Black Pet Owner Spotlight: Vanessa Lateefah Williams & Pepper
Vanessa Lateefah Williams & Pepper

Pepper and Vanessa Lateefah Willaims are the perfect example of the saying “opposites attract. Pepper is all-out, full-blown diva, who will snap on you if you do anything that doesn’t jibe with his spirit, and prance around like a runway model when all is right in his world.

Vanessa, on the other hand, is living, breathing, sugar and spice and everything nice. She’s a sweetheart of a human being with a heart overflowing with love and zero-dive genes in her DNA.

Yet, this odd couple has their own kind of blissful relationship. And even though Pepper has no idea he’s not human, Vanessa is clear on her responsibilities as a pet owner to care for her canine.

DEFENDER: Hello, Defender family. We have with us pet owner Vanessa Lateefah Williams. And who is that with you?


DEFENDER: When did you and Pepper meet?

WILLIAMS: We met on March 20, 2009.

DEFENDER: Wow, you have the exact date?

WILLIAMS: Oh yes. I remember the day I got her. I was getting my hair retightened at the salon that I go to. And the lady that was retightening my hair, at the time she owned Pepper’s father and mother. So, she had been telling me that the mother was expecting and asked me if I wanted a puppy. I told her, no, it was going to be too much to have a dog or any pet. So, one day I went, the puppies were born and Pepper was the only one in the kennel. She said, “Do you want to hold him?” And I said, “Okay, I’ll hold him.” I went and I picked him up and that was all she wrote.

DEFENDER: Wow. So, what are some of the things that you love and appreciate most about Pepper?

WILLIAMS: I love that he gives me unconditional love. He’s very smart. He keeps me going. Sometimes I think about if it wasn’t for him, sometimes I would just lay in bed longer. But he makes me do things sometimes I don’t really want to do. He keeps me going. He gives me love and he’s very smart, very smart.

DEFENDER: So you love and appreciate Pepper, but is there anything that Pepper does that drives you crazy?

WILLIAMS: Yes. He bites me when I do something he doesn’t like and people are like, “How does he bite you?” I’m like, “That’s what I don’t understand.” He just bit me today when I bathed him. Because if you do something to him that he doesn’t like, that’s the only way he can respond is to nip at you or bite. And he has marked me for life with some of his bites. I don’t like when he does that. I have to really bite my tongue when he bites me.

DEFENDER: Is Pepper your first pet, or have you had an had experiences with pets before?

WILLIAMS: He’s the first pet that I’ve owned on my own. I grew up with pets, starting out with cats and then dogs in the home with my mother. Pepper is the first pet that I’ve had on my own.

DEFENDER: So, you’ve had a pet dog and a pet cat. Which pet is the best: dogs or cats?

WILLIAMS: It’s hard to say. I love them both. Dogs are more intuitive. As I got older, I realized how smart dogs are. So, I would say dogs. I didn’t realize that when I was younger. They communicate very well.

DEFENDER: So, how does Pepper communicate when he’s happy?

WILLIAMS: He prances around. He may jump on me. He mostly apprentices. He makes noises like he’s talking.

DEFENDER: What advice would you give anyone thinking about becoming a pet owner?

WILLIAMS: Wow. I have a lot of advice. The first thing is to make sure that you like animals. I’ve see how animals are treated, and sometimes I wonder does the person really even like the dog or whatever they are owning? Just to make sure that you like animals, that you have compassion for their well-being. Read everything you can about the animal before you get it so you can know how to take care of them. And see if you’re ready for the commitment, because it’s a big commitment. You want to really take care of them the way they should be taken care of. And remember that they’re not humans. Even though they communicate very well, they don’t understand. They have a different mind than us. They don’t understand the way we do so you can’t get upset for not doing what you think they should do. They don’t know. You have to train them to understand. Understand they’re very trainable.  I would say to make sure you get them trained and understand their ways of communicating because they communicate very well. You just have to pay attention. They communicate and understand them, because they depend on us for their needs. They can’t talk, they can’t do for themselves. They depend on us. And also, love them the way they love us. Keep them safe and protected. It really hurts my heart when I see a stray animal that’s lost from their family or dead on the side of the road. It just breaks my heart. Just keep them safe and protected always.

DEFENDER: And it looks like that’s exactly what you’re doing with Pepper. Y’all look to be very content with each other.

WILLIAMS: Oh yes. This is my baby.

Aswad Walker

I'm originally from Cincinnati. I'm a husband and father to six children. I'm an associate pastor for the Shrine of Black Madonna (Houston). I am a lecturer (adjunct professor) in the University of Houston...