By Candy Clarke
For nine years, I have belonged to a dog named Gunner. Most people will tell you what type of dog they own, but I can say with absolute certainty that my dog, Gunner, rules my world. He is a 10-year-old rescued Alaskan Husky. At first, he was trembling and shaking so badly, it was hard for him to stand. He responded to touch by maintaining the classic cowed position. It was heartbreaking to see such a beautiful animal so afraid.
Gunner behaves totally different now. He struts about as if the world is his special domain, and he tolerates the rest of us occupying his space. For the most part, Gunner is a very happy and well-traveled dog. Gunner, however, is not happy when someone or some thing gets too close to me. That just upsets his whole world! He is definitely an over protective dog.
The second day at his home with us, I was in the kitchen and my husband, Frank, came in to asked me something. Frank has issues with hearing, so he tends to speak loudly. On this particular occasion, whatever he was saying to me was not acceptable to Gunner. I heard a growl and looked down to see Gunner with his ears laid back, lip curled, and the hackles on his back standing straight up as he emitted a louder growl. He quickly moved between us, showing his teeth to Frank. I explained to Frank that Gunner was upset and he needed to speak softly; he did and Gunner calmed - though he didn’t leave my side for the rest of the day. Having a 70-pound dog growling and snarling tends to make everyone speak softly.
Gunner won my heart then and there. Since that day, he has come between me and a bear, moose, a pit bull; and numerous other dangers. He has a very difficult job protecting his human. I do all sorts of dumb things and Gunner has to be constantly on the alert. Sometimes, he gives me a “that’s a stupid thing to do” look and I find myself apologizing to my dog.
He tolerates many of my behaviors in spite of his own fears. Elevators and boats are two examples. They are not exactly his favorite things, but since it’s his self-imposed duty to protect me, he has learned to make the best of it. Sometimes, my dog makes me feel guilty for taking him with me. Secretly, though, I think he is beginning to enjoy the boating. He’s just not going to let me know yet!
Uniforms are detestable things for Gunner. It may have something to do with the dogcatchers who castrated him before I got him. At any rate, my lovable pet has earned the nickname, Cujo, at border crossings! Gunner can follow commands in English, American Sign Language, and French, but all that goes out the window if there is a person in uniform near me. He leaves little doubt as to his idea of protecting his human.
Sled dogs are usually “one person” dogs. A fact my husband, Frank, will quickly verify. For years, Frank has tried to be number one with Gunner. Even with bribery, it hasn’t happened. Gunner remains, first and foremost, loyal to me. Just as he decided years ago, he would be my protector. I decided it was okay to have my world ruled by a dog named Gunner.