throwback thursday

August 1970 ~ Barbara & Skipper

My grandmother took these pictures of me and our family’s adored pet Sheltie, Skipper. I was 13 years old, a brand new teenager, and Skipper was about 4 years old. My sister has been diligently digitizing my grandmother’s huge slide collection and it’s been fun discovering these glimpses back into our childhood.

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Skipper was the only dog I’ve ever had. When I was a toddler I was bit by a dog, an event I don’t remember. But I do remember my parents encouraging me to pet a friendly dog at some point afterwards, in order to help me overcome my fear. It didn’t work. My fear of dogs has plagued me for my whole life, although now it’s only with larger dogs.

I was about 9 years old when my mother brought a little puppy named Skipper into our lives. I was afraid of him in the beginning. The first time my parents left me at home alone with him I got very nervous and climbed up on top of the dining room table. Skipper kept running circles around the table and there I sat until my parents came home. Goodness knows what he must have been wondering about me!

Eventually I lost my fear of him and we became good friends. My mother took him to obedience school and he was very well-mannered, affectionate and loyal. One day I brought a new kitten home. Christopher and Skipper got along well, right from the start. One evening while we were watching TV, Skipper nonchalantly walked into the living room with a playful kitten hanging on to his belly fur, upside down. 🙂

We took Skipper camping, hiking and canoeing with us on summer vacations. During the school year my sister and I were responsible for “running” him when we got home from school. (We were latchkey kids because both of my parents worked outside the home.) He was good about fetching sticks and balls, and obeyed the “drop-it” command flawlessly, but eventually he couldn’t resist his natural instinct to herd. And he loved to herd us around the yard and into the woods.

Since my father was a research scientist at the University of Connecticut, originally an agricultural college, he got permission to take Skipper to the sheep barns on campus. They allowed him to herd the sheep around the fields. It was fun to watch him zipping around, completely in his element.

He had one quirk we laughed about often. When visitors drove down the driveway and came to the door he would never bark to announce their arrival. But when my parents came home he would bark and bark until they got inside. My father kept joking that he didn’t make a very good guard dog. 🙂

Even though I do miss Skipper, I’m pretty sure he was one-of-a-kind and I’ve never desired to have another dog. But whenever I’m out and about and happen to spot a Sheltie my heart stirs and I ask permission to pet them.

22 thoughts on “throwback thursday”

  1. it feels so good to read this story. You paint a great image of that dog. I still have vivid memories of my childhood dogs too – a dachshound and a german shephard. It’s like – what I WAS with them, was a very important part of the ME that I was. The true me.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed my childhood story, Leelah. It’s so true that we can truly be ourselves with our pets, and it’s such a wonderful gift they give us. Dachshunds are cute but I’m still terrified of German Shepherds. What were your dogs’ names?

  2. What a wonderful story of your childhood. Memories like this are so precious. Made me think back to the time I was 13. The picture of you and Skipper is precious. ❤️

    1. It was so exciting to find this picture, I have no memory of this particular outing and I’m so glad my grandmother wrote August 1970 on the slide. I bet when she took the picture she had no idea how much it would mean to me some day, so many decades later. ❤️

    1. My grandmother was an avid photographer and there must be thousands of slides in this collection. I’m grateful that my sister is up to the task of digitizing and organizing them!

  3. So delighted you’re preserving special memories like this, Barbara. And what a beauty Skipper was! He reminds me of the three Shelties I’ve been privileged to call my own. Lucky dog, getting to herd sheep. Monkey would LOVE doing that! I’m so sorry you had a bad experience with a dog that left you scarred though. I had a similar one with a litter of kitties and can’t force myself to warm up to felines to this day.

    1. I have to admit I’ve been thinking about Skipper a lot more often since I started reading your blog and your stories about Monkey. And then this picture was discovered! I hope Monkey finds an opportunity to herd sheep some day. It’s a wonderful thing to see them doing what they were bred to love. Funny how our experiences shape us. I am definitely a cat person and would have a couple if I wasn’t so allergic to them.

  4. Nice photos and memories, Barbara. Slides do hold onto color quality well, they look like they were taken recently. I’m glad you had at least one dog, even if he was the one and only. Pets have enriched my life immensely over the years. Research shows that children who have pets growing up have stronger immune systems. My boys are rocks, lol!

    1. Thank you, Eliza. My grandmother did love her slides. She only rarely made prints from them. After she was done with childcare and eldercare she started creating slideshows with lectures, presentations which she gave at various clubs and churches all over Cape Cod. She and my grandfather were founding members of the Cape Cod Viewfinders Camera Club.

  5. I love hearing about Skipper, Barbra! I’ve missed you. I found myself in the hospital after my last comment months ago. Learned to my surprise I have heart disease. It’s been rough.

    But thought about you and your blog friends. As you know dogs are my rock!!I will look forward to reading more and catching up with you and Tim.

    1. How wonderful to hear from you again, TD! I was wondering what may have happened to you and I’m very sorry you wound up in the hospital with heart disease. I hope you’re getting some helpful treatment now. I missed you, too. And I hope you still have Yorkie to keep you company. The biggest news you may have missed is that we’re moving to North Carolina sometime this summer, so we can be near our grandchildren.

