The Dogs of War

          Sweet, babyish and attention mongering. Lester Cannon has been showing Dobermans for nearly twenty years. "The Doberman is a dog that's going to be continuously under your foot," he says. "They're like an appendage. They attach themselves to you. If you go into the shower, and you forget to close the bathroom door, you've got a Doberman in the shower." Other owners say that the dogs understand people so well they recognize fashion--whimpering at the sight of lipstick, knowing that their owner is about to go out--and that they grasp the concept of loopholes, taking a "no sitting on the couch" directive as not including sitting on the couch with two feet on the floor.

          Peggy says that the dogs were intended to be smart and intimate from the beginning. "The whole idea of the Doberman breed was to have a companion and protector to the family. It was the idea of the Germans to have a dog that could be with the children and friendly, but would protect them if anyone tried to come into the home." Or if they encountered anyone who didn't want to pay their taxes.

          Ludwig Dobermann, the 19th-century German tax collector and animal shelter-keeper who developed the dogs to protect him on his rounds, would no doubt be delighted to see the success with which the Doberman satisfies Americans' craving for loyalty, style, and menace. He might be puzzled, however, by the site of these once-working animals sitting elegantly on carpets in a cocktail lounge. And heaven knows if he'd understand the vast amount of cultural implication that these shiny beasts unknowingly convey.

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