For years, I have shared stories about the adventures and misadventures of my Vic, Lady Victoria of Marsan. She was not only the first purebred, registered dog I had ever owned, but also the first standard poodle. From the very first moment that I met Vic she became a part of my life in ways I never anticipated. A true mistress of versatility, go anywhere, do anything kind of girl who greeted every new experience with enthusiasm and passion, Vic was an incredible teacher and always had a lesson to give any who took the time to listen to her. She loved babies of all kinds, whether two legged or four, furred, feathered, or hairy. She loved playing soccer with the neighbor children, could steal a ball and drive it to the end to score points like a pro and later, when I moved to the mountains, she applied those very same skills towards goat herding, turning the entire herd and bringing them home, without ever having any training outside of a soccer ball, on their very first escape. Vic was a terrifically obsessed ball and frisbee retriever, I vividly remember a young college student watching us intently one day at the dog park, enough it made me nervous, when I confronted him, he responded in amazement that he had been watching Vic and "that dog does geometry!".. he was fascinated by her watching a frisbee and "calculating the angle" it was going to come down at. I had never thought about it quite that way before. Vic eventually learned to "read" road signs, always bumping me in the shoulder with her nose and spinning around three times to warn me when we were approaching cattleguards. Later a friend asked me if I had heard the news.. that dogs could read. Heck yeah, Vic has been doing it for years, I told them. Vic was involved in Search and Rescue with Evergreen Search and Rescue in Clark County, Washington. Trained initially as a wilderness airscenting dog, she quickly learned that it was important to keep an eye on her people as silly us, we were always getting lost (training exercises). At under a year of age, we spent several weeks tent camping in Alaska and while there, Vic developed a deep dislike for bears which lasted her entire life. Vic was always ready to go after any bear that was foolish enough to cross her path, yet, her one fear was mountain lions. At even a whiff of "lion" scent, she would drop to the ground and shake all over, I never learned the "why" for it, but never had any doubts when we were in the proximity of either lion or bear.
Vic gave me 11 gorgeous poodle pups, my first puppies ever. That was the beginning of Yadda Poodles. Of those 11, three went on to become working service dogs. Not the wanna-be kind of service dogs that some people talk about, but hard working partners who's owners truly depended on them for many things throughout each day. And then, Vic introduced me to the heartbreaking part of standard poodles, when she first developed epilepsy and later, Addison's disease. Never a whiney girl, never a girl to give up, she spent months in misery and finally near death before her Addison's was finally diagnosed. A number of people were critical of me, letting me know that I was cruel, that I should have shown her mercy and had her put down, but what they didn't see, was Vic's eyes. Vic never gave up, had Vic ever given me "the look", I would have ended it all then. There were many days that I had to carry her (prediagnosis), in/out, etc. But never once did that light go out in her eyes. She let me know what she needed and together, we got the job done. Years later, when I was diagnosed with major, life threatening health issues, I was able to face them because Vic had shown me how. Years before that however, I had to have a minor surgery to my sinuses, and weeks later, I returned to the specialist, demanding to be evaluated, although he had already released me from his care and given me a clean bill of health. He had a tough time keeping a straight face when I told him that I was there because "Vic says my nose stinks". He was astounded to find that I had an abcess in an area he thought had healed, and ended up joining the Vic fan club, with a photo of her on his desk. As is typical with most girls, Vic loved shopping sprees, and after she shoplifted a spiffy new toy from PetSmart (yes, I made her return it <VBG>) it became standard "procedure" for her to go through the check out of whatever store we were in, stand on her hind feet and look at the clerk so we were all confident that she had no new treasures hidden away in her mouth. The last few years, she has visited a large farm and feed store many times where she was well known. She would carefully check out every toy in the dog toy aisle (and it's a long aisle, they really like dogs there!), then would go over to the big black tub and pick out a single tennis ball. After she had made her selection, I would have her sit, take her ball.. and then the fun began. With the consent of the management, I would hide the ball and Vic got to find it. Everyone loved watching her in action. Occasionally I would make an identifying mark on her ball and throw it back in with the other balls. She never had any problems finding "her" ball and she delighted in the attention. Good customer that I am, I always let Vic carry her treasured ball to the check stand, where I paid for it. I think I must have a