Saving GSD Layla

Delegating certain critical household chores to the children can result in the most unforeseen long-term consequences.


Firstly what GSD Layla is not? It is not the second in the series of Stephen Spielberg’s classic movie, Saving Private Ryan nor is it a new military rank. Finally just to cover all bases, it is not a new class of American warship to join the two new classes, being the Ronald Reagan and the George Bush, in the American military arsenal.

In reality, GSD Layla is the new class of Security Watch Dog, or SWD in Security parlance that the McCleland household has elected to deploy after the demise of the following classes of watchdog viz the pure black Belgium Shepherd, and the pure white Swiss Shepherd. By demise I mean death as in their dotage, superannuation, by old age if you must, and not death by firing squad or KIA. It is much more prosaic than that.

Who would suspect that this angel would become the bane of the McCleland's lives

Who would suspect that this angel would become the bane of the McCleland’s lives

After Sheeka died at age thirteen under anaesthetic when bones got stuck in her stomach, what remaining security measures did the McCleland household have to protect themselves in the new South Africa: high walls, electric fencing, anti-intruder beams, panic buttons linked to ADT Security and a well-trained personal guard called Dean “I can run away faster than the thugs” McCleland.

For some unknown reason, Janine heavily discounted the effectiveness of the latter security measure. She also did not rate the competencies of our two yappers, a Maltese and a 3kg Yorkshire terrier, no bigger than an overgrown rat, in this department. Their deterrence factor was more in the affection stakes and not in the industrial strength guarding aspect.

The sleep of the innocent soon to be terror

The sleep of the innocent soon to be terror

The alternatives

Despite all the aforementioned security measures, Janine still felt insecure being alone in the house all day. My suggestion of a mornings-only live-in boyfriend was also summarily rejected. Personally I rated it as one of my better decisions but Janine did not concur. I foresaw a dual role for this person. While guarding Janine they could also provide the occasional service and as a bonus, some TLC. I figured that like burning off carbon deposited in my car’s engine, it would serve a similar purpose.

Why don’t females appreciate these vehicle analogues, I will never understand? I also assume that she did not appreciate my perfectly sensible suggestion as she set the yappers on me and klapped me across the earhole. My ear is still ringing as I type this, two months later. I presume that it is something that I said.

Layla #4

After the death of Sheeka, the pure white Swiss Shepherd, what Janine wanted was a proper guard dog, something that would protect her with their life.

Who better to select the perfect SWD but my son, a 23 year old who still knows it all? As an aside, an amazing change occurs to children at age 15. Suddenly they know everything and that their parents are a bunch of dummies. Well, I have news for him. At 25, he will suddenly realise that he knows nothing again. Amazing isn’t it.

The legal requirements conundrum

How was Gavin nominated to select this prize specimen of a guard dog? Well, as you know, all duties and responsibilities in the McCleland marriage are defined in terms of the special contract drawn up between us at our nuptials entitled The Marital Duties and Responsibilities Contract.

Layla #5

The acquisition of animals falls surprisingly under the section entitled Animals. At this point I was still compos mentis but then the Contract drafted by a lawyer’s devious mind states “pursuant to the conditions hereunder, the following situations are thus defined”, I became confused.

Like all legal minds, complicated words are used to as a subterfuge to confuse the layman. One of sub-clauses pursuant thereof relates to the Acquisition of Animals. Why was a simpler non-discombobulating word like Purchase or merely Buy not used instead, as I have paroxysms of apoplexy when trying to decipher such long words? To some extent I can understand, but it goes further than that.

Layla #6

It has two further sub-sub-clauses entitled Domestic and Domesticated and finally Livestock. Here I must take issue with the legal drafters of this contract as all Legal Documents must take into account all eventualities. What was ignored was the possibility that the McCleland household might adopt Confucianism as a religion at some future date. What could happen in that eventuality – albeit highly unlikely – is that our cats and dogs miraculously overnight are transformed into livestock. You see; the lawyer who drafted this Contract, that is me, should be sued for non-performance in that he never applied his mind properly.

Fortunately the said clause, once it is tracked down, strictly indicates that this duty shall fall to the female party. Again I must object. Why not state Janine by name as she is the female party to the marriage or maybe there was some indecision as to this status. Hence in the unlikely event that Janine was male and I was female, the Contract nebulously states the male party pursuant of this contract and likewise the female party pursuant of this contract. Covering all bases, I guess.

With the legal formalities having been resolved and Janine being established as the responsible person, she duly nominated Gavin to perform the task of selecting a suitable guard dog.

Layla had to be muzzled after she almost killed our Maltese

Layla had to be muzzled after she almost killed our Maltese

Subsequently, I have established that apparently he did not employ any of the generally accepted criteria in this regard: the breed, their age, whether they have been weaned, their pedigree et al. His sole test of acceptability was the cuteness factor. In my understanding, but again I might have got it wrong as Janine is wont to tell me, I am not well versed in the latest security criteria but I fail to understand how cuteness would deter a determined thug intent on pillaging our house?

