It was another carefree day, and Etzel had lots to do.
He tipped over the water bowl, turning the barn floor into splashing puddle of fun.
He chased the chickens, delighting in squawk and flap.
And he gulped down the last of the kibble, licking the bowl to shiny emptiness.
Then tired and full, he flopped onto the pile of puppies nestled in the curve his mother’s belly.
His sister Greta nipped his ear.
His brother Otto yipped a complaint.
But Etzel just wiggled down between them, and sighed.
He closed his eyes. Then—
“Here’s a big, handsome one,” a man’s voice boomed.
Rough hands tore Etzel away and held him high.
The puppy whimpered. His paws flailed in the suddenly cold air.
“Just look at those markings,” the voice boomed again. “Only purebred German Shepherds have those. And the teeth—“
Rude fingers pulled back Etzel’s lips.
“With the right training they could tear a man to shreds. Should we take him?
“Yes,” rumbled a second voice. “And we will turn him into the fiercest guard dog on the Berlin police force.”
The hands shoved Etzel into a canvas bag.
His mother barked.
Gretel and Otto yelped.
And in the bag’s darkness Etzel shivered and whined as the sounds of his happy puppyhood faded away.
ETZEL, TOUGH AND FIERCE
Tossed into a cage of cement and bars, the gates of the police kennel slammed shut behind Etzel.
He cried. For his mother. For Greta. For Otto.
A sharp boot kick silenced him.
But that first night when all was still, Etzel again grieved for his family. He whimpered. He yelped. He yowled.
After that, Etzel strayed off into a far corner of the fenced-in yard where he cried out his grief with quiet whimpering.
Etzel’s life became one of drilling, marching and snapping to commands.
No tail wagging was allowed.
No playing permitted.
Angry voices and even angrier fists forced the joy out of Etzel. And he became exactly what they wanted—a cold, uncaring police dog.
On duty, he was fierce and aggressive. He bristled at strangers. He snarled at trespassers. He lunged and slashed at law-breakers.
Off duty, he was distant and aloof. He trusted no one. Why should he? The world as he knew it was bleak and brutal, a place without warmth, a place where caresses and kind words did not exist.
But sometimes in the cold loneliness of his kennel, Etzel dreamed about the soft curve of his mother’s belly and the playful nip of Greta’s teeth on his ear. He dreamed about the smell of kibble on Otto’s breath.
And Etzel sighed into an uneasy sleep.