The German Shepherd of Death Next Door (Presidential Breed)

(So this is not really a German Shepherd. But it is a dog. Work with me here.)

When I was a kid we spent about five years living in the outskirts of Washington, D.C. It was a great place to grow up (as much as one does in five years). I spent that formative time visiting every monument and museum in our nation's capital, going on field trips to the White House, and during one particularly interesting year, waving off a rather shame-faced Richard Nixon as he departed his presidency. I mean like, we actually went to the air base and waved goodbye to the man. I remember trying to get my arm on camera behind the news crew. I was ten years old. What did I know from impeachment?

Now here I am all growed up and looking at yet another election year. The political wrangling on television and every other media outlet has been taking me back to my childhood years in D.C., and making me nostalgic for a much simpler time. A period when my family lived close to the pulse of the nation. A period when the biggest thing I had to worry about in connection with the White House was a rather horrifying canine and its propensity to chase me over neighboring fences. 

(Cue swirly music indicating a trip down memory lane)
Now, you'd think it would be massively cool to live next door to one of the First Lady of the United States’s Helicopter Pilots. So okay. It was. The FLHPF (First Lady's Helicopter Pilot & Fam) were our neighbors in Maryland back in the 1970’s. Mr. FLHPF whooshed the yet-to-be-Watergated-by-marriage Pat Nixon around the skies above Washington. And Mrs. FLHPF stayed home with their daughter—a young lady I didn’t know very well owing to the INCREDIBLY HORRIFYING GERMAN SHEPHERD who guarded her when her father was aloft.

I wanted to know my little neighbor friend. We used to look at each other through the chain-link fence that separated our yards. She wore pretty prim dresses and little shiny shoes. She had pretty prim blonde hair and a really nice mother. Mrs. FLHPF always smiled. And she acted very enthusiastic that one time when I went over to show her my new shoes. (I had won out over my mom, and instead of buying boring old red patent mary-janes, I came out of the store with these fabulously awful thick-heeled, square-toed, tie-died man-shoes. I wore them with everything, including my footie pajamas.) 

Yep. Mrs. FLHPF was a marvelous woman. I needed to make friends with her child.

Sadly, the foyer was as far as I ever got onto our neighbor's property because somewhere in the dark recesses of their home and yard lurked Satan’s German Shepherd. If I put so much as one toe too far onto the FLHPF environs, Heidi (Hell’s Hench-Hound) would come bounding out from wherever she festered, squint her glowing red eyes, bare her blood encrusted fangs, and yowl like she was going to tear some significant body parts off of my little five year-old self.

I couldn't get anywhere near the girl next door.

(And by the way, can we take a moment to discuss this canine-creature’s name? Heidi? Really? That’s like naming your pet velociraptor Fifi.)

I could have adjusted to the situation except that there was this really awesome looking swing-set in little Miss FLHPF's backyard. And I was dying to try it out. I wanted to be her friend. Wanted her to be my friend. Wanted our mutual friendship to send us flinging into the sunlit sky on that swing-set the way her father did in Chopper Two with Mrs. First Lady.

(Voilá, Marine One This isn't FLHPF's chopper. But you get the idea. And btw, this is a free public domain photo, courtesy of the U.S. Government.)
But I just couldn’t brave the Heid-in-ator. So I spent a lot of time leaning on the chain-link fence gazing across the yard at the swing, and at the girl standing on her porch gazing at me.

Finally one day I’d had enough. Lucifer’s Lapdog or not, I was going to play with the FLHPF-child and, dang-it-all! ON the FLHPF swing! So I waited for my soon-to-be friend to come out of her house, and then nervously asked if I could come play. Her eyes brightened and she said yes. Huzzah! Step one undertaken!

Step two was to check the premises for any zombie-dogs of German herding heritage. I peered everywhere, asked my new friend to peer everywhere, but there was no sign of Heidi. This was going to work!

