by Brother Peter
She came from the motherland, Germany, and what a fine specimen she was. Tollie, a purebred German Shepherd, was purchased from a reputable kennel by the Monks of New Skete to become one of our widely known, well-bred German Shepherds. Upon Tollie’s arrival, I was asked to be her handler. Fortunately, although I had been diagnosed with an allergy to dogs when I was 10 years old, years of allergy shots enabled me to work with dogs by the time I reached the age of 25.
Tollie had already received obedience training in Germany, and she understood her commands only in the German language. I had studied German in high school, so I quickly took to administering her commands, such as bleib/stay, com/come, and absleggen/by my side. What a delightfully gregarious dog Tollie was. Whenever she saw people, her tail would go a-wagging! She became a great greeter at the monastery’s front door. She was so obedient; she would promptly lie down when I gave that command, and when I said “blieb” she would be careful not to get under people’s feet.
Tollie had a German Shepherd friend here named Bella. The two were sidekicks. One day they traveled together an entire mile down our lane, romping and investigating the hillside. They swam in a pond and found a porcupine—OUCH!
Tollie traveled to Germany to be bred with another German Shepherd. She gave birth to eight puppies, and she and her pups spent many weeks in the birthing room, which had a Dutch door to keep Bella out. One day when I went to get feed for mother and pups, I noticed that Bella was no longer in the hallway. She had disobeyed my command to “downstay” and somehow snuck in to visit Tollie when I came out. Any other mama dog would have chased the intruder out of that space and protected her pups—but this was Tollie’s friend Bella.
The time eventually came for Tollie at age 7 to leave New Skete, and it was up to me to find her a loving new home. We received a call from a senior citizen, Betty, who was looking for a companion dog. So off Tollie went to Massachusetts with Betty. One condition of Tollie’s sale was that if Betty could no longer keep her, she must be returned to the monastery.
One year later Betty died, so Tollie returned to me—and she jumped with joy at seeing me!
Months later another call came in for a spayed German Shepherd. A family with five daughters needed a guardian dog, so Tollie now moved into this large family, where she had her very own doggie door to go through each day so she could greet the girls at the school bus. She was well loved, and lived with them for another 8 years, giving her a long life of 16 years in all—an anomaly for that breed.
How I miss Tollie!