From LRC 2003
Anna Belle (da poodle) ‘n Me
[From about February 1999]
So the other day, Cin’s sister Amy and her family were visiting. On a fine Saturday morning, I decide to take my 6-year-old nephew, Thomas, and our standard poodles Sophie & Anna Belle for a walk to a park a few blocks fom our house. Well, I had to walk the dogs anyway, and it was an excuse to have a cigar. And I get brownie points w/ the wife and sister-in-law because it looks like I’m bonding with my nephew at the same time. A win-win. Also have a coffee travel mug full of beer–don’t want my WASP neighbors to sneer at me. Or my wife and sister-in-law. After all, this is like 10:30 in the morning. Multitasking, man. Made cell phone on the way there, and have a comic book stuffed in my pocket, just in case I get bored. Fat chance.
Arrive at the park. I tie the dogs up to a table so I have enough hands free to fire up the cigar and drink the beer. Maybe even read the comic. Then Thomas acts up–damn, the kid wants attention; why’d I bring him?–so I give him Sophie to walk around the little jogging path in the park. Off he goes, tugging on Sophie’s leash. But of course, he has difficulties so I need to interrupt my solitude at the table and go help him. I leave Anna Belle, our psycho poodle, tied to the table. I need a couple hands free for other things, plus I don’t like her and she doesn’t like me. She’s terrified of me, in fact. I mean I can stomp my foot when she walks past me to go outside and she’ll spray the wall with flecks of dog mess. She’s been afraid of me ever since we got her, at 18 months old. She’d be raised as a show dog, and being naturally shy, I think that traumatized her. She bonded with the wife but her fear of me won’t subside. Psycho dog, man.
So I go over to Thomas to help him walk Sophie around this little park. I’ve got the beer in one hand and a lit cigar and leash in the other, and try not to glare at Thomas for ruining my little cigar-beer-comic moment. About this time, Anna Belle’s abandonment fears kick in, and she worms her way out of the collar, unbeknownst to me. Although she hates me, she sees me and Sophie across the park, so naturally she heads towards the familiar.
As I’m trying to puff the cigar with one hand and avoid spilling the beer in the other when Sophie pulls on the leash, I see a bit of movement out the corner of my eye. I look up, and see Anna Belle, about 150 feet away, running towards me across the park at about 40 miles an hour like a cheetah chasing a gazelle. I mean she is booking it. I had forgotten all about her–can only multitask so much, you know.
The dog is loose. Uh oh. Time slows down, and I instantly realize she somehow escaped being tied to the table–maybe the leash broke. I also realize that although she is running toward me now (fear of abandonment), when she gets close she’ll realize what she’s doing and turn around and run away from me. She always runs from me, looking for Cindy. But that would mean her possibly running around the neighborhood and getting hit by a car, while I’d be unable to chase her anyway due to having 6-year-old Thomas and Sophie to watch. Cin would not be happy with if that happened, especially after she smelled cigar and beer on my breath. She’d find some way to blame it on those. So in that frozen moment of time I realize I have a delicate job of grabbing her when she gets close enough, before she runs away, but not making a move too soon and spook her early.
As she approaches, still in slow motion, I start to prepare… keeping an eye on her I hand Sophie’s leash, the beer-laden coffee mug and cigar to Thomas, telling him to hold them and don’t move, as I start to crouch, ready to spring… I know, I’ll just grab her collar. That usually calms her down. Once you have that, she obeys.
She gets about 5 feet away and starts to sit down in her terrified way, and I gingerly approach her … and she gets the spooked-horse white-eye-rolling they get when they see a bear, and she starts inching up to run away–and I lunge for her, and grab the collar–but there’s no collar there! That’s how she got out–she had backed out of it when she was tied to the table. So there’s nothing to grab this wiry psycho dog by. So basically I semi-tackle her and grab her neck, which makes her go completley crazy. I mean she is snarling, trying to bite me, trying to get away, and I’m wrestling her down, pulling her by her ears, etc., hair is coming out of the ears, she is crapping all over herself, it’s flying up in the air. I’m trying to avoid her snarling bites and to not hurt her, all without letting her go.
Time returns to normal speed as I reach a point of equilibrium and have her pinned to the ground like a high school wrestler, and hold her still until she calms down, in a position where she can’t escape but also can’t bite my face off. The only sound is the soft noise of little turdlets that she’d sprayed into the air thudding onto the grass around me, and Thomas, who is holding Sophie and my cigar and beer, yelling “Poo Poo! Poo Poo! Poo Poo!”
Eventually I have Thomas set down the adult paraphernalia and go retrieve Anna Belle’s leash and collar from the picnic table. Safely back at home, I delivered a sufficiently edited version of the story.
Have I mentioned my growing aversion to poodles?
Coda: Sophie died at 3.5 years of age, about 2 years ago. After my wife got tired of my boo-hooing for a month, she dragged me out once again to Candy Land Farm up in Spring Texas, where we bought the best one yet, my little buddy Boudreaux, a white male standard poodle.