Forgiving Doodle

I should have known the pittie mix was in the dog house when Lamar quit making her breakfast.

Unlike the other pups, including the German Shepherd, Doodle’s routine involved having her own little plate of food to eat alongside her ‘daddy.’

One morning, I heard him tell her, “You don’t get any today, Doodle.”

I didn’t think anything of it at first; that little caramel colored dog is always doing something to get in trouble.

But her punishment went on for a while, which was odd and signaled something was terribly amiss.

Doodle is the pup who can get away with everything.

While Ava is a drama queen and Pumpkin is quite judgmental towards us all, Doodle is the one that came into our lives five years ago and somehow stole my husband’s heart from his favorite breed.

She has been spoiled because she is, as he calls her, his baby girl.

He has rocked her to sleep as a puppy in the middle of the night when she didn’t want to be alone.

She has eaten cycling gloves, socks, and a few remotes and he has declared she was just a sweet little baby girl and didn’t know any better.

For him to not have breakfast with her for several days running meant something was amiss.

“What did she do?” I asked him.

“You don’t want to know,” he said as he sat his coffee cup in the sink. “Trust me.”

I giggled to myself thinking of all the gross crimes the chunky little dog could have committed.

A few nights later, Cole went out on the porch to bring Doodle in and rushed into the other room to get his father.

“Again? No!” Lamar exclaimed as he headed outside.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

Cole shook his head. “You don’t want to know.”

Why does everyone tell me that? Don’t they realize if something usually gets handled it’s the mama who takes care of it?

“Yes, I do. Tell me.”

Cole took a deep breath. “You are going to be very upset when I tell you. We decided not to tell you this because we didn’t want to upset you.”

That statement right there sent off my mama-alarms. Telling me you kept something from me because you didn’t want me to get upset is a sure-fire way for me to freak out and over-react when you do tell me.

I was trying to be calm though. It was Doodle and she seemed okay, so it probably had to do with her eating my furniture again.

“Tell me,” I repeated.

“Doodle killed a baby opossum,” he said.

“What?”

How could she kill a precious little baby opossum?

I was crushed.

“Daddy is getting it now to bury it with the others.”
“The others?”

He nodded.

“How many has she killed?”

“Six,” Lamar said walking back in. “It’s the pit in her. I know good and well Ava wouldn’t do this and neither would Punky. But Doodle has killed a whole litter of opossums.”

I felt worse. I had named the mother opossum Penny; we loved seeing her offspring each spring.

“Is this why she hasn’t been allowed to have breakfast with you?” I asked.

Lamar nodded.
“I love her, but it is hard to love on her knowing she is a killer.”

As he said that, the little assassin plopped her head in my lap and pawed at me to pet her.

“No, Doodle,” I said. “I can’t. I am so disappointed in you right now.”

A few nights later, I heard something on the back deck.

It was Fiona, the baby opossum that had almost came to me one morning.

She had pink little ears and a cute little black nose. She was adorable, and my goal was to hand feed her this year. She often would get in the corner of the deck and watch me feed my cats in the early hours of daylight.

“Fiona is still here!” I exclaimed, grabbing the bag of cat food to give her some kibble.

She hid as I filled the bowls, peering between the wood slats on the deck to watch me.

“I am so sorry for your littermates,” I told her. “Doodle doesn’t come out here, so you are safe here.”

But, the little opossum didn’t stay on the back deck and eventually got on the front porch.

I cried, angry, sorrowful cried. I loved that little marsupial.

I couldn’t look at Doodle for days. Weeks actually.

I wouldn’t even let her curl up by my feet at night, telling her it was a cuddle-free zone.

I was hurt beyond hurt with her.

How could she kill something that didn’t pose even the remotest threat to her?

“Have you loved on Doodle yet?” Mama asked me.

“No,” I said. I even refused to kiss the little spot on her head that she insisted I kiss each morning.

“Are you going to forgive her?”

I wasn’t sure. My heart was so saddened by her actions.

I was so disappointed in her. This is the dog that has head butted her own shadow once because she is so goofy. Why would she kill an innocent little animal and one I loved?

“She didn’t know any better,” Lamar said softly one evening as she climbed up in his lap and put her head on his shoulder. “She thought she was doing a good thing. She didn’t know we loved the opossums.”

