The Surreal Killer

The Surreal Killer
Machu Picchu. Peru

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Few Pearls of Doggy Wisdom

     As I sit at my desk about 25 feet away from 11 4-week-old puppies (Thank you, Jolie), it seems natural to reflect on our family's relationship to dogs. My wife Elaine has been breeding German Shorthaired Pointers (GSPs) for a long time, most of her adult life. Her first GSP was the loveable, but not particularly well coordinated, Jake (aka Lufkin’s Jaunty Jake as registered with the American Kennel Club). Jake was influential in getting us together, but that will be the topic of a future blog entry. Jake also sired the 13-generation long lineage that established Elaine as a well known breeder of a long line of successful GSP show dogs here in the western United States.
     For today, we will discuss the possibility that Jake, who might have influenced the purchase of the real Pearl and the development of the fictitious Pearl in the Spenser series of mystery novels written by one of my favorite authors, Robert B. Parker. In a land long ago and far away (I always wanted to use that one in writing, somewhere), Elaine lived in the Boston suburbs. She walked Jake in many places, including the Boston Commons. A few of those times Parker, who lived and taught in Boston, came by The Commons to admire her dog and got to know Jake in all his lovable goofiness. Over his illustrious career as a mystery writer, which started just about that time with The Godwulf Manuscript (published in 1973, the year I moved to Cambridge), Parker owned several generations of GSPs named Pearl, who occupied a lot of his book cover photos with him. In all of the Spenser books that followed the first one, beginning, I believe, with book #2 in the series, "God Save the Child", Spenser had a girlfriend Susan Silverman, initially a school guidance counselor who morphed into a Ph.D. (from Harvard, no less) clinical psychologist in book #10 in the Spenser series, "Valediction". Suzanne eventually acquired a GSP named Pearl in, I think, the 19th book of this series, "Pastime". Her dog, whose name was changed from "Vigilant Virgin" to Pearl on page 4 of Pastime, looked a lot like Parker’s real Pearl, a solid liver-colored GSP. His movie production company, which made films and both cable and network TV shows based upon his books, was named “Pearl Productions”. Did Elaine and Jake influence Parker’s subsequent choices of Pearl #1-3? I’d like to think so.

      Our sons grew up with a lot of Jake stories. When I met Elaine she was living in Cambridge, across the Charles River from Boston, and I was in the process of moving there. Jake actually got us together the first time by losing a dog fight to a Labrador retriever over who was going to retrieve the Labrador’s tennis ball from the reflecting pond in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. I was walking by (I lived there then, Elaine and Jake were visiting) in time to offer a box of Kleenex to staunch the flow of blood from Jake’s ear. By the time we got to my car for the Kleenex the flow of blood had ceased, I got to meet a cute young woman who fortuitously became the first person I knew who lived in Cambridge where I was scheduled to move to the next week, and we had a story to tell about how Jake brought us together. We lived in an old house that had been broken up into apartments a few blocks away from Harvard Yard. Every morning Jake got taken for a walk to Harvard Yard where he could safely be let off-leash to run around chasing squirrels and absorbing the culture. His morning ritual, from which he never deviated, was to celebrate freedom as the leash was removed by running as fast as he could to the statue of John Harvard, the founder of the University several hundred years ago, that occupied Pride of Place in the center of the broad Quad that was Harvard Yard. The polite term for his next action was he “marked” the statue; for those not in the know with respect to doggie slang, he urinated over John Harvard’s legs and shoes. Every day for several years! For the egalitarians reading this, it’s OK to cheer at the symbolism.
     In the first paragraph I referred to Jake's lack of coordination. In a breed known for its grace and athletic ability Jake was a klutz. The problem of his innate klutziness was dramatized when we acquired his son Fliegen at 7 weeks of age as our second GSP. All of Jake's klutz genes were obviously recessive since Fliegen was poetry in motion pretty much from the day he joined our family (thank you very much, Peppermint Patty [Mom]). We'll feature Fliegen in a subsequent blog entry of his own since he launched Elaine's breeding program after we moved to California. Today we're focusing on Jake. Jake was the dog that would run on snow and ice, get out of control, and skid into a tree. One of his nicknames was "George of the Jungle", named for a TV cartoon character whose theme song advised him to "watch out for that tree". In the same situation (same snow, same ice), Fliegen would do a graceful mid-course correction and slide right past the tree. Another of Jake's nicknames was "The Boston Bleeder", to celebrate the inevitable outcome of the very few dog fights he got into. But for lovability, loyalty, and willingness to protect Elaine no matter what, Jake is still the standard we compare all of our other GSPs to.

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