Tuesday, September 7, 1999

Old Yeller, My Lil Cap'n

Sammie the dog is a bit past her prime. Her eyesight is failing, causing her to bump into things occasionally. (This of course to those of you in the know, doesn't necessarily mean the same thing as having a vision problem.) Her eating and getting rid of what she eats patterns aren't always regular or controlled. She has really bad breath even for a dog. But every time I see her she puts a familiar smile on my face. She has the spirit of a survivor, a beautiful soul, and must have been quite the heartbreaker during her day.

Sammie is a Schipperke, with a dark black coat on most of her body, with a golden brown upper chest. She comes from a proud tradition. Schipperkes were bred by a canal boat captain named Renssens. Thought to be descended from the same sheep-herding stock as the black Belgian Sheepdog, Schipperkes were bred smaller and smaller and eventually became a different breed entirely. It became a favorite choice to guard canal barges in Belgium, hence the name, which in Flemish means "little captain." The breed became very popular in Belgian households by the late 1800's. From that point on it was exported throughout the world. The Schipperke do very well on boats and people often get this breed to come along with them on boating and fishing trips. It makes a great guard dog when the boat anchors for the night, alerting of anything out of the ordinary and the dog thoroughly enjoys its trip.

Sammie's sad brown eyes betray an inner struggle- a restlessness mixed in with a protective quality of the place she now calls home. She has been staying quite a while with her aunt and her aunt's dog- Kurbie, the perky, playful, yet sensitive rat terrier who gets into trouble now and again. She and Kurbie get a long well- not quite companions but better than friends. She even tolerates Kurbie's friskiness as he often "mounts" her. She never gets angry, but seems a little weary of his boundless energy. She is a big dog in a small dog's body.

She watches Kurbie, who is quite the talented dog, do his tricks for a treat. The look in her eyes is one of curiosity and excitement- wondering what he and her aunt are up to- at times almost wanting to join the fun but always off to the side seemingly not knowing quite what to do. When handed a doggie biscuit reward she brings it to a spot in the living room and puts it down, like she knows that is the place for it to be even if no one else is quite sure why.

This weekend she's returning to her home. A decision will be made in the near future because of her ever failing health, whether or not to put dear Sammie to sleep- a more than difficult choice in trying to determine just when suffering is too much. Where does the struggle for even the basic qualities of life cross the line and it is time to let go? Just when do you give up hope of turning things around? Her return home probably means I will never see Sammie again. And without trying to sound melodramatic- that thought saddens me terribly. She is a reminder of a time not too long ago when things seemed a tad sunnier than they are now. I remember vividly the day I met Sammie- it was a Pebbles and Bam Bam afternoon, a warm cloudless day- and though she has admittedly been a peripheral part of my consciousness since, she still has affected me deeply enough to have her picture be included on my web site. Sometimes you bump into, run across someone that for whatever fateful reason touches your life. Sometimes it even happens for the better. Maybe it is mere timing. It's not as if she changed anything for me yet I know I'm different for having known her. There are times when connections with those of the human kind seem few and far between but at the same time the look, the devotion of a cheerful pet can do wonders.

Her aunt recently reminded me that life's happiness isn't so much the big moments- it's the small moments in between that end up being what we treasure. It's a philosophy I have been good at absorbing at times and have failed miserably with other times. Yes it often is so much about the little moments but at the same time it's important to keep the bigger picture- the dream in mind too. The smaller steps get us there but the big picture ultimately is the goal.

For a treat Sammie is often given an ice cube. She always perks up when given a treat- a small reward for a long term return of love. Her best days are past but they are not forgotten. Though I didn't know her in her prime I somehow think I can understand where she has been. And by the look in her eye I think she too can understand more about me than she appears to know. Good-bye and God bless sweet Sammie. Here's one soul you deeply touched.

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