I love your stories. My big boy does well with people, too. He doesn't seek out attention but accepts it graciously...and if he gets bored he might get a bit impish and try to get a smile out of someone. My mom is recovering from leg surgery and we were able to bring him into the rehab center. That means it will take a good 20 minutes to get down the hall with all the "Is he friendly?" and " may I touch him?" and such. He did so well with the busy staff and the wheel chairs and laying down to wait while we chatted before even getting to see "grandma".
We don't necessarily want to our beloved GSDs to be "pointy nosed Labradors" but having one with good people skills is wonderful!
I know labs are very popular. More litters and pups registered than any other breed by leaps and bounds, for what 10 years? 15? 20? I find a connection with shepherds, even brief ships passing in the night, something about the expression of intelligent emotion that maybe I don't see in other dogs, because other dogs rarely interest me at all. Goldens have it. The labs I have seen just don't. They will shove their soggy ball in your lap a hundred times in a row, and I suppose some might find appeal in that. I like a shepherd who has to decide whether you are worth a sniff and a polite tail wag, whether you deserve to pet their sleek but hairy coat, and if they should ask you to scratch their butt.
Yes, they are not pointy-nosed/ear'd labs. A good shepherd is not a bull in a china shop around old people or the very young. They do understand stuff, or they read us extremely well. Moreso than other breeds. I have seen hyper young shepherds change in a moment into the perfect nurse or nanny around a frail person or a baby/small child. And even young dogs, untrained, that were not raised with children, can just know to be careful with the small ones. When I remember the not yet 2 year old Cujo walking carefully with a little girl, just learning to walk, hand on his butt, following him through the house -- there is something there, something alive and working in the noggin of a German Shepherd.
When I was a kid, long before I had any purebred GSDs, my mom brought home a stray bitch-pup that her aunt had been feeding. The dog was a shepherd-hound mix. She was a great dog. Bit the Dominos guy who ran up onto the porch to deliver a flier, and startled my brother and the dog who were sleeping on the porch. But she had those soulful eyes of a shepherd. That expression that said she understood stuff. The water lady had to read the meter, and so she went on the porch to ask my mother to bring the dog in. My mom sent my six year old sister, who was always small and sickly, out to bring the dog in, while the lady hit behind the car. Princess. Could have dragged Lisa down the street after the lady, but she didn't. I was a teenager when we got Princess. I would take her out rambling in the woods, or down the streets of the village at night. She would run up on people's porches and eat their cat food. And when we got down to Lawson's she would wait outside for me and get a day-old chocolate donut for waiting. One day a small child was walking her mother, and asked me, "May I pet your dog." I could not say no, so I said yes, a little nervous as to how Princess would behave. She was perfect, very quiet, very careful, accepted the girl's pets politely. I dunno. Some people really don't want the crazy ball-dog.