I don’t think it would have mattered if she knew we loved them or not, and I said so.

“What does matter though, is that we love her and she’s ours,” Lamar said. “We may not like what she did, but we love her and that means we have to forgive her.”

Love and forgiveness do go hand in hand. Even, or maybe especially, when we don’t like the actions.

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It was all because of a dog

Some love stories begin with chance meetings, glances across the room, or even horrible blind dates that actually work out.

There’s conflict, fights, breaking up, making up, drama – all that great stuff Danielle Steele writes about in romance novels.

Maybe I should feel like something is wrong, because we celebrated our 12th anniversary on Tuesday, and we haven’t had any of that.

But our unconventional story began with the goddess of love herself, Venus.

Venus, the German shepherd, probably didn’t intend to play Cupid – or maybe she did.

I am pretty sure she felt like she orchestrated our whole relationship.

She was our unintentional yenta, after all, escaping from her kennel at Lamar’s mother’s house while she was supposed to be dog-sitting while Lamar was out of town working.

The dog ran wild for a week.

I was the one who rounded her up a couple of days before Lamar came home to get her.

I am not one to believe in love at first sight. Unless there is a dog involved, and then, it is empirically possible.

I fell in love with this dog the minute I saw her, scratching her ears and letting her lick my hand through the gate as I put her back in her kennel.

I didn’t know who her owner was, but I knew somehow, that dog was supposed to be mine.

Lamar showed up at his mother’s Estee Lauder counter a few days later, not too happy she had lied to him about his dog.

I was at my Clinique counter, telling a friend about a new cream eyeshadow.

“Gotta go, cute guy at Lauder,” I said, hanging up the phone.

Lamar has said he knew then he wanted to marry me, standing in my stocking feet, hair piled on my head and decked out in a Clinique lab coat because I had been good to his dog.

I’ve joked he wanted to marry me because I had food and cable -which he does not really refute – and I married him to get the dogs.

“Daddy didn’t really marry you for cable and food, did he?” Cole will question, not 100 percent sure. “Y’all loved each other.”

Being a hopeless romantic, Cole thinks everyone has a fairy tale romance like Pam and Jim on “The Office” or Waddles and the goat on “Gravity Falls.”

So naturally he thinks our backstory involved a lot of romantic gestures like roses, poems and candlelight. I have to remind Cole real life romance is not like you see on TV.

And that his father is not really good at the woo part of a relationship; Lamar hasn’t even officially proposed.

“Do you think you would have even met Daddy if it hadn’t been for Venus?”

Maybe.

Who knows?

He was about ready to move back to Colorado – if he had, I probably would have never met him.

Lamar’s kind of shy, too.

He may never had a reason to speak to me if he hadn’t thanked me for saving Venus, let alone ask me out.

His mother was the one who called me later to ask if she could give him my number.

She had a caveat though: “He’s got two more of those big German shepherd things at home – three of them. And they are inside. They shed everywhere.”

I pretty much judge people based on how they treat animals. And being an animal lover is on the top of my list of redeeming qualities in people.

The fact he had three and they were inside gave me a pretty good idea of what kind of person he was. So I gave her the OK.

During one of our early dates, he asked me if I wanted to go meet the dogs.

I said yes and wondered if Venus would remember me.

She did, running straight to me, leaning against my legs, and doing her signature paw on my foot move she would do, as if to say I was her person.

And I was – for the 10 years I had her after we married, she was my soulmate and constant companion.

“So, I am here, and we’re a family, all because of Venus?”” Cole said, thinking all of this over.

“Yup,” I said. “All because of a dog named after the mythical goddess of love.”

Pretty appropriate, if I do say so myself.

Dog Envy (12/10/2014)

I admit, I make a big fuss over these pups. These sassy, spoiled girls are pretty special to me and I do tend to love on them constantly.

I don’t have a favorite – I love them all the same.

Really, I do.

But Cole will tell you Angel Doodle, the curvy pit-mix, is my baby girl.

I was on the phone one night with Mama, telling her the Doodle’s latest escapades. She is quite the mischievous little whosa, getting into quite the pickles and jams but getting off scot free due to her adorableness.

