December 10, 2008


A match made in heaven

Libby, treasured Keeshond of Debbie Lewandowski of Mission Viejo, passed away shortly before Christmas. She was believed to be about 12.  Adopted in February 2001 from a shelter that caters only to Keeshonds (a lively, intelligent breed recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1930), Libby (shown above with a certain friend) was named by shelter caregivers who felt they had “liberated” her from bleak circumstances. “I didn’t have the heart to change the name,” Debbie said.

The other love of her life

couple.jpgFor Debbie Hawkins (her last name at the time), it was a match made in heaven – in more ways than one. Libby was that rare Keeshond (pronounced “Kayz-hund”) able to bring pint-sized Debbie together with theother love of her life, Mark Lewandowski. The two met when Debbie was out for a walk with her eye-catching, gray-and-tan canine cohort. No one quite remembers if it was the lion’s ruff around Libby’s neck, the richly plumed tail that curled over her back, or the pink rhinestone collar and black leash decorated with doggie bones that grabbed Mark’s attention, not to mention everything about Debbie. Regardless, a new love story was born, two people meeting “cute” over a dog within a Mission Viejo condo community in the fall of 2003. Granted, Mark got to feeling like “an ambulance chaser,” hunting Debbie down until she agreed to marry him two years later.

Not exactly your ideal guard dog

keeshond.jpgMark is convinced Libby brought them together, as is Debbie. But here’s the thing. Libby, due undoubtedly to her early childhood, was afraid of everything that moved – especially men. “I believe she was abused by a man and [possibly] children,” Debbie said, recalling how her Keeshond scampered to hide when perceived danger threatened in the form of a male or squealing kids. Not exactly your ideal guard dog.

But Keeshonds were never bred to hunt, kill animals or attack criminals, which accounts for their extreme gentleness and devotion. In 17th and 18th century Holland, Keeshonden were used as watchdogs, good-luck companions, and vermin controllers on riverboats, farms and barges. During the 1700’s, Cornelius “Kees” de Gyzelaar, a leader in the Dutch Patriot revolt against the reigning House of Orange, kept one of these dogs as his constant companion. The Keeshond became the symbol of the Patriot Party and the basis for the breed name, “Kees’ dog”, which translates as “Kees hund” in Dutch.

Deep psychological scars

In Libby’s case, however, past abuse had inflicted psychological scars. How did Mark Lewandowski – the evil intruder who had evicted Libby from her rightful spot, cuddled up next to Debbie in bed – win the dog over? Steak. Leftovers the furry girl gleefully gobbled from his hand. As she aged, Libby grew more loving and playful, once even poking Mark’s bare butt with her nose, a moment the couple still laugh over.


Then, heaven help us, along came Max Lewandowski, a noisy little bundle threatening to usurp Libby’s place in the family pecking order. Libby tolerated the competition well enough at the beginning. But when Max (now two) became a toddler, he was a practically a MAN, for lord’s sake, able to pull at Libby’s coat, spew pureed peaches in her face and whack her on the nose. Who ended up backing down?

Libby, of course!

T.C. (short for “The Cat”)

libby-and-cat.jpgLeave us not even mention T.C. (short for “The Cat”), the orange menace Libby avoided like the plague. As the dog matured, she got considerably braver – where T.C. was concerned, at any rate. Libby even launched cat attacks now and then. On the whole, however, she was a sleepy Keeshond, content to doze-so long as her adored mistress was nearby. “She loved me unconditionally,” said Debbie, who took Libby everywhere she could, even to her massages.

lib-lying-down-small.jpgA monitoring device was never necessary for Libby – for the simple reason that “she stuck to me like glue,” Debbie said. The one time she did slip through the open front door, Debbie caught up with her at the perimeter of the condo complex. After that, Mark decided to train the Keeshond to obey commands off the leash. Eventually, the Lewandowskis took Libby to the dog park, expecting her to relish running free and playing with the other dogs. No soap. “She did not leave my side for a second!” Debbie said.  As old age began to stiffen her joints, cataracts affect her sight, Libby left the house less often, was slow to climb the stairs, more apt to laze the hours away on her doggie bed beside the front door – where Debbie still sees her.

Most can be lured out of their shells

deb-libby-sml.jpgStill aching with loss, Debbie is constantly reminded of something she learned from Libby. “She taught me that most (even a timid pet) can be lured out of their shells, even if it’s ever so slightly.” This comes in handy in Debbie’s professional capacity as a marketing consultant. Her dynamic elevator pitches and sales techniques – known far and wide among Orange County entrepreneurs and business people – are taught via her marketing company, Spotlite.

[For further information, email Debbie at or visit her website]



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

6  +  2  =  

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.