This man’s love affair with German Shepherds started as a baby—when his loyal GSD saved his life.
Back in the early ’40s, Herb Ascherman’s family lived in a three-room apartment in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His mother had a German Shepherd Dog, The Countess of Carlisle (or “Tessy” for short), who would keep her company while her husband, a student at Harvard Law School, was studying or working. When young Herb was born, Tessy became his companion—and later his savior.
The Ascherman house has a cellar with a steep set of wooden stairs with no railing that led to a concrete floor. The house’s main rule: Shut the cellar door. But one day, his father went downstairs and left the door ajar.
“I was 18 months old. My mother was in the bedroom and heard me screaming. Her first vision was the door to the basement open. Then she saw me standing up at the top of the stairs, screaming, waving my hands. Across the doorway to the cellar, Tessy was stretched out, blocking me from passing. I had wanted to go to see my daddy—and if it hadn’t been for my dog and her foresight, I wouldn’t be here now to tell this story. There’s no way any baby would have survived that fall.”
It would be decades later until Ascherman once again got to share his home with a German Shepherd. For years, he lived with Poodles because his first and second wives were allergic to dogs. But three years ago, a floppy-eared puppy came into his life. He and his current wife, Colleen, went to a breeder to see about a German Shepherd puppy. They picked up one up out of the pen, and seemed taken with it. “You don’t want that one,” the breeder said. “His ear flops.”
His wife then went outside, where a large German Shepherd ran up to her “at a full gallop,” Ascherman says. Colleen stood her ground in front of the large dog. “He looked at her, cocked his head, and picked up his ‘yuck ball,’” explains Ascherman, referring to that icky, old tennis ball all dogs seem to have and favor. The dog spit the ball at her, and for the first time in her life, she played fetched with a German Shepherd. As it turned out, that dog was the father of the puppy the couple so dearly wanted.
Unfortunately, they were last in line—eight of eight—to pick a puppy from the litter. Two weeks later, they got a call from the breeder. “You have the dog you wanted,” she told Ascherman.
Ascherman says he was elated—that puppy was meant to be their dog.
As he was filling out his AKC paperwork, he asked the breeder, “How did we get so lucky?”
She looked at him from the side of her eye: “You had a lot of help.”
It’s been three years since that breeder persuaded the seven other buyers away from that floppy-eared puppy. He’s now named Leica after a 35mm camera (Ascherman is a well-respected professional photographer) and is all the GSD he remembers his first dog nanny to be.
“He is the light of my life,” he says.
h/t to Cleveland.com and reporter Linda Kinsey who first reported this story and connected us with Mr. Ascherman
Photo by Ryan Durdella. Used with permission.