Do you remember your first home? Remember the golden glow that surrounded it, no matter how humble it was? Oh, I remember it well. For the first time, I was free to live the completely hedonistic life of a single woman living alone. And by hedonistic I mean leaving all the lights on all night. Cooking dinner at midnight and vacuuming at 5 a.m. Swagging every room with Christmas lights timed to come on just as I arrived home from work. Keeping the condo at a comfortable 72º year-round and draining the hot water heater to the last drop as often as I wanted. After my previous rigid, austere living arrangements, oh, it was bliss!
But after a month of solitary blessedness, a fly crept into my ointment. Could it be that I was...lonely!?! I adored living alone but the condo was too quiet.
But when I mentioned my intentions to adopt a puppy to the family, you'd have thought I'd announced plans to build a submarine in my basement. The extended family erupted in the usual vacuous cries of “You're going to ruin your life!” Relatives came out of the woodwork. A dog-loving uncle I hadn't seen for over a decade relayed a message through two relatives, and I quote, “A dog will ruin your life and your condo. Don't do it.”
Welcome to my world.
Was I deterred? Not a bit of it. A puppy I wanted and a puppy I was going to have, no matter how many knots the relatives got in their skivvies nor how many unspeakable things my puppy did on the carpet.
A co-worker suggested that I visit Four Paws and a Tail. Yes, an honest-to-goodness pet store still existed and guess what!?! They were holding their Memorial Day sale. Music to my thrifty Swedish ears.
Oh! The puppies were all so cute. How can you choose just one? If I had my druthers, I'd just buy the lot and become a Crazy Dog Lady. Finally, I zoned in on the white Bichon Frise sisters napping in a white furry mound of noses, paws and tails. The alpha female immediately caught my eye as she bounded to the crate door and stood on her hind paws, stretching, excited to explored the wide world outside her crate. As I held her, she was fascinated by her surroundings and bursting with zest for life. Head erect, ears pricked, her beautiful brown eyes sparkled as her pink-flecked nose flared, taking in all the interesting new scents. And when she kissed me with her little pink tongue, well, that was it. I was in love.
Several hundred dollars poorer, my puppy and I were on our way home. And my education as a dog mom began at once. Who knew that dogs got carsick!?! Yep, she lost her dog biscuits.
For Little Ursula, as I first called her, her first homecoming was a learning experience. She encountered stairs for the first time. But after a bit of running to-and-fro and whining, she figured out how to mount them. It took her weeks to learn how to get down them again.
The next morning I was awoken by a little pink tongue kissing my nose. All I could think of was the scene in the 1943 Jane Eyre movie, when Governess Jane is awoken by her new charge, Adele, playing a tinkling music box. She says, “Do you know what I was thinking, Adele? I was just thinking that never in my life have I been awakened so heavenly.”
And so, my puppy's name changed to Adele or Delly, for never had I been awakened so heavenly either.
Four years later and Adele is still a loving, happy, inquisitive bichon with a long list of incidents, oopsies and downright eccentricities to her name.
For starters, there is the bichon blitz. All bichons blitz. There are hundreds of bichon blitz videos on YouTube. But none of those blitzes can hold a candle to Adele's blitzes. I'm talking full-out insanity. She loses her furry mind.
Usually, it happens when she first gets up in the morning and is full of vim and vinegar. Something trips her switch and she's off the races, running at top speed back and forth, growling ferociously, bouncing off of furniture and people, making snaps at her toys. Winded, she rests for a bit. Then it's back to blitzing!!! It's a bichon thing. Don't try to understand it. Just stay out of her way. I've seen adult humans flatten themselves against walls to avoid the onslaught of a 13-pound blitzing Delly.
Then there is the leash, the bane of her existence. Perhaps if we hadn't dropped out of Puppy Obedience School early, she would walk nicely on the leash today. But alas, we were forced to cut our losses and run. And they were glad to see us go!
You see, Obedience School is predicated on the assumption that the dog in question wants the treat, will do anything to get it and having gotten it, will scarf it and instantly want more.
Not so Delly! When she finally agreed to “sit” or “lay down” or condescendingly “shake” in a bored way, the proffered treat was treated with great suspicion. Here's how it went.
Treat is offered. Delly sniffs it suspiciously. Arsenic? She “smiles” at the treat, showing all her teeth (a trick she learned after burning her lips on Spicy Doritos®.) Treat is daintily taken, being sure it doesn't touch her lips.
Treat is set down on the floor and carefully sniffed again. Cyanide? Finally, treat is picked up and thoroughly chewed and swallowed. Only after this deliberate process, and thoroughly licking her moustache, does Delly “come up for air” and look hopefully for another treat.
Well! By the time she's gone through that whole process, the whole point of training has been forgotten. And that is why, to this day, Delly treats the leash like it's a tractor pull. The vet has expressed admiration for her “well developed” thigh muscles. Little does he know! She's also developed them by running up slides at the playground, the only proper way for a dog to enjoy a playground, according to Delly. We call her Delly “Chicken Thigh” Thompson.
And then there is her collar. For the first six months, Harry Houdini had nothing on Delly. She could escape from her collar, no matter how tight I made it. With a little help from a back paw, she could tuck her non-existent chin under any collar and simply push it over the top of her head.
So, I invested my hard-earned dough into a pink harness. Surely, she couldn't escape from a harness. Au contraire. It was easy! (Don't let your dogs read this!) All she did was pull backwards. The harness would flip inside out, over the top of her head and Free Delly!
And then there was the issue of her favorite color. Blue. Definitely blue. Those who may say that dogs can't see color, let alone have a favorite color, haven't met Chicken Thigh Thompson. Being a native City Slicker and first-time dog mom, I was a sucker for every cute unnecessary thing at the pet store. And all of it in pink for my white girly dog.
But Delly hates pink. She won't play with pink balls or pink stuffed animals. And she chewed through her pink leash. No, she will only play with blue toys. But her favorite was the blue stuffed monkey tied to the stairway spindle with a long piece of elastic, so she could play solo Tug-of-War. Several guests had their eye put out when she pulled the elastic to its limit and then let go!
She also talks. Yes, talks. With a serious of hair-raising grunts, groans and whines, she carries on full conversations. There's just one problem. She can't do it without simultaneously scooting. How her fuzzy brain linked talking with scooting is inexplicable to us. But there it is. She scoots full conversations. Guests love to engage her in conversation. She always obliges. Most embarrassing.
Delly has more oddities and eccentricities than I can possibly mention here. Each night she shoves her blanket into her food bowl to save the food for morning. Unfortunately, she does the same thing to her water bowl. She rests the top of her skull on the floor for stability while digging at the kitchen linoleum. One time she dried herself after a bath in a pile of clay. She even tried to claim my heirloom marble coffee-table as her sleeping table...the higher, harder and colder the surface, the better she likes it.
But, all eccentricities aside, Delly is a grand dog. She kinda' sits on command. She'll condescend to shake if “tweatsies” are involved. But she's also as loving and faithful as a dog can be. And with all her shenanigans, she keeps us laughing...and exasperated.