How can you not adore a little weeble-wobble who wakes you in the morning, putting one paw on your shoulder while she pushes her head into your other for an embrace? It’s preciousness!

She still thinks she is the teeny tiny puppy I brought home from Walmart last spring and tries to get up on my lap. As a puppy, I could position my laptop to one side, her in a corner and she would sleep for hours. Now, that arrangement is not working so well.

And said laptop is looking worse for wear. Three buttons are missing, thanks to the Doodle.

Not entirely her fault. She was playing with Pumpkin and the Border collie got a wee bit too rough for her.

Of course, if you raise your voice at the Doodle, she will hide behind the couch and cry.

But she jumped up on my lap and took off two buttons one night, another the next.

I was telling Mama how the Doodle’s newest theme song is “All About That Bass.”

Yes, she has a theme song….and yes, I sing it to her.

As Mama and I laughed about the goings on of my girls, particularly the pit-mix, Cole glared at me over his laptop.

“She can do no wrong!” he exclaimed.

“Who?”

“The Doodle,” he said, sounding disgusted. “If I tore three buttons off your laptop, you would be mad, but Doodle does it and it’s ‘oh, heeheee, bless it, she was scared!'”

“That’s not true,” I said.

“Yes, it is. You are always loving on the Doodle, kissing the Doodle -”

“That little spot between her eyes just begs to be kissed,” was my defense.

It does. Really. If you saw her, you’d want to kiss it too.

And she loves it – she pushes her little head in to get more kisses.

“You call Nennie to tell her the Doodle News. It’s ridiculous.”

Where did this come from? The Doodle was actually curled up next to the child on the couch, sleeping good and looking oh, so adorable. She had even been able to win over Lamar, who had proclaimed one night if the German shepherd couldn’t get on the bed, she wasn’t either. We found her later, asleep with her head on his stomach.

“What?” he said defensively. “She’s just a baby.”

“He’s jealous of the Doodle,” Mama said on the phone. “You’re not paying enough attention to him!”

That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. The president gets less attention than this child.

“Mama, he gets plenty of attention. Trust me.”

“No, I don’t!” Cole cried. He woke the Doodle from her pre-bedtime nap. Sensing his agitation, she licked his face, pawing at him to say everything was OK.

“Cole! You get plenty of attention! If you got more, I’d have to hire someone to come here!” I exclaimed. “I hate to say this, but I think you are being a tad bit silly.”

He dropped those lashes and said ruefully, “Said the woman who was jealous of a cat.”

“What?” Mama asked on the other end. It’s hard having a discussion – one in person, one on the phone. And now Doodle was needing to be cuddled; her nap was cut short. It was 8 p.m. – bed time would be soon. Who was going to soothe her?

“Who was jealous of a cat?” I asked.

“You.”

“Who?” Mama said. “You haven’t had a cat in years. Is he jealous of Kate?”

Kate is my uncle’s million dollar cat. She is fierce, wild and rules the western corridor of Walton County from her perch in my grandmother’s closet.

“I believe he’s referring to me,” I said.

“Why were you jealous of a cat? Oh….wait a second. He means my Bennie, doesn’t he?” she said.

Yes, he meant her Bennie. Her Bennie, who was, I will admit, a beautiful, sweet heart of a cat. All black and white fluffy fur, she would mold to you when you hugged her. Unlike other cats, Bennie wasn’t aloof but quite the hostess, entering a room, tail high to greet company when they arrived.

When I had returned from my honeymoon with the ex, we went to see Mama at her post-retirement, trying not be bored to death, job at Walmart. Mama called a co-worker over, saying: “I want you to meet my baby.”

The woman looked at me confused.

“Jean, I thought Bennie was a cat?”

I promptly shrugged Mama’s arm off my shoulders.

“Your baby is a cat? You talk about your cat more than you do me? You love that cat – more than you do me!”

Mama looked at me straight faced and said: “Well, Bennie’s not going to ever up and marry and leave me, now is she?”

I didn’t mean to do it. But I had been making a big fuss over the Doodle – her firsts, her puppy cuteness.

“She’s almost two and weighs more than I do. She’s not a puppy anymore!” Cole will say.

Maybe not. But I was making him feel like she was more important than him and that was not right and not true.

And if anyone knew how wrong that was, it was me.

