The Poodle Professor – Part I

There’s an old saying that goes,

            No man is my friend

            No man is my enemy

            Every man is my teacher.

            The same aphorism could be applied to some of our four legged friends as well. My experience came from an 18 year old Miniature Poodle named Paris.

            Paris belonged to my step mother. When she moved in with my dad and me, Paris joined her. I hadn’t lived with a dog in over twenty years. I looked forward to it. I’m a dog lover, but never spent enough time at home to get one, myself. When Paris joined us, I treated her as my own.

            My last dog was a male Cairn Terrier. Paris was roughly the same size, but female. This would be easy, I figured. There are some drugs on the market that come with an FDA Black Box warning. I quickly learned that miniature poodles should come with a similar one. Most people think of poodles as “girly” dogs. Not so. A poodle is the kind of dog you work your way up to after getting bored raising Rottweilers and Pit Bulls. Miniature Poodles can be quite the temperamental hand full.

            Paris loved my step mother. I didn’t always think of it as a healthy kind of love, however. On occasion, it crossed over into obsession. I remember one day my dad and I watched her during the football playoffs. She behaved like a little canine angel. When my step mom walked in the door, she became a different dog. Paris stared at her and barked and barked and barked as she talked to my dad. I tried petting Paris, but my efforts seemed to make her crave her owner’s attention that much more. She flicked my hand off with her head. My step mother picked her up and cuddled her for a few moments before putting her back down on the couch. She then went out to dinner with my dad.

            Hell hath no fury like a poodle scorned. As Paris was too old to jump off the couch I set her down on the floor. She walked around the house, searching every room looking for my step mother. When she realized she’d left Paris laid down in front of the couch and cried FOR A WHOLE HOUR! Not being proficient in the field of canine psychology I did my best to ameliorate her. I brought out her toys, I petted her behind the ears, I brought over her dinner, but nothing seemed to work. I finally gave up. I tried turning up the television so I could at least enjoy the game, but it didn’t help. You know it’s bad when you’re watching playoff football, the home team scores and you can’t hear the roar of the crowd over a small dog’s lugubrious lamentations.

            As upset as Paris would get at the departure of her owner, she’d show the same degree of cheerfulness upon her return. Due to her advanced age, Paris had difficulty hearing. She sensed people’s presence through smell. When we’d walk in the door she’d lay quietly in her bed for a few moments. Her nose would suddenly face the ceiling. She’d sniff madly picking up my stepmother’s fragrance. Her feet would then move so fast a visitor would’ve mistaken her for a puppy. Her paws would move rapidly in various directions as she tried to sit up. After tripping over herself several times, she’d finally get into a sitting position. Then she’d howl. You read that right. She wouldn’t bark. She’d howl. She’d continue wailing until my step mother picked her up and showered her with attention.

            I think had Paris been born human she would’ve been an engineer. She certainly would’ve bested me at Tetris ®, that’s for sure. She had a number of plush toys in her doggie bed. Every now and then she’d sit up and start crying. Her front paws moving as fast as Buddy Rich’s hands during a drum solo. She’d re-arrange the toys to make a surrogate mattress for herself. That’s a pretty good accomplishment for a small animal. I’ve known engineers over the years who couldn’t make something work with the benefit of blue prints and manuals.

            One May, my father and step mom took a trip to the New Orleans area to visit her family. They asked me if I’d watch Paris. I reveled in the opportunity. I got along well with her. She seemed to like me. What could go wrong? There’s an old Jewish saying: “One parent can raise ten children, but ten children can’t raise one parent.” During that month I discovered that one single guy can’t house sit one poodle.

                                                To Be Continued  

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