The first baby my Lovely Wife and I had was our Dalmatian, Pepper.
While Pepper was a sweet dog -- and a lot smarter than we often gave her credit for being -- she was a complete menace. Because of her tireless energy we lost trees, books, bedding, our lawn, and an entire kitchen floor straight down to the plywood. And no matter what color you chose to wear, Pepper had a contrasting hair for it.
One year, Pepper developed a habit of nibbling the bark off a thirty-year-old plum tree in our backyard. I asked my brother for advice and he told me to dab the tree with hot sauce. When I explained how that hadn't worked when Pepper was chewing up her bed because she seemed to like the taste of Frank's Red Hot, he suggested I try ammonia. I had mixed feelings.
In my teens, I had accidentally taken a long sniff at a bottle of ammonia and it felt like someone was shoving hot pins and needles through my brain and into the back of my skull. I wasn't sure I could do that to Pepper. Then I looked out the window and saw her gnawing on the tree and decided to try it.
As I dabbed the ammonia onto the trunk of the old plum tree, Pepper walked casually up and started sniffing the rag. No reaction. In fact, she started chewing off another piece of bark, so I dropped the rag and poured the ammonia straight onto the tree. She lapped it up like water.
When Our Daughter came along in the late 1990s, months of ear infections and the prospect of inserting tubes in her ear canals resulted in the realization that she was allergic to the Dalmatian. After we transitioned Pepper from an inside/outside dog to strictly an outside dog, both my Lovely Wife and Our Daughter were literally breathing easier. When the twins were born a few years later, their systems proved even more delicate.
So, when it came time to welcome our second dog to the family, it was no surprise how limited our options would be if we wanted an inside dog. We could get a Chihuahua -- no thank you. We could get a Bichon Frise -- too expensive, plus it looks like an unshorn Poodle.
Then there are all the breeds that have been crossbred with Poodles. Apparently a lot of people have a lot of time to worry about mating every possible kind of canine with Poodles. These Poodle pimps have created a seemingly endless parade or Poodle-esque possibilities.
Among them are the Affenpoo, Airedoodle, Aussiedoodle, Bassetoodle, Bernedoodle, Bolonoodle, Bossi-Poo, Cavapoo, Cockapoo, Doodleman Pinscher, Double Doodle, Eskapoo, English Boodle, Foodle, Giant Schnoodle, Goldendoodle, Irish Troodle, Jack-a-Poo, Labradoodle, Malti-Poo, Papi-Poo, Pekepoo, Pinny-Poo, Poogle, Poo-Ton, Pugapoo, Pyredoodle, Rattle, Rottle, Saint Berdoodle, Schipper-Poo, Schnoodle, Scoodle, Shar-Poo, Sheepadoodle, Shih-Poo, Skypoo, Springerdoodle, Terri-Poo, Ttoodle, Weimardoodle, Whoodle, Yorkipoo, and my new favorite the Newfypoo.
The problem with all this Poo-ing around is it doesn't guarantee an allergen-free dog, just one that is moderately less irritating thanks to being diluted with Poodle DNA. The clear and reasonable choice was to forego the mixed breeds and head straight for the dander-free choice.
That year, Santa somehow managed to sneak a white puppy Poodle under our tree. He left a note for our three children telling them the elves had found her in the workshop and decided ours was the perfect family to care for her. They had already given her a name -- Lily.
Contrary to every notion I'd ever had of the Poodle being a useless, yip-yapping nuisance -- marginally better than a lizard for cuteness and no better than a rattlesnake for attitude -- Lily is quiet and timidly sweet-natured. She barks mostly for legitimate reasons and gets so excited when guests enter our house she often leaves behind what we call "happy pee." Fortunately, it's typically only a few drops, and much easier to cope with than the dreaded "poop finger" we used to get when changing the children's diapers.
Like every other member of our family, Lily has peculiarities that make her unique and interesting. When she needs water or food, she flips the empty bowl around with her paw to get your attention. If that doesn't work, she'll jump up on your leg, lean back, and punch you with both front feet.
When she needs to burn off some pent-up energy you'll see a little white blur tear through the house in circuits around the furniture, in and out of bedrooms, and up and down the stairs. These are great times to play hide-and-seek with her, or grab her rope toy and let her joyously pretend she's jerking the head off a squirrel.
And being a lifelong fan of cartoons, I never tire of hearing the clickety-clackety sound accompanying her delayed start when she tries breaking into a run from a full stop on our hardwood floors. It's a noise you'll hear several times a day in our house and it always makes me smile.
Lily will turn six in September, which will tie her with me for the oldest member of the household, unless Poodles don't follow the seven-to-one dog-year ratio. At middle age she is showing no signs of slowing down.
Just the other day while out for her morning walk, she spotted something in the grass ahead that sent her into red-alert jungle hunt mode. She crept cautiously up to the offending object, head down, butt in the air, until she was right up on the black plastic utility box at the street that housed the water shut-off for our neighbors house. Only when whe pressed her nose to it did she finally decide it posed no threat.
As the children have gotten older, especially the boys, I see them playing with her more and more. It's heartening to know they will have memories of their family dog similar to the ones my Lovely Wife and I have of ours. I kind of feel she was destined from the start to be our dog.