When 16-year-old Aldo Iulo approached the offices of the Aufdemberg Kennels in Northvale, N.J. early last Saturday morning his way was blocked by 100 pounds of raging, snarling dog. Behind the dog Aldo could see a woman's body.
The boy, a kennel employee who had fed the dog on occasion and knew it well, fought a panicky desire to run. Instead he took a sandwich from the lunch he was carrying, offered it to the animal and edged his way slowly to the safety of the kennel office.
Once inside he summoned help, reporting what had been dreadfully evident from the moment he walked up the driveway: Aufdemberg's Warrior, purebred Doberman pinscher, onetime show dog, ribbon winner, favorite of his late master, and family house pet, had attacked and killed his mistress, Frances Tetreault, 50, owner of the Aufdemberg Kennels. The body of Mrs. Tetreault was sprawled in the doorway of her home. She had a deep slash wound of the throat. Teeth lacerations crisscrossed the arm she had used to try and protect herself. When the police arrived they executed the dog with a shotgun.
No one will ever know for certain what happened in Mrs. Tetreault's living room last Saturday but, looking back, it is possible to see clear warnings of disaster. Blackie, as the dog was known by the family, was the offspring of German-bred Grand Sgr. and Ch. Bordo V D Angelburg of Westphalia. Even as a puppy his personality displayed the quick temper and aggressiveness which is associated more with the German-bred strain of Doberman than with the more tractable American bloodlines of the same breed.
He was entered as a young dog in shows in several states but eventually withdrawn from all competition by the Tetreaults. One reason for this, according to friends of the family, was that the dog showed a "softness" of the back which limited his potential. The other reason: he was "difficult to handle."
Albert Tetreault, who with his wife had been raising Dobermans for 20 years, made Blackie his personal pet. The dog slept at his bedside, lived in the house and was never penned with the score of other dogs at the kennels.
Two years ago Tetreault's health failed. Bed-ridden, he could not recognize people, or even his own dog. Blackie had no master, and the animal's irritability increased.
"I had a number of reports of people being bitten by this dog," said Mrs. Molly O. Farrell, president of the New Jersey Doberman Club in 1958-59. "He was mean," said Robert Williamson, an Aufdemberg Kennels employee. "A nervous dog," said a local veterinarian who had once treated Blackie.
"A year ago Mrs. Tetreault was told by a veterinarian that the dog should be disposed of," said Mrs. Farrell. "He was a big, rough beast. The only one who had ever seemed able to handle him was Al.
"I can't understand why a woman who had as much kennel experience with Dobermans as Frances would ever keep a dog in the house that she couldn't handle. You just don't do that. When dogs get that kind of meanness in them they must be destroyed. You have no choice."
Last December Albert Tetreault died. But Blackie remained the house pet. Just two weeks ago Mrs. Tetreault was visiting Robert Mullen, a Long Island breeder and exhibitor of Dobermans.
"She said Blackie had been acting more strangely in recent weeks," he said. "She said he had bared his fangs at her. I told her to get rid of the dog, or at least pen it in the kennel. But she reminded me the dog had been her husband's pet. I guess she couldn't do it. Maybe her sentimentality killed her."
For Doberman owners the bared fangs are a sort of Rubicon, a point in the master-animal relationship from which there is no turning back. When the Doberman bares its fangs at its owner, breeders say, it is too dangerous to keep as a pet.
Perhaps the best summary of the lesson to be learned from the North-vale tragedy comes in the words of John Behan, a nationally known trainer of Doberman pinschers. Said he in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED in an article entitled Darling or Devil (May 12, 1958): "A Doberman must be trained to absolute obedience, ruled with a firm hand and mastered with unflinching authority. An owner who is not unconditionally confident in his own ability to handle the dog under all circumstances should look to another breed."