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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A DOG NAMED TROUBLE (7)


Journal entries by poodle’s mistress:January 29, 1961
     Our new puppy is a cross between a bug and a mop.  She is not much larger than the former and in repose, easily mistaken for the latter.  She has a handle at one end that she agitates joyously to express her pleasure with life in general and people in particular.  At the other end is a pair of silken floppy ears that frame a bright-eyed little face.
     Tokay was given to Vonnie on her sixteenth birthday.  Ever since she joined the family it has been everyone’s birthday because all of us—from big, broad-shouldered, German-Shepherd-fancying Ted to dubious, will-she-quit dog non-fancier, Kathryn—have fallen for Tokay like a row of ten pins.
     I had been warned by several poodle addicts that the breed is sensitive.  This was brought home to me yesterday when I paddled her for assuming we have wall-to-wall grass.  I thought Vonnie was entirely too tender in the way she administered discipline, so I took over, much to my subsequent woe.  She would have nothing to do with me from then on.  Moreover, she changed from a joyful, bounce-like-a-kangaroo wind-up toy to a listless, mortally wounded ball of hurt feelings.  It was as if I had broken a spring.  She would suffer me to take her in my lap, to pet her and fondle her, but there was no longer any response.  She would keep her head turned away from me and tremble until I put her down.  Then she would creep under the chair to pine in solitude.  No amount of coaxing would induce her to approach me voluntarily.  The other members of the family were still accepted, although not with the same open-hearted trust.  The bubbles had gone out of the champagne. 
     Heartsick, I went up to consult with Kathie, who was in bed with a 24-hour virus.  The day before, when I was sick, Kathie had disciplined Tokay without injuring her personality.  What had I done wrong?    
     The answer was that Kathie hadn’t hit her, she had merely spoken to her sharply.  Moreover, she reminded me that it is a mistake to strike any dog with your bare hand.
     “Do you think I’ve ruined her?  Will she ever bounce again?”
     “I’ll take a look,” said the expert.
      Tokay greeted Kathie with restrained cordiality, her tail at half-mast.  According to Kathie’s diagnosis the puppy’s psyche was not permanently damaged; she would be herself in a day or two.  Meanwhile, I would just have to endure this limbo until she decided to let bygones be bygones.
     “Poor Mummy, you didn’t know, you feel awful, don’t you,” said Vonnie.
      By last evening Tokay was accepting my caresses without trembling, but she still wouldn’t come to me of her own accord.  This “I’m deeply offended” attitude is a devastatingly effective defense for a tiny mite in a world of unpredictable giants.
     I got up early this morning and hurried downstairs to release Tokay from her pen in the sunroom.  She shot out like a cork from a bottle, skidded around the room a couple of times, and ended up doing the shimmy at my feet.  I was forgiven.

August 17, 1963
     Moppet is the spunkiest toy poodle this household has ever seen.  She knows she is supposed to stay in the nursery, but whenever I check on her, she has managed to tumble her way out of the box.  Then she runs around the sunroom, getting into trouble.  She loves my African Violets; the ones she can reach on the lower shelves of the plant stands are delicious.  Another gourmet attraction is her master's leather flight bag.
     Moppet hides under the bookcase when she hears me coming.  I return her to the nursery and wag a chiding finger in her face, tapping her on the nose to let her know I'm really cross.
     Her reaction?  She hits me back.  She rears up on her hind legs and bats at my hand with both front paws.  This combat often ends in an undignified backward somersault: she is getting so roly‑poly, she easily loses her balance.  Unembarrassed, she scrambles to her feet and assumes her boxer's stance once more, her expression clearly stating:  "Listen, you, who do you think you're shovin' around?"
October 10, 1963
      I have been teaching Moppet one new trick a week.  She mastered the first three quickly, but persuading her to dance on her hind legs wasn't so easy.  She knew she was expected to do 
something for that tidbit, but was darned if she could figure out what it was.  Whipping through her repertory like a whirling dervish, she sat, flopped down on all fours, sat up again, shook hands, flopped down again, and finally ended up with a trick of  her own.  "Yap, yap, yap!" she scolded.  "What do you want for one lousy cracker -- a tight‑rope act?"                       
November 20, 1963
     Moppet still isn't housebroken, so she is supposed to stay in the kitchen.  When I got home last night, I found Timmy had left the swinging door open.  By the time I found the pup, it was too late to say, "Stop it, Moppet!"  I chased her around the dining‑room table, captured her behind the TV set, and confronted  her with the wet spot under the piano.
     Instead of being repentant, she reared back and looked at me with that indignant expression she assumes when she's chastised.  "What makes you think I did it? Maybe the piano leaks."  
