My husband, Shekhar and I were strolling through the Route18 Flea Market on February 13th 1999 when we happened upon a booth run by ARF (Animal Rescue Force). Being the dog lover I am, I had to stop and look. And being the sweet husband he is, he indulged me. Shekhar had never had a dog before, and being from India, which has a million stray dogs who really exemplify the dog-eat-dog world, he had a very jaundiced eye where dogs are concerned but he humored me.
I stood there looking at the dogs (I’m sure there were also cats and maybe even birds, but I can’t say I noticed). I had tears in my eyes thinking that people had abandoned these amazing animals, and then my eyes fell on this little three-month-old puppy shivering in her crate. I thought she was the most beautiful creature I had ever laid eyes on. The minute the volunteer saw my reaction, she picked up the puppy named Babs and brought her over to me. I made the big mistake of petting her. That was it. She was mine and I was hers…forever! I did not have to ask. My husband took one look at my face and he knew; and so we decided to take her home. It was the best Valentine’s Day present ever. How could one ask for any more than a gift of unconditional love?
Shekhar carried her to the car and we went straight to the pet store. We picked up bowls, food, blankets, a crate, a collar, a leash, a little jacket, and yes lots of toys. I went on a shopping frenzy! I think one of the reasons I was drawn to this little puppy was that she reminded me of another dog I grew up with and loved, named Skippy who had passed away a couple of years ago. I called up my aunt and asked permission to name our new pup Skipper in her honor. And that’s how she got her name. And she really did Skip J
The next day, our friends Mahesh and Ruchika visited us. Mahesh spent the entire time playing with Skipper. When they got ready to leave, she was ready to leave with them. I have to say I was a little miffed. But then my little girl was only responding to love. She was going to give and receive as much love as she could. To this day they have a very special relationship. But I did not let her leave with him! That was the last time she ever tried to leave us… she knew she was home <3
Skipper is one of the most intelligent animals I have ever known. From the first day we brought her home, she learned her name, and did not have an accident in the house. She learned everything she needed to. My husband was hooked the moment he carried her out of ARF, but if that hadn’t done it, then the first few weeks certainly had him – hook, line and sinker. Skipper is part Border collie and part Spaniel. She is very territorial. She used to nip at my heels to try and get me to a certain spot. Many times when people visited us and had to use the bathroom, she would wait outside the door to make sure they came right back to where they were originally. It was so instinctive, and amazing to see. However, as you might agree, we had to dissuade her from doing this. It’s not like we were sheep.
Skipper amused and awed us with her intelligence every day. She knew all of her toys by name and used to bring them to us when we asked for them. She loved playing seek (not fetch – I think she thought that was beneath her) so we would hide her toys and then call out the name of the toy and she would go find it. She would have made a good search and rescue dog with the proper training. One day Rohit, a friend of ours had come to visit. He and Shekhar left to play some tennis. I decided to take Skipper and go watch them play. Just on a whim I asked Skipper to find Rohit. She dragged me all the way to the visitor’s parking lot via the way he came to our house and then from there she led me to the tennis courts. I could not have been more impressed.
If Skipper wanted to go outside, she’d come find me and move her head in the direction she wanted me to go, leading me to the door or to her leash. If she wanted water and if her bowl was empty, she’d go stare at the sink. We never had to tell Skipper anything twice (other than “stop barking, will ya!”). She just knew what we expected of her and did it before we even asked.
When Skipper was six months old, we got her spayed. Starting then we realized that she was allergic to a lot of things including the sutures they used to close up her incision. We got her tested and found out we had an allergic dog, with about 40 pages listing all the things she was allergic to – from poultry to oak trees. We once had to rush her to the emergency vet when she got stung by a bee and went into anaphylactic shock. (I’ve had pest control ever since)
And talking about emergency vets, there was more than one visit. One Thanksgiving, we left our house after a lovely dinner and went to drop off a friend who had been visiting. We returned home close to midnight to find shards of glass from a broken window. My first thought was that we were burglarized. But Shekhar pointed out that the glass would have fallen inside if it were broken from outside; he also pointed out that it was an upstairs window. So we ran up and saw the bedroom covered in blood and my bleeding dog lying on my pillow. She had jumped at the double hung Anderson window broken it, and lacerated her leg very badly. We rushed her to the emergency vet and then to a state of the art animal hospital in Tinton Falls. Four days, two blood transfusions and five hours of surgery later, we brought her home. The doctors told us that even though they were able to save her leg, she probably would not use it. We were told that dogs managed with three legs but she is a fighter and she proved them wrong.
