My Best Friend Forever
The wonderful thing about having a dog is that they love you unconditionally. Skippy, my dog was my best friend. No matter what, she believed in me. I cannot count the times I buried myself in her welcoming mane of fur, a mixture of snot and tears cascading down my face. Skippy was only too happy to lick that all up for me. Somehow, that always me feel better. Now years later as an adult , when I am feeling poorly, I remember my best friends tongue on my face and know that no matter how wonderful they make Kleenexes, none will ever compare to my Skippy!
Skippy was a birthday present to me on my seventh birthday. My father raised sheep and obtained her from a farmer who had his purebred border collie escape and be impregnated from an unknown dog. I remember my father calling her a Heinz 57. I could not believe how lucky I was to have a dog that was somehow related to my favorite food...Ketchup!
Skippy was black and white with feathers of fur all over her body(more than once I had to cut out the lumps of hair under her ears and tail). She had a perfect spray of freckles across her nose and for the first time in my life, I was proud of my own freckles. Skippy went everywhere with me. We spent hours exploring the forest behind my parent’s farm, imagining that one-day we would live there permanently. I use to sit with my arms wrapped around my best friend and tell her all my deepest secrets.
Skippy never missed a heat, so consequently she had pups an average of three times a year. I will never forget Skippy's first heat. I woke up one winter morning and looked outside to Skippy's doghouse like I did every morning and to my utter shock and disbelief, Skippy was frozen back to back with my father's male border collie. "Poor Skippy," I thought to myself. "I'll help you and it will be our secret." I quietly got out my mother's huge pot and proceeded to boil up water to unfreeze Skippy from this very embarrassing situation. The water never had a chance to boil before Skippy and the male 'parted company'. A few months later Skippy presented me with her first of many batches of puppies.
I was around eleven when I became curious how humans would reproduce. My mother explained to me...."Remember when Skippy was stuck to Shep (the male dog) well its the same with people." This fascinated me! Sometime later when I walked into my parent’s room and they were sleeping back to back I was certain that I was interrupting something very sacred!
When Judy, my severely handicapped sister, was plucked from my life and placed in an institution, it was Skippy I turned to. My parents had signed her off as a ward of the court. Being a child myself I could not see my parents torment and only knew my own pain. I hung around Skippy's neck and inhaled her dog smell, sobbing until I felt ten pounds lighter from all the salty tears I had shed. Skippy's tongue wrapped around my eyes and nose to ease my pain. God, how I loved that dog! She listened to me fantasize how wonderful it would be if Judy were normal. "Just think Skippy," I sighed, "We are only a year apart. We could share clothes.... and even have the same friends. We could ride bikes to school, and we would never argue. Wouldn't that be great?" Skippy answered with a thump of her feathered tail. It was then I wrote my first story entitled "The Adventures of Skippy" The story was based on Skippy who was very much a character like the Lassie series. Judy, Skippy and I solved all kinds of mysteries, and the best thing Judy was normal!
In grade seven my teacher became my tormentor. I shared my secrets with Skippy. When our school pictures came out, Skippy watched me poke a pin the teachers face until there was nothing left but a gaping hole standing beside the smiling students. Shortly after that my parents announced that we were moving from our five acres of land in Langley to a place called Summerland. Skippy and I planned for hours how we would run away and live in a log cabin. We would have our own garden, some chickens, no electricity, on our own.....
Moving day eventually came and Skippy and I bid farewell to the farm we knew and loved so well.
Skippy settled in beautifully in the new home. She continued to have her usual three batches per year, only occasionally she would loose one or two puppies and the numbers in her litters dropped from around seven to three or four. I never did like the house or the farm and longed for our old home and familiar surroundings. This was my first year in high school and I thought of all my classmates in my old school. Skippy was my lifesaver, my link to the old life I longed for.
I shared with Skippy my deepest and darkest secret....I was almost fourteen and I had still not started menstruating, perhaps I was part man and woman. Maybe on the outside I was a woman but on the inside a man. Skippy listened very closely and I knew that she loved me for the person I was ....regardless of the sex! Even so just after my fourteenth birthday when I had first encounter of the 'curse' I ran outside to share the news with Skippy. She jumped and barked for joy for me...I soon learned to dread the stupid thing, but I will never forget how happy we were the first time!
