Acquired: Breeder (professional)
Posted May 15, 2014
When my mother and stepfather married, they knew they wanted to get a puppy. My mom spent many hours researching breeds and visited several local dog shows to get an idea of the best match for them. They chose the Belgian Tervuren.
Tervurens are known for their extreme intelligence, agility, and beauty. They look like large, really fluffy German Shepherds, and are frequently used as therapy and guide dogs for the disabled because they are so easily trained.
With those standards in mind, they went to a reputable breeder and let her know they were looking for a family dog that could do well in agility trials. What they got instead was Nikki, a very… special dog. He was an absolutely adorable ball of fluff chilling in a lawn chair watching his littermates learn agility, every now and then barking out cheers and encouragement. He didn’t really like to touch the grass, and wasn’t quite sure what his brothers and sisters were doing running around in circles, but thought it sure looked like fun. He was more interested in people than anything else. My parents fell instantly in love with him, and took him home that day.
Nikki has grown into a 70-pound version of his puppy self. He is a giant, sweet, and sort of dingy ball of fluff. He loves people more than anything else, although he is completely comfortable around other dogs and cats as well. He loves kids and meeting new people, but his favorite things are actually trucks and SUVs. He will actually bark and do a little happy dance whenever he passes one on his walks. He still hates grass, and has been known to tiptoe carefully around on the mulch edging the grass at the dog park rather than on the lawn itself.
He’s not quite so bright, although what he lacks in smarts he more than makes up for in sweetness. He learned his name, sort of, after a couple of years, but usually just kinds of tilts his head at you when you call him. He’s learned how to sit and lie down, but looks at you like you’re a little nuts for thinking these things are all that special when he does them. We’ve nicknamed him “Nine-Second Nikki,” as he seems to have the recall of a goldfish.
His thick coat is gorgeous, but a great deal of work. Without daily brushing, he mats easily, and in the summer has to be shaved almost bald to prevent the dense undercoat from matting up and stifling him.
Nikki also doesn’t exactly fit the guard dog mold typical of his breed. My parents once had the police come to their house after misdialing 911. The doorbell rang and when they opened it, they saw Nikki happily sitting on the foot of his new friend – the armed and sturdy female patrol officer – nuzzling her leg and licking her gun holster. They complimented my parents on their choice of fierce guard dog. I’ve heard them described as standoffish with strangers. Nikki’s groomers love him because he doesn’t stay in his crate while waiting to be picked up, instead standing up at the counter and greeting each customer as they walk though the door.
He’s been relatively healthy, although he has inherited the Tervuren tendency toward seizures. He’s had several with no known cause, although he has recovered quickly and shown no ill effects from them. He’s just about ten now, but aside from some gray in his muzzle and a little slowness when he plays, you’d never guess it. He still runs around chasing his toys and running after treats (he wants you to throw them rather than hand them to him). And he’s definitely still “special.”