Gathering my chutzpa I clambered up the fence, gingerly crossing the dangerous wire-ends at the top, and cluttered down the other side. It was a bit of a feat because I had decided to make this little journey on a Sunday, right after church. This meant that I was wearing a dress and my cool man-shoes. Beneath all of that I secretly sported my devil-dog-repellant rhumba-undies. Remember rhumbas, all you who were  five year-old girls in the 1970’s? Little silky trunks that spoke to your ultra-feminine side by sporting row upon row of tiny piped ruffles that no one would ever see, but you’d know were there and so you’d feel ultra feminine? Which in the 1970’s meant powerful? Almost superhero-like? Yeah. I had those puppies on. And I had been ever so careful not to snag them on the fence. (Bear with me. There's a point to this description.)

Well, I got almost right up to the porch where my new friend waited, when suddenly from the bowels of Evil Dogdom streaked the freaky Shepherd. I swear that creature lurked in the wind. Heidi launched herself at me, snarling and slathering as if I had come to maim her mistress and steal the fine silver. I heard the first dog-shriek and my adrenals kicked in like the Olympic athlete I would never be. I didn't even think. Just turned and streaked in voiceless terror back to that fence with my little erstwhile friend on the patio wailing after her dumb dog, and the beast nipping at my heels.

Before you could say "Play Dead!", I had leapt to the top of the chain-links, taken half a second to balance myself, then dropped the rest of the distance to our side of the yard, even though it was a bit high for a kindergartener. My legs jarred, I rolled, then jumped up in triumph as I realized I had made it. Hah! I thought. Stupid dog didn’t get ME! Then I turned to look where Heidi was flailing and barking at me through the diamond-shaped holes in the fence.

I gaped, celebration melting into horror. There, hooked right where I had just made my leap, fluttering in the breeze, was the entire rhumba-ruffled back side of my underwear. Torn right off and hanging by its piping on one of the sharp points of the fence—like a little flag of dog-mockery. I had been unseated. By the First Lady’s Helicopter Pilot’s stinkin’ German Shepherd.

Did I learn something that day? Oh yeah. The grass may be greener on the other side of the fence, the swing-set higher, the playmate nicer, and the helicopter-pilot-dad cooler—but one’s rhumba-drawers are one’s pride. And no First Lady’s Pilot’s Family’s dumb dog is going to come between me and my pride!
(Not Devil Dog, but close. Can you see that killer-instinct in her eyes? Can you?)

Also, never own a German Shepherd named Heidi unless you're prepared to reimburse your neighbor's kid for damages. Something our current and future elected officials would do well to remember. I'm not really sure why. But I'm positive it will bring about world peace.
And that is all I'm going to say about that.
Please remember to vote. 

About Janiel 433 Articles
I have managed to keep the same husband for nearly three decades, and the same four children for almost that long - although one or two of them say it has been much longer. I have been writing since I learned to hold a pencil, and trying to make people laugh even longer. I hope to do some good in the world before I go the way of it. And if not, I'd better at least get to visit Ireland.


  1. I admit it. I laughed. I feel kind of guilty about that….because – truly! – how awful that must have been for your little self. Disappointment, terror and humiliation all in one fell swoop. Geez.

    • Honey, I laugh and laugh every time I think about my skivvies flapping from that fence top. It’s okay. I’m not emotionally scarred–although I appreciate your kind heart. 🙂 That dog was something else, I tell you. Sadly, we didn’t live in that house long enough for me to grow out of my fear of the slathering beast. And I’ll never forget Mrs. FLHPF’s kindness over my man-shoes.

  2. Hahahahahahhaha! Sorry, still rolling on the floor hahahahahahahha! Trying to muster up some sympathy for your poor little horrified self hahahahahhahaha! Sorry…got a little more rolling to do…hahahahaha!
    By the way, we were there too! (and you never told me THAT story!) We got to say goodbye to Nixon when he returned from China, which was slightly more triumphant than his impeachment trip. Also, while we were in Maryland, Dad got to fly Spiro Agnew around when his regular pilot was off duty. Does anyone even remember Spiro Agnew anymore? Yes! He was vice president!! You win the presidential historical retrospective to be written by your son for his next school assignment…hahahahahaha!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.