Living up to a cat was tough enough, I shouldn’t expect my own child to live up to a Doodle.

http://www.dawsonnews.com/section/30/article/15842/

Some Spoiled Dogs (8/27/2014)

When you live in a small town, people know you. When you have the privilege of living in a small town in the mountains, people know your dogs, too.

“How’s the girls?” asked one of the owners of the brothers feed store when I went to get dog food one afternoon.

“Spoiled rotten,” I responded, easing up to the counter. “I’ve got three divas piled up on the couch at home, probably fussing because I am taking too long to get their kibble. Ava has already had quite the fit when she realized the bag was empty.”

Ava the German Shepherd keeps a close eye on the food situation. If the bag gets below the halfway mark, she starts pacing around it to make sure if anyone gets any extra nibbles, it’s her. She will even sleep beside the bag, with a paw on it for added protection.

When she was told after their 6 a.m. breakfast – something she has initiated since we’ve had her – that the bag was empty, she had a fit.

“All gone.” I showed her the bag. She stuck her head in to the bottom, licking and snorting for any kibble dust. She even lifted the bag up, her head still enclosed, trying to see if there was any stuck in the corners.

When she pulled herself out, she looked at me all worried and barked.

“It will be this afternoon before I go,” I told her.

The dog promptly threw herself down on the floor with a dramatic “whoomp” and laid there, like a great sorrow had befallen her.

“I thought she was gonna need the vapors,” I told the brother after I recounted my story to him.

He laughed. “Girl, what would you do if you ran out of food and it was Sunday when we weren’t open?”

“Oh, that’s happened,” I said. “It ain’t pretty.”

When running errands one Saturday morning, I asked Lamar if we needed dog food. He thought we were fine; he’s the one who feeds them, so you’d think he would know. But all he was thinking about was pedaling across some mountain that morning and he didn’t have time to go back in to check the food.

“What happened?” the brother asked.

“I ended up cooking the girls some eggs and putting some cottage cheese in it,” I answered. “I am pretty sure Ava liked that better.”

“Those are some spoiled dogs,” he said laughing.

They are beyond spoiled.

I had been trying to fatten Ava up. She was tall and lanky and I was used to my curvy and filled out pit-mix and my athletic Border collie.

But Ava is boundless energy and all legs, running through the yard, chasing bees. So I was feeding her extra goodies, hoping she would gain. I had fattened Venus up when I first met her with chicken broth and wasn’t sure why I couldn’t seem to put weight on Ava.

She had been itching relentlessly too for a while, until someone mentioned she may have a wheat allergy. After a week on the whitefish and sweet potato feed, Ava quit itching, the fur on her hinney started growing back and she was starting to fill out.

“So she likes her food and it helped?” the brother asked.

“Oh, yes, she loves it. They all do, even the picky one does.”

Pumpkin’s the pickiest. Angel Doodle will eat paper towels like a goat, so she’s not exactly a connoisseur.

“And, it’s helped her tremendously. She’s still on the thinner side but she’s just taller than I am used to. When she stands on her hind legs, she’s as tall as I am.”

“What are you going to do when she’s over 100 pounds and taller than you?” he asked.

“Let her do whatever she wants,” I answered. Which she pretty much gets to do now. Dogs are like children and when they are quiet, they are up to something.

One morning, I realized Ava wasn’t on the couch or on her yoga mat, which used to be mine until she got on it and refused to get up one evening.

But she was noticeably absent from her sisters, so I went looking for her, finding her stretched out across the foot of my bed. She smiled without opening her eyes and wagged her tail.

She wasn’t hurting a thing and she knew it. She was just doing what three other shepherds before her had done and I said when I had another one, I would never fuss about them drooling on my comforter again. I kissed her on her muzzle and let her finish her nap.

“I’m going to say it again,” he said, still laughing. “Those are some spoiled dogs.”

That they are, I agreed.

“If I come back as a dog in my next life, I hope I come back as one of your dogs,” he said.

They are spoiled and they are loved. They are part of our family and they know it. And I think they somehow know how good they’ve got it.

Just like we know how lucky we are that we have them.

Nature of the beast

Angel's first ever pic on her way home

Mama’s theory of the pedigree of my parking lot puppy had changed a few months ago. Her latest theory, which she expressed daily, was that Angel Doodle was a pit mix.

