GERMAN SHEPHERDS, Best Dogs in the World!

By John Michael Ricci, October 21, 2014
Estimated Reading Time = 4 min, 4 sec

Full disclosure, German Shepherds are the greatest dogs that have ever existed, exist, or will ever exist. All other dogs follow German Shepherds in any other order anyone cares to place them, although minor exceptions do exist. I will include Belgian Shepherds! And possibly even the shorter haired Dutch Shepherd, but that would begin to stretch things for me. Belgian Shepherds are gorgeous, almost identical to their German cousins and I would consider one for my next dog. In any event, you may find my review biased towards German Shepherds… (Although I loved my Aunt and Uncle’s Greyhounds and Norwegian Elkhounds and if German Shepherds are not the right dog for you, I’d look at these breeds). There are only a few dog breeds I would recommend against, but I won’t name them because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings and I do love dogs. However, someone will have to pay me a lot of money to own the three breeds I am thinking of!

Belgian Sheperd

Belgian Shepherd

My love for German Shepherds began at an early age, around six or seven when I started watching “Hogan’s Heroes” believe it or not. These dogs and their role immediately fascinated me. I thought they were striking, simply beautiful – what a dog should look like compared to all the other dogs I had seen up to that point. The idea that they were “guard dogs” intrigued me, at that age I wasn’t sure how, but I knew that they must have had some type of skill or intelligence other dogs didn’t have.

We never had dogs in our household; my father did not like them. To this day, I question the character of anyone who dislikes dogs – not wanting to own one is one thing, not liking man’s best friend, to me, is borderline disturbing.

White German Shepherd

White German Shepherd

So, it wasn’t until I graduated from college that me and my long-time girlfriend bought a beautiful all white, pure-bread, German Shepherd puppy from a pet store at a local mall south of Boston. All white with the exception of his nose, which was black, and the pads on his feet, also black. He was the cutest little fur-ball either one of us had ever seen, and “no” simply was not an option. It was 1987 and although I was not thrilled about the pet store or the hefty sum they wanted, we could not resist. We named our male six-month old German Shepherd puppy Beowulf, Beo (pronounced “Bay-yo”) shortly after we returned to the two-family home my girlfriend’s father had recently bought for her.

About a month after we bought Beo, he became ill. Extremely ill. My fears about this particular pet store (the kind you no longer see for the most part) came true. Luckily, I had used American Express to purchase our puppy and I was able to place it all into a dispute. The good news is that we were able to get all of our money refunded through the American Express dispute process.

Since Boston had one of the best veterinary hospitals in the world, we were able to save Beo (I cannot remember what from) and after a two week stay in their ICU (and approximately 1500 of 1987 dollars from a recent college grad, thank you very much!) we got him back, happy and healthy. For a good long time, as far as I know… you see, I cannot be sure because a few years later my long-term girlfriend broke up with me (out of the blue!) and she kept Beo as I went off to law school. It was all very sad.

Can you count all the lessons here? I can! Nonetheless, I did the right thing – by Beo and by my ex-girlfriend. Beo was a great dog and if you are going to own a dog, you’ve got to be prepared to go all out and do anything necessary to take care of it.

With German Shepherds in particular, be prepared for an active, high-energy dog. They need a lot of attention and a lot of exercise. These dogs are loyal, highly intelligent, and protective… so you need to be careful with them. Each individual dog is different, some are more protective than others are, so if yours is aggressive please keep it leashed and do not let it bite anyone! Alternatively, have a lawyer hired before you go out in public, and set aside a large sum of money to pay-off winner(s) of lawsuit(s).

German Shepherd

German Shepherd

German Shepherds bark, so if barking is annoying to you, you might not like the idea of owning one. They’ll bark at people coming to your door, people walking down your street, people walking past your car… basically anyone or anything that concerns them. Once you say it’s okay, they will generally calm down. Again, individual dogs differ. If left outside in a kennel, some German Shepherds will bark non-stop, as Beo did, so what about neighbors? Hmmm.

