A Portrait of Bode

A Portrait of Bode

Bode (boh-dee) is my 95 pound dog, a not-so-vicious Doberman Pinscher, with big uncropped ears that flap when he walks. Even though he’s expected to be a robotic killing machine, and he often does sit in a regal Egyptian sphinx statue pose with his front legs crossed, he’s surprisingly gentle, goofy, and actually, scared of everything.

A sassy sphinx.

Some Minor Quirks

Bode’s moist left nostril is adorned with a white scar, one of many physical and psychological scars he carried with him from puppy-hood, when he first lived with that crazy-lady before I adopted him 10 years ago.

This lady impulsively purchased 3 puppies at once: a husky, some little dog, and Bode. As Bode and the husky got older, their energy levels increased, they constantly fought, and she didn’t know how to handle it. (1) She left them outside by themselves. One day, when Bode was around 9 months old, she couldn’t take it anymore and brought Bode and the husky to the shelter. She kept the little rat dog.

Besides the white scar on his nose, the only scar that didn’t heal was his fear of everything and everyone.

He’s afraid of the hardwood floors in my home. To him they’re lava. They’re too slippery for his long dainty legs, so he’ll only walk on the tiny mis-matched area rugs my mom buys for him. She arranges them to make a clear path from room to room.

But if something’s in the way of his path, like the laundry basket or a vacuum cleaner, he freaks out. He’ll start to whine and look around for help as if he’s stranded on an island. I don’t blame him for being scared of the floors. He often slides around, falls, and knocks into furniture when he zooms around the house from a post-poo adrenaline rush.

Bode refusing to get on the elevator.

Bode’s also afraid of stairs. He always hesitates. But after some cheerful encouragement from me and my mom, he’ll wind up by pumping a few ass-to-grass squats before launching himself up three steps from the yard into the house.

For the big staircase up to the second floor of the house, it’s even more of a crisis. He’ll approach the bottom step, look up, pop down, and think about it by walking in circles around the living room, over and over, only to step up and consider this big decision again. I can see he’s thinking, “I can do it, wait no I can’t.” After 10 loops he will (sometimes) suddenly find the courage to sprint up the stairs in less than a second. Every time, he reacts like it's his first time reaching the top. He’s so proud of himself that he runs around smiling and panting for a good five minutes.

Bode does act tough sometimes, but only when he’s scared. He’s a mirror of fear. If a visitor is scared of him, then he is too, and he’ll show that fear with a bone-rattling deep bark, stoic stance, and a flash of his teeth. Whether he encounters people, dogs, or dogs on TV (especially ones that look like huskies), his genetics take over and he morphs into exactly what you think a Doberman Pinscher on guard duty looks and sounds like.

But for those who aren’t afraid of him, like the Con-Ed man, plumber, electrician, or any burly construction guy, he devolves into a giant mashed potato, leans his entire body weight into their knees, and chants a series of moans, whines, and pants, staring into their eyes, demanding side rubs.

He’s in love with a friend’s dog, a small Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Sophie. She was bred to be a lap dog and wants nothing to do with Bode. He’s very persistent in demanding Sophie’s attention. He shoves his big head into her face, and under her belly, sniffing and whining, trying to get her to play. But she runs away, to the closest human, in an attempt to be rescued. Bode will whine and cry the entire play date because he just wants her love.

Bode and Sophie

Confronting the Zoomies

Bode is a big boy with an endless supply of energy. The only game Bode plays is “this toy is mine, come and get it.” He can fetch, but won’t bring it back. He’ll drop the toy in front of him, spread his front legs out, drop his chest to the ground, and grunt “come and get it.” We have a stare down. I slowly approach the toy. My hand’s an inch away, about to take it, but he quickly grabs the toy and takes off. When he does decide to bring the toy back, the game becomes a tug of war. Bode always wins, of course, and rams his head into my lap for back-of-the-ear rubs as his prize.

Bode prefers going on walks to playing games. When he wants to go on a walk, he peeks his head around the corner and moans with sad puppy eyes. As soon as I mention the W-word, or spell out W-A-L-K, he freaks out, squeals with joy, and circles in front of the door as I try to wrestle his harness on.

On the W-A-L-K.

Once we’re outside, a big smile stretches across his face and he gracefully bops and skips the whole walk. He’s the town’s detective, sniffing every inch of the outdoors, even the same places as if they were new. His radiating joy seeps into me and I can’t help but smile and skip as well. Unfortunately, he’s not tired after a walk, no matter how long we walk for.

The only way to drain Bode’s seemingly infinite supply of energy is to take him to his favorite place: the woods. His excitement starts in the car… I think. As soon as he hops into the back seat, a big, bright eyed smile lights up his face. But once the car’s in motion, he nervously paces around the back seat until I notice him stop and stare into the depths of the floor, with a queasy smile and arched back. I hope he’s not about to throw up.

Are we there yet?

When we arrive at the woods, he lets out an ear piercing screech. He jumps around the back seat, shaking the whole car, and cries until we open the door. He’s more than ready to be released from this confinement of motion hell. He won’t jump out until we grab his leash, and when he does he takes off running as far from the car as possible.

As I walk the wooded trails, he gallops like a gazelle-horse, running a few hundred feet in front then behind me, then in front of me again, weaving in and out of the trees and trails, always with a huge smile. There’s this one 50 foot steep valley in the woods where he loves to sprint down and back up, as fast as he can. His long tongue and big ears flap around as he slams the ground with his paws, leaving a breeze of fallen leaves behind him.

It’s funny that he gets an adrenaline rush conquering obstacles in the woods, like fallen trees and boulders, but not at home.

Sweet Angel Baby

Even though he’s a dog, Bode has a sense of humanity to him. He connects with me on an emotional level. He offers handshakes in exchange for armpit rubs. Whenever I’m sad or sick, he’ll grab my arm or leg with his paw, as if he were petting me. Grazing the silky velvet fur on his ears with the palms of my hands soothes all my sorrows. Deep beneath his large, scary physical body is his gentle and loving soul.

If one of his human friends, like my husband, is sitting in a chair, he’ll find a tiny spot on the seat next to their legs to climb up and sniff their scalp. Then he looks them in the eye in a serene and seductive way, and shoves his chest in their face hoping for a chest rub. And when he really likes someone, he goes into shrimp mode, where he lies on his back, scrunches his front paws next to his face, and bends his neck completely to one side, inviting you to rub the downhill slope of his mountainous chest-belly.

Our time together was always going to be limited. I knew that he had a short lifespan, and he already spent a year of his life with that crazy-rat-dog-loving-lady. I decided to paint a portrait of him to be surrounded by his spirit forever.

Shrimp Mode

On Saturday, June 24th, 2023, Bode crossed over into the spirit world after battling an illness, surrounded by his loved ones and in the comfort of my lap. Bode will forever have a special place in my heart, and he will forever be my muse with his long dopey tongue and glowing amber eyes.

Unfinished portrait of Bode.


  1. When I first brought him home from the shelter, Bode used to get a bit aggressive when we’d play outside. He’d run around me in circles and try to jump up and nip me. It was pretty scary. I had to defend myself by picking up a lawn chair, and use it as a shield.