Jogging along the Rhine, sans canine interference

Any international jogger along the Rhine -- especially anyone who started his or her jogging career in Moscow -- quickly discovers that German dogs are different. Or, more accurately, inm different. It's a bit of West German sociology that has too long gone unreported, unheralded.

When I first came to the Rhine, I exercised my inbred caution. Dogs are legion along the river. German shepherds (of course).Dachshunds. Afghan hounds. Borzois. You name it, the Rhine has it. And in this hound-loving country, where anyone who wants to make an anti-German crack contrasts child-rearing and dog-rearing practices, I as an outsider had no wish to provoke an incident among the four-footed natives. I would slow to a guilty walk whenever canine paths crossed with mine.

I learned this technique in the Army Park in Moscow -- or rather, I was disciplined into it. A surprising number of Muscovites keep extraordinary large dogs in their extraordinarily small apartments; they get dog food subsidies if, periodically, they send their animals to a kind of police dog reserve duty.

As nearly as I could tell, the reserve training consisted mostly of downing anything that moved, and Moscow's German shepherds and Doberman pinschers took to this idea, so to speak, like a duck to water.

An example. Some American colleagues who achieved a certain renown by keeping a (nonsubsidized) St. Bernard in their little Moscow apartment were invited by russian friends to attend a dog show. At the show the judge made a provisional assignment of prizewinners and arranged dogs and owners to parade around him in this order.

No. 3 dog took umbrage at the ascendancy of No. 2, however, and as the No. 2 team was passing No. 3 to take its awarded rank, No. 3 dog took a good mouthful out of No. 2 owner's jacket.

Unplanned and even untoward incidentS occur in any dog show, you say. But wait. Neither the No. 2 owner, nor the judge, nor my colleagues' hosts seemed upset by the turn of events.

No. 2 owner perforce ceded his jacket to No. 3 dog altogether, shucking it off and continuing on his way as if nothing had happened. The judge, as I recall, promoted the No. 3 dog for its admirable display of temperament.

For my first few weeks in Bad Godesberg, therefore, I strolled and ostentatiously admired the morning mists of the Drachenfels (where Siegfried slew the dragon) whenever a loose dog approached. The ruse worked; not a single one attacked me.

It took a boxer to educate me. When I stopped running in his honor, he came over and sniffed me suspiciously -- and his mistress, with somewhat injured feelings, explained that he was curious only because I had ceased running. If I had simply continued with what I was doing, the dog would have found it all quite unremarkable.

When I encountered the boxer again the next day, I took it as a test of both trust and politeness. Not without misgivings, I played my proper role and kept running. It worked like a charm.The boxer ignored me -- and so have all the German shepherds and cocker spaniels ever since.

Since dogs and owners, as everyone knows, take on each other's characteristics. I find this all very encouraging in assessing the strength of democracy and forebearance in postwar West Germany. And in the spirit of mutual traveler's tips the world over. I pass along the world to any visiting joggers: Do bring your runnin g shoes, and maybe a dog biscuit or two.

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK