In the story of my life,not longafter the “I am born” part, comes the “I want a dog” scene. (I wish I could say that my first word was dog, but nobody remembers what my firstutterance was, least of all me. Besides, I’ve always talked a lot, so it was probably too much to remember anyhow.)
The scene played out like this: My mother took me shoppingat Lord & Taylor on New York’s Fifth Avenue. I wasnot yetthree, and still in a stroller. Spying a display of poodle LINK toys, I reached out and, in a horrifyingdisplayofprecocious consumerismo, grabbed. I had about three or four plush pets in my greedy grip. My mortified Mom had to buy all of them, or I wouldn’t be consoled.
That pack of poodles, and my brattiness inmaking them mine, arelegend inmy family. I never named the inanimate dogs; each went by the handle pudli, which is Hungarian for poodle. After years of being pawed by me, they became so well-worn as to be unrecognizable, patched and stitched up innumerable times.
I used to be terror-struck, as a kid,with middle-of-the-night panicabout death. I’m not sure what brought this on, but it kept me awake morenights than I care to remember. Had it not been for the calming presence of the pudli pack, I might be in a padded cell today.
Happily, I would soon know the calming presence of a real, live dog. When I was about 5, my parents adopted a sweet, pretty puppy named Bodri. She was not a pudli but a Puli, LINK and the runt of herlitter. Thanks to that pup, I was able to enjoy all the scientifically documented mental and physicalbenefits of proximity to dogs. And my fate as Pet Reporter was sealed.
The other week, I received a plea for small dogs facing euthanasia at the city animal shelter. With Sasha LINK the Maltese LINK safely in her new foster home, I had room for one small dog. And the dog who caught my eye happened to be a 12-pound, 7-year-oldpoodle named Pete.
In case anyone needed a reminder that real dogshave not muchin common with stuffed animals, Pete is that reminder. My inanimate dogs helped me overcome my nocturnaldeath-fearso I could get some sleep; Peteseems intent onkilling me by keeping me awake. He suffers from separation anxiety, so if he can’t see me hebarks and barks and barks and barks. You name it and I’ve tried it; he still barks.
When he lets rip, I can’t hear myself think; ideas for columns or articles or booksare aborted before they can start forming. Pete is about as far from the pudli ideal as it’s possible to get. (Plus, when he gets annoyed at one ofmy other dogs, he displays a snarl that would put Dick Cheney to shame.)
But I’ve decided to tough it out with Pete the poodle. And here’s why.
Maybe there’s something he’s afraid of, the way Iwas onceterrified of death. We’ll never know exactly what scares him: Is it the fear of abandonment? Of going hungry? Of being separated from his person?Oh, wait; all of those waking nightmares had already happened to him. He’d been found straying the mean streets of Brooklyn. His coat was so matted, the shelter had to shave him down. His left ear was appallingly infected from neglect. He has not one, but two cherry eyes. (He’s scheduled toundergo corrective surgery for this soon.)
So, in honor of what my poodle pack did for me so many years ago, I’m paying that debt forward by trying to bring peace to the life of a real, live poodle. I hopehe calms down soon.
Dogsters, I could use your tips on the barking thing – please leave suggestions in the comments.