At Commercial Tippers, our dogs are quite used to negotiating huge piles of pallets, timber and boxes of all sizes and including old fence palings and the like. Jochen climbs a pallet pile as if he were a cat and so I had no qualms about this evening's training.
Jochen and I were one of the last teams to search the pile and by now it was twilight moving into evening darkness.
But, he showed interest around the base of this pile, made an attempt to climb up into it, jumped down again and raced around to the other side into the murky water and was half-way up on the other side towards the figurant when I caught up with him. We all agreed that a pile like that leaks like a sieve and who knows where the dog will get scent. However, I called him back down because not only did I consider it unsafe, but there was also some pretty crappy stuff in there.
There are times when I look at these photos and consider what we do, that I come to the conclusion that we are slightly mad. Imagine if your boss told you that you had to allow yourself to be buried in a crappy pile of timber and junk?
And we VOLUNTEER to do this in our spare time! Definitely mad. But I would not miss it for quids.
JOCHEN IS A GERMAN SHEPHERD, OH DEAR
One thing that has very clearly been a point of polite scepticism ever since I arrived is the fact that Jochen is a German Shepherd Dog. I had heard much about this particular recycling centre and its awesome timber pile with the inference being that this would be hard for a German Shepherd to handle given size, shape (no-one seems to get the German Shepherd structure), his Shepherdness etc.
I don't feel the slightest need to justify Jochen's breed or defend him for being a German Shepherd. I just quietly thought, 'Ok, let's wait and see.' Well, a timber pile is a timber pile is a timber pile. 'So what,' said Jochen and up he went. The same as on the other piles they had in bays, going straight up the centre bay where there were piles of bags of whatever, mattresses and all sorts of other crap. In the last bay was a huge pile of wood chips and a figurant was half buried right at the top. Jochen LOVES those wood chip piles.
Well, there was nothing left to say, was there? He proved himself without my having to say anything. I knew he could do it and he did. There was one member there tonight who is very rare indeed as he also has a German Shepherd, a bitch. I made a comment to him and he just shrugged his shoulders and said that he and his bitch became operational, didn't they? So she is a German Shepherd, so what. And by the way, your dog is very handsome. Indeed he is, a poster boy in fact. When I said to some people tonight that he is out of show breeding, eyes became very large.
Most used breeds used for this work are Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Border Collies and more and more Malinois. It is interesting to note that quite a few people started with German Shepherds but had so much trouble with them in respect to health and mental and physical soundness that they have moved away from the breed. However, quite a few have also said that when they see a German Shepherd their heart still yearns for one. So Jochen creates quite a lot of interest in way or another.
There seems to be frustration with the way the Swiss German Shepherd fraternity breeds their dogs and that as much as quite a few would still like to have a German Shepherd Dog, their experience is such that they believe they simply can't get a good one.
I guess if the German Shepherd Dog is to remain the best all-round breed, then breeders and organisations are going to have to do a very serious rethink. And this is an eternal debate.