Now, this irritated me. Why, I am not sure. Other than the fact it was my Mama and sometimes just because it comes out of our mama’s mouth can be enough to irritate us.

But just about every day, Mama would say, “I think she is a pit mix.”

It also irritated me because I know the stigma that can go with a pit.

And, I will admit, I had felt that way for a moment or two myself before.

“Why do you get so upset when I say she is a pit mix?” Mama asked.

“Because she is not a pit!” I replied a tad too stridently.

“You don’t know what she is. But I think she’s a pit.”

The woman thought for sure she was a great Dane four months ago. Now, she is convinced Angel Doodle is a pit.

I looked at the pup, now bigger than the Border collie, as she lay on her pillow, watching her cartoons. Yes, this dog likes cartoons. She actually prefers Road Runner, of all things. She is easily entertained.

She didn’t seem like the aggressive dogs I had heard of; if anything, she loses bladder control if she hears Mama snore, so she’s not real fierce.

I know pit bulls have one of the worst reputations of dogs and top the list of dangerous breeds; my beloved shepherds were on that list too. We even had a realtor refuse to sell us a house in Athens once because we had three.

“Good luck with finding a home,” the lady told me. “Unless you get rid of the dogs.”

I tried to explain our dogs were Schutzhund and obedience trained; it didn’t matter. Probably part of the reason we live on the side of a small mountain with the bears now.

I deduced she was a lab mix, and the way the rain falls off her fur has to be a Labrador coat. She has sweet Lab eyes too.

She is the world’s biggest baby, her feelings easily hurt when Lamar pushes her off the bed, retreating to my side to cry underneath.

She loves to be cuddled and cradled like a baby. When she was a tiny puppy, I could put her between me and the arm of the chair and prop my laptop up to work; she doesn’t understand why that doesn’t work now, 45-pounds later.

She is my alarm clock and my snuggle buddy, particularly after she has eaten my shoes. She is deliriously happy to see me, knowing I am the one who brought her home and her whole body will wag with delight. Her whole body just exudes happiness and joy.

She still hasn’t found her voice, only barking twice – once being when she fell out of the chair – she thought she had been pushed- and the second time, when she was trying to jump into Lamar’s arms while he was standing. It was as if she was giving him a warning yell.

She’s a leaning dog, which I love, as she leans up against my legs and looks up at me with that sweet honey colored face.

She is scared of the dark and won’t go out without a flashlight.

When she is doing something she knows she is not supposed to, she hides in her ‘basket of shame’ to carry out her mischievous deeds of eating my Velcro curlers.

I did another Google search and there was a dog that looked just like her – a lab/pit mix.

“Sweetest dog ever” the caption read.

“Mama, I think she is a pittie mix,” I finally admitted.

Mama was quiet for a second, probably because that was the closest she had gotten to a “you were right” in 41 years.

“Oh, really?” she began. “I don’t know, I don’t think she is. I don’t know what she is.”

“She’s a Whosa!” Cole announced. “A ‘Who’s a good girl’ – Angel’s a good girl!”

“I don’t think she’s a pittie mix,” Mama finally said, probably because I had agreed with her.

“What are you going to do with her if she is?”

“Same thing we’re doing now,” I said. “Take care of, feed her and love her.”

“Do you think Lamar can train her?” she asked.

He had already started working with her and was excited to find her to be very ball driven.
She wasn’t a shepherd, he had said, but she was learning.

“If anyone can train her, he can,” I told Mama.

I don’t know if she is a pittie or not. I know I am a firm believer in the nature versus nurture argument and plan on focusing on nurturing her sweet, loving traits, the traits that are almost humanistic in her responses.

I don’t think pitties are ‘bad’ dogs either. For the most part, I think dogs are a lot like people, or rather, better than most people I know. Because even though they each have their own personality, get grumpy when they are couped up and have their favorite spot on the couch, they mainly just want to be loved. Like we all do.

We all really just want to be loved. That’s one of the basic needs for everything that breathes. Well, with the exception of snakes. I don’t think they really care.

So that was what I was going to nurture in that pup. I was just going to love her. Whatever she was, pittie mix, lab mix, Whosa – all she needed, was love.

And a ball. Lamar says she needs a ball.