Our family was a close one, and on weekends there was always plenty of visiting back and forth.
Often we went to see my Uncle Ferdie, my father’s kid brother, who was approximately twice the size of my father, who was no stripling. Ferdie enlisted in the Marines in World War II, but because he looked like a recruiting poster come to life, they packed him off to Puerto Rico to be an admiral’s chauffeur. Later in life he became an inventor with RCA, with a ton of patents to his name. But I digress.
Uncle Ferdie had a German shepherd named Shep, who always barked like crazy when we visited. I was kind of afraid of dogs and I was very afraid of Shep, who was bigger than me. I should have reasoned that with a house already full of little girls, Ferdie was unlikely to keep a dangerous beast that would eat children. But at seven or eight years old, my reasoning powers were limited.
I don’t know what finally persuaded me to approach Shep: temporary insanity, maybe. Imagine my astonishment when Shep proved that he only barked so much because he loved children and wanted to make friends. This gigantic ferocious dog just loved me! So from then on I joined my cousins in playing with Shep. I guess I knew, instinctively, that my uncle wouldn’t have anything in his house that would hurt me. Well, he did have a .22 rifle, but we never saw it until we were old enough to shoot safely, under his supervision. That was just way cool.
The lesson I learned from Shep was that appearances can be deceiving–in this case, very deceiving.