by Beth Clifton
Listening to our friend Ann Marie Rogers describe how two family Rottweilers on September 2, 2021 killed her mother, Sally Fredrica Rogers, 91, was among my most emotionally troubling hours in a lifetime as former police officer, animal control officer, and vet tech; animal rescuer; and now as ANIMALS 24-7 co-editor whose work often includes hearing out the traumatized survivors of dog attacks.
Like Ann Marie Rogers, I have worked for many years to prevent dog attacks, especially by trying to dissuade people from acquiring––or keeping––dogs of known dangerous traits and troubling behavior.
Also like Ann Marie Rogers, I have known the frustration of not being listened to, even by close relatives and friends, who allow their attraction to problematic dogs overcome their good sense.
Ann Marie Rogers tried desperately to discourage her sister Susan Rogers from keeping a succession of Rottweilers in proximity to the Rogers sisters’ mom, Sally Fredrica Rogers.
But neither Susan Rogers nor Sally Fredrica Rogers, who stood just 4’11” and suffered from memory impairment and other conditions of age, ever believed one of their beloved Rottweilers could turn killer––until a neutered 18-month-old male named Ben, and possibly also his spayed sister Wren, suddenly did.
I have had four family Rottweilers in my life, from my teens until well into adulthood, and while raising my children.
The dogs’ names were Albert, Duke, Sam and Max. Three of the four were meticulously sought from reputable breeders as weaned puppies, and were cute as “all get out,” resembling furry little black cuddly bears.
My first Rottweiler was acquired by my father in the mid 1970s. I remember my dad hooking Albert up to a cart he bought just for him. At the time I did not see the purpose of this, but looking back, my dad may have been intrigued with the idea of Rottweilers being used to pull delivery carts in Germany, where Rottweilers originated.
My dad was a veteran of World War II and the Korean War, and may have seen dog carts used in both theaters. His parents, my grandparents, came from eastern Europe, where they almost certainly saw cart-pulling dogs at work, some of whom may have been Rottweilers.
Perhaps my dad identified with Rottweilers’ history.
Albert was my father’s second dog of his own as an adult. Our German shepherd Captain was his first. I think I see a common theme in his choice of dogs. Yet I also remember my dad swearing off the Volkswagen as an alleged Nazi car that no good Jew should buy!
I did not necessarily agree or understand, but my grandparents had been uprooted and emigrated to the U.S. via Ellis Island by anti-Jewish pogroms in several different nations of eastern Europe, and undoubtedly left relatives behind who were exterminated by the Nazis.
I call Albert “Exhibit A.” Don’t get me wrong; I loved Albert, but there was never a dull moment with him, and I can attest that all of the Rotties in my life were problematic and downright dangerous.
Albert, after we had him for almost a year, was found walking down our road in Kendall, Florida. Nearing maturity and developing the urge to wander, Albert had apparently escaped from our home.
My mom posted flyers and sure enough, someone finally came forward to return Albert. Unfortunately, Albert in the few weeks after he was found tore up the finders’ apartment, and they were holding him for ransom if my dad didn’t give them reparations to the tune of $1,000.
I laugh at the thought! My dad was a lawyer and they didn’t know who they were dealing with. They returned him unharmed and probably were glad to be rid of him.
I was a teenager and didn’t pay much attention to Albert’s exploits, but he was a resource-guarder extraordinaire and the sounds he uttered made you believe him.
That was not our only difficulty with him.
One day, as I was resting after a full, tiring day in the police academy, while training for my first of several careers that prepared me for my work here at ANIMALS 24-7, I heard my mom scream for my help. Albert had jumped or fallen off the seawall of our home and into Biscayne Bay.
I was in jeans and jumped in after him. Keeping his head above water was dangerous, yet was the easy part. How do you get a 90-pound dog out of Biscayne Bay at low tide? Answer: a very nice boater who happened to witness the whole incident.
The sounds of hell
Duke and Max came somewhat later, as did a stray Rottie named Sam who killed my African gray parrot, also named Sam. (By the way, my dad’s name was Sam.)
Other police officers recommended Rottweilers. They believed Rottweilers were stable, reliable dogs who could effectively protect a family home. None of us fully realized then that Rottweilers are high-risk dogs, and may menace family members as well as intruders.
Duke and Max were horrible resource-guarders, including guarding socks and underwear. You just didn’t even bother to pick these items up or Duke and Max would emit the sounds of hell.
I cringe now at the chances I unknowingly took with my three children. That said, none of our Rottweilers ever hurt my children as youngsters. Raised from 8-week-old puppies in a loving home, they were indeed protective.
Chased away bad guys
Duke on two occasions chased intruders from my home.
One intruder was siphoning gas from my car when I returned home from walking my daughter in her stroller. He was caught in the act. Duke was leashed, but he just knew the guy was dirty! I yelled at the guy to get the hell off my property and Duke put in his two cents’ worth. The guy ran away.
On another occasion I was asleep and pregnant with my daughter when I awakened to Duke trying to break through the sliding glass door. Then I heard footsteps running through my yard.
But killed & injured other animals
Max exhibited the most dangerous behavior. He had all the qualities of our other Rottweilers, but perhaps had more chances to screw up.
For example, the children next door loved visiting me and my animals. Back then I had horses, a donkey, a mini zebu cow, goats, and a llama.
I was out of town, but not knowing that, the children brought their new kitten over to show me. Max jumped up, ripped the kitten out of their arms, and killed her right in front of the children.
Max also took one of the lips off my llama, requiring emergency vet care, killed rats and ducks, and frankly I soon had enough of the essence of Rottweiler! I didn’t choose to have any of these dogs! I just was tacit in their acquisition.
When Duke, at eight years old and suffering from hip dysplasia, snapped at my then three-year-old son, just missing his eye, I demanded that Duke be taken for euthanasia right then and there, which of course I was never forgiven for doing.
Rottweilers compared to Dachshunds
My other set of grandparents, on my mom’s side of the family, were all about Dachshunds. They had three or maybe four through the years, all with the name Hansi, short for Hansel. All were biters and all bit the hands who fed them, yet were not likely to maul and kill.
I loved them just the same. I love all animals. There are just some who are not well-suited to life as pets.
Did I love and care about the Rottweilers in my life? Yes! It is my nature to love and care.
But having loved and cared about all of them, Albert, Duke, Sam, and Max, I believe that keeping a Rottweiler is not worth the risk, trials, and tribulations that come with the dog.
(See also Why pit bulls will break your heart, by Beth Clifton.)