Showsight Presents the Schipperke

NITTANY: A SCHIPPERKE’S STORY

“When 9/11 happened, I was recalled and I told them that they better reserve a seat for Nittany as well. Nittany and I found ourselves back in DC, but this time there was a lot of chaos—and a lot of mourning.”

her commands in French since “day one” when I had first brought her home, and I, of course, saw no reason to confuse her. Nittany was so quick that she was prancing circles around the big dogs in the class. So, my oldest children went to the owner of the training program, and with her help, they ordered Nittany a vest in pink camouflage and presented it to her on Graduation Day, complete with her patches sewn on it. No dusty tan vest for Nittany! And boy, did she rock that pretty pink against her beautiful black coat! Not two months after she graduated, she got to prove herself. My oldest daugh- ter’s adoption was finalized, so I took all four children to Hershey Park while we vis- ited my parents to celebrate. We survived two days at the amusement park, with Nit- tany keeping me calm and focused and not panicked in throngs of people. As curious as she was, she stayed right by my calf and was tolerant when I explained to parents that Nittany was working, please don’t let your child try to pet or pick her up. Nittany and I settled into a routine once I’d processed out of the Marines. I was finishing my degree for teaching, so it was classes at university and being involved in my children’s lives with dance and scouts. I was lucky enough to find a daycare that allowed me to work with Nittany by my side. After the initial excitement, the children accepted her as part of the classroom. Nittany just loved the hustle and bustle of a preschool classroom. She was the instant “boo boo” cure if any of the kids fell or bumped into anything. She would sit by the baby’s side and look up at them with those huge brown eyes, and nuzzle a hand with her nose while I checked the boo boo. She was definitely in her element. When 9/11 happened, I was recalled and I told them that they better reserve a seat for Nittany as well. Nittany and I found ourselves back in DC, but this time

“Okay, you just threw one of my toys waaaaaayyyyy over there and you want ME to go get it? So now there is something wrong, not just for me but for you as well. Now, will you please go get my toy. Other- wise, I will have to tell Mom.” I felt so left out at first, until it dawned on me that Nittany was training Bubba!! Unfortunately, he didn’t learn very fast and she would get frustrated and lay down with her muzzle resting on her crossed front paws, grumbling under her breath and watching Bubba until he got back. As soon as he got back with her toy, she would be sitting up, eyes bright, ears up high, and her head cocked to the side. As soon as he looked at her, she would pull her front paws up to her face and pull them downwards until they reached the end of her nose in frustration. And as amusing as it may well have been (and as sad as it may have been), I must admit that when it came to this matter, Nittany learned must faster than Bubba did. Nittany had proven just how smart and ornery she could be when she wanted to be. She finished her classes for Service Dog. She earned her Service Dog vest and was now working on graduating Therapy Dog classes. The class for therapy dogs was much more crowded than the one Nittany had just graduated. From the minute I got her, Nittany seemed to have known that she was destined to become something special. She more than rose to it and she far exceeded all the expectations, expectations that a lot of her classmates weren’t able to master and so they did not pass. Out of the twenty that we started with, four were “dropped” in the first few weeks because they couldn’t keep up with the rest, and three more “washed-out” when they had to take the final test. I had a brief but important conversa- tion with the instructor more than once when he decided that all of my com- mands for Nittany had to be in German. I refused. Nittany had been given all of

had been coming in with me for the last seven weeks or so. Looking at me, he shook his head and wanted to see where she had been. Taking him back to my office, I told Nittany, “Bed.” My XO walked out of the office grumbling about hidden potbellied pigs in the office. I had to sit down and laugh while Nittany looked at me, won- dering what was so funny. Unfortunately for her, the nickname “Piglet” stuck and it was what everyone called her! As it goes to show her easy-going nature, she never minded or even answered to it. My contract was up before she gradu- ated from therapy dog school. When I got out, my Command not only honored me, they remembered Nittany as well. Dur- ing the ceremony, Nittany stood at my left side very still. But unlike the normal formations, this lasted a lot longer and I was afraid she would get tired and antsy, or worse, lay down. But she didn’t. And after I was handed my plaque, the Commanding Officer said some nice things about Nit- tany, then pronounced that Nittany had been an asset to our unit and gave her an honorary rank. The Lieutenant came down and knelt in front of Nittany. Nittany looked up at me and I nodded to her. My Lieutenant opened a box, and inside they had made her own set of dog tags. When he hung them around her neck and scratched her behind her ear, she smiled at him. He looked up at me and asked if she was going to bite him. I giggled and told him that he was safe. She was simply smiling. She wore those dog tags on her collar until she passed away. I buried them with her. Even though Nittany was well-trained, she could let her ornery side out every now and then. My youngest son, Bubba, who was in sixth grade, turned himself inside out trying to teach her to play fetch. Every time Bubba threw her ball, or any of her toys, she would sit there and just look at him. You could just hear the wheels turn- ing in her head and the thoughts that she was trying to get across to him. It was,

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