“Schnupps” 25th January 1988 – 24th August 2009

I often introduced her to strangers as the ‘No. 1 Lady in my life’, it was said jokingly but meant fairly seriously; a variation on the cliché “a man’s best friend is his dog” here it was “a man’s best girlfriend is his bitch”. Her real name was Gypsy but she was more often Schnuppy or Schnupps both short forms of The Schnuppy Puppy a name she required because of her very intensive habit, even for a dog, of sniffing everything very thoroughly, it comes from the German schnuppern, to sniff. She was also variously known as Mimi Mose, Frau Schnuppelberger, Hattie the Handschuhhundin and Matilda Mäuseschrek plus many other short lived names provoked by her behaviour on some occasion.

It all started, as we had to have Smokey the Bear, our sixty-kilo longhaired German Sheppard mix, put to sleep because he had bone cancer. After only a couple of days of intense pain and misery we decided that we had to get a new dog, after studying the small ads for a few days we found a woman, in a village some forty kilometres from ours, who arranged new homes for unwanted puppies; we drove over and chose the Schnupps. We chose her because she was everything that Smokey wasn’t; she was female, small, shorthaired and so on. When she grew up she just reached my knee; she was skinny with spindly legs and a long narrow head with two small dark button eyes. She had a beautiful black velvet coat with four bright white feet, a white vest and a shiny white tip to her long thin black tale. No one knows what sort of mixed parentage she had but she was from character a pure Border collie and had more than her fair share of the notorious Border collie energy. Nobody could run like Schnuppy! With twelve weeks she out ran a fully-grown Gordon setter to the amazement of both myself and the setter’s owner, not to mention the setter himself. With nine months she thoroughly embarrassed a whippet, who was left eating her dust trail as she stormed off into the distance. The only dogs she ever met who could outrun her were three Spanish greyhounds that belonged to an acquaintance; she truly loathed those greyhounds.

She was brought up by our black and grey-stripped house tiger, Kali. At first Kali was totally disgusted when we brought the Schnupps home having recently got the house to herself, with the demise of Smokey, but after a few days she decided to adopt this strange kitten and teach her how to be a proper cat. She would bring live mice into the house and set them free and then teach her charge how to go about hunting the wee beastie. The sight of the two of them crouched in front of the stove or cupboard, behind which the mouse had just fled, noses on the ground bums stuck up in the air patiently waiting for it to reappear often left us helpless with laughter. The sparing matches that they put on in the middle of the living room with Kali twisting and turning in the air whilst Schnuppy tried to catch her with a deft right hook were better than anything offered on the television. On the day that Schnuppy failed to come home Kali complained loudly about her missing child.

Actually she had no right to be alive at all, as she was poisoned twice in the first years of her life. The first time it was strychnine; I shall never forget the 35-kilometre drive from our home to the animal clinic. Wikipedia says quite simply ‘strychnine causes muscular convulsions’; in those days I had a small Renault van, that was our mobile dog’s kennel, as I drove, Schnuppy was being thrown around in the back by the convulsions, bouncing off the sides and roof of the van like a strange black rubber ball. How I drove whilst witnessing this bizarre sight and fighting back my tears I will never know. Fortunately the vet had the antidote for strychnine in stock and he was able to save her life but it was touch and go for twenty-four hours. From then on she hated my car and would shake with fear when forced to ride in it. The whole episode repeated itself a few months later, this time with slug bait, with which some arsehole had dosed raw meat. It was almost the same as the previous occasion but without the convulsions. Experiences like that bond in a way that is beyond words.

When E, my lady, and I broke up it was clear that the Schnupps would remain with her but that I would have joint custody. When I moved to my current abode E would throw the Schnupps out of the car on her way to work and the two of us would then walk the six kilometres through the woods from my flat to E and Schnuppy’s place of work. It was on one of these morning walks, six years ago, that Schnuppy found Sascha for me; that’s Sascha up in the right hand corner of the blog. Schnuppy loved her big brother and when she stayed over for the weekend or longer, as she often did, the two of them would explode out of my flat, at seven o’clock in the morning, into the little wood behind the house spelling instant danger for any cats, squirrels or other small animals stupid enough to be caught on the ground. Big Sasch and the Little Dog, her preferred name when they were together, were a great team with Schnupps taking command despite being less than half Sascha’s size. I shall miss the two of them terrorising the neighbourhood.

It should not be thought that Schnuppy was a saint; she was anything but and had a vicious streak that made one very wary when walking with her. She would launch unannounced attacks on any small dog, and in particular bitches, who displayed any sighs of anxiety on meeting her. Sometimes she would even indulge in kamikaze attacks on larger dogs leading to the instant karma of a well-deserved beating. If one watched out for the telltale signs one could prevent these attacks with a timely “no Gypsy” at which she would slope off sulking and giving you and the offending strange dog dirty looks. Strangers used to say what a beautiful, sweet little dog and would be somewhat taken aback when I answered, don’t be fooled by appearance she’s actually a nasty little beast but hell ‘ain’t none of us perfect’.

E took early retirement at the beginning of this year and we all assumed that she and Schnupps would have several happy years together. In May she developed a limp and the vet diagnosed an arthrosis but she did not respond to any of the treatments that were tried and the problems got steadily worse. By last Monday she could no longer walk and was very obviously in very great pain. Now dogs don’t usually show pain and will suffer in silence, so if one is displaying serious symptoms of pain then you know that it is really suffering, so E decided to relieve Schnuppy of her suffering. She was a great little lady and we both miss her like hell but that’s the price you end up paying for all the joy and comfort that they give you without demanding much in return.

Schupps is visiting for a while in the header.

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