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  • Writer's pictureWalker Buckalew

Malinois, Shepherds, and Borders

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Malinois, Shepherds, and Borders

Three breeds of highly intelligent dogs appear in my fourth novel for adults, which is titled Choose You This Day. Since many readers are not as familiar with the Belgian Malinois (“mal-in-wa”) as with the German Shepherd or Border Collie, let me say a few words about them.

Originally bred for sheep herding – like the Border Collie – Malinois quickly expanded their repertoire. They were an attractive choice, in particular, to law enforcement and military personnel, rather than German Shepherds, because they are smaller. Adult male Malinois usually weigh 60-75 pounds; adult male Shepherds, 85-110.

There are times when, in police or military work, it can be important for the dog’s human partner to lift her or his canine colleague well off the ground. For example, imagine that a K-9 police officer needs to place the dog on top of a five-foot-high wall. The dog might be able to jump to the top of that wall, but if the other side of the wall is a precipice, falling away to a river, lake, railroad track, or some other danger, that kind of leap would entail considerable risk. The officer would prefer to scoop and lift a 70-pound Malinois to the top of a five-foot wall than a 100-pound Shepherd, especially if the situation is urgent and speed is essential.

In Choose You This Day, there is a scene in which Luke, Rebecca’s twin brother, is weighing his chances of pursuing the story’s primary villain into a tunnel that has been carved under Israel’s Mount Carmel. Since that underground area had been serving as headquarters for a terrorist organization that had access to many kinds of explosives, two Belgian Malinois, part of the Israeli military, are brought forward to inspect – that is, to detect-by-scent – the presence, or not, of explosives. Only when the two Malinois have given their okay, so to speak, does Luke begin his pursuit into the maze of tunnels under the ancient fortress of Tel Megiddo.

As for the Shepherd and Border Collie in that novel, they are part of the home team. Max, a huge German Shepherd, and Margaret, the much smaller Border Collie, serve as the canine alarm-and-protection unit back in England at “the Lodge,” where Rebecca and her family always gather to defend themselves against threats. When that threat arrives, near this book’s end, Margaret does her Border Collie thing by racing in a wide circle and attacking the villain from behind, knocking his weapon from his hand. Max, in a coordinated maneuver with Margaret’s indirect attack, races directly to a second terrorist, knocks him to the ground, and secures him with the “bite and hold” technique, applied to the terrified man’s neck.

All three of these breeds show at their best in Choose You This Day. And, of course, when they are not actually at work, Margaret and Max are affectionate and loyal members of Rebecca and Luke’s family.

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