Me and My Alpha Dog
When he first arrived from Poodle Rescue, Scamp seemed like such a shy, little dog. Charlie and me found it kind of odd for a puppy to be so quiet, so well behaved: no accidents on the carpet, no chewing on the furniture. He just watched us from his bed, getting the lay of the land.
Even though we got him from Poodle Rescue, Scamp’s not pure poodle. He’s a bichon/poodle mix or “bichpoo”, which makes him smart, stubborn, and cute as all get out. Sure, he understands what you want him to do. He just doesn’t always want to do it. Poodle Rescue recommended I enroll him in a basic training class right away so I could establish my “alpha dog” status. What a joke!
In class, Trainer Pam hardly ever selected Scamp to demonstrate anything, because try as she might, she could not bend him to her will. With most of the dogs, Pam just needed to do a few corrections (a smart yank on the leash) and they would be startled into submission. Not Scamp. He’d just looked at her like, ‘Not even a hot dog treat is worth this kind of treatment. I’m out of here!’ Then he’d high tail it back to me. Poor Pam. No matter what she tried, Scamp could not be deterred. He dug his little white paws into the floor and strained against the leash like a little ox. What a rascal! We made it through the six weeks and got our certificate, but I can’t say we graduated head of the class.
I don’t know who was more relieved when basic training was over, me or Scamp. On our way home from that final class, Scamp nosed his way into my purse, got out the treat bag and helped himself to the rest. “I don’t blame you, little guy,” I says. “We both need a reward.” I dug into the stash of Hershey’s kisses I’d nabbed from the dish Pam had set out for beleaguered pet owners.
Soon as we got home, off came the training collar. I didn’t like how it pulled around Scamp’s neck, and the chain on the collar made his white fur all tarnished like a cheap ring does to your finger. Charlie bought him a nice little harness as a graduation present. Scamp doesn’t wear it indoors because the harness interferes with a good belly rub, other than that, it’s working out fine. The harness is easier on his neck than a collar, and opens the door to some amazing acrobatic possibilities.
A few weeks after we got the harness, Charlie is out walking Scamp around the block. He’s passing Chicky MacPherson’s place just as Chicky’s getting out of his truck. All of a sudden Chicky’s bulldog, Bella (who looks a lot like Chicky) hops off Chicky’s lap and bolts full bore toward Scamp. Charlie didn’t have time to pick Scamp up, so he just starts swinging him around in a circle. There’s Scamp, with his little harness on, eyes big as saucers, flying about four feet off the ground with Bella staring up at him. Both Chicky and Bella walked back to the house, shaking their heads, as Scamp came in for a landing.
At eighteen months, Scamp is a constant source of entertainment. You should see him when I get home from work or after his bath. Scamp races around the house, his little legs a blur they’re moving so fast, jumping on the couch, chewing his bone, leaping off and running around some more.
If you lose something, Scamp’s your guy. He finds things you didn’t even know were missing. Actually, sometimes things are missing because he takes them: like my slippers when I’m in the shower, a Kleenex tucked into the corner of a chair when I get up during a commercial break, or Charlie’s socks. From what I can tell, Charlie’s dirty socks do for Scamp what a Peanut Buster Parfait does for me. They transport him to his happy place. I’m constantly finding socks hidden behind pillows or tucked under Scamp’s bed.
Yup, Scamp is like the naughty child we never had. The other day, I was going to take Scamp for his afternoon walk. I got him all revved up to go, when I realized my sports bra was hanging on the line out back. So I go get the clothes off the line, Scamp yipping like crazy in the house. I come back around to the front of the house, and I can’t get the door open. What is going on? I’m thinking. It’s not locked, because I can get it open half an inch. But then it’s not budging. Finally, I look in the window, and see that Scamp got so excited, he knocked down the doggie gate that we had up to prevent him from bolting out the door. Now the gate was wedged solid between the front door and the door of the closet directly opposite.
What to do? I’d just gotten home from work, and hadn’t taken the stick out of the sliding glass door out back, so that was locked up solid. All the windows were closed because it was chilly that morning. Finally I remembered the picture window. It has two panels either side that slide open towards the middle. Charlie had opened the one by his barkalounger the night before and, though it was closed now, I knew it was unlocked.
I push open the window, then the screen. Great! I’m standing there, staring at the sill of the window which is about as high as my shoulders. So, I go out to the shed and get a step ladder, climb up and haul myself onto the sill hoping old man Phinney isn’t watching the show from across the street. I’m sitting on the sill, trying to decide the best way to jump down without knocking over the side table or hitting the lamp, and there’s Scamp, staring up at me, head cocked to one side, tail wagging, innocent as lamb.
Honest to God! It’s hard to stay mad at the little bugger because he’s so darn cute. Of course he knows it. Because I tell him, “Who’s cute? You are, that’s who. If I was to look up the word cute in the dictionary, whose picture would I see? Yours. Why? Because you’re cute. Yes you are!”
That’s it for now. Catch you on the flip side!
(Listen to the podcast of Ida's column here.)