German shepherd remembered as a royal protector

German shepherd remembered as a royal protector

Though Ross Simon's beloved German shepherd, Duchess, passed away more than 40 years ago, he still remembers her well from his years in Lyndhurst, Ohio, with his parents, Julius and Jennie Simon.

"My father and I both wanted a dog, but my mother would have none of it," he says. "But by the time I was in college, we finally wore her down."

Duchess was a huge, powerful dog, weighing about 100 pounds. "I think my mother was expecting a small dog, so she was surprised when this giant showed up in her home," he says. "But my grandfather had a German shepherd I loved, and I always wanted one of my own."

She turned out to be an effective watchdog. Simon's father was out of town when Duchess was adopted, and when he returned a week later, she wouldn't let him in. "It took us a while to convince her that it was his house and he was allowed to be there," Simon says.

Duchess never lost that protective instinct. "She was a one-family dog," Simon says. "Whenever anybody came over to visit, she'd put herself between them and the family just to keep an eye on things."

Jennie Simon learned just how protective Duchess could be when she took the dog shopping and got caught in a lake-effect snowstorm. Her car got stuck half a mile from home.

"I suppose she could have just stayed in the car and waited for the snowplows, but she decided to walk," Simon says. "There was no way she could have walked home on her own, but Duchess just dragged her through the drifts. They were both cold and wet when they got home, and my mother was hugging that dog, but they both got home."

It was just one example of the bond that developed between Duchess and Simon's mother. "It took a while, but she warmed up to Duchess," Simon says. "It was a mutual love between them."

Simon enlisted in the Air Force in 1960, and Duchess moved in with him after Simon's father died and his mother moved into a nursing home. Duchess died in 1966 at the age of 11. Simon, now a Dallas resident, still keeps Cleveland memories close by - including a painting of Duchess above his bed.

"She was an amazingly devoted dog," he says.

We asked our members to share the heroic deeds of their pets, past or present. Do you have a great story about your pet? E-mail us at

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