Gringo was never much of a watchdog. As a matter of fact her virtues were few and far between. She intensely disliked our four kids and never ever endured anything but the absolutely most necessary together time with them. She was distinctly not one of those heroic dogs who would trek miles in the snow to deliver medicine to her loved ones (like Balto, for example). She liked her creature comforts, including any bed she could sneak onto, and she definitely avoided dog food to the point of near starvation. But sleeping through a near burglary? That I never expected!

We had arrived back in New Jersey from a year in Israel. Gringo was already quite the qvetchy senior citizen. Romping and playing had never been her thing but now she was constantly complaining.  And the year in Jerusalem had cramped whatever style she felt she had.  No free time in the backyard. She was leashed and walked. Undignified at her age. Add to that being yapped at by Israelis in their strange language.  And the Yom Kippur war with those annoying sirens. And why wasn’t she taken down to the miklat anyway? She was happy to survive the flight and return to the familiar suburb where she could roam free in a nice fenced yard.

So, one night, when all were asleep, including Gringo, that safe suburb became a tad menacing.  I awoke, startled by a sound that I immediately recognized as our screen door being tossed onto our deck.  Adrenaline did its thing.  In one instant, I turned on the back light, looked out the window and saw the perps fleeing over the back fence, woke my husband who made some nasty accusations (about me!  imagination! a cat!  don’t be silly!), and called the police.  Gringo slept through it all.

The police finally arrived.  I assume they too had been sleeping.  But, unlike the would-be robbers, they rang the bell.    Gringo woke up and roared like the fiercest tiger in the jungle, an earth shattering sound that could wake the world. Who could be ringing our doorbell in the middle of the night?  She would scare them away with fire and fury. Never mind that she had slept through the attempted burglary.  Now was the time for her to show off. Intimidating little wench that she was the police were close to spraying her with their bitter herbs when I protected her and let them launch their investigation.

Aha. It looks like the screen has been tossed to the ground our local Sherlock Holmes declared. And just look at this cut in the screen. Good thing you heard them. Might have been nasty if they got into the house. So I was vindicated. Gringo not!

A few hours later I made my declaration.  We must get another dog today or I won’t be able to sleep a wink.

So off we went to the local pound, all six of us.  And we made a major mistake.  We chose a collie mutt named Major!  We told the pound keepers, our dog must be good with children and must behave in the car since we went up to our Catskills cuchalein every weekend during the summer months, a trip of over one hundred traffic packed miles. It was obvious to all the pound workers that good news was in store for them, the freirs, aka suckers, had arrived.  Major was the dog for us. They would be getting rid of Major at last!

Major was a handsome fellow, big and strong. He immediately greeted us as if we had known each other at Mt. Sinai, long lost family to be hugged and kissed. He loved us and he, unlike his crotchety, ancient sister, would defend us. So, of course, he joined the family.

We realized almost instantly that he did love the car, as was promised. But they hadn’t told us that Major insisted on driving the car, or at least resting his 70 pound hulk on the driver’s lap. No matter how many blockades we built in our station wagon, Major would tear them down, like a scene from Les Miserables, and land on the driver’s lap. This could easily have been very unsettling. And it took us a very long, rocky, dangerous, teaching experience to break him of this little quirk.

That wasn’t the only thing where we learned to be careful what you wish for. We did want a dog who would love our children. But, dare I get angry with any one of them, raise my voice or appear threatening, there would be Major, guarding them, often throwing me down and letting me know that I had exceeded the boundaries he, big boss that he was, had set.

Not that he didn’t get affectionate with us as well. My husband’s ribs were broken twice, not once, by over enthusiastic homecomings. He had arrived from a particularly long business trip and whomever says dogs don’t recognize the concept of time is wrong, broken ribs wrong. The greetings from Major had him doubled over before he could even take off his coat.

Major’s biggest issue, however, was that he thought he was Houdini.  Any confined space was a challenge. He had to prove he could get out of  anywhere. He constantly did, once actually digging a hole in a wall (otherwise known as a hole in a wall). If we left the front door open for an instant, he was out charging through the neighborhood, oblivious to cars, trucks or motorcycles.  His disappearing acts were famous . Somehow he always made it back safe and sound.

But, he was useless as a watchdog. With all of his many vices, he never learned to growl or bark. He never got angry. If a robber had come he would have greeted the robber the way he greeted everyone else, with lots of affection and jumps for joy.

Luckily, in a house with not one, but two, useless dogs, the robbers never returned.




About the Author
Rosanne Skopp is a wife, mother of four, grandmother of fourteen, and great-grandmother of two. She is a graduate of Rutgers University and travels back and forth between homes in New Jersey and Israel. She is currently writing a family history.