in 1997 and I still mourn him. Don’t dwell on it, but I miss him very much indeed. Take care! 🙂

      1. No I don’t remember her. But I’ve never been an animal person so I imagine that is why. It is very interesting that the clients were never afraid of her but other people were.

  2. There was once a very grumpy farmer who lived opposite my mum. He had a German Shephard as his Farm Dog. Rocky, was her name. Rocky would love to come and visit for a bit of friendly attention. Pats and TLC. Sadly, eventually the Farmer would notice her absence and yell for her return. Rocky, sadly passed also and the new Rocky 2.0 is not so friendly. I love that Joy had her own Fur-Baby in Bandit. (Or so the photo implies). Don’t wait too long to open your heart to another. Life would not be the same without them, despite the empty feeling when they leave us.

    1. So true and I’ve had my eye out for the right one for a while. I want to “rescue” a dog but selfishly, I also want one for as long as I can have her/him and the rescue ones I have met are all older already.

      Thanks for your comment. It was a needed reminder. Love your blog. You are amazing!

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