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Boxer: A Woman’s Best Friend

chuisleIn 2005, I worked as a library director by day and renovated a haunted Victorian home by night and on the weekends. I was single, lived alone and craved a companion – the four-legged kind. On Labor Day weekend, eleven years ago, an adorable 3-1/2 month old Boxer came to live with me.

I was a bit naïve about the Boxer breed, I admit. I didn’t realize that this cute puppy with her uplifted nose and chronic under bite possessed an inbred desire to protect me above all else. Boxers are considered a personal-protection breed in the AKC working dog category. And she took her work very seriously. Any two or four-legged creature coming within sight of our car or our home was simply there to kill us. Or so she instinctively believed.

This became a problem, of course, when I brought anyone to my home or wanted to give them a ride in my car (if she was sharing it with us.) I worked continually on teaching her that my friends were her friends. But, she would have none of it and rarely understood.

However, when I met my husband Gerry and his grandson Colin, she amazingly and immediately figured out that they were to be tolerated. In fact, she came to love and protect them as much as she adored me – with her complete heart and soul. She never once barked at them or approached them with aggression. As a matter of fact, Colin at 8 years old could be extremely annoying but she simply looked the other way. His friends, however, were another matter entirely. She terrorized each and every one of them. One friend even crossed the street when he was passing our house. He didn’t trust the closed door or the expanse of lawn. Only the street-width gave him any confidence he would have a running start.

The Boxer was bred in Europe from a strain of dog originally used for fighting. It is a cousin to the Bulldog, is extremely courageous, and has a built-in desire to please and protect his or her owner(s). He or she is solid and muscular with a very short coat that can be velvety soft on the underbelly and face. Traditionally, a Boxer’s ears are cropped and its tail is bobbed. Today many countries actually prohibit the practice; the purpose for cropping and bobbing was to give the Boxer an inapproachable demeanor. No friendly feeling could be given away – the ears stood stern and the shortened tail could be seen wagging only from behind. Germans perfected the Boxer’s temperament for personal protection and immense love of its master(s). When trained for protection, no one will get between a Boxer and his charge.

The American Kennel Club describes the Boxer as “fun-loving, bright, active and loyal.” Certainly, many people who have come to our front door would not have described our protective Boxer as fun-loving. Her mission in life was to protect her loved ones and the postal worker and UPS driver were suspect enemies. Eventually, our Boxer came to understand who was okay and who wasn’t. We fine-tuned the meet and greet process and trained her to be calm and reserved before approaching new friends. Astoundingly, she was gentle and patient with each and every young grandchild born to us in the past three years.

Our Boxer’s life was filled with love and fun. When possible, she traveled with us and spent many hours in the car on the way New Jersey, New Hampshire or Maine. We rented houses on the Cape or the coast of Maine that allowed for her presence. We had to spell the word R-I-D-E when we discussed any potential that she would accompany one of us to the dump or the store. Her excitement, her high-arching jump, and her absolute joy were worth the inconvenience of short needle-like hair on the seats and in every nook and cranny of the car.

Due to a bout of Boxer Colitis as a young pup, she enjoyed a homemade diet, rich in sweet potatoes and meat broth all of her life. She was as active as a Boxer can be, racing around and across any large grassy expanse with wild abandon. Couches were her favorite sleeping spot and she never understood why some furniture was off-limits.

She snuck off into the tick-laden woods behind our Marion home as often as she could, although she was never out of our sight and she was admonished severely for leaving it. Once I mistook a deer for her. As it munched on some plants on the dip of land outside my kitchen window, it resembled our graceful fawn-colored Boxer with splashes of the whitest white on her neck and head.

While some do live longer, Boxers generally live only 8-10 years. They are susceptible to bloat (a fatal twisting of their elongated stomach) and to cancers of all types. They are playful, loving, loyal and comical as elderly dogs in their final years, however. We know this to be true.

Our beloved Boxer passed away this week after Labor Day, eleven years after she first came home with me. She had spent her first years riding shotgun in my VW Cabrio convertible (always belted in) everywhere I went. Her floppy ears flew in the breeze and people in passing cars could not help but smile. She often slept in my bed (soon enough sharing it with my new husband, Gerry) on cold winter nights. She crept on her belly to very bottom underneath piles of blankets and stayed until she was too hot to breathe. She sat still and erect, waiting for cheese sticks for lunch where Gerry visited her at lunch every weekday in our Norwood home. She took one last long ride to visit our grandson, Colin who had left for college just the week before.

And she passed away on her own terms with me beside her. She was a woman’s best friend.

Read about the Boxer in one of the many books in the Minuteman Library Network such as The Boxer Handbook by Joan Hustace Walker. Or share the joys of this breed with a young child by reading Boxers Are the Best by Elaine Landau.

Charlotte Canelli is the library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts. Read Charlotte’s column in the September 22, 2016 issue of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

Sam Simas

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