A perfectly imperfect match

A perfectly imperfect match

Zeste, an unwanted Tervuren puppy, wasn't an obvious choice for Isabelle but the dog's imperfections brought the two closer together.

June 13, 2019 By Jonathan Bernier

Isabelle had Schipperkes her entire life. When she adopted Sera, her first Schipperke, Isabelle's parents adopted puppies from the same litter—the whole family truly loves the breed!

However, while Sera's breeder specialized in Schipperkes, he also had Tervurens. "One day, he called to say he had a Tervuren puppy that no one would adopt," says Isabelle. “Because we know each other well, he asked me if I could take the lonely pet to socialize her and start her training. To tell you the truth, I'm not wild about the breed and I already had several animals at home, so I said ‘no'.”

But, plagued by guilt and unable to abandon an animal in need, Isabelle eventually accepted, while promising herself not to get attached to the pup. But pet love is a force few can resist. “Even on the drive back from the breeders, my plans went up in smoke. I can't explain what happened," she recalls. “It was love at first sight."

It didn't take long for a serious problem to surface. "Zeste started to have focal seizures. Epilepsy. She'd tremble, then have convulsions. It was incredibly stressful,” recalls Isabelle. Thankfully, these events can be associated with growth, and the episodes, traumatic for both Isabelle and Zeste, have gradually subsided.

Isabelle continued training Zeste and started bringing the pup with her Schipperkes to the canine-agility field. It was during this time that Zeste fell from an obstacle and injured a leg. She was immediately treated, but the accident had a traumatic impact on her. "She became fearful, anxious," says Isabelle. “For 5 years, I worked hard to make her feel comfortable on the obstacle course. I took my time with her. Little by little, I managed to establish a positive association with the obstacle from which Zeste had fallen. We had to get to the point where she was no longer fearful. This required patience on my part. I had to become attuned to what she liked and didn't like, what made her nervous and what didn't. That intense process solidified the bond between us."

Zeste is the anomaly in Isabelle's group of perfect Schipperkes: “I call her my lemon, because she has a lot of little flaws. I am more protective of her than the others, who are more independent, more confident. In fact, Zeste and I are alike. We are both anxious. I often say she's my service dog, my guardian angel. I take care of her a lot, but she takes good care of me too. This probably explains my love at first sight. It's a perfect match in all its imperfections.”

Thumbnail photo: Catherin Arsenault
Other photos : personal collection

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