If you get a German Shepherd at a young age, under a year – but even better around seven to nine months, you’ll have a puppy that will grow into your family, whatever that happens to be. You can have chickens, kittens, cats, dogs, puppies, children, babies, horses, elephants, and giraffes (as far as I know), virtually anything, and this beautiful puppy will mature into a dog that will love and protect all of you for many years. He or she will be incredibly gentle with even the most fragile little baby – I have seen this myself. (I’m assuming a VERY protective parent that is overseeing this VERY carefully and only allowing the puppy to sniff the little gal or guy for a few seconds at a time over a period of months – as the two grow – and nothing more than this!) Moreover, at all times use your brains! German Shepherds are dogs, right? Occasionally, dogs (like people) go haywire… their brains malfunction and they do something uncharacteristic of their breed or even of their individual nature. So a German Shepherd puppy or dog should NEVER be left alone with a baby, infant, toddler… need I go on? Do I really need to write this!

I owned two German Shepherds. One was white, the other had traditional coloring. They were both wonderful family members. I highly recommend this breed. If you plan to get one, please know what you are getting into. They are awesome; they will give you and yours SO much. However, they have needs too – like any other pet. Their health, physical and emotional, must be of primary concern at all times. German Shepherds are very smart dogs; they know when they are being cared for and like most dogs (maybe a bit more so) they know if they are loved and being loved. In the end, you will always get much more than they ask for.

Use the Internet, do your homework, and best of luck…

Boston John

Not One, But Two African Grey Parrots!

When my son was five years old, I made the decision to buy us an African Grey parrot. We frequented pet shops together and ran across a pair of them at a high-end pet store in a suburb of Boston. The two were brothers and I hated to separate them, but the owner of the store assured me they would be fine. Two weeks later, I was back to reunite the pair.

African Greys are thought to be among the most intelligent of all birds. I’ve always been fascinated by parrots and my son and I were thrilled to have this pair. We (I) named them Larry and Magic (after Larry Bird and Magic Johnson of course) and we did have a great deal of fun with them. They had unique personalities… Larry was very mellow, much easier to handle, and less likely to give a quick bite to let anyone holding him know he wasn’t pleased with something. Magic, on the other hand, was always trying to talk (and did manage to say “hello” and “dirty bird” among a few other things) but never really enjoyed being handled, which we quickly learned to respect. Larry more than made up for it – he really came to love being held!

African Grey

African Grey

If you are deciding to get an African Grey, I’d advise you to buy one that is young. Larry and Magic were both about a year old, and a year old or younger is ideal. It is best to know the bird is old enough to be healthy on its own, but young enough still to adjust to be handled by its new family and its new environment.

Another consideration, a big one, is that African Greys (parrots in general) are dirty birds! They require constant cleanup! This means daily cleanup of their cage, their droppings, and the seeds they throw all over the place – this is virtually a non-stop job. If you are not ready to do this, do not get this animal! And two birds almost triples this chore because they seem to encourage each other to “play” with their food rather than their toys. The only time African Greys relax is at night, when their cage is covered and they sleep, so be ready for an active pet that needs a lot of attention.

African Grey Head Shot

African Grey Head Shot

Last, but not least, is that African Greys are fragile (as are all birds). My son and I found that out, to our heartbreak, only after owning them for a couple of years. While they can live for decades, if they contract any number of bird diseases from parasites, if not caught in time – there is nothing a veterinarian can do. Unfortunately, if one bird catches it and you have two, it passes on almost instantaneously. So we lost Larry and Magic very quickly and we were both pretty upset about that. That is a part of owning pets, a lesson we all learn. Six months later, we had a German Shepherd and a new adventure began.