December 14, 1963                                  
     Moppet had her first taste of freezing weather and doesn't like it any better than the rest of us.  Timmy invented a new method for putting her out in the morning.  A leash fits under the door and can be fastened to her collar in the relative warmth of the back hall.  Then the other end of the leash is attached to her run, a line stretching from the back door to the garage. 
     Yesterday morning Ed went out to turn on the heater in his car, stopping on the way to put the pup out.  I heard him chuckling as he came upstairs and asked, "What's the joke?"
     Moppet had started out the door briskly enough, her master said, but when her front paws hit the icy top step, her ears flew out at a horrified angle and she tried to retreat.  Thwarted by the momentum that was propelling her downward, she descended the stairs on her two front legs, with her hindquarters protectively elevated.
     "And they say we poodles are pampered," Ed heard her muttering to herself.
     Moppet has finally learned how to beg.  Instead of falling over backwards, sideways, or on her face as she did at first, she has overcome gravity and is able to balance herself beautifully on her haunches, curling her front paws appealingly against her chest.
     Lately she has developed an aversion to the command "down."
    She'll flop down any old time when she feels like it, including  times when I'd rather she
 didn't‑‑in my lap, for instance, when I'm trying to drive the car or fly the airplane -- but if anyone   
says, "Down, Moppet," what happens?  Nothing.  She knows very well what she's expected to do, but she's doggoned if she'll do it. 
      Yesterday I decided this mutiny had continued long enough.  I was going to teach this new dog her old trick, even if I never made the hairdresser's, my Super Cub lesson at the airport, or Ed's dinner.
     "Down, Moppet."
     Moppet sat and looked at me vaguely as if she hadn't quite caught what I said.
     "Down!" I repeated louder.
     She opened her mouth in a wide yawn; a tiny squeak emerged  from the back of her throat.  She cocked one ear in surprise, then snapped her jaws shut and regarded me innocently.
     "Moppet Listen to me!  Down!"  I ordered, my right arm extended imperiously over her head like King Canute’s.  I might as well have been stationed on the beach, commanding the waves to stand back.  Apparently having lost her hearing, Moppet turned her head and gazed with interest at a flock of birds flying past the window.
    "Pay attention, Moppet," I said, waving her reward under her nose.  "Do you want this cookie?"
     Oh yes, her tail replied, she wanted that cookie very much.   She leaped up on her hind legs and hopped around in circles, trying to snatch the tidbit from my fingers.
     "No, Moppet!  No, no, no!!  Down, not dance."
     The Mop seated herself once more and looked me in the eye, as if to test the strength of my determination.
     "Down!" I said, for the fifth time.
     Her eyes on her reward, Moppet slowly slid one paw forward  and began settling herself on the floor -- ah, capitulation at  last!  But no, it was all just too humiliating, Moppet decided, springing back into a sitting position.  This groveling servitude was too much to ask of a self‑respecting toy poodle.  She wasn't gonna do it.
     "Okay, Moppet," I said.  "No cookie."  I placed the biscuit on the counter and left her alone in the kitchen to think about it.  When I returned, dressed for an excursion to the market, I gave her one more chance.
     "Down, Moppet."
     Moppet had indeed thought things over.  In response to my command to lie down, she sat up and begged.  Beautifully.   Beguilingly.  Adorably.  Disobediently.  No matter how I argued  with her, pointing out that what she was doing was cute and charming but hardly what I had asked her to do, she maintained her suppliant attitude, gesticulating at me with her  paws as if saying, "Come on, let's compromise.  Isn't this worth a crumb or two?"
     I longed to relent and give her the cookie, but figured this would be a sure way to raise a Timmy‑ type poodle.  So we compromised: I gave her half a cookie, squashed her down on the floor ("Down, Moppet"), and gave her the other half.
Journal entry by Moppet            .        
January 16, 1964
     Pardon my French, but Mon Dieu, what a fright I had yesterday.  I'm still all a-quiver from the top of my topknot to the end of my pompom. 
     I was curled up in one of Mrs. Brewer's easy chairs, minding my own business while my mistress and her friends played a game they call bridge.  It's a boring game as far as I can see -- not half as much fun as Nibble Their Ankles or Chew the Briefcase, but everyone to his own taste.
     I was lying there half asleep when young Johnny Brewer walked in with a creature much like myself tucked under his arm.   He set the little fellow down on the floor where he stood stock‑still, staring at me with beady brown eyes.  Being a friendly sort, I stood up and welcomed him with my tail.  Instead of wagging back, the creature said, "Whirrr! Yes, you heard me, whirrr I, too, was puzzled for a moment but soon realized that “whirr” is Chinese for grrrr.
     The newcomer, who hadn't taken his eyes from me for a minute, proceeded to advance slowly toward me, one threatening step at a time.
     "Whirrrrrr!" he snarled.
     "Grrrr!" I said, undaunted, approaching the edge of the chair and confronting him.  I was sure he would be intimidated when he saw I was three times his size, but instead he continued to march in my direction, growling belligerently in Chinese.