couple hundred of them. I have so many wonderful memories of her! The "brain teaser" toys that I got her as a puppy, the kind you put the treats and it keeps dogs busy for hours that she quickly found if she just held it in her mouth and shook her head she could empty it in under a minute. I remember the day she discovered.. gravity.. that she could get balls and toys to roll down hill or stairs when she couldn't get anyone to play with her. She was incredibly good at getting people to play with her. A perfect example of high level trainer in action, Vic was a master at motivating people, shaping behaviors and rewarding them. I once gave a brief training class in which let Vic loose on the unsuspecting group. While I spoke, Vic annoyed... and she demonstrated every single training technique I was speaking about. It was the best dog training class I've ever given or attended. I remember the time she rounded up the ducks and herded them all into my carpeted living room.. of course I yelled at her to get them out of the house, which she did.. and then waited for her treat for being such a good girl. Vic used to help carry in the groceries, along with her daughter Cleo and her son Riley. My daughter would go in the house, I would unload the shopping items, giving each poodle something to carry in. One day, I gave Vic a bag of Hershey's kissing and she ran in the front door, and, I assumed to my daughter, which is where she had been taking everything. I filled Riley's mouth, then Cleo's, no Vic, Riley's, then Cle, No Vic. Finally I called to my daughter and asked where Vic was.. she hadn't seen her. I found her tail sticking out from under my bed.. she had taken the bag of kisses, opened it and was merrily devouring the kisses as fast as she could get them unwrapped. Yes, she did unwrap her candy before eating it. For several years she accompanied me to the local computer center where I volunteer. I'll never forget the day a young toddler removed a candy from her own mouth, gave it to Vic, who sucked on it entusiastically for a moment, then the toddler reached into Vic's mouth, fished the candy out and popped it back into her own mouth! A bit aghast, I informed the nonchalent father, who assured me it was okay because the child had all of her shots! So many wonderful,treasured memories of Vic,....
The level of understanding between Vic and myself grew progressively deeper and deeper, to where, frequently at a glance, we could understand what the other was thinking. When I faced off with a young man who had come to steal hay from my barn, Vic was one of the poodles who stood strong at my side. Always previously rambunctious and friendly, eager to meet, greet and adore strangers, on this day, she showed her gorgeous pearly white teeth while growling a terrifying growl,ready to spring into action if needed. The last few years, I have lived with my poodles, remotely. Together we have overcome numerous challenges of all kinds and through it all, Vic has been a major source of strength, love, inspiration and courage, while somehow still managing to find a way to have fun each day.
As time passed, the relationship between Vic and myself evolved and changed so much from my beginning concept of poodle ownership. Initially, pet owner and puppy, then canine and handler, and finally to that of partners. I think very few people are fortunate to have a dog for a partner. The relationship is one that is hard to describe, but what can tell you is this, the deep relationship between Vic and I was one that made us both stronger, better than either of us would have been as individuals.
The Nez Perce people have a belief that everything in the world, trees, rock and animals have a consciousness or spirit and if a human can get such a spirit to approach and adopt one, it provides help in time of need, protects from harm, and becomes a personal guardian. They call this spirit a "Weyekin".
In honor of Vic, I am changing my affix from "Yadda Poodles" to "Weyekin Poodles"
Good bye to my Weyekin girl, Vic and thank you for all that you have given and shared with me.
Lady Victoria of Marsan,
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What a beautiful tribute. What a great & wonderful relationship between you & Vic. I'm so happy to hear how your relationship evolved from puppy to partner. As you said, that relationship is hard to describe. I had that kind of relationship with my last toy poodle "Honey" I hope to have that someday with the dog I have now. I am so very sorry to hear of Vics passing. It sounds like she had a great life! I feel the pain you are going through right now & my thoughts & prayers are with you. I know words don't help so just know that it gets a tiny bit easier as every day passes. Your tears will someday turn into laughs & happy memories. Vic had a long life (I know its never long enough) and I suspect, knows how much she was loved. Be strong & know people are here to listen.
R.I.P. Lady Victoria of Marsan
Having a dog doesn't mean that they own a piece of your heart, it means that they own all of your heart. ~ Robin Hall.
Beautiful testament to Vic. I wish I could give you a hug in real life right now. It is so hard to lose a friend and even harder to lose a partner. Know that she lived a wonderfully long, full, happy life with you. She was a good dog, a very good dog.