Best of luck with your decision, do your homework…

Boston John

The Red-Tail Boa: To Own or Not to Own

If you are in the market for an exotic pet… more specifically a larger snake that happens to constrict its meals, then the red-tail boa constrictor is the snake for you. Before you buy any pet, and especially an exotic pet, it is so important that you do your homework! With the Internet and so many resources available today, there is no excuse for potential pet owners to make informed decisions that are in their best interests, as well as the animals.
There are obvious considerations such as size. Adult females (in captivity) can exceed twelve feet in length and weigh nearly 100 pounds. At this size, a baby or small child can be mistaken for food. In my opinion, owning anything that can remotely pose a risk to a baby or child is stupid – and that is all I care to say about that.
In the right circumstances however, a red-tailed boa makes for a wonderful pet! I was in college when my roommate, Jim, and I decided to get one while taking a class in herpetology. We thought this was the way to really understand reptiles. We named him Meszoly, after our professor, and he was about thirteen inches long when we bought him from a pet store in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Meszoly was fantastic as a pet for the entire time we had him. Mind you, this was in a college setting, with many people coming and going, parties going on, etc., and many different people asking to hold him. Meszoly, in virtually every situation, inside and outside, quiet and loud – never showed any sign of getting ready to bite someone! This, for the five years we had him, with his five and a half feet length and twenty-five pound weight. I came to believe he enjoyed all of the attention he received.

Red-Tail Boa

Red-Tail Boa

Like any other pet, red-tail boas come with responsibilities. This is something to consider when looking at that cute little ten-inch snake through the pane of glass. Soon, it will be a four-foot eating machine (well, once a month or so) that will need a rat or two! Where will you get your rats? From a pet store? Jim and I did that until we decided we were making too many trips… so we created a mouse-making factory in one of our larger closets. It worked just fine, too fine; we had hundreds of mice together with hundreds of mice smell and mice sounds and mice cages that needed mice cleanup. Ugh!
In the end, it was all worth it. One of the reasons was because Jim and I shared responsibilities. When we graduated from college in 1986, Jim’s mom happily took Meszoly into her home, which was great and funny because Meszoly had a good five inches on her! At eight feet, Meszoly made it to one of the local zoos, happy and healthy.
I think red-tailed boa constrictors are fantastic snakes. Of all the constrictors, in my experience, they are least likely to bite (constrictors are not poisonous, but larger animal bites DO hurt!). Red-tail boas are beautiful, with distinctive coloring. One more thing: I’d choose a boa (of any kind) over a python, every single time! I’ve found pythons to be more aggressive (meaning they are much more likely to strike and bite) and in general less friendly than boas. If you ever get the chance, look into a python’s eyes and tell me you trust that snake!

Best of luck, Boston John

Ferret is the Proper Name for this Mammal!

Synonyms for ferret are raid, pillage, and siege… and these are perfect for this exotic mammal, the ferret! These beautiful, inquisitive, active, fun, and sneaky animals, if left unattended, will search every inch of any area it can get into. Therefore, anyone looking into getting one as a pet must carefully understand where they are going to house it. Again, words to the wise, do your homework!



Ferrets are incredibly adorable. When you hold one, especially a young one, it’s hard to say no. And if you bring your young son or daughter with you, forget about it! Before you do that, carefully consider what you are getting yourself into. Again, under the right circumstances, ferrets make wonderful pets. They need a lot of attention AND supervision. In fact, it should be supervision and attention. In fairness, I have only owned one, so I am no expert, and I may have owned one that was overly active. There may be ferrets out there that are not as active as mine was. Don’t get me wrong either – we adored ours, he was great fun; we played hide and seek (kind of, lol) and hockey (no, he wasn’t the puck) and overall it was a great experience. However, ferrets (mine) as far as I know, cannot be house trained, which means as long as he or she is out – you will find a LOT of poop, anywhere, sometimes in hard to reach places. If you don’t keep up with it, daily, it will stink and that, together with hard to find urine stains quickly becomes a nuisance. Cute and cuddly (by the way, most ferrets cannot be held for very long) is soon replaced by grrrr, at least by the adults. After some time, the ferret is sent to its cage and that kind of defeats the purpose.

Ferret TeethAnother issue early on is that ferrets like to chew. They are not picky; anything they come across will do, as long as it will fit between their relatively sharp little teeth. And this includes a fold of human skin, and although the cute little baby does not mean anything, OUCH! Of course, magnify this ouch by ten or twenty for a child! This can be reduced some over time with a sharp “NO!” and a slight tap on your friend’s nose, as he gets older, the chewing will slow down too. Like kittens, ferrets must go through teething; there is no way around it. One option is to buy an adult ferret off the bat and skip that cute stage altogether.

