It was love at first sight. After E and I broke up I was living on the outskirts of Erlangen, where I still live. She had kept Schnuppy and she used to throw her out of the car on her way to work. Schnuppy and I would then walk the six kilometres through the woods and along the river into the centre of the city to where E worked. That way I got to spend time with my number one Lady and she got a good run out before spending the day in the office. One Thursday morning towards the end of July in 2003 we chanced upon a large handsome dog on the banks of the river, who quickly succumbed to Schnuppy’s blandishments and began to play with her. As I say, it was love at first sight.
As the two dogs played I fell into conversation with the woman whose dog it was. After a while she asked if I knew anybody who would be prepared to give the dog a new home, as otherwise he would have to go into the dog’s home on the following day. The alarm bells went off in my head. I could give him a home, I wanted to give him a home, I would give him a home my emotions were screaming. However, somewhere in the back of my head the rational part of my brain was saying, you’re unemployed, you’re broke, you’re living alone. How the hell are you going to be able to care for a big dog? I told the woman I would think about it and asked her to give me her phone number saying I would ring her that evening. I then spent the next twelve hours trying to talk myself out of taking on the dog. At nine o’clock in the evening I phoned the woman and said I would be prepared to take him. So much for will power and self discipline. We arranged for me to go out with her and the dog on Friday and Saturday and if everything was OK then I would take the dog home on Sunday.
At the appointed time on Friday I arrived at the woman’s flat and the three of us set out for a walk. The dog happy to be outside immediately steamed off at high speed in the direction of the river meadows, which were just down the road. Instinctively I whistled, as I would my own dog, and Sascha, for it was he, stopped turned round and trotted obediently back to me. This was stunning. A dog that has been trained will normally react to the whistled commands of its owner whilst ignoring the whistles of anybody else. Sascha was telling me that I was now his owner.
Sascha who was not quite two years old needed a new home because his previous owner had died of a stroke. Sascha had been alone in the flat with the corpse for three days before somebody found him. He was, as a result, traumatised, which meant that he obeyed every command that I gave him almost before I gave it. He’d obviously done something wrong last time and lost an owner he wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice. He would come and wake me every night to check that I was still alive. The first time, about six months later, that he didn’t obey an order was a day for rejoicing because it was a clear sign that he was finally recovering from his trauma.
I’m largely self-employed and work at home and I’m not one of those people who go out twice a day for thirty minutes with the dog. Sascha was my constant companion going everywhere that I went and doing everything that I did. He waited outside shops whilst I did my shopping, sat at my feet in cafés whilst I drank my coffee and was a regular, and mostly welcome, visitor to all the various branches of the university library. Several of the librarians and department secretaries had treats for him in their desks. He was one of the most well known and loved dogs in the whole of Erlangen and it’s going to be hard over the next days and weeks telling all his friends that he is no longer with us.
We have lived our lives together in quiet harmony for ten and a half years now and this afternoon at two o’clock we relieved Sascha, who had cancer of the spleen, stomach and liver, of his pain and I don’t know how I’m going to cope without him. Things will probably be a little quite around here for sometime to come so I ask you to show some understanding. I need time to grieve for someone who was so much more than just my best friend.