     Acting on my motto (if you can't lick 'em, hide your head in a corner), I retreated to the back of the chair.  From this standpoint I could no longer see my aggressor, but I could hear his whirr getting closer and closer and closer. . . . now I was sure I  could feel his hot breath on my neck.  Can you blame me for trying to crawl up the back of the chair?  Wouldn't you do the same?
      My dear mistress, seeing the predicament I was in, came to my rescue.  She picked the creature up 
-- he didn't dare whirr at her, I noticed -- and set him on the mantel where he sulked for the rest of the afternoon.  As for me, I sat in my mistress's lap, thankful that my ordeal was over.  Quel  nightmare!
    
     Kathie and Dick White were married in April, 1964.  Dick had been afraid of dogs since he was attacked by one as a child, but he and Moppet became pals.  Kathie was thrilled when I asked her in September if they'd like Moppet to go with them to California.  Ed was not thrilled.  "That man has taken my dog and my daughter," he said gloomily.  But he cheered up when Miette came into our lives.                                            

Journal entry by poodle’s mistress
November 13, 1964
     Miette knows how to play peek‑a‑boo.  Every morning as I finish making the bed, I throw the spread over her and then start calling, "Miette, where are you, Miette?"  She scampers excitedly around under the spread for a few minutes, then creeps up to the edge of the spread and lies there quiet as a mouse, with no more than a whisker showing.
     "Miette," I call anxiously.  "Where's Miette?"  Suddenly her head pops out.  "Peek‑a‑boo!" I cry.  Under she goes again.  The game continues until she gets bored (I never do), and then we go downstairs for breakfast.
     This morning Samantha happened to be on the bed when I put the spread on, so I lifted it over her head and included her in the game.  "Where are you,  Miette?  Sammy, where's Sammy, here kitty‑kitty." 
     There was a miniature upheaval under the spread as its edge flipped back and Miette's head appeared.  She was glaring at me, no question about it.  And just in case I was too obtuse to read her expression, she made her message clear by barking in my face, which she has never done before.  She barks at her master when he comes home, but this is the first time she's given me the word.
     "What's the big idea, letting her in on our game!" she lectured me.  "If that's the way it's going to be, I won't play."
     Samantha understood.  She crawled under the bed and wouldn't come out until I called her for breakfast.

Journal entry by Miette                      
August 3, 1965
     I've been called a lot of names in my day (Termite, Mouse, Insect, Runt, Thing, etc.), but my master's mother has come up with a new one that everyone says suits me to a T‑‑ "Trouble."  I don't care what they call me as long as they don't call me late for Puppy‑Chow.  (Ha‑ha.)
    Whenever Mimi comes to visit us she brings this character, Mickey.  Mickey is the most enormous toy poodle you ever saw.  I mean, like five by five.  He has a flat face with one tooth sticking out -- I think it got that way from scraping the bottom of his dish.
     I've heard my mistress say a hundred times that Mickey should go on a diet, so to do him a favor, I make a point of getting to his dish ahead of him.  He's a sly one though.  If I don't watch him every minute, he'll stroll over to my dinner and start in on that. Naturally I can't tolerate such bad manners, so I give him the word out of the side of my mouth.  Believe me, he gets the message.
     We'd get along fine if his mistress wouldn't interfere, but Mimi has a habit of peeking into the kitchen to make sure her precious isn't being starved to death.  When she sees me polishing off his dinner, saving him from obesity, does she thank me?  No, she calls me Trouble.
     The next thing I know I'm whisked out of the kitchen and the door is shut in my face. She needn't think I don't know what's going on in there.  Old Fatty is busily gobbling my dinner out of my dish.  Mon dieu, it's enough to make one blow one's topknot.
     Never one to harbor grudges, I soon forgive and forget. I figure if we can't keep Mickey on a diet, maybe we can trim a few pounds off with exercise and calisthenics. So we go around the track a few times, starting at the front door, dashing through the living room, around the corner and down the hall, ending up in the dining room, chasing each other's tails around the table.
     When he gets winded, as he does rather quickly due to his overweight condition, I nip at his heels to encourage him.  After a while he flops down with his tongue hanging out and refuses to run another step.
     All right, I say reasonably, how about a wrestling match?   I'm pooped, he says, how about a nap?  Don't you want to be slim and full of pep like me, I say?  No, he says, closing his eyes.  To wake him up I start dragging him across the floor by his ear, but once again my good intentions are thwarted. Instead of appreciating my efforts in his behalf, he snaps my head off.  Hearing the commotion, Mimi comes running to the rescue.  Not to mine, of course.  Ignoring the fact that my head is in Mickey's jaws, she says, "Poor Mickey, is that naughty Trouble bothering you again?  Well, I'll just bring her outside with me so you can have a nice, peaceful nap."
