This time last year, I was driving home from seeing my parents in Laurel, Mississippi. I'd been talking to my dad about my grandparents' dogs. Other than Cuz — who had her own platinum dog-tag with a diamond in it — they were usually named Cindy. I think there were three generations of Cindys. Granddaddy chose this name for reasons unknown to me but kept it because he'd always get at least one dog to come when he called. The Cindys I knew were black Labs. They were hunting dogs who were, despite what my grandparents might have said about my father and aunt, the real children of the house. Dad told me the first Cindy wasn't actually a Lab. She was, he said, part dog. The other part was undetermined, but most likely dust mop.
About the time I got to Grenada, I got a series of texts from my husband. He and my stepson had taken possession of what he called "the dirtiest poodle in Memphis." He was filthy, tiny, scared, but friendly. He'd been wandering around their office near I-240 on Getwell. He had no microchip and no tag.
My husband asked if I could take him by a vet the next day to get him checked out. It was at that point I realized we were getting a poodle.
He was, like Cindy the First, more mop than dog. He was so furry we couldn't even tell if he'd been neutered. His tail was festooned with dreadlocks, and if we'd taken out all the mats, he'd have been hairless. But he danced. He spun in circles, tap danced on his hind legs, and his ears moved with every sound. We were certain the vet would say there was no saving him. We figured he was only held together by knots and dirt. He was just over seven pounds, mostly poodle with some unidentified terrier somewhere in his past. It turned out he had hookworms, but other than that he was healthy.
Within a couple of days, many sessions with the scissors, and the realization he was housetrained, he became Colonel Jackson Humphrey Hoover Dog.
Jack is now almost 11 pounds, belly-up about 20 hours of the day, and loves nothing so much as spending the weekend at Shelby Farms sniffing butts and playing in mud.
He gets underestimated. He's small enough to straddle the line between teacup and miniature poodle. When my husband walks him, people tend to assume "the wife" makes him walk her dog. They ask about his Napoleon complex. For the record, Jack doesn't think he's a big dog. He just doesn't know he's not. He has a bit of a fetish for German shepherds. Maybe he recognizes his own Bavarian ancestry in them. Maybe it's just easier to sniff taller butts.
He grumbles. A lot. I like to think Jack is a very gruntled dog. He rarely seems disgruntled, anyway. Well, except when he doesn't get any of our steak. Then he's very disgruntled.
It's taken a commitment on our part for Jack to become a part of the family. He hasn't been cheap, and if he gets off his routine, he could do horrible things to a rug. We talked about his finances — medical bills, food, housing. Our hearts told us to keep him because he was cute and novel and his antics make a great Twitter feed. But he isn't human. He can't hold a job, so he mooches off us. He can't open doors or not chase squirrels. It would have been easy to take him in without committing to his well-being. He'd have ended up back on Getwell if he made it that far. He's a perpetual toddler in a lot of ways. He doesn't speak the language, doesn't have a nickel to his name, always goes nude, and has been known to eat deer poop.
I read once that Dalmatians have a high rate of abandonment. They're high on both novelty and maintenance, and lots of times people don't really understand what they're getting into. People just want something different. They get tired of spaniels and labs. They want a little something with some zing. They don't think about having to calm them down during thunderstorms or constantly taking them to the vet for urinary tract infections. We're all guilty of wanting the cute little puppy but not thinking about what happens when we get it home and it eats the sofa. We blame the dog, not the fact we don't want to take responsibility for it.
That's to say, I don't want Jack guarding my smokehouse. I really don't trust him around bacon. I don't ask him to do things he's incapable of. Just because he can fetch a ball doesn't mean he can play centerfield for the Cubs.