To say these are unprecedented times is a gross understatment. I've never in my lifetime experienced a global pandemic with such close impact, and hopefully, COVID-19 will be my last. As I type these words, the realization that we in the U.S. are not even four months into this pandemic is, sobering, to say the least. I'm a pharmacist, and a blessed one at that. Though I work on the "front lines" of this viral attack, I'm filled with gratitude, for many reasons-living in Montana for example-and it occurs to me that there are tens of thousands more people that have a much more temultuous experience through COVID than I do. It has been a revelation to me, however, to see how quickly the world has succumbed to this pandemic--frankly, there a far more virulent and world ending pathogens that could have occurred. And yet at the hand of this simple virus, that in my estimation will be less than one percent fatal when all is accounted for, I've encountered more fear on every level of humanity than I have ever seen before. We live in what I truly believe to be the most blessed country in the world, and still we find ourselves now humbly admitting that we are not in control--it is, at best, an illusion. Global disease, economies withering faster than trillion dollar stimulus checks can prop us up, and partisan divides in the "united" states on deeper levels than there has ever been. Our land of promise has become a land given to fear. For me, there are things that bring me peace. My faith for one. My family. My beautiful, socially isolated state. And...my German Shepherds.
The reality is, fear isn't going anywhere. There is no measure of security or infrastructure that any government, online shopping platform, doctor's office, medication, supply chain, police force or any other first world provision can provide you that will keep you 100% safe. All we can do is temper our risk. And so we build our walls, buy our guns, join our neighborhood watch, or as in the case of Montana, move there to separate ourselves from the more "dangerous" urban areas (Our real estate market has gone crazy during COVID). So I'll pacify the marketer in me, and give you a few reasons why now is actually the best time to own a German Shepherd, and follow it up with a personal testimony of why I will never, ever choose another breed to love and protect my family.
SECURITY SYSTEMS FAIL
Human nature is given to fear, and COVID has brought it to our view. Security system wires can be cut or operator error can render an entire network obsolete. Masks can be worn and identities covered. Cameras catch limited angles. An 1/8th inch piece of window glass separates you from a potential intruder, and systems designed to keep you and your loved ones safe can be bypassed with relative ease.
GUNS AREN'T THE BEST OPTION
In a well-trained hand, a firearm will certainly deter most intrusions-with some basic assumptions in place. First, you assume that the intruder is detected. Second, that the firearm is readily accessible and loaded (not the case for many families with small children). Third, the firearm is clean and failure to fire risk has been minimized. Fourth, that you have enough time to secure, ready, and utilize the weapon, prior to someone who likely has the element of surprise is able to inflict harm. With all these assumptions in place, you then take the liability upon yourself to properly disengage a potential assailant, a liability that only the highly trained should have. In fact, many states (i.e. California, Oregon, etc.) have laws that PROTECT an intruder from harm from a self defense weapon. So regardless, you may in fact be penalized by the law in trying to protect your own home.
LAW ENFORCEMENT IS BEST, BUT ARE THEY AVAILABLE?
Obviously, in an emergent situation, law enforcement personal should be activated to assist you in a home intrusion situation as soon as possible. They are the best equipped to handle these issues. But this takes time, time that you may not have. In our rural area, we have four sheriff deputies during the night hours for a valley area that is nearly 90 miles long, and 10 miles wide. In an urban area, traffic or other factors can delay help. Waiting for help to arrive may cost you or your loved ones dearly.
SO, WHY A DOG? THIS IS OUR STORY.
It was a cool, pitch black night in our suburban two story we had just purchased. We had a late night church service, and had just made it home. My two older kids made their way upstairs, and retired for the night. My wife went into our bedroom to get ready for bed and our oldest foster child made her way to her room to read for awhile. I had to unpack some items into the garage, and my youngest, 2 at the time, adamently refused sleep and insisted on helping Daddy. I carried a load to the detached garage, and my little daughter kindly closed the gate to our fenced yard behind me. I worked at putting stuff away quickly, ignoring the cold and the tugging child at my leg. Then I head a man's voice. I turned around quickly, startled, and found a large framed, intimidating man (I'm 6' 3" , 250 lbs) in my garage doorway. He didn't look right. I squeezed my daughter against my leg, and asked him if I could help him. The man proceeded to ask me if I had any "shards," a term I later was told was in refernece to meth crystals. Having a pharmacology background, I could tell this man was under drug influence. I knew, deep down, this situation could be very dangerous. My Glock was sitting on my nightstand, locked, 60 yards away. I was unarmed and ill equipped, with a loved one to potentially protect. Fortunately, I was able to talk the man out of my yard. Authorities told me later that night I was fortunate, as the man, a neighbor, had an extensive criminal record.
It was then that my wife founded Vom Berk Haus Shepherds. Born from real experience. We got a sable german shepherd male shortly thereafter...Blitz...broad head, deep bark, intimidating black pigmentation and an extreme muscular build. He was the second german shepherd we owned, and the first that we had purchased as a security measure. He was terrific, excelling as a family companion that sincerely loved my kids, but offering us a measure of security as well. Security that another system couldn't provide. Blitz would sleep on our front porch, and he would always let us know when our not so friendly neighbor was active. A deep alert bark faithfully signaled to me that I needed to be aware. There were even a few times this man approached my gate, and my faithful Shepherd, who knew the man's sketchy demeanor, made sure he didn't get too close. Blitz ended up being more than man's best friend to me, he ended up being a canine I entrusted my entire family to. Currently, Blitz is finishing off his days as a police canine, doing what he was bred to do.
Dogs don't have the same weaknesses other security options do. They stay alert, with keen senses and an uncanny ability to determine ill intent. Their training and genetics can search and detect where no one else can. A protection canine, just visually, has been noted by the Department of Justice as being a "significant deterrent." They can independently and accurately analyze threats, and neutralize accordingly. Obviously, things like staying fresh on training and appropriate handler and family bonding play an important role here.
I'm not one to say that a canine is your 100% guarantee of safety. Lets be real, nothing is. But simply put, a protection dog will provide a level of security that other systems can't. So, build your fences, and install cameras or other security devices, and take whatever measures you deem appopriate to keep your family safe in the most trying of times, but consider what a protection dog can be. Companionship, loyalty, and a fierce defender of what you love. That's what Blitz has been for me, and I hope your next canine is all of that for you and yours. Stay safe.
With warm regards,
Dan Berk, PharmD.