It’s hard to say if Parker KNOWS he’s a poodle. He might not actually care. Neither his whiskers nor his ears move when someone who looks normal says in front of him that stereotypical breed slur: “I hate poodles!”
So tell me why, exactly, it’s okay to say that out loud and with smiles to a poodle owner and in front of the dog? I growl louder than Parker. But I am polite, gracious, maybe even kind to people who do not have a guardian between their brain and mouth even as I say to myself: SURELY, such people can refrain from sharing their ignorance with us? We get that all the time, my poodle and me.
We get the other side of it too though: gushy people who say, “Oh! I LOVE STANDARD POODLES! I grew up with them.” In fact, a neighbour is one of them.
Parker and I met Jason when we were walking down the street about a week after I got Parker… a little Honda Civic stopped in the middle of the road and out got this couple who RAN over to Parker…and they just gushed. They introduced themselves, the guy (Jason) telling me that he grew up with poodles. I wonder if that doesn’t make for some good science TV documentary or story in the National Enquirer: HUMANS RAISED WITH STANDARD POODLES !!
At any rate, I was equally polite to Jason and the woman with him. We are not so good with gushers either, my poodle and me. But we are alike in our politeness. Our aloofness. Our listening and taking in. We understand that there are poodle fanatics who need to tell us their feelings as much as poodle haters. Freedom of expression and all that … stuff.
We have it all worked out in terms of how to manage it. Parker looks at me. I look at him. We exchange something in that look, and it is usually me signalling whether it’s ok to stop or not. If it is, he sits. And waits for adoration to be over. If it isn’t TOO gushy a scene, sometimes he will give a lick. Or bury his head in a hand. He takes whatever lovin’ up he wants, then steps back, sits and waits for me. And then we are on our way, he trotting beside me like the cross between a Friesian horse, sheep and human that he is. If it is not ok to stop, he will not sit, and that is MY signal to use to get us going.
Doesn’t always work that way, though. A few weeks ago, we were crossing the street, and this young man in his mid-20s came running up, all pierced, somewhat tattooed…and fell into step with us. I didn’t really know what to make of it, but as it turned out, he had always hated poodles, and then met a woman who had two standard poodles, and he fell in love with the breed. After a while, one of them had just passed away, the black one. We had reached the sidewalk and were standing there at the corner, Parker and I listening to him. They guy knelt down to pet Parker who looked at me for a moment, and then lowered his nose and pushed his head into the shoulder of this young man he’d never met before. I thought the young man was going to cry: his eyes reddened. But instead he just buried his face into Parker’s neck and scruffled him up. It was…a lovely moment for both of them. We’ve seen each other a few times since that first meeting this young man and I, and if Parker is with me, they continue their special moments.
We walk in the neighbourhood a fair bit, and have come to know the dogs, adults and kids fairly well. On this morning we ran into Doodle, who is, well, a doodle who lives down the street with a young family thatmoved here from Denmark in the summer. A minute after this was snapped, they bounced around. Each bark of Parker’s sending Doodle running around in a mad circle. Doodle’s tail did not stop for a second.
Then it was onto the park for a while, and walking back home we went through the soccer field where Parker found a stick. Having a big dog has helped me tremendously. I no longer throw like a girl.
Walking up the street toward home, we saw some of Parker’s friends including Rocky.
While the dogs sniff and wag and run about, the owners chat, and after a while, Parker and I say goodbye and then we slowly made our way home. I say slowly, because as we turn onto the Danforth, Parker slows down. When he’s off-lead, he slows down even more. When we get to the house, Parker’s climb up the stairs is in slow motion. All this slowness is new behaviour from Parker that started the day after Allie passed away.
It’s hard to know whether or not to get another dog; more for Parker than for me. This time, if I do it’ll be a red standard poodle. Stay tuned on that: Parker just might be successful in talking me into it.