Ferrets are cute and fun. If you can build the right habitat for one, they can be a great addition to your family. One idea would be to section off an area of an unfinished basement and build a secure, very secure, wall say ten feet by ten feet, with a carpeted area and a little ferret house where your exotic mammal can go and sleep or rest if he wants to. Inside his playpen area, you could put some ferret toys near his plentiful water and food. If you do this, please make sure that you don’t forget about him down there… ferrets need and love a LOT of attention!

Thanks for reading, do your homework and best of luck,

Boston John

The Brown Haitian Tarantula

During my first year at college, my roommate and I did not get on-campus housing. This was both a blessing and a curse. We were placed in off-campus apartments, close to campus – a blessing because we were less supervised and a curse for the same reason. One of the many decisions I made, which I would not have been able to make, was to pursue my fascination with animals and purchase a brown Haitian tarantula from a pet store. It was early 1982, there was no Internet, I did no homework (other than asking the pet store employee a few basic questions) and I came back to surprise my roommate, Bob, with our new pet. We are great friends today. Back then, it was still a big question mark.

I did my best to take care of Caesar (was he male?) and I did purchase one of those small eight by five inch booklets “all about” tarantulas in an effort to do my best to care for it properly. I had the ten-gallon terrarium set up with a warming lamp and I think I had a heated rock (thirty-two years ago!) together with stones, a sandy area, and ending in a small area with water.

Brown Haitian Tarantula

Brown Haitian Tarantula

So, do tarantulas make good pets? Like any other pet, it depends on whether or not you are willing to care for it and what you expect to get in return, right? Obviously, a tarantula is not going to crawl up your chest and cuddle up under your chin! And this brings up an interesting point. To this day, I am shocked to hear that most people believe tarantulas are poisonous. They are NOT, tarantulas are not dangerous to humans, and there is NO record of a tarantula ever causing a human fatality, anywhere! But, if you own a tarantula, you can (as I did) misinform people that they are indeed extremely poisonous while you let it crawl all over your arms and hands. You do come across very brave, as well as crazy. It is also fun to see the extent of arachnophobia in some people – I’ve had some relatives, well over 200 pounds, that refuse to enter my apartment, even if Caesar was in his terrarium. Caesar also made a faint hissing sound sometimes… and that added to the fun of tormenting others!

Now, some species of tarantulas – including the brown Haitian, do have significant fangs and if you are bitten – you will know it! Caesar bit me once… it was entirely my fault, my hand was in his space while there were crickets (his meal of choice) bouncing around and I deserved it. I am just glad I didn’t hurt him from being startled. Note that, like a bee sting, some people can be allergic to the venom of a tarantula – so in that rare case, if you happen to be allergic, you’d need to get to an emergency room. For the allergy, not because you might die! A great way to find out how aggressive your spider is: when you first handle him, wear a pair of gloves thick enough to fend off those fangs until you are comfortable enough to go barehanded. Typically, a tarantula will “rear back” prior to biting (kind of stand up on it’s rear legs) giving you some notice of a bite and you may have time to pull away.

But I digress. Other things to know about brown Haitians (and tarantulas in general) are that they are extremely fragile, so they must be handled with extreme care. If one were to drop from even a couple of feet, it would shatter this invertebrate’s exoskeleton, killing it instantly.

I fed my Caesar almost exclusively insects, mostly crickets, because they are easily purchased at most pet stores, and because he liked them. Other than that, it’s important to make sure clean water is available; I also had a small, clean, wet sponge inside – I must have read that somewhere?

If you want your tarantula to survive, you must keep the terrarium very clean. Tarantulas poop… they are very small (round) poops, but nonetheless they attract parasites and mold that will kill your spider very quickly. If you are not up to cleaning his home regularly, don’t make this investment! It is just money and a tarantula down the drain. What a waste that is.

In the end, I could not keep Caesar. My mother refused to allow me to keep him in HER house after my first year in college. So, he was adopted by a friend who did take good care of him and for several years, I did get updates. Lesson learned!

Now we have the Internet so DO YOUR HOMEWORK! Learn everything, good and bad, about a potential pet! It is the only fair thing to do for everyone involved, especially the pet, and it avoids heartbreak down the road.

Best of Luck, Boston John