Up with poodles!
Greetings fellow poodleans. I am proudly owned by one female standard poodle and am excited to find a format to help me learn just what it is she expects of me and how to best make her happy. Her name is Shasta and she arrived in my life in a most unusual way.
While I do not agree with the practice of using puppies as silent auction items, this angel I have was a star with bidders at the Opera Gala. They called her The Opera Pup. She was donated by a local rescue group after being surrendered by a breeder in another state. I was wearing my favorite pink beaded formal gown. She peed on it a bit when I picked her up and an amazing thing happened. I didn't care! Here I was at one of the hottest social events of the year with puppy pee on me - and what others thought about it was of no concern to me. My vain ego-driven self was more worried about how scared that little ball of fluff was with the music, lights, and strangers. It was a done deal. I didn't want a dog, I wasn't looking for a dog, but obviously needed a dog. She grounded me. And for the last two Opera Galas, I have stayed at home playing fetch and tug and “get the bug.” I love that fate smiled on me and brought her into my life.
After having Shasta for six weeks, I went to pick up her paperwork from the rescue group. The night before, another dog that had been rescued from out of state gave birth to 10 pups. I took a look at the little critters and the part of my brain that has always thought dogs should live in packs took hold. I chose one for a companion for Shasta. For the next six weeks I visited and sat on the floor of the kennel being mauled by puppies and loving on Momma so my new addition, Shandy would have the smells of myself and Shasta cemented when it was time to come home. Shandy was a stunning white and beige parti Standard with amazing markings and eyes that were such dark brown they almost looked black. Of course no one thought to tell me of the trials and tribulation that would come having puppies that were three months apart in age, but if they had, it wouldn’t have mattered. I loved my pack.
Shandy was the handful from the get go. She was a poster child for what can go wrong with poorly bred puppy mill dogs. She had an overbite, an umbilical hernia, and scored over a 0.3 on the PENNhip showing hip dysplasia. She also had a temperament that would be called ADHD (emphasis on the H) if she was human. Still, she was a joy. She was such a clown and so cleaver. I sent both dogs to a month long board-and-train that a woman did in a home environment. She brought the dogs back and said, “I didn’t think you wanted me to break Shandy’s spirit.” This translated to: “I couldn’t do much with her.” I pressed on and after a lot of work Shandy was able to enjoy dog parks, the wine bar (a favorite place to people watch on the patio), and our daily outings out in public. I loved my silly silly Little-Bit-of-Trouble-and-a-Lot-of-Treasure.
Three months ago, at 11:00 at night, Shandy was pushing all the blankets off the bed and digging a hole-to-China in the mattress. In the process she would jump off and on the bed to make sure everything was going like she wished; just like she did every night. At one point, she jumped off and then hunched her back and yelped. I went to see if she had landed wrong on her leg. As I checked her over she started to pant and kept arching. My heart sank because I knew what the problem was: bloat. I had her at the emergency and she was in x-ray in less than 20 minutes. I was okaying surgery and filling out paperwork when the vet came in and told me to come say goodbye. It was so surreal. I am still bouncing from grief stage to grief stage. And guilt seems to be the stage I stick on the longest. She was my responsibility. Surely I could have done more – she was so young. I had loved my life with my two best friends and now I only had one.
So now it is just Shasta and I. Shasta has always been the lover. She is a big girl (70 lbs. but the vet says is not overweight.) My friend described her as that big dumb kid from school that was everyone’s friend. The secret is she isn’t dumb at all. She appears that way because she moves slowly. She plods through life shuffling her paws on the floor but she is observing and computing every step of the way. There is not a chicken that she cannot liberate from a kitchen counter. Not a drawer or cabinet that is a safe haven for treats. Not a piece of furniture that can hold a toy captive under. She sits, stays, downs, down settles, leaves it, goes night-night, paw bumps, speaks, balances pretzels on her nose, gets the [toy, leash, bone,] brings the [toy, leash, bone], and gives requested kisses. And she would do more if I would get creative enough to figure out what to teach her next. I love this furry gentle genius.
She is the perfect dog – almost. And this is where I need help from this site to learn. After a month of board-and-train and three classes and endless work, I cannot break her from jumping on people. We are ready to get our CGC and start classes to get Delta certified except… I will post under behavior to seek help. This dog lives to be loved. She is never happier than when she has a human hand on her head or back. This dog naps through fireworks and can stroll past a rabid pit-bull without flinching. I don’t work and have plenty of time to give to volunteering. It seemed therapy dog programs would be a perfect way for us to spend more time together. I am ready to accept the idea that she will never be able to do this. Not all dogs can. But since there is only one behavior to conquer, I am not ready to accept the thought of giving up. I love the time we spend together, would love to spend more, and would love to share this amazing creature with others.
To those of you who have managed to read this novel, thank you for taking the time to get to know us. I am thrilled to find a group that understands the unique world that is poodle ownership. I thank you in advance for the great advice and fun stories I will get from you in the future. Take care.