My wife and I have had Standard Poodles throughout most of our marriage. Our first one, Lucy, was wonderful in nearly every way. She was well-behaved, intelligent, and what made us particularly proud is that she was great with other dogs. Lucy was always friendly. We called her “the mayor” because everywhere we went with her, the beach and the dog park, she made friends with children and other dogs.
We purchased Lucy from a Mall pet store. This is blasphemy to most “pure breed” pet owners. Sorry, we were newly married. Plus, we got suckered by the pet store tactics. They put us in the little waiting room, brought the dog in, and Annette went gaga. We immediately bought the dog.
We had to return several weeks later to pick up the papers. When we did, we were surprised to see a “going out of business” sign posted on the front of the door. It also said, “30% off!” So, when we got the papers, the clerk let us know we would receive a 30% credit applied to the credit card we used to buy Lucy. So, as well as being the Mayor, Lucy was also known as the “discount dog.”
Lucy’s gift paved the way for us to have our son Riley. Because Annette and I learned to care for someone other than ourselves with Lucy, it gave us the confidence to give it a go with a human puppy (aka “baby”). It’s entirely correct; without Lucy, no Riley. I’ve heard from other couples similar stories.
Our next Poodle, Coco, was purchased in a McDonald’s parking lot. We met the breeder over the phone through Craigslist. Coco was super nervous and peed all over herself when we met her, but objectivity was gone. We took her home anyway.
Coco remained nervous. Coco’s nervousness was most pronounced with her loud, uncontrollable bark when anyone came to the door. Then, once the door was opened, she’d pee all over herself. Impressive, right?
Coco was also super aloof. She always kept a five-foot buffer between her and anyone else. Lucy, however, would want to be close to us. Not Coco.
Finally, she wasn’t brilliant. Standards are supposed to be super intelligent dogs. Coco, not so much. We appropriately referred to Coco as our “sub-standard.”
In the end, Coco was “our dog,” and we loved her despite those shortcomings. This is why “mutts” do so well; you can’t help but love them as dogs grow on you and become part of the family. I wonder if Riley would be here if we had started with Coco. I was saying.
When Coco passed unexpectedly, we were reeling. Losing a dog is never easy, but when it happens suddenly, wow. Just. Wow. We were devastated. Then, some magic happened.
Oliver + Axton
During a trip to the dentist, chit-chatting with the Doctor, Annette told the story of Coco’s passing. He said, “You know my girlfriend’s mother breeds Standard Poodles and just had a litter!” Adding, “I think she has one or two left!”
Within a few weeks, we had Oliver. Wonderful dog. Our breeder was local and a pro. Oliver was nearly housebroken when we got him. Oliver restored our somewhat broken Coco-less world.
Then about a year later, Annette came up to my office and said, “I just saw our breeder had another litter; what would you think about getting Oliver a buddy?”
I had two immediate internal reactions. First, I thought, “we have a breeder?” Second, I thought, “No freaking way are we getting another dog! That will be more work and more time. Plus, Oliver is terrific!”
But, being married over twenty years, after processing that, what came out of my mouth was, “Honey, that sounds like a terrific idea!”
Two Dogs are Better than One
And you know what, it was. If you have space, two dogs are three times (not two times) better than one. The synergy they create is incredible. They’re more fun to be around. More joy to walk. They have endless fun together.
Our favorite is stepping in on them when they are playing together. They stop. Then, in unison, they turn their heads with the most guilty look. It’s so darn cute.
It helps that Axton (Oliver’s brother) is a great dog, too. Annette has said more than once, “Getting two dogs might be the best decision she has ever made!”
The Moral of the Story
The moral of this shaggy dog story is this: if you don’t have a dog, why not get one?
Sure, the puppy phase can be trying. Yes, there are costs. It helps to have a yard. And, you can’t just leave town on a dime, as you have dogs to consider—all valid considerations. But do you want to go through life and not know what it’s like to have a dog?
Poodles work for us because my son and I have pet allergies. The Poodles are non-allergenic. But there are other non-allergenic breeds if poodles aren’t your thing. I will tell you, though, that the Labradoodle seems to be the latest accouterment for the yuppie (or post-yuppie) neighborhood we live in.
There is also this. The impact of growing up with a dog can be incredible. It can loosen emotions of love and care that might otherwise lie dormant. They also keep you company. Who knows, it might lead to having children as it did us.
And if you can get two, go for it! Two is three times better!