>This is a TRUE Story about a Boy -- his Dream and an incredible man named Lee Duncan
That Boy became one of the most respected Men in the Breed!
The Love Affair Begins
For some, life is a banquet of delicious colors, wonderful adventure and growing love. It is a shame that most people starve to death without ever finding the banquet table.
I am not totally sure why, but I do know that I fell in love with the German Shepherd Dog at an early age, and the addiction has not subsided with age. Some of my earliest memories are of my German grandfather's big male dog, King. I loved to get in the car and go to Los Angeles, not because I loved the city, but because I knew that King was there, always waiting for me to play with him and tug on his neck.
Our family had a variety of dogs through the years, always smaller than I wanted and always a mixed breed that Dad found wandering around somewhere. I loved them, but it was not the same as King. Then one day I discovered a new radio program in the evening called Rin Tin Tin. I listened, but my imagination did not have Rusty partnering with the dog, it was me -- me and Rinty, adventuring our way through unknown territory, mastering the fate of saving the world from the evils that were to besiege it.
As I grew up, many things changed. I left the radio adventures for the visual adventures of TV, but there again was Rin Tin Tin. Indelibly impressed on my growing child mind was something bigger than life in this love affair with the breed. Someday, I would have one, and we would travel through real life with adventures every bit as vivid as those I had heard on radio or seen on TV. Someday… 8
We lived in sunny Southern California, in the Inland Empire, midway between Riverside, California and San Bernardino, California. Dad was pastoring yet another church, and he was the master of social outings and potlucks. He understood something about people's need to be together and to have fun activities that cemented relationships. So, we went places with the congregation regularly. One of the regular stops was at Fairmont Park in Riverside. The muddy water seemed to disappear with the lush vegetation that surrounded the lake and the fishing, boating and just walking made each visit a delight to me and to the rest of the group as well. Each day of activity was punctuated by a potluck dinner in the warm evenings where families and friends shared both food and fellowship and strengthened both body and spirit.
It was after several trips that I discovered, toward the east end of the lake and across the street, a dog kennel. There was a world of delight in the furry little faces and the running and barking of these wondrous German Shepherd Dogs, and I was usually found there, rather than at the park, watching the dogs play. Dad discovered early on where to find me when it was dinnertime, so I was comfortable spending my time with the dogs and just rehearsing my dreams of ―someday!
After some time, a man who was regularly there doing feeding, cleaning, or training in the field behind the kennel, noticed that my face was now familiar, and he would come by each time I came to the fence and talk briefly with me. He introduced himself as Lee Duncan, the owner of the kennel and the trainer of the world famous Rin Tin Tin. I was excited. I had not only found a kennel filled with dogs, they were German Shepherd Dogs, and one of them was my hero, Rin Tin Tin. I got to meet Rinty (probably Rinty 3, 4, or 5, I don't know, and it didn't matter), I was star struck. 9
I shared with this kindly gentleman my dream of one day having my own German shepherd. He said that he didn‘t sell his dogs to just anyone, but he had watched me and had decided that I could have one when the time was right. The price was $25.00, he told me, and my heart sank, for in those days, that was a virtual fortune, especially when you were only 14 years old and a pastor‘s kid. The usual price was much more he explained, but this was a special price just for me. I found out later that this was exactly one-third of what he usually got, and I was elated that favor had smiled upon me.
So my course was set and the savings in the can in my drawer began to rise, and before long I had almost a dollar. Considering that you could fill up a car with gas for a dollar and a half to two dollars, that wasn‘t bad, but it was a far cry from $25.00. Just after I turned 15 years old, Dad came home from his part time job one day to tell me about a friend who owned a music store who was looking for someone to clean around the store and do odd jobs. I got excited. Dad said he had talked to him about me, and he wanted to meet me and see if I wanted to work Saturdays and sometimes after school.
The next day I excitedly put on my best clothes and jumped in the old family 1940 Chevy with Dad and off we went to the Music store. My heart fell when we arrived. The place was enormous. Why, it was as big as a house, and it was cluttered with every kind of musical instrument you could imagine. I would never be able to get it clean. But, as is the nature of childish illusions and fears, it shrunk in size each time I went in and, yes, I got the job, and the owner seemed real pleased with my work and my attention to detail.
Before long, I got my first raise. Mr. Bonelli was a proper Italian man who spoke with a heavy accent and was himself a man of detail and precision. His basement repair shop was 10
visited by broken instruments from around the world. Occasionally he would show me a Stradivarius violin that would come in for repair and explained that I was to never go within five feet of it. But he had seen my interest in the instrument-repair side of his business and wanted to teach me how to do it. So he raised my salary from $ .25 an hour to $.35 and put me in charge of repairing some of the less expensive instruments that came in from Goodwill Industries and some of the schools.
I was overjoyed when Dad arrived to pick me up, and I told him of my great accomplishments and of my raise. Being 15 years old and less than a year away from getting my driver's license, he asked me what kind of a car I was saving for. The expectant look on his face changed to wonder when I told him I was not saving for a car, I was saving for a dog. He laughed and said, ―I should have known…. I should have known. And away we rode toward home, glancing at one another along the route and each time bursting out with laughter.