From the time I can remember I have always loved dogs. My Dad was not enamored of dogs, so I didn’t have many while I was growing up. Those that I did have were either put down or given away. I grieved silently as each one departed from my life. I decided early on that when I struck out on my own I would always have a dog. Except for a stint in the Navy and my years at college, that has pretty much been the case.
To me doges were extra-special beings. They embody so much of what we should be. Their love is unconditional and total. They readily forgive and offer us endless chances to prove our love for them in return. They protect us. They are loyal to us. They give without limits and as very little in return. I find it of particular interest that “God” spelled backwards is “dog.” My experience with dogs has convinced me that it is no coincidence.
There are few dogs I don’t like and, of those, my caution is probably because I don’t understand the breed or the animal. I have reservations about trying to cozy up to a Doberman, a Pit Bull Terrier or a Rottweiler. Dog experts tell me there is no such thing as a mean dog. Rather, it is the way we treat them that makes them our adversaries.
My family and I have had a variety of dogs over the years, each one a personality unto itself. We loved each one of them, and our hearts broke when we had to part with them. However, we just couldn’t quite live without one, so we always got another. I would find myself perusing the want ads looking for one that needed a good home. Before the scab had barely formed on the wound caused by the loss of the previous one, there was another to take his place. Not one has ever been a disappointment. Each brought his or her particular personality to our home and hearts, but all were the wonderful, loving and giving creatures peculiar to their kind. The tremendous sense of loss we feel when one leaves us, I suspect, the result of the unconscious realization that we always got more than we gave in return.
It was about ten years ago that I was going through the want ads in the Sunday paper when one ad in particular caught my eye. It was for a Schipperke that was available for adoption, free of charge. I found that rather odd given the rarity of the breed. I had only seen one in my entire life, a puppy in a pet shop. When the owner let him out and he had the run of the store, he was the most animated and adorable dog I had ever seen. That brief exposure stayed with me.
The Schipperke is unique among dogs. They are 10 to 13 inches in height and weigh between 12 and 18 pounds, on average. They are jet black with a heavy coat. The head is shaped like a fox’s, with small dark brown eyes that have a devilish but questioning expression. They have small pointed ears.
Schipperkes are full of boundless energy. They have a temper, a great spirit and are protective. Although wary of strangers, they are devoted and loyal to their families. The dog is territorial and protects it’s environ against all intruders.
Schipperkes readily accept other pets in the home, and they are intelligent, curious and mischievous. They can (and do) try the patience of a saint, but when the dust settles whatever stress they may have caused is readily forgiven and the love of the breed takes over.
The origin of the Schipperke was as a captain’s dog on the barges in
and was a popular breed throughout the country.
Today, they are canine companions to those who have a particular
affinity for this kind of dog.
Back to my discovery of the ad in the Sunday paper. I called the number and inquired as to whether or not the dog was still available. I was assured he was and I man an appointment to go and see him. From the moment the woman opened her door, I knew he was meant to be mine. He was four years old, pedigreed, neutered and a sterling specimen of the breed. I was asked if I wanted the papers. Given that he was no longer able to procreate, that seemed rather superfluous so I declined the offer. I noticed there were no tears or remorse in giving him to me. I wondered why but it was too early to draw any conclusions. He immediately became apprehensive as he was put in the car and occupied the seat next to mine. I experienced the gnawing feeling of sadness that comes with seeing the confusion surrounding that supreme act of rejection he could never have
I left and merged into the traffic that would take us home. All the while, he remained standing in the seat. I reached over to pat him and to let him know that, even though
Those who had just banished him from their lives didn’t care; he was mine to be loved for the rest of his life. He bit my hand. Time to back off and take it slowly. We arrived home and I took him into the house. He took a stand on the couch in the Family Room.
He was insulated from the back and both sides. He felt safe from an imposing family of four, another dog and a cat. His growls served notice on us all that we were indeed the enemy.
His given name was “Bear,” which just did not quite fit. Therefore, I chose an enduring term from German and he was known from that day as “Schotzy.” He soon settled in and became one of the clan. There was never an altercation with the other dog or the cat. They were all in it together. He quickly surveyed his new found castle and the limits of his kingdom on the acreage where we live. He never strayed from those boundaries in the ten years he was with us. He would regularly check every square inch of ground to make sure everything was in order.