Please assist me in this regard in case I have missed something.

The result

The result was Layla, a barely weaned GSD. Again an aspect of the acquisition was performed under false pretensions; Layla was purchased while I was out jogging on a Saturday morning. On returning from my run, I first have to recover by having a nap. By the time that I surfaced, the puppy had bonded to the rest of the family. I was stuck even though this was a dud.

Firing blanks is one thing but having a soppy guard dog was not what was required as a SWD. But Janine was under its spell already and by the time that I walked through to confront her about Layla and her unsuitability, Janine had become so attached and enamoured with the dog that she conveniently forgot the strict criterion that she herself had set.

Layla #8
Instead of a guard dog, the McCleland household now had another house dog that could sleep on Janine’s bed as I was banished to the dog-box which I was assured was comfortable. Even paying all the household expenses did not count for much in deciding sleeping accommodation because apparently another section of the martial contract covers that too. But that is a story for another day.

Being trained as a house-bed-couch-yap-lap dog, what did Layla grown into?

You guessed it.

A house-bed-couch-yap-lap dog!

At 3kgs, that is what I expect Izzy, the Yorkshire terrier, to be, but not a huge 25kg German Shepherd Dog.

Enter the Dog Behaviourist

The McCleland household clearly had a problem: an out-of-control Alsatian that was under the mistaken belief that it was the boss in the house and akin to a 3kg lap dog to boot.

Layla #9

On consulting some friends like Nigel who know these things, he peremptorily informed me that unlike the Old South Africa, I could not beat the living cr*p out of my dog with a piece of hosepipe. Even more surprisingly, he told me that legislation now also prevents that type of punishment being inflicted on children. I could understand that but when I was informed that it also applied to one’s own children, I was aghast. Surely one is able to beat one’s own children to a pulp? I was appalled. What harm would forty lashes of a hose pipe cause? Maybe some raw welts and bleeding but nothing too serious that any child in their formative years would not appreciate in retrospect fifty years later?

I was on a steep, almost vertical learning curve. Without the hose pipe how could one discipline reprobate kids and animals?

The first solution, a cheap R500 course on Puppy Socialisation! That would do the trick I was reliably informed by the rather cute Puppy School saleswoman.

Great, problem resolved.

No, it wasn’t.

After six weeks of puppy school, she was bottom of the class. She is rated as passive aggressive. Ostensibly scared of her class mates, she cowered even for 3kg so-called stoep kakkertjies. But with their backs averted, she would attack; a coward in every respect.

Layla #10


The Puppy School had the perfect solution. The answer was a R1000 course of Obedience Training which would establish the McCleland’s as dominant, the bosses.

At Obedience School even the least diligent and intelligent breeds of dog, easily outclassed Layla. In not being able to focus, she could never learn.

I cut off a metre of hose pipe. I would donder her till she understood that she must listen to us. Alesha calmly informed me that that would scar Layla for life.

My defence that she was scared for life anyway seemed to carry no weight. What was the difference from being scared by being sold too young or being beaten by a hose pipe?

Alesha failed to inform me what the difference was.

So we persevered with puppy school!

Then she bit Zaggy, the Maltese Poodle, on the neck. It was so severe that he required stiches.

Layla #12

Compounding this was the realisation that Layla would get an F for Fail when she tried to graduate. So sterner measures were required.

I got the sharpest knife out and proceeded to cut two metres off the hosepipe.

“No daddy,” Alesha pleaded, “that is so old-fashioned”.

Again that word “old-fashioned.”

Why was she so insistent that wirelesses and drive-ins were “old fashioned” along with my LPs and cassettes?


“She has to learn right from wrong,” Alesha tried again

“Let’s give the hose-pipe a chance to work before you try something else,” I tried.

“NO, DADDY NO,” she exclaimed

“No violence”

“OK. What and how much?” I grovelled

“The Dog Behaviourist and it will cost thousands”

“YES. Thousands. But isn’t it worth it for Layla?”

Layla on her R250 per hour walk with the Dog Behaviourist

Layla on her R250 per hour walk with the Dog Behaviourist

The answer, call Cesar Milan from DStv!

No, the local Dog Behaviourist who works for the puppy school!

The cute sexy saleswoman was back at the McCleland house. Her solution, a tough-love regimen would ameliorate the worst aspects in her nature but she was a “totally flawed” dog because one of the key periods of puppy development, the period 5 to 8 weeks within the litter, which did not occur

And if that does not work?

Well you know what my alternative is.

Layla at Mugg & Bean with Alesha

Layla at Mugg & Bean with Alesha


GSD = German Shepherd Dog


The persons mentioned in this article bear no resemblance to persons either living, dead or yet to be born. In the unlikely event that they bear any resemblance to living persons, there was merely a coincidence. However the dog referred to does bear more than a passing resemblance to a German Shepherd Dog currently residing at its owner’s leisure in Wilhelmina Street, Constantia Kloof.



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