|Tools Archives Xina Games News RPG Info Misc.|
My Dog Saber
Saber is a purebred German Shepherd born on 8/10/07. We found him in the Military Working Dog (MWD) adoption program. He was originally named "Bart N186". On June 1st of 2009, we drove to Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas to meet him. He was extremely shy and timid, but you could see hints of a good dog underneath the fear. The adoption coordinator called him "environmentally insecure". Saber was afraid of everything - cars, people, birds, and even his own collar. In the brief moments confidence, he was very affectionate. We decided to bring him home. Since he hadn't been temperament tested, we had to return to Lackland on 6/22 to pick him up. When the day came, Bart wasn't ready to go. Fortunately, two wonderful women came to the rescue. Janet Mertz, a former employee at the kennel, volunteered to pick him up and take him to the airport. Denise Pride volunteered to fly him to Lake Charles. Debbie Kandoll also helped with good advice and lots of encouragement. Thanks to their efforts, Saber found his way to a forever home.
His AKC ILP number is PAL250137.
This page was updated on Saturday, May 20, 2017.
Click here to read Saber's stories! Check out Saber as a LolDog.
I have also written a guide to adopting MWDs. Check out Saber's favorite web sites.
Click on a thumbnail to view the larger image. Click here for a slideshow of all pictures.
Saber went to the Rainbow Bridge on 5/20/2017 and will be in our hearts forever.
Week Eight - Graduation
Week Twelve - Playmates
Holidays At Home
Snow Day, February 2010
Saber At Play, May 2010
First Anniversary, 4th of July, 2010
Learning New Tricks, July 2010
Sleepy Dog, Wounded Tail, and Flag Bandana - October to December, 2010
Retired MWD Stories
Though the day started out well, fate put one final obstacle in the way of bringing Saber home. On the way to Lake Charles Regional Airport, a wreck temporarily closed the Atchafalaya River bridge. Denise and Saber were waiting in the Vision Aviation lobby when we arrived. Saber was so much more confident and outgoing than he had been at Lackland, it was like night and day. Janet and Denise must be amazing with dogs!
After chatting awhile and taking pictures, we said our farewells. Saber was nervous about jumping up onto the back seat of the Mustang, but Eric was able to lure him in with a toy. He was well behaved all the way home. During a brief stop at a park, Saber found a duck sitting on a nest of large eggs. The duck was frightened and complained noisily, but Saber was very polite. He didn't threaten the duck or her eggs.
Once we arrived home, we let Saber and Kimber greet each other through a chain link fence. Both of them were excited to see a playmate, so we let them run loose in the back yard. At first, Kimber was very fussy. She hid all of her toys in the water bucket and didn't want to let Saber near us. After fifteen minutes of rejection, Saber flopped on the patio looking depressed. Kimber seemed to realize that she'd hurt his feelings. She gently took Saber's favorite ball over to him, dropped it between his forelegs, and crawled up next to him. Saber licked her on the face. "Apology accepted." They spent the rest of the day playing together like long lost siblings.
Feeding time was a little exciting. Each dog has his or her own bowl. It took a little while before they figured out that I'd only let them eat from their own dish. By the time they settled down, I was covered in dirt and dog drool.
When both dogs came inside for the evening, it was time for Saber to learn a few house rules. When he got into mischief, I'd tell him "No" and offer him something acceptable to do instead. If he continued, I'd tell him "NO" very firmly. There was no need for a third time, because Kimber gave a soft growl and physically blocked him if two warnings weren't sufficient. After a few attempts to tear open dog food bags and snatch things off the table, Saber realized that he couldn't get away with anything. Kimber knows the rules and her new little brother isn't going to break them.
Bedtime was peaceful. Kimber was proud to strut into her kennel when I announced "crate time" and receive her treat. With a little hestitation, Saber did the same with his crate and was thrilled to get rewarded for it.
Saber needs remedial house training, but it's going well so far. He slept through the night. I took him out on the leash this morning and praised him for doing his business in the yard. When I turned Kimber out into the yard as well, Saber was absolutely joyful. You could just see the amazement in his eyes and body language. "What? You mean, we get to play together outside again? Already?!" Saber is used to being walked and groomed for 15 minutes every other day. That's 45 hours of walking every year. He'll have blown past that playing here in less than a week. It's only beginning to dawn on him that he will always have room to run and toys to play with, nearly every hour of every day.
Kimber and Saber curled up in the grass and snuggled, licking each other in the face and play-nipping on the neck. Saber needs to put on weight and build up his stamina. Whenever he's too tired to play chase, Kimber teaches him a new game. They've dug crawfish in the mud, played tag in the dog house, and spun in circles with tug-o-war.
