NITTANY: A SCHIPPERKE’S STORY
checking constantly to make sure that Bubba was still there. All of her young humans were leaving her and she wasn’t handling it very well! During Bubba’s senior year, he was captain of the football team and I was still team trainer and team mom. The year before, Bubba had started putting silver and blue hair paste in Nit- tany’s ruff to show her team spirit, and it is a credit to her temperament because not only did she tolerate it, but I swear she just puffed her chest out with pride. Bubba shared with me his favorite memory with Nittany. During Home- coming his senior year, he was preparing to walk out onto the field to shake hands with the other team’s captain when Nitta- ny gave me that look that said she wanted to go with him. I looked at coach, and he nodded. So, I bent down and undid her vest and told her to go ahead. She was right on Bubba’s side, and what a sight. My six-foot four son in full pads, mohawk stiff, helmet under his arm, and Nittany, tiny little black dog with team colors shining brightly on her ruff, grin- ning from ear to ear, keeping up with his long strides. By the time they reached centerfield, I could hear coach chuckling with laughter and the bleachers behind us erupting in cheers, clapping and stomping with approval. And I swear Nittany was prancing like a Lipizzaner stallion all the way back! In April of that year, we received orders to go to Boston. So, we packed up, settled Bubba in with his sister for the last two months of school, and set out for Boston. Poor Nittany kept trying to see every- thing, trying to make sure she didn’t miss anything. But, alas, it is a long, long drive from Camp LeJeune, North Carolina, to Boston, Massachusetts. We ended up hav- ing to stop for the night because pulling the car behind the truck was not only nerve wracking, it was exhausting as well. Unfortunately, there were no animal- friendly hotels, so we knew we were going to have to smuggle Nittany inside and up in the elevator. Tony put her in the big canvas bag that held our clothes and toi- letries. While waiting with another couple in the elevator for it to open on our floor, this little black muzzle and pointy little ears peeped out of the top of the bag. I whispered, “No,” and it vanished just as quickly. The woman looked at her hus- band, leaned over, peered into the bag, and just dissolved into peals of laughter. They were the only ones who knew that Nittany was there.
“At first, some of the other marines would look down on her because she was so small. But after they got to know her, she earned their respect. Nittany was worth her weight in gold.”
there was a lot of chaos—and a lot of mourning. She definitely felt it from me as I struggled to get settled back in. She made friends with the mascot at 8th & I. She was given an honorary rank of Sargeant, and chevrons were sewn onto her vest. When I got Nittany, I was stationed in North Carolina. When Nittany was about three years old, I was called back into ser- vice because of 9/11, and Nittany went with me. Nittany was not only my service dog, she went into combat missions with me, and Nittany had her own bullet-proof flight jackets. Nittany was trained to clear buildings. Nittany was trained to go into buildings in holes that were too small for the larger dogs, and she would go in at night when no one inside would see or hear her and come back out through the same hole. When she came out, she would sit in front of me. Then she would go and sit in front of another marine, and then anoth- er. When she laid down, they knew how many people were inside the buildings. At first, some of the other marines would look down on her because she was so small. But after they got to know her, she earned their respect. Nittany was worth her weight in gold. I was so proud of how well she did. It wasn’t the kind of chaos she was accus- tomed to. There were long days, and there were flights to other places where we were needed. Nittany took it all in stride. In fact, when we were sent back to LeJeune, there were hops from one base to another. I would strap in and put her on my lap to buckle her in, and she was asleep before I’d finished. It was two more years before I was to be released to settle back in at home, and I was so grateful. I think Nittany was as well. Those two years when she and I were recalled had been a huge adjustment, so it was wonderful to go home.
I took a position working with autistic children, knowing that Nittany would do well with them. My kids were now involved in sports, drama, ballet, and cheerleading. Nittany was right there watching them. My girls loved it when they had the dance studio to themselves. They would dance with Nittany in front of all the mirrors, with a lot of laughter and silliness. My oldest two graduated that year and left for university. I knew Nittany missed them as she would sit by their bedroom doors and pout. Nittany looked forward to the fall when school started for my youngest two. She loved football and wrestling seasons when Bubba played. She never took her eyes off of him when he took the field. She would sit with her back resting against my leg, and her front paws prancing up and down while he was running play. And if you listened real close, you could hear her mumbling under her breath. But she never barked and she never moved from my side. During Bubba’s junior year, I started writing to a fellow Marine. But before he even returned from Iraq and we met face to face, I informed him that if Nittany didn’t like him or had a problem with him spending time with me, it just wasn’t going to work. I am sure that she knew his smell all too well from all the letters and packag- es he’d sent. When he stepped off the bus and walked over to me, she waited. Once he stopped and hugged me, she walked over to him, sniffed his boots and cam- mies, looked up at him, cocking her head sideways, then rolled over so that he would scratch her belly. He was given a Nittany stamp of approval, and we were married on Christmas Day a year later. My youngest daughter graduated that year and left for Georgetown University. Nittany was beside herself and started
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