Many, many years ago I read an autobiographical short story by Thomas Mann called “A Man and His Dog.” It’s a very charming description of Mann’s life in a rural suburb outside I believe Munich. His dog Bashan is a German Shorthaired Pointer (GSP) or, as he mentions in the story mostly of that breed, because he mentions some irregularities of his appearance that Mann hints should b a point of embarrassment for Bashan.
When my children were young, we found ourselves looking for a family dog and I thought long and hard what breed to get. Camera Girl is a dog lover and any breed will find a place in her heart but I insisted that it be a manly and courageous breed because I see the value of having a capable watchdog in the house. But I wanted a dog that had the even temperament needed around small children. So, no pit bulls or bull mastiffs. After a thorough review of the physical and temperamental characteristics, I selected the GSP as the optimal dog breed for us. We ended up travelling about six hours each way to get the puppy and when I brough “Max” home he was an immediate hit with the children and settled in with his family.
And I will say that he lived up to the description for his breed. The GSP’s are incredibly friendly with children in the family and tolerant of people around the home. But they are extremely protective of their territory if another dog enters it and will fight ferociously against an intruding dog. They are extremely smart and amazingly fast and agile. And as one of our later GSP’s demonstrated, powerful hunters. Our older dog Kaylee once took down a young deer that happened to be in a field that she was running in. It was all that we could to get the deer away from her alive.
In his story Mann mentions that the pointers can make themselves a nuisance by their single-minded approach to the master of the house. And in a sense, this is true. Although Camera Girl is the primary dog walker in the house, the two pointers look to me for their marching orders. Whenever anyone enters the property, they come to me and start complaining about the intrusion looking for leadership in repelling this invasion. And as annoying as it sometimes is to have yapping dogs running around in circles when the oil truck comes down the driveway or the Fedex guy is dropping off a package, it is a good feeling to have loyal minions whose allegiance is to the king of the castle and no one else.
Over the years we have had other breeds too. Early on we had a Newfoundland. Up until six years ago we had a Bassett hound. Both dogs were wonderful creatures that we loved immensely. And they had their own unique qualities and characteristics. But to my mind the pointers are the best family dogs I’ve come across. And in a pinch, if a serious animal threat wandered onto the property, I’d feel better knowing a GSP was there to look out for Camera Girl and the grandkids.
So, when I think of a man and his dog, if the man is me then the dog would be a German shorthaired pointer.