After watching Kimber play fetch for awhile, Saber decided he was ready to try. The first three throws, he was a little confused. On the fourth toss, he ran out quickly, picked up the ball, and started back. I yelled, "Saber good boy! Good fetch!" He started wagging his tail in big circles and sped up, coming back with the ball at a dead run. He was so excited when he got to me, he forgot to stop. Wham! Both of us went head over heels in the grass.
Saber already knows where his territory is. He gave a warning bark when the neighbor came up to the fence. Good boy!
Saber and Kimber are still learning how to share. There's an occasional spark of jealousy over toys and attention, but they're no longer wolfing food. I keep a treat in each hand while training. When I say "sit", two rear ends go down and both dogs expect a reward. When he thinks no one is watching, Saber tries to push a ball with his nose and herd it like Kimber does.
Saber finally worked up the nerve to jump into the kiddy pool. He was so proud of himself, he spun in circles, splashing water in all directions. This is great news - it means cleaner dog feet coming into the house! He's an exceptionally agile and graceful dog, able to leap large couches in a single bound.
Kimber prefers verbal praise to physical contact. Saber is the opposite. He spent the evening curled up in my lap on the couch, chewing a toy while I pet him. With my free hand, I threw balls for Kimber to herd through the living room.
Saber made a point of stealing Kimber's favorite toy. He started a confrontation and quickly learned that Kimber's bark is worse than her bite. In fact, Kimber doesn't bite at all. She's used to being the bigger dog and having her way with a little growling and bristling. Saber's not fooled anymore! Once Kimber started whining instead of growling, he returned her toy and licked her on the face.
Saber's showing signs that he's going to be very protective and possessive of me. He doesn't growl or threaten to bite, but he does shove himself in front of me, nearly knocking me over. He'll soon realize that he can't hog all of my attention. He now allows me to check his ears and feet, though he watches me very carefully.
The first real training session went well. Saber doesn't pull on the leash anymore. He knows "sit", "down", "no", "leave it", and "come". He can only remember when there are few distractions, but that will improve over time. I'll start taking him to basic obedience class once he's had a few weeks to settle in.
Kimber and Saber have learned to stick to their own food dishes with minimal direction on my part. They're now willing to walk away, leaving a little food in the bowls when they're not hungry anymore.
When I walk into the room every morning, Saber spins circles inside his crate. I was able to let both dogs outside without needing a leash. Saber doesn't yet understand what I'm saying, but he is willing to do whatever Kimber does. Pretty soon, he'll know what "outside" and "come in" mean.
Saber had his first bath in the walk-in shower. I gave him plenty of time to get comfortable with the bathroom and shower stall. Once we were in the shower with the door closed, I reached for the shower wand and sat down on the bench. Somehow, like a giant cat, Saber managed to climb up on my shoulders to hide from the evil silver wand of water spraying. His back legs were on my shoulders, his front legs were on my head, and he was as far from the floor as he could get. With 65 lbs of muddy dog on my back, I needed a shower, too. After I eased him back down, he realized that nothing bad was going to happen. He cleaned up nicely. After I toweled him dry, as if to make a point, he strutted into the shower and stood there a moment. "I'm not scared, see?"
End of Week One
Saber's first nail trimming went extremely well. I let him watch Kimber earn treats while I trimmed her nails, then asked him to do the same. He was a little nervous but didn't really put up a fight. Kimber doesn't enjoy being brushed, but she demands a good brushing after Saber has been groomed.
Saber doesn't go through treats or toys like Kimber does. He is a nibbler, while Kimber is a serious power chewer. He does love to explore every object in the house and occasionally sample it. Fortunately, he'll drop an object almost instantly when reprimanded. This includes socks, novels, pillows, cola bottles, kleenex boxes, and brushes.
Kimber and Saber play together in the most adorable ways. They snuggle, guard the gate, and play chase together. They take turns pretending to be defeated while the other dog pounces and play-bites. One will hide in the bushes surrounding the digging box, then leap out like a tiger when the other walks by. They share toys, wrestle like wild wolves, splash each other in the pool, and frolic in the rain.
Saber's nervousness around new items and people has largely disappeared. If I'm not worried, he's not afraid. He's shown confidence when encountering thunder, lightning, fireworks, lawn tractors, gunfire, and motorcycles. He learns very fast and is starting to resist distractions. He's also a very loving dog. I can't imagine finding a better canine to join our family.