    2. I am glad to see you back TD. Like Barbara, I noticed your absence as you sometimes comment on my posts, plus, I am always behind in reading posts, so I have looked through Barbara’s comments because I knew you were ill around the holidays. I am sorry to hear about your health and that’s it has been a rough go of it. I hope that is all behind you and I wish you a speedy recovery.

  6. That’s such a heartwarming story about you and Skipper and how you overcame your fear of dogs. I have never seen a Sheltie, just in photos. What a beautiful dog and I am sure your heart does skip a beat these days when you see a Sheltie. I don’t blame you for being afraid to be around a dog again. I love dogs, but there are many people with Pit Bull Terriers that walk them at the Park, even though there are ordinances posted not to bring animals there. I do worry about walking through the neighborhood and coming upon a stray dog.

    1. Thank you, Linda! I read online that Shelties rank 20th in popularity among the 155 breeds and varieties registered by the American Kennel Club. You’re bound to see one sooner or later! I was once charged by a large growling dog when I was walking on my paper route. (I was in my 30s.) It took all of my courage to stand firm, point in the opposite direction, and firmly command him to “go home!” To my utter astonishment he obeyed me, stopping dead in his tracks and walking away. I was shaking for hours afterwards. I admire you for walking by yourself. To this day I won’t take a walk alone…

      1. I hope to see a Sheltie one some day Barbara – I don’t see that many people walking dogs in the neighborhood, but at the Park where it isn’t allowed and it annoys me to no end, as they are often off-leash. You were brave to confront that big dog like that. I called our post office to ask what their letter carriers have on them and bought a couple of cans of Halt. I think I would freeze in place and be scared to do anything, but feel safer having it. For years, when walking I wore a lanyard with my house keys, a loud whistle and a small silver tube with emergency info on it, as I don’t carry an I.D. – what if someone hurt me and took the lanyard with my keys? I only walked to the Park (until the mechanic told me I had to drive more) and I had to walk past a few houses with big dogs that were behind the fence. I had to buy a pair of baby socks to put around the keys/whistle/metal tube because it jingled when I walked and neighborhood dogs must have thought it was a dog with its dog tags jingling and they’d snarl at me. Right now, dogs worry me, but I worry more and more daily about the actions of drivers. We have so many issues of road rage and freeway shootings. Random shootings are occurring when someone runs a red light or stop sign and doesn’t damage another car – the driver is just annoyed and pulls out a gun. Some happen in daylight. I am both sad and angry as I think to myself that here I am looking forward to my eventual retirement and walking and photography – will it happen? Will I be too worried about getting out and about in this crazed world? I think about it a lot Barbara. People are so reckless in their actions anymore in every way.

        1. Have you ever had to use the Halt? I’ve been reading about SprayShield® Animal Deterrent Spray, which uses citronella instead of pepper. Apparently the residue from spraying pepper can get on your hands or blow back on your own face, just the sort of thing that would happen to me. I had to laugh, you travel light when you go for a walk but I carry all kinds of “just in case” stuff in a backpack-style purse. So far we haven’t had random daytime shootings in our area. That must be a scary reality to live with. I don’t blame you for worrying. Any chance you could move to a different area after you retire?

          1. I just noted the name of your product as the Halt I bought does have pepper spray in it as you said. I have never had to use Halt thank goodness. But I’ll bet if you used it on an aggressive dog and the pepper spray got its eyes, the owner would get mad and that might cause a bigger problem. (So many people have concealed handgun these days.) I carry pepper gel made by Saber. I read that the pepper gel does not blow back onto your own face and risk burning your eyes. I wonder if I should go another route for the dog spray instead? A friend of mine used to walk with a cane when he hiked in New Mexico in the foothills and it was uneven terrain and there were snakes. I used to see a woman at my Park walk with hiking poles every day. They’d be great for warding off … whatever (humans, dogs … I hope I don’t have to deal with any of that). I thought of moving down South for years for the warm weather, but I read about Peggy’s weather in Arkansas and other severe weather and I just stay put. I know there will come a day when I get older that I feel like I will be staying inside as crime will get so bad. It wasn’t always like that … just recently. I thought long and hard before buying the generator and laying out the money and then deciding to move, though I am thinking it would properly increase the value of the home.

          2. I’ve thought about taking my father’s cane with me on walks but then it’s hard to hold onto while I’m trying to take pictures. But I’m sure Tim would use his walking stick to protect us!

          3. Yes, you have someone to protect you. 🙂 No knight in shining armor for me and I “get” it … where do you put the cane? I said that to my friend after he suggested it and he said to get a collapsible cane. Well, you just know you’d be needing the cane to open quickly to defend yourself and it would stick or not open. Can’t you just picture that? I can! I have the issue of having the bag of goodies in my hand when I want to take pictures. I carry with one hand, but need two hands to steady the camera, even with the digital compact. So after I walk once and give out treats, I have to hook the bag in the crook of my elbow … it does get in the way though. Someone at the Park said “get a little wagon and pull it around and you can stop when you want.” Hmm.

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