By Karen Jurgens
Growing up, I developed allergies to everything clothed in fur and feathers. That basically meant no horseback riding and no indoor pets. But there was one bright spot. The doctor said I might tolerate a French poodle.
My family’s first poodle was a silver toy named François. He was a grumpy little guy who endured my affection but preferred to lie in my dad’s arms while he sat at the kitchen table and read the newspaper. After my mother chose to have his glands surgically removed, the poor little thing caught a staph infection and eventually had to be put down.
My dad took his death very hard. So hard, in fact, that we promptly found a new puppy. Our second was a black toy we purchased from a show breeder in Lexington, Kentucky. With his jet-black coat and long legs (the reason why he couldn’t be a show dog), we named him Bojangles—Bobo for short.
Having Bobo pacified my dad, but this sweet boy was utterly devoted to my mother and she to him. He traveled everywhere with my parents, by plane or car. He later developed a quirky security attachment to one of my mother’s purses, so she let him sleep next to it. When they stayed in a hotel, Bo knew that his mommy would be back because he had her purse.
But that wasn’t the cutest part. He also had a baby blanket he carried everywhere he went. When it was time for bed, he would snatch it and prance upstairs to my parents’ bedroom where he usually slept. After a few rounds of chasing his favorite squeaky toy, “Mousie,” he would be ready to cuddle on his blanket and go to sleep.
At the age of twelve, little Bo lost his hearing and his eyesight. Understandably, he developed severe anxiety. To help relieve it, the vet scheduled him for cataract surgery. That morning, the anesthetic affected his heart and halted the operation, and he died the next day, on Thanksgiving Day.
Many sad years passed without a poodle in our family. But when my daughters were very young, the right time came to add a new pet.
Babette was a large white toy, and like the others before her, quite beautiful. Although not nervous or high-strung, Babette developed a territorial nature that had to be controlled. She was born with the propensity to snap before she thought, so we all had to handle her carefully to avoid being bitten. I was her “handler,” understanding her body language the best. Whenever I bathed and groomed her, I always knew she had had enough when she gave that warning growl. We always listened and left her alone—except once. When she snapped at my nose as I kissed her head, that was the last time I ever lavished her with casual affection.
But she certainly possessed her adorable moments. One Christmas Eve she stayed up all night guarding the presents around the tree as if they all belonged to her. So, on every Christmas and birthday, she also had to have her own presents. We would loosely wrap up chew bones and squeaky toys, and while my daughters opened their presents, Babs would open hers, chewing and tearing off paper until she reached her gifts. Afterward, she would guard them for days, and we knew better than to bother her.
My daughters both took piano lessons, and Babette absolutely loved to listen to them play–so much so, that she would sit on the cushion with Cait while she practiced.
When she was younger, she tolerated being put into doll cradles and strollers. She also loved to watch the girls swim but refused to ever get in the pool herself.
At the age of almost fifteen, her health began to go downhill. Like Bo, she developed heart trouble, but in her case, she died peacefully at home on her favorite ottoman. My mother had recently had her groomed, so she was absolutely beautiful in death. We still have a tuft of her fur that her groomer had packaged inside a glass Christmas ornament years earlier. Every December, we still lovingly hang it on our tree.
We haven’t adopted another poodle since our sweet Babette, and it has been an empty eight years. However, we do plan to look for a new puppy this summer. Again, it’s time!
Writing Prompt: The most adorable thing about my dog/cat is …
This will be my last regular post for Writing Prompts. I regret having to say adieu, but I will still be around as a guest blogger from time to time. Many thanks, Jennifer and Betty, for an enjoyable and adventuresome two years. I have been truly blessed to be part of the Writing Prompts Crew.