Typical of his breed, he was fiercely independent. He had his own special places to hide, but never for long. He loved to ride in the car with his muzzle into the wind. He would bark at passer-byes, but more to let them know he was there than to serve as a warning.
When we returned home, he would bound from the car and run for all he was worth back up the road from whence he had come. As to where he was running, to this day I have no idea. All I know is that it wasn’t far because he would immediately return.
Everything was on Schotzy’s own terms. If he wanted to stay outside in the weather, he did. If I wanted him to come into the house, he would pause and have one more drink of water just to remind me who was really in charge. He would sometimes stay in the house. At other times, he would stay the night outside within the confines of the fenced portion of the yard. He was always on guard against a band of marauding coyotes (boogies) that might venture onto the property. He would bark into the wee hours of the morning to let them know he was on duty.
Wherever one of us might be, he could be found sleeping somewhere close by. He would lie between my feed when I was watching television to the point of self-induced paralysis. I would, of course, suffer the agony in order to accommodate him. He was my constant companion when I was working on the computer. He love to have his head rubbed and his ears scratched. In the morning, when I would let him out, he would run for the same small Alder tree to sniff it and leave his mark before venturing on to the first inspection of his realm.
During my long absences in
Saudi Arabia, Shotzy never forgot
me. Upon stepping out of the car, as
soon as he heard my voice he would run to greet me. When we went to Seattle to visit the kids, rather than me
taking him for a walk, he was the one who would take ME for a walk. The song, “I Did It My Way” could well have
been written for him.
Schotzy was in good health and active. However, on the morning of April 21, when I opened the door to let him into the warmth of the house, he appeared to be fast asleep on the deck where he always laid to keep tabs on his precious estate. When I approached him, I realized he had died peacefully during the night. His passing has left a horribly painful void in my life to this very day.
We called a vet and he wanted forty dollars to cremate him with all other animals and road kill. That didn’t do much for his memory in my view. Given the speed with which I was given the pitch, I had no confidence that I would get his remains back if I asked for them. Veterinarians are becoming as greedy as their medical counterparts. So, I dug his grave at the base if his favorite Alder tree, laid him to rest in his own blanket and tied a yellow ribbon to a branch above where he is buried. I have cried a lot these past two days. The night he died, as I was drifting off to sleep, I could hear the coyotes screaming into the dark void of the night. Schotzy is gone and the boogies are back.
People who are familiar with the breed generally say they wouldn’t want one for a pet because they are so difficult. Those who have had one often give qualified answers or hedge their bets.
It will take some time before I start perusing the ads for pets in the newspaper again, but I know in my heart I will eventually return to those pages. Would I consider another Schipperke? I will ask myself if I really want to go through all that he was again. I would probably skim over any ads for Schipperkes that might be looking for a good home in favor of an easier breed. On reflection, I would go back to that ad and ponder it, knowing that one encounter could be hazardous. Curiosity and a faint tug at my heartstrings would take over and my first sight would cause any resistance I might have to evaporate. I would be hooked all over again.
A Schipperke us not just a dog; it is a life force all its own that is utterly irresistible. Life for them is just on big adventure and one endless playful game. I suspect those who would say “no” to that experience have lost the child within. Those who still have it will be sorely tempted to accept the challenge.
Schotzy, I know, forgave me for all the times I was impatient and indifferent with him. Much to my chagrin and regret, I got the best of the deal. Rest in peace. My Dear Schotz, and may God see fit to let us meet again in that better world where you are and where I hope to be one day.
First written April 23, 2007
By Bob Crowder
Rewritten from the misplaced original on August 18, 2014
By Cowboy Bob
The Sagebrush Philosopher
I shed a lot of tears when I lost Schotzy. This may be the first blog I ever wrote, but I shed a few more tears by just re-doing and re-reading this. I honestly don’t believe there has been a more magnificent creation than a dog, God’s most generous and loving gift to mortal human beings. They are what all of us should be and what so few of us ever become. I can’t imagine being without one. I have loved all I ever had and I will always have one as long as I tread the terra firma of this earthly home.
May all those who read this always have the love and loyalty of a dog, and I sincerely hope all of those who don’t know what that means discover it.