Sharp-eyed aficionados of this War Diary may have noticed the white, furry complexion of the virtual pilot, “The Hund” and surmised that the fictional character and computer-flown pilot is based on a dog. Well done if you noticed! The Hund is the virtual alter-ego of my very first dog, Julius.
I’d always wanted a dog, but my dream was star-crossed by personal allergies to pet dander that disqualified me from obtaining a furry friend during my early years. Over time my sensitivity to the allergens from animal fur either lessened or I built up a natural tolerance. The dream became reality by the Fall of 2006 when Julius arrived from Wisconsin at the ripe age of 4 months old and weighing 40 pounds. Julius’ breed is that of a Komondor. My wonderful wife researched the breed and found they are hypoallergenic. Their coat consists of hair and not fur. There is no dander to flare up my allergies, nor do they shed, which was also an allergy trigger. I could be around Julius day and night and not experience difficulty breathing or breaking out in hives.
Julius grew into a big-boned, all-muscle beast at 55 kilos or 120 pounds. We didn’t let his hair matte into the distinctive dreadlocks peculiar to the Komondor breed because the Summers are too hot where we live. The Komondor breed extremely protective of their adopted families. Solicitors, postal workers, long-distance relatives and other visitors all received Julius’ full-voiced barking. He was also a very friendly dog after he added people to his personal “Approved Human” list. Once added, his demeanor was loving and you became just another person to lean his large frame against while he relaxed.
Julius enjoying a substitute Mailman (aka cow bone)
Julius counted among his non-human friends a Nerf football, a pet rock and a Yorkie named “Thor”. Julius routinely met Thor and his 80-year old owner during our neighborhood walks. They were an odd couple as Julius towered over the 4 kilo, Yorkie. Yet, they were the best of friends. It was a sad day for Julius when we moved to our new home and left Thor’s neighborhood.
Coyotes were a constant threat to family pets in the neighborhood. My wife worried about them whenever I took Julius for a walk. I wasn’t concerned. Julius and I encountered coyotes multiple times and they always and wisely gave us a wide clearance or ran in the opposite direction. In fact, one late night I “saved” a coyote when Julius jumped the low fence to pursue a coyote that ventured too close to the patio fence. By saving I mean chasing after Julius and catching him before he could catch the foul coyote. Julius powerful jaws would have snapped the neck of the dimunutive varmint because that’s what his instinct tells him to do. In reflection, it was amazing to see a white “blur” pursuing a dark, brown “blur” in a tight circle, almost like two fighter planes locked in a death spiral and waiting for that fatal mistake.
While “flying” the missions for the War Diary, I realized by the 4th mission that Julius was always there, laying on the floor next to me, snoring happily. I was inspired to create a virtual Julius to join me in the skies over Russia. A friend took an image of Julius for the IL-2 pilot profile and created the “White 13” skin of 1./JG 54 – The Hund was born.
As the mission narratives attest, The Hund was a skilled and aggressive virtual pilot. It is remarkable how the AI pilot mirrored the protective instincts of Julius. Several times The Hund shot Russians off my tail.
Sadly, big dogs are prone to suffering from painful hip disorders and Julius was no exception. I lost him far too soon. He’s crossed the Rainbow Bridge before his 9th birthday. I’m confident somewhere he’s enjoying himself by chasing coyotes and mailmen.
Thanks, Julius. Good hunting my faithful companion.
Abschuss Buch der The Hund