     Mimi settles down on the terrace with a book and a glass of iced tea and tells me to behave myself.
     Well, I couldn't do anything to please that woman.  When some interlopers walked through our yard and down the path to the beach, I raced after them to tell them they were trespassing.   Mimi scolded me for barking at the Brewers, and asked me why I couldn't be a good, quiet dog like Mickey.
     Then some birds landed on our property and began stealing bugs out of the grass.  Naturally I had to chase them over to McKennas' yard, but instead of praise I got another scolding.
     I was about to wander down to the beach and tell the Brewers they had to leave when I heard Mimi say to herself, "Guess I'd better take my lowers out."  You can imagine my astonishment when she opened her mouth and removed the bottom half of her teeth.  What was she going do next, I wondered.  She started to put her teeth on a beach towel, then noticed I was watching her and wagging my tail to express my interest.
     "Oh‑oh," she muttered.  "Guess I'd better hide them."
     What fun, a game of hide and seek!  My master and mistress often hide my favorite toy under their pillow or inside the cabinet behind their bed, and what a good laugh we have when I find it almost immediately.
     I wagged my tail harder than ever as Mimi took one of her slippers, turned her back so I couldn't see what she was doing, then picked up the towel and wrapped it around  the slipper.
     Before long she was dozing.  Wasting no time I went straight to work on the towel, digging and pulling at it with my paws and teeth.  If only I’d been born with a thumb instead of a dewlap I could meet life's challenges more efficiently, but considering my limitations, I think I do very well.  In a few seconds I succeeded in loosening the towel and retrieving the slipper.  I nosed around in the toe and sure enough, just as I expected, there were the lowers.
     I wish the family could have seen Mimi's expression when she opened one eye and saw me standing there with her teeth in my mouth.  I never saw anyone look so funny.  As I heard my master say later, "If only I'd been there with a camera, what a picture that would have made."
(Journal entry by Miette)
August 5, 1965
     I think my master understands me better than my mistress does.  He knows I'm only trying to protect her when I bark at suspicious characters approaching our door.  I even bark at him, just to remind him he shouldn't come near her without my permission.
     My mistress tells me I shouldn't bark at members of the family.  I try very hard to do things her
way, partly because I’m fond of her and partly because I'm fond of the cookies she rewards me with. .   When I forget, she calls me a "bad barky dog" and puts me in the closet.  She gets especially upset when I bark during the night to let her know Timmy has finished watching the Late, Late Show.  I wish he'd go to bed at the same time as the rest of us so I wouldn't get so many scoldings.
     Quite often I march into the closet all by myself when I realize I've been naughty.  I feel more dignified that way.  One night my mistress was provoked with me because I barked at Mimi, and Mimi said, "I'm glad Mickey is such a nice, quiet dog."  I had to stay in the closet for a long, long time.  I tried very hard to be as good as Mickey for the rest of the evening, but when Gram came downstairs I couldn't resist saying hello five or six times. 
      One look at my mistress's face and I knew I'd done it again. I hurried over to my cell, but the door was open only a crack.  If I were as fat as Mickey I'd never have gotten in, but by doing a lot of pushing and squirming with my head and shoulders, and a great deal of wiggling with my hindquarters, I finally managed to  squeeze through the opening.  Everyone laughed and clapped their hands.  In fact my mistress was so proud of my accomplishment, she set me free in a very few minutes.
     Last Sunday something quite frightening happened to my mistress.  It's a good thing I was nearby to defend her or she might have been damaged by the Brewers' German Shepherd.  Topaz is getting much too old to be acting like a puppy, in my opinion.  My mistress was taking a nap on the beach with her straw hat covering her face, and I was digging a hole in the sand.  All of a sudden I heard her cry, "Topaz!"  Looking up from my chore I saw that Topaz had gamboled over to see what I was doing.  In her clumsy way she walked all over my mistress’s face, knocking her hat off and stepping on her eye.
     I almost went out of my mind with rage.  I bared my teeth and went after that beast with every intention of giving her the trouncing of her life, but I had a problem.  She was taller than I, so I couldn't reach her.  She looked down at me with a puzzled expression while I stood on my hind legs, leaping and growling, determined to get her by the throat and shake some sense into her. 
     At last I succeeded in giving her nose a good nip, whereupon she snarled and knocked me over with her paw.  My mistress rushed up and grabbed me, saying excitedly that someone was going to get hurt.  She was right, too.  Another few minutes and I'd have made mincemeat of that oafish animal.
     If Kathie were here, instead of at a place called college, she'd understand me the way she used to understand Heidi the pony and Pokie the goat and all the other animals.  My mistress often talks about those happy, long ago days when the family was growing up.  I hope someday Kathie will come home again.  

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