I remember Skipper meeting Ralphie, our next puppy, for the first time. We were in Rt. 18 Flea Market again and this time it was my husband who dragged me to the ARF booth. How times had changed! My husband saw Ralphie and said, “He looks like he could be Skipper’s brother. How can we leave him here?” I thought he was crazy. We could not have two dogs in one townhouse! He kept saying yes and I kept saying no. I did not want them to bring him over, because I know what had happened the last time I was there. I asked, “What if Skipper does not like him?” The volunteer overheard me. She suggested we bring Skipper over and see her reaction. Shekhar thought that was a good idea. We drove back and got her, and that’s how “Skipper met Ralphie.” The moment Ralphie saw her; he walked up to her and barked. She let him bark for a few minutes and then turned to him and she barked back – just once. Ralphie stopped and sat down and we heard no more out of him. To this day Ralphie is terrified of Skipper. I wonder what she said to him? And so we brought Ralphie home.
I had never had two dogs at the same time and watching the dynamics between them was beautiful. Skipper taught Ralphie how to climb stairs, she would walk up a couple of steps and moved her head as if to say come, follow me. Then she came back down, and repeated the same thing until Ralphie got the idea and went up with her. Then she left him on the top stair and came back down. Leaving him to figure it out all by himself. Over the years she taught him so many things and most importantly how he could be the best dog ever. She protected him, put him in his place when she had to, and she loved him. Even today, she won’t eat without making sure he is eating too.
Skipper has been very protective of her family. She is especially protective of me. I can remember so many instances where she has stood by my side and made me braver than I usually am. Having her around always makes me feel safer, like this one instance when she was about a year old, Shekhar who was at a client in Princeton asked if I could come pick him up because he had just missed his train and the next one wouldn’t be coming for several hours. It was past 11 pm and I was apprehensive but didn’t want to say no. Those of you who know me know that I am not the happiest driver. But I did it. I took Skipper along for company. She sat in the passenger seat, barking at any car that pulled up besides us. When we reached Shekhar’s office, she climbed into the back seat and slept all the way home. She knew daddy was on hand to protect us all but till then it was her job and she did it well.
Skipper has been with me through my many ups and downs. She has been my special angel, helping me through many difficult times. She knew just when I needed someone to cuddle, when I needed to be taken care of, and when I needed someone to take care of. She was my first baby, my soft furry baby. And I love her as any mother loves her first born. She has also shared my happy times. When I told Skipper and Ralphie that Shane was going to be part of our family, Ralphie just ignored my news, but Skipper jumped up and came over and kissed me, her tail wagging with joy. I think she was just as happy and excited as I was.
That is why now almost 15 years later, my heart is breaking because I have to get ready to say goodbye to my Skipper. She is a grand old lady, a 101 human years old. She is completely deaf and she is almost blind. She is frail and weak and not eating much. I can see her slipping away. It will be hard to let her go. Why is it that dogs have such short life spans? Our world would be so much happier if we could keep our beloved animals with us longer.
Writing about my special dog, who has been my daughter, my friend, my unconditional love has been difficult but therapeutic. I want her to live forever and I know she will live on in the hearts of those who love her. She was the first dog many of our family and friends have known. And there are many like a little girl named Tishya, who always believed that Skipper was actually her dog and just lived with us. We also have very dear friends that share the same birthday as Skipper and I know they’ll celebrate her long after she’s around to blow out the candle on her cupcake. They love her and will also be sad to see her go. I wish her a wonderful journey across that Rainbow Bridge where she will be able to run and be completely healthy again … not having to worry about allergies, itching, arthritis and pain. I know she’ll get her angel wings back and watch over us all. I feel very blessed that I got to love her and be loved by her.
I am going to miss you my Skipper, more than you will ever know. I know some day I’ll see you again. Till then, my baby, happy trails! I will always love you.
Skipper passed away on the 4th of April, 2013. She took a piece of me with her and left behind a piece of herself in my heart.
Here are a few pictures of Skipper over the years.