I was still very unhappy with our farm and I began to spend less time at home and at the age of sixteen I left my home and Skippy, to strike it out on my own. It broke my heart to leave Skippy, who was almost ten, but I knew she would be better off on the farm. I lived in run down motels and basement suites not really a place to bring a farm dog. Sometimes late at night I would dream of having Skippy live with me, but in the morning, reality would set in and I knew I could not do that to my best friend.
At the age of seventeen I announced that I was getting married and having a baby. It gave me courage going home and seeing Skippy in her usual position by the back door. I was terrified to have a child but then I thought of all the times when Skippy had given birth and it gave me the strength I needed. When my oldest son Daniel was two weeks old, I took him home for a visit. I knelt down by Skippy and proudly showed her my first-born. When Daniel let out a whimper, Skippy turned her head to one side and lifted her ears. I laughed out loud, because in all the years I had known Skippy I had never seen her do that!
A year and half later our second son was born. Again I shared the happy news with Skippy and introduced my second son Michael. My oldest son, Daniel and Skippy knew each other very well. Daniel would press his face against the window as we pulled into Grandpa’s farm to look for his black and white friend. Skippy would amble out to the car to greet us with her welcoming wag. When I became pregnant again, I began to feel a little like Skippy. Here I was, barely nineteen and expecting our third child.
Our third son passed away at the age of two days. We had a family graveside service and after wards went to my parent’s house. (By now I was beginning to actually like the farm). The family was sitting in the living room drinking coffee while I went out on the front porch for some fresh air. I sat on a old car bench that was on the deck, Skippy soon joined me and rested her head on my lap. “Skippy,” I cried, “how could this happen to me?” Skippy licked my face and I thought of all the puppies that she had lost over the years. I buried my face in her familiar welcoming fur and cried for all the dead babies and puppies of the world.
I became aware that Skippy was not moving as fast when we came home for a visit. Her gait was a bit stiff, her walk had slowed. I noticed that her eyes were starting to glaze over. When I asked my father about this, he told me that Skippy was going blind and that she had arthritis. I was shocked! Somehow , I always thought Skippy would be there for me. I felt bad because I was so busy with my own life, I had not noticed this had happened to Skippy . Even so, Skippy had no problem getting around the farm as she knew it so well.
My fourth child was a baby girl and I proudly brought her over to Skippy to show her. By now Skippy was almost totally blind so I pulled back the pink blankets so she could smell my baby girl. Skippy smelled her from head to toe and when she was done, I felt I had her approval. “I can’t believe I have a baby girl Skippy,” I whispered in her ear. Skippy thumped her tail for an answer, and gave my face one of her comforting licks.
A few years passed and Skippy deteriorated more. After experiencing my son’s death, I knew that no one was invincible. Even so, when I went to my parent’s house and Skippy was not there to greet me, I was shocked! “Where’s Skippy?” I asked my mother as she poured my husband and I our weekly coffee. “Dad shot her yesterday,” she answered quietly. I felt my heart drop in my stomach, and I thought I might loose my breakfast right there on my mother’s table. “How could he do that?” I cried with tears pouring uncontrollably from my eyes. “How could he do that to Skippy?” I repeated, “ I can’t believe that Dad would do that to Skippy!” Once again I felt the nausea rising deep from within me. I got up from the table quickly gathered my children and went into the car. I cried all the way home. I told my husband I was never going back and that I would never forgive my father for this.
Over the next few weeks, all I thought about was my friend and confidant and the lifetime we had spent together. Skippy was seventeen when she passed away. I thought of the way she had died and how I would have done it differently. I would have paid and taken her to the vet, but Skippy had been in a car maybe four times in her life. Skippy had never left the farm. This was the reason why I never took her with me when I moved out of the house, because this was the life Skippy knew and loved. Perhaps I could have had the vet come out to my parent’s house, give her a shot there, and put her quietly asleep. However, Skippy had come to totally rely on her sense of smell and she would of known something was not right. Finally, I went to my father and asked how Skippy had died.
“Well,” he answered slowly, “I asked Skip to go for a walk.” I knew that Skippy would have liked this because she loved and admired my father very much, but usually he was so busy with his pure breeds that he did not have much time for Skippy. “I had dug a hole earlier,” he continued, “ and when we got to the spot I rubbed her head, said goodbye and put a bullet in her. It was over before she even knew what happened.” I nodded and knew this was probably, if any, the best way. I went out into the field and wandered around until I found the spot where Skippy was buried. I said good-bye to my friend and asked her to take real good care of my boy.
Skippy made such a big imprint on my life that she will be a part of me forever. I love you Skippy…..