Saber is a very clever dog. Every now and then, he comes up with a new way to trick Kimber out of her breakfast. He usually steals a few mouthfuls before she catches on. Here are some of his best ploys:
- Throw a tennis ball and rush Kimber's bowl while she chases it.
- Pretend to eat the bits that Kimber dropped from her bowl, then snatch a bite.
- Bark at the gate as if there's a visitor. Gobble Kimber's food while she checks it out.
- Slowly side his bowl sideways until it's next to hers, then accidentally take a few bites from her bowl.
- Make a big deal out of loving on his owner until Kimber gets jealous and demands attention too, abandoning her dish.
- Dig furiously in the planter box, pretending to unearth a critter. Let Kimber finish the excavation while enjoying her food.
- Run out of sight around the corner and bark like he sees an intruder. Sneak back while Kimber sniffs the fence line and steal kibble.
- Make "cheeseburger joy" sounds while pretending to eat out of his empty dish, making Kimber think there's a special treat in it. Run to Kimber's dish when she comes to investigate.
Saber came home on July 4th, 2009 - Independence Day. He graduated from basic obedience class on September 4th, only two months later. In that time, he completely recovered from his "environmental insecurity", graduated from class, won the recall contest, and was invited to train with the local Schutzhund group. I can't imagine why he was eliminated from MWD training. He is the most amazing dog I've ever owned.
Veteran's Day 2009
Saber took his first trip to the veterinarian. The vet wanted to take Saber to an exam room in the back, assuming that he would be less of a handful if he wasn't trying to defend me from the staff. He absolutely would not go. After that, I was instructed to put a nylon muzzle on Saber and lift him onto the exam table by myself, with no one else in the room. It took less than a minute to slip on the muzzle. Although he was a little nervous, he climbed up onto the table with just a little coaxing. No longer afraid he would be separated from me, Saber behaved perfectly. There was no need to restrain him. The vet was able to do an intestinal parasite exam, heartworm test, and complete wellness exam without a whimper. Other than a little plaque on his teeth, he is in perfect health. The vet even commented that Saber is in excellent shape, very muscular and not overweight at all. He weighed in at an impressive 79.7 pounds!
After that, we picked up Kimber and went to a friend's house. Saber and Kimber met three other dogs and romped with them in the yard. They also took their first trip through a dog door. Saber chased a giant exercise ball around the yard until he finally popped it. Everyone had a wonderful time. After dinner, the dogs were ready for a long nap.
4th of July, 2010
It's Saber's first anniversary as a member of the Nail family and a civilian dog. He spent the day running through the park, hunting for squirrels, playing with a child his age (nearly three), napping in my lap, eating Cheetos, and enjoying a few pieces of prime cut steak. After sundown, he barked at fireworks and ate vanilla ice cream.
A few weeks ago, he met Dave, a Seminole Indian who trained dogs for the ATF and is the leader of "The Spirit Moves", a Search and Rescue group based in Slidell, LA. After just a few hours, Saber was making "finds" through thick woods. If we can find a local group, we'll start training Saber in SAR.
28th of October, 2010
Saber passed his CGC (Canine Good Citizen) and TDI (Therapy Dogs International) combined test! The test required Saber to accept a friendly stranger, sit politely for petting and grooming, walk on a loose lead with a non-correction collar, walk through a crowd, sit and down on command, come and stay on command, behave politely around other dogs, be confident when faced with loud noises and distractions, be calm around children, and maintain good manners when left with a stranger for at least three minutes. The crowd was full of people with crutches, canes, walkers, and wheelchairs. They were coughing, wheezing and making other strange noises. Saber wasn't allowed to have any treats or receive any negative correction during the test. We were the first up that night. Saber was nervous because all of his friends were standing in a row, off to one side, watching him. He kept looking back over his shoulder at them, wondering why they weren't participating. Despite that, Saber did an excellent job.
Saber's Favorite Web Sites
Lackland Air Force Base - 341st MWD - Department of Defense Military Working Dog School
Pilots-N-Paws - Saving the lives of innocent animals.
Military Working Dog Adoptions - Official web site of Benny B163 and Bino C152!
The United States War Dogs Association
DoD Military Working Dogs - MWDs have their own theme song!
The Quiet Americans - A history of military working dogs.
DoD Military Working Dog Breeding Program - Foster families needed!
Air Force Times - Adopting a four-legged veteran.
U.S. Army Official Homepage - Military working dogs save lives.
Hill's Pet Nutrition - Special thanks to Joyce Schloetzer for providing Saber's Science Diet food and training treats.
Just Pets - Zachary pet store offering discounts to MWDs.
Pets-R-Loved - Custom embroidered pet products including treat bags.