Friday, July 8, 2011

Wanted: one old-fashioned shoe dog

     Whatever happened to good ole dogs that just ate shoes? That's all I really ever wanted-- an adorable, scruffy, floppy little puppy that chewed up my slippers, perhaps an occasional pump or two, maybe an old sneaker. You know the type, the ones you can laughingly swat on the head with a newspaper, saying "Bad dog, bad dog," as they guiltily look up at you with a fuzzy slipper hanging out of their mouth. But, oh no, not for us a mere shoe-eating dog. We had to have poodles. Standard poodles. Big, smart, finicky, fussy dogs that think they are too good to feast on  something you would solely put on your feet. These purebred types, they go for the high ticket, rugs, accessories, appliances...expensive things that you can't just run out and replace when one gets destroyed. Poodles are tricky. They think about the damage they are inflicting. They want it to hurt. They want to max out your credit card when you have to replace the latest project they've gnawed to pieces.  I think it's a power play, a poodle ploy just to let us simple humans know those crafty canis familaris are really in control, that they are smarter than your average homo sapien.    
     We knew this about poodles. We understood this about poodles. We worried about this with poodles. And yet, we still went out and brought home poodles. Poodles!  Knowing full well that our home was going to be invaded by an animal with an attitude. Not only that, the attitude was a fur-wrapped termite the size of  a small cow.  Gus, Rhett, Sugar Pie, Auggie....a pestiferous poodle pattern  repeated over and over and over and over for the last twenty years. It was the eighth wonder of the world that we still had a house standing after decades of these poodles with a penchant for period pieces.
      Our last poodle had been the largest and hungriest so far, chomping his way through every room in the house.  The late, great Auggie was eighty-five pounds of curly white wool, innocent as a lamb but with fangs that could easily rip through a sideboard. He preferred mahogany over walnut, Chippendale over Queen Anne. He left a path of destruction that often left me in tears, and over the course of  his puppy stage,  he managed to devour eight dining room chairs, three oriental rugs, two legs on the breakfast room set, and an antique card table that had belonged to my grandmother. Miraculously, he survived his teething period only because he could run faster than I could catch him and because  he was smart enough to hide until I had cooled off. After he finished cutting his canines, he settled into an affectionate and lovable member of the family, and I dearly loved him, even though I always eyed him suspiciously around my mahogany. Sadly, in March, he suddenly died from an autoimmune disease, an illness I believed was caused by ingesting pounds and pounds of wood splinters and carpet fibers.  My husband deeply mourned the loss of his big, ravenous poodle, and to fill the void left behind by eighty-five pounds of  lumbering dog, we  decided to surprise him with a shaggy haired, thick-snouted, red -headed poodle puppy that we fittingly named "Alf."   We quickly discovered, however, that unlike his television namesake,  this "Alien Life Form" did not have a taste for mere kitties.  He preferred, much like his poodle predecessors,  household accessories.
      Pillows, picture frames, willow baskets, tilt-top tables, porcelain vases, computer cords ....all were fair game in the mind of this poodle. Alf had only been part of the family for a month, just long enough to settle in and take inventory, when he started munching his way through the house.  From living room to dining room to den to study, across the mid-section, through the back, and down the center; bedrooms and bathrooms had all been inventoried and invaded and tasted and sampled as he began to eat his way from one end to the other. I bought chew toys and squeaky toys and busy bones and crunchy treats, but they did  little more than take the edge off his appetite for timber, and fresh little teeth marks began appearing on the edges of furniture. He soon expanded into more than just the wooden legs of all my tables and chairs. He was a renaissance dog, with a growing taste for art and furniture and accessories, and a curiosity for even the more mundane of household items.
       He attacked the fountain on the front porch with a regular fury, dove headfirst into all the toilets to splash water everywhere, played leapfrog on the sofas,  left slobbery noseprints investigating every window in the house, nibbled off the scant remaining fringe on my rugs, and  once almost made an international call while chewing on the cordless phone. His ambitious antics only served  to work up an appetite, a furious craving to chew on something solid and substantial.  I  tried to sabotage his tastes and train him to eat shoes, leaving slippers and loafers and sandals lying all over the house, thinking surely a stinky sneaker or a well-used hunting boot would get his attention.  But alas, this doggie would not bite! Not a single sole had been so much as sniffed. Just like Auggie, he was purely a house dog.

Guilty as charged!
       And so, he continued to gobble his way through the house, each day finding some new and tasty tidbit to inhale.  This morning, for breakfast, he devoured a silk braided tassel that was hanging from the skeleton key of my walnut corner cupboard.  As a mid-morning snack, he polished off two needlepoint pillows-- a matching set of Whippets that  had proudly perched on the Queen Ann wing chairs in the living room. I discovered his little feast by following a mysterious trail down the hall, a Hansel and Gretel trail of white pillow stuffing and fluff, a trail which led right to the tip of his guilty little snout. The poor, demolished, decapitated whippets lay dead on the floor, entrails spilling onto the rug, bits of fluff and thread scattered nearby.  Alf merely looked up at me as if to say, "They didn't even taste all that great. Grab me a footstool, will you? I'm still hungry."
     My days of chasing dogs were long over. I had willingly brought the rascal into my home; I had purchased the pup with my own hand-written check.  It had been my decision, and mine alone, to surprise my husband (the same man who had recently announced there would be no more poodles) with a new puppy.  I knew what I was doing. I knew what the consequences would be, and that made me almost as guilty as Alf.
       So I simply picked up the mauled pillows and tossed them in the trash with a sigh. I patted him behind the ears and gently said, "Bad dog, bad dog," as I headed to the closet for the vacuum cleaner and a bone.

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