My Little Demon Dog…oops, I meant Schipperke

Dear Faithful Reader, here’s a creative nonfiction piece about how my life long love affair with the Schipperke breed started with fear (on my part). If you want to try writing a piece, the writing prompt for this is: describe your first pet. I look forward to your comments and why you love and remember your first pet.

It was summer, 1993.

A black demon, lips pulled back, pointy canines bared, towered above me on my home’s second floor landing—and snarled. Shock waves and fear rippled through me at the unexpected presence of a four-legged, ferociously unfriendly beast in my house. Terrified of an attack, I furtively escaped through the door into the garage and left for work. Where had the creature come from? I asked myself but I didn’t have the time or the courage to go back inside and investigate the matter at that moment.

Upon returning from work that day, I ventured upstairs for introductions to the unfriendly little canine and the news that Bill’s mother, Doris, and his step-father had adopted the little monster. Doris and Jack had moved in upstairs after Jack suffered several strokes that put him into a wheel chair for the rest of his life. Bill and I lived in the lower level of our mother-daughter home in North Haledon, New Jersey.

A home health aide whose son (a cop in Paterson) volunteered at a local animal rescue shelter had convinced Jack he needed a companion. So it was, the dog took up residence at 101 Darrow Drive.

Jack named him Skipper which seemed appropriate for a black coated Schipperke of Belgium origin. Schipperke is Dutch and means “little captain” because in earlier times the breed was prominent on barge boats and used as ratters. The “little captains” are also formidable watchdogs (Something I can confirm)!

I called him “my little demon”. His barking lordship continued to glare down at me from his upper-level perch as I scurried out the door to the safety of the garage and my car.

However, as the human adult in the relationship, I finally realized I must befriend the ferocious cannonball if I were to remain “intact”. And then something miraculous happened. Skipper and I fell in love with each other.

Our love and affection happened gradually. Bill’s mom wasn’t much for taking Skipper for walks and we had a potty-training issue. He was marking around the house and Jack and Doris thought he might have to be returned to the shelter. But I’ve always been a person who is for the underdog in a situation. I couldn’t bear to see him sent back to a shelter.

So, I decided that this little mad man would be mine and I would take him for walks, as often and as long as needed until he realized that he didn’t need to mark the house. In hindsight, I believe my love grew out of the need to have a pet of my own, a dog-companion. I was like Willie in the movie “My Dog Skip”. Like Willie, I had Skipper to thank for a reason to take long walks or run into the house after work to the joyful kisses of my little demon.

Skipper was neither small or large; except when he barked. Then he seemed large. Think German Shepherd. He probably weighed about 21 pounds. A bit overweight so much so that sometimes people asked if he were a pig. Were they blind? Couldn’t they see his regal bearing, his sleek jet-black hair, and fruit bat-like ears.

Step by step Skipper became my dog and my protector. He was so in love with me that when anyone (even my brother, John) tried to shake my hand or touch me, Skipper jumped in and let them know I was his. He even ripped one of John’s pant legs when he tried to hug me goodbye. After that, Skipper was lovingly known as “Skipper the Nipper” among certain family members.

When I began my Ph.D. program and went to Cincinnati, Ohio, the President of the University told us that working on a doctorate often resulted in divorce. Bill and I survived the separation but Skipper? He got up on the sofa and peed on it in protest.

Looking back, the years I had with Skipper were wonderful. He went everywhere with me and Bill, including flying in our Cessna 171; he had his own log book. He would bark when I yelled “clear prop” out the pilot seat window. At night, he’d jump into bed, snuggling between Bill and me, Skipper’s back against mine.

His love and devotion, his independent and inquisitive nature, his ferociousness in defense of those he loved, inured me to him and to the Schipperke breed for the rest of my life.

Spring 2024.

I’m living with my third Schipperke—named Turlough. He is like Skipper in so many ways (except Turlough is super mellow with everyone)—my constant companion and protector. Skipper and my second Schipperke, Teddy Bear are gone but I feel them as my “little guardian angels” keeping watch over me and Turlough.

I don’t know why the Schipperke breed came into my life over 25 years ago but I do know that “my little demon” changed my life forever.



Schipperke breed dog named Skipper peeing on a tree

Skipper is finally potty-trained!

Schipperke name Teddy Bear sitting on wing of Cessna 172

Teddy Bear – he didn’t like Flying.

Face of 5 year old Schipperke breed dog named Turlough.

Turlough and me.

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