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So back in December I was ready for my first dog in 17 years. I'm way out in a rural area, but I checked local shelters to see if there was a GSD available; I grew up with them, and my first job was working at a kennel that raised show line American GSDs. My last dog was a puppy from that kennel, and he was a wonderful dog until DM took him down at the age of 7. So I'm pretty married to the breed.

Turned out that a shelter just across the river had a beautiful black 5yo female who had been looking for a home for months. She came out of a pretty abusive/neglectful home situation with her previous owner who'd bought her as a puppy. An injury she'd received when she was about a year old left her face kind of lopsided and scarred, and when she was finally surrendered to the shelter she was half-naked from a bad flea allergy and super skinny to boot. So between her needing a good two to three months of rehab, and being big, solid black, and odd-looking, she sat in the shelter for about half a year. Long story short, I went to meet her and it was love at first sight for both of us. Got through the adoption papers and the home inspection with flying colors, paid $125 for her adoption fee, and she came home with me later that week.

The next day I was looking through her papers and found a page from a passport from when she was imported from Germany. Turns out her full name is Pikka von der Salztal-Höhe and her pedigree is stuffed full of German IPO dogs! (I may or may not have obsessively traced her pedigree all the way back to Horand...) I felt a bit like I bought a Ferrari at a yard sale that just had a dent in the fender! Well, okay, and TERRIBLE front pasterns splayed all over, and toed-in back legs, and a quarter inch underbite, and a slightly roached back, and probable dysplasia, and arthritis....all I can say is thank God she's spayed.

Anyway, I spent the first month helping her get integrated into my home and learn how to be a dog again. She had a lot to make up for! She spent most of the first five years of her life living on a tiny wooden deck (maybe 6' x 15') and getting no training and little attention. One of her owners also reportedly had a temper and yelled a lot; she might also have been hit, though there's no evidence to back it up, but she REALLY doesn't like yelling. Once we had time to get to know each other and get into a rhythm, I started her with some private lessons with a behaviorist/trainer, since it was evident she was a lot higher drive than my previous GSDs, she was beginning to show some signs of serious anxiety, and this was beyond my previous experience.

Amazingly enough, in spite of all this, she is just the sweetest dog in the world. She trusted me almost immediately (the treats probably didn't hurt), and from the beginning all she's ever really wanted from me (or anyone else, once she knows they're not an axe murderer) was snuggles and belly rubs and ear massages. Underneath all that anxiety is a wonderful temperament, and I've slowly been trying to build her confidence so that she trusts me more than she listens to the anxiety. (Hey, I have an anxiety disorder, too, I know it can be tough!) I get to come home to an enthusiastic welcome even if all I did was walk out and get something from the car.

Since then it's been months of me learning how to be a better trainer, communicating to her what I want, and figuring out what her biggest distractions are. (Also putting her on a diet because she's a WAY easier keeper than I was anticipating and I let her get to be too much of a chonk. Oops.) She's got too high a prey drive to be around the livestock on the farm we live on, and she wasn't socialized with dogs so they make her super anxious (but not reactive.) We're working on toning down the overprotectiveness around the house and the car (all bark, no bite, thankfully.) And I call her my ADHD dog because her impulse control leaves a lot to be desired if there's anything she considers a worthy distraction, or if she's just tired of being in place. But she walks on a leash beautifully, she's SUPER responsive to the Sprenger collar and gets ridiculously excited when I take it off its hook (to be fair, she also gets excited about the slip lead, and the harness I attach to her seat belt...this dog THRIVES on attention.) And she is so willing to please; I just have to effectively communicate what it is I need from her, which is often the bigger challenge.

In spite of her long pedigree of IPO dogs, Pikka has absolutely no ball or toy drive. I have tried literally every toy I can think of, up to and including pulling a piece of rabbit fur from an old coat on a string behind me to see if she'll chase it. She looks at me like "Are you just going to keep throwing things away? You get TWO returns, and then you have to go pick it up yourself." Even with pain medication her arthritis makes agility a no-go, though I may try tracking down the line since she does like following interesting scents. I don't think she'll ever be one of those snap-to-attention high-drive obedience champs, and I'm honestly lenient enough with her that I left her turn a few circles to get comfortable before she actually executes her "platz". But she loves being my hiking buddy, she is perfectly happy snuggling on the couch with me, and there is nothing she loves more than going for a ride in the car (even if we end up at the vet!)

And I honestly couldn't be happier with her. I mean, look at this magnificent beast:



So well behaved:



So photogenic:



So adventurous:



Such a dignified example of this respectable breed:



BEST. DOG. EVER.
 

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Sounds like this was meant to be...both of you are very very lucky.....I've always felt when they come from a less than perfect start in life....they know a good thing when they're "living it"...she looks like she knows the good life now and her expression shows it....good on you for adopting her....
 

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Thank you for saving this girl and thank that shelter for keeping her that long to find a home. She looks like a beauty, but yea, a tad chunky. One thing I question is why they are saying a five year old dog has problems with arthritis? I would definitely get together with your vet and see what is really going on. Since you can't let her loose on the farm, and you are concerned with arthritis, how are you exercising her? Anxiety is inversely proportional to exercise. Keep us posted, I would like to hear about her progress with you.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
She's six now, vet confirmed arthritis through a lack of range of motion and stiffness when sitting/laying down. The extra weight is definitely not helping, though she's been creaky ever since I got her. She and I go for long walks every day, usually with a little jogging if she feels up for it, we rough-house a lot, and we also go hiking regularly. So we both get a good workout!
 

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Ah ha ha, that last derpy photo of her is so funny!

She is lucky to have found a good home.
Congrats on your "bargain basement" pedigreed** GSD! :-D

**Wow, I just learned that "Horand von Grafrath (January 1, 1895 - after 1899) (formerly Hektor Linksrhein) was the first German Shepherd Dog and the genetic basis for modern German Shepherds."!
 

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It’s amazing what these dogs can go through and still bounce back to become amazing loving creatures. We aren’t a deserving species compared to dogs. Enjoy Pikka for all the years you have left. And maybe watch the extra treats, but it sounds like you’re already aware of the stress the extra weight puts on the arthritic joints.
 
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