Down East 2013 ©
Big doings in the LeClair household! Charlie and me just got a fifteen-month-old miniature poodle: Scamp. The experts at Poodle Rescue think there’s a bit of Bichon in him, and after living with him for two weeks, I think they’re right. It’s not just the shape of his hind legs, it’s Scamp’s temperament, which can veer toward the stubborn. So he fits right in at our house.
Two-and-a-half months ago, we had to put down Belle, our fourteen-year-old standard poodle. I swear, it was hardest thing Charlie and I have ever done. Belle was the best dog with the sweetest disposition and a heart of gold. To quote my friend, Mary, “If I can be half as good as Belle, I will die a happy woman.” Belle had lead a good, full life, but still.... it broke my heart.
It took about a month of walking into an empty house for me to start wanting another dog. You know, seeing that spot of the floor where Belle’s bed used to be? I just missed having a little buddy. I like running errands, coming back to the car and seeing that little head pop up in the window. I like having to get out and take a walk, regardless of the weather. Most of all, I like coming home and being greeted by someone who’s over-the-moon happy to see me. Charlie is just not all that excitable.
When I started talking about a new dog, Charlie went along with it pretty quick. He knew how much I missed Belle. And to be honest, I think he was tired of me hugging him all the time, smelling the top of his head, scratching behind his ear saying in my talk-to-the-dog baby voice, “Who’s the best husband in the whole wide world? I love you. Yes, I do!”
Charlie said maybe we should consider a miniature. I was surprised. I thought he liked having a big dog. You know, to throw the ball with or bring along to the dump.
I warmed right up to the idea. It would be nice, I thought, to have a dog I could cuddle in my lap. Also, Charlie and I aren’t getting any younger, and having an old dog takes strength. Belle only weighed about forty pounds, but in the last couple years it was hard lifting her into the car and up the steps. Besides, the double-wide isn’t all that big when you get right down to it.
I wanted a dog that was enough like Belle to be familiar, but different enough so I wouldn’t compare. So, about seven weeks after Belle went to poodle heaven, I called up Mary, who is kind of connected in the poodle community. I told her we were ready, and this time we wanted a miniature. Two days later, up pops this picture of Scamp in my email. Well, he was called Charles back then. Have you ever heard of such a name for a dog? But he was coming from Poodle Rescue in Connecticut, so maybe that’s par for the course down there.
At first, we called him Charlie, but it was confusing having two Charlie’s in the house, so we moved on to Junior and Peanut. But after he’d been with us awhile and started to settle in, his true personality began to emerge, and Charlie and me started calling him Scamp. I know you’re probably not supposed to change a dog’s name, but Scamp adapted pretty quick. I think in his heart, he knew he wasn’t a Charles.
Now we have a doggie gate blocking the door, and a doggie playpen, and dog toys scattered all over the house, and I love it! Scamp’s color runs from bright white to what Martha Stewart would call ecru depending on how long it’s been since he’s had a bath. Scamp likes Charlie OK, but it’s me he’s cuckoo over. He hops up and follows me where ever I go. Why, just this morning I hear Charlie chuckling in the living room. I tippy-toe over and see Scamp rolling around on the carpet, his nose buried in my slipper. Little bugger just can’t get enough of me!
Scamp and I get along famously, except when we go to dog training class. The Poodle Rescue people said we had to continue training because Scamp had had so little of it. I’d never done any formal dog training. When Charlie and me adopted Belle, she was six years old, and good as gold.
I confess, we’ve been to dog school twice so far, and Scamp and I have got to be the worse ones in class. The first night, even Pam the teacher, who can get most dogs to do anything, couldn’t get him to sit. Finally, she said he was emotionally over loaded. Pam walked away, Scamp looked me in the eye and sat. So, it’s not that he doesn’t know what sit is, he’s just stubborn.
At the beginning of the second class, Pam wanted us to walk our dogs around and get them to sit three times before we could go to our chairs. What a joke! I could not get that dog to sit once. It’s embarrassing! Even the misbehaved lab and the psycho terrier stick with the program. We drive home not speaking to each other.
Class aside, though, Scamp is a great little guy. He’s cute as a button and funny as all get out, rolling around in the grass or burrowing under the blankets. Charlie loves him, too, and even brought him along to the dump last Saturday, you know, to supervise.
Oh, and yesterday, we had a breakthrough of sorts. I finally had some luck with getting Scamp to sit. I decided instead of saying sit over and over, and finally, pushing Scamp into the position, I’d out stubborn him.
“Scamp, sit,” I said. He got up on his hind legs to try to get the piece of string cheese I was using for motivation. When that didn’t work, Scamp stood there, looking casually to the right and then the left, then at the cheese, mulling it over. It cracked me up! Finally, with a sigh, he just give up and sat down. And of course, I’d praised the hell out of him.
That’s it for now. Catch you on the flip side.
(Listen to the podcast of Ida's column here. )