People & Places

YWP: ‘Ah! Bouvier de Flandres’

YWP Uma Chirkova
Illustration by Uma Chirkova/Illustration credit: YWP Photo Library

Young Writers Project, an independent nonprofit based in Burlington, engages young people to write and use digital media to express themselves with clarity and power, and to gain confidence and skills for school, the workplace and life.

Check out the most recent issue of The Voice, Young Writers Project’s monthly digital magazine. Click here.

Each week, VTDigger features a writing submission – an essay, poem, fiction or nonfiction – accompanied by a photo or illustration from Young Writers Project.

YWP publishes about 1,000 students’ work each year here, in newspapers across Vermont, on Vermont Public Radio and in YWP’s monthly digital magazine, The Voice. Since 2006, it has offered young people a place to write, share their photos, art, audio and video, and to explore and connect online at For more information, please contact Susan Reid at [email protected].

Uma Chirkova, age 11, of Newbury, VT, writes about the joy of choosing a puppy – and the reality check of raising one. Uma is the Young Writers Project Writer of the Month for September in the YWP digital magazine, The Voice. Her illustration of a Bouvier puppy is also on the cover of the magazine.

Ah! Bouvier de Flandres

By Uma Chirkova

Click below to hear Uma read her work.

I had a deep, burning desire to get a pup. That particular day, I was looking at the Dog Breeds picture album. “Hmmm… This hound’s not suitable, this one’s plain ugly; I like huskies, but…Wow.” I saw the ultimate pet. My heart melted at the sight of a Bouvier puppy, so cute you could die for it. There. It was the dog of my flamboyant dreams. I could just imagine myself showing off to awestruck classmates. Bookmarking the page I pulled out a laptop and typed a search, “Bouvier puppies.” Out came several videos of these lovely canines.

“Ah! Bouvier de Flandres! I owned one!” my aunt had snuck up on me. “By the way, I have had a very embarrassing situation with a Bouvier pup.” I looked up and settled down to listen.

“I was in my late 20s,” started my aunt. “My family lived in Boston, right in town. At that time Bouviers were a great novelty. Being a European breed, it was almost extinct during World War II.

“That day our family was expecting a guest of honor, who was very fond of spirits. I was sent on a double mission: to a wine store, and to walk the pup. The Bouvier was only three months old and I didn’t dare to tie him outside. There were few customers and the puppy, which I was holding in my arms, drew immediate attention. He was paid so many compliments!

Being swamped by questions, I was sure I could never be able to finish picking out the drinks needed, though the pride for my cute, “teddy-bear”-like pet was very flattering.

When the majority of fascinated ‘oohs and ahhs’ was paid out, I turned to the shelves when I suddenly felt something was obstructing my feet and grounding me to the floor. Looking down, I saw a terrible, TERRIBLE thing.

The fidgeting pup had broke off the button on my skirt and the skirt had fallen onto the floor.”

I chuckled. I couldn’t imagine my proper, solemn auntie in stockings and panties in front of all these people. She chuckled too and continued. “I felt like I was getting as hot as a teapot and as red as a beet. Luckily, I was wearing a slip, but the shame and mortification were the same as if I hadn’t. Dropping the yelping and whining dog onto the floor, I tried to retrieve my skirt. The damn pup grabbed the cloth and was happily pulling it away. Finally, I prevailed in our wrestling match, grabbed the skirt, and the pup, and looked up, ready to join in laughter with the spectators. To my greater embarrassment everybody pretended to be absorbed in what they were doing.

“Or they really were? Maybe they just wanted to make me feel better. But I would have been less ashamed if they had just laughed with me. I quickly paid for my merchandise and zoomed out of the store, both bewildered and bursting with hysterical hiccups.”

We both laughed heartily. “So Bouviers are troublemakers?!” I asked while my aunt was wiping her eyes with the back of her hand.

“Oh, yes. When that dog grew up, he was a nightmare.”

I was shaking my head in bitter disappointment. Every pretty little puppy is so much trouble! Maybe I am OK with a toy stuffed dog. “But then, again, a Vizsla is pretty too; and look! Look at the Whippet’s picture….”

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