I grew up in a medium-sized San Joaquin Valley city in California about 200 miles north of Los Angeles. Life was seemingly safer and kids free to roam the neighborhoods in search of friends, fun, and hideouts. The house we lived in when this story took place was on a gravel road, across from the train tracks.
Our house actually did have a white picket fence and there were lots of vacant lots nearby (where we dug monstrous caves and tunnels). There were four of us at home, Mom and Dad, me, and Carole, my older sister. We were three years apart. Carole was 11 and I was 8 when my parents bought her a German Shepherd named Lobo. Although he put up with all of us, Lobo was definitely Carole’s dog.
Once, when we were swimming at a lake, Lobo sat on shore, never taking his eyes off Carole. Just to test him, she began waving her arms, yelling “Help!” Immediately, he sprang into action dashing into the water, grabbing her arm and taking her ashore. It was amazing to see. She never pretended to be in trouble again.
We had a paper boy who thought it was funny to throw the daily paper at Lobo if he happened to be in the front yard. To this day I have to wonder at his I.Q. One day, just as the paper left his hand, flying at Lobo, my Dad came out the door.
“Hey!” he said to the boy, causing him to stop his bike. “You better stop throwing papers at our dog. If you don’t he’s going to leap over this fence one day and make you wish you had.”
The boy said he would stop and pedalled away. I saw the look on his face as he glanced over his shoulder at my Dad. He would have to learn the hard way. And it didn’t take long.
A few days later, as I rounded the corner of the yard, I saw our paper boy headed our way. I stopped just out of his view to watch what I guessed would be an exciting event. Sure enough, he reached inside his canvas paper bag and pulled out our paper, eyes fixed on Lobo. Just opposite the gate, he hurled his projectile at Lobo with a glee…which was very short-lived because Lobo decided it was time to teach this boy a lesson.
I’ll never forget how it played out. Lobo was standing about twenty feet from the fence, watching the paper boy pedal our way. He seemed to know what he would do. As soon as their eyes met and the boy hurled the paper, Lobo came alive, heading for the fence. He passed the paper on the way to leaping over the fence with ease. It was beautiful to see. I thought I was watching Rin Tin Tin in action.
The boy screamed, hunched over his handle bars and pedalled for life. It was no contest. Rocks flew from his tires as he wailed and pedalled for all he was worth. Within 30 feet Lobo was alongside him and grabbed his pants cuff with his teeth. Then he planted his feet and sat on his haunches, sliding a bit in the gravel. All was lost as the boy fell off the bike, now crying in terror, expecting the worst from this huge dog. Instead, Lobo slowly and methodically drug him a few feet down the road, released him and trotted back home, leaping our fence with ease.
When I told my Dad the story that afternoon, he grinned and said, “Well, I warned him.” and reached down for the paper held in Lobo’s mouth.