Showsight Presents the Schipperke

NITTANY: A SCHIPPERKE’S STORY

I dropped her off at home on the way back to work, snuggling her into the large kennel I had for my cat to sleep in when she’d had a litter. I lined it with soft blan- kets and laid her down so that she could sleep. When I got home a few hours later, I was surprised to find my female Siamese curled up with the puppy, and looking very annoyed when I woke them to take the pup out to potty. For the first two weeks she followed me around, meowing and nervous chittering while I carried the pup around. On first sight, my children had mixed reactions. My boys picked her up, looked at her, and handed her back, walking away. My daughters, on the other hand, were enchanted, squabbling over whose turn it was to cuddle her, sing to her, and dress her in old doll clothes that hadn’t seen the light of day in years. It was difficult to explain to them that the pup was going to be a working dog, not a pet for them to run around with or have in their rooms. The discussion about a name for her was similarly heated. My boys had no interest in naming her. Their consensus was that she was too small to even be a good playmate. They kept telling me that if I was going to buy a dog, I should have got- ten one big enough to play with outside. I let them know that she had been a gift. I hadn’t bought her. This, however, made no difference. My oldest son looked at me and told me to call her “Beans” because she wasn’t worth a hill of beans, and he left the conversation. My youngest son told me to just name her “Spalding,” since she wasn’t going to be any bigger than a football, and he left the conversation as well. But my girls were having heated discussions about who had the perfect name that I should choose. Being in high school and middle school, they were both avid readers, and names from classic literature and modern prose flew around the entire ninety-six while we were all home. Finally, late in the evening the day before I was due to be back on duty and then back to school, while we were watch- ing a movie and there was a rare moment of quiet, the baby got her name. My young- est daughter wasn’t paying attention to the movie. Instead, she was looking at the logo sticker of my university mascot on the top of my laptop. She asked quietly if we could name her Nittany Lion. “Nittany” was the name of the American Indian princess that my university had chosen to represent their courage and bravery, which would be fitting, considering she was destined to be a service dog. I was intensely aware

“‘Nittany’ was the name of the American Indian princess that my university had chosen to represent their courage and bravery, which would be fitting, considering she was destined to be a service dog.”

have liked the squeaking sound because she chewed one of the eyes off so that it wouldn’t make any noise. Nittany was in my daughter’s room one afternoon and stole the stuffed Hammy from Toy Story. She didn’t chew on it, she slept with it. I now had a dog who had a teddy bear complex. Wherever she went to sleep, she had Hammy with her. I made sure that she had a bed in every room because she followed me everywhere, from room to room, no matter what I was doing. If the cat was already in the bed she want- ed, she would look at me and cock her head sideways, looking for reassurance and to make sure it was alright. And after I nod- ded, she would simply crawl in beside the cat, snuggling up with her. The cat would grumble a little, move over some, and then start washing Nittany before going back to sleep beside her. Often, there was a puddle of seal brown Siamese and thick black Schipperke fur in one of the beds, mak- ing it impossible to know where one baby began and the other ended. I only kenneled Nittany for the first couple of days. Once I was sure that she wouldn’t have accidents, she slept in my bed with me. She started out with a pillow for her to sleep on, complete with a baby blanket to cover her. In just a few nights, she was snuggling up against me, with only her head on the pillow and her body under my covers. It was like having a new child. When she was six months old, I took her out to meet the trainer who would be teaching the classes she was scheduled to start the following week. The instruc- tor was nice enough, explaining what to expect and answering my questions. Mean- while, his wife loved on Nittany and mea- sured her for her service dog training vest.

that all four children were now looking at me, waiting for me to accept it or shoot it down, at which point my boys would tease the “mickie” out of their sister for what, in their opinion, was a dumb suggestion. Looking down at the pup sleeping hap- pily on my lap, I thought about it. I told her that the pup had no tail and little round ears that didn’t even stand up. She looked more like a bear cub. With squeals of excitement exploded, both girls at the same time were yelling, “Nittany Bear, Nittany Bear.” I picked the puppy up and looked in her face, asking her how she liked the name Nittany Bear. She cocked her little head sideways and looked at me with those bright, inquisitive little eyes and seemed very content. Looking up, I told the kids that Nittany Bear it would be. The squabbling was over and the baby now had a name. Nittany was already housebroken. So, it was other commands she had to be taught and it was surprisingly easy because she picked up everything so quickly. In the meantime, Nittany’s ears came up, her snout started to lengthen and slim down, and her pretty little face took on the beau- tiful fox-like appearance. She was looking more and more like a dog every day. Nit- tany, however, wasn’t like other dogs. She didn’t bark, didn’t chew anything up, never had accidents in the house, and was so calm and quiet that I would have to look down in order to make sure she was still there. We bought her tons of toys, but she really didn’t play with any of them. She picked out a small, squeaky bath toy that looked like a frog, and it was funny to see her trot around the house behind me with the frog hanging out of her mouth. It was almost as big as her face! She must not

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