With the aid of the Internet we quickly found AKC registered breeders. We selected a breeder who had puppies and set up a visit. We were as interested in the breeder and the kennel conditions as in the puppies. Down a county road, on a wooded two acre property we found two houses. As we approached the first residence it erupted with a cacophony of barking. A middle aged lady, the breeder, approached from the other residence. It turns out that the first house was the residence of the poodles. We were taken through the back door into the kitchen which had been converted to a grooming room. In a corner was a large pen with a rather large litter of puppies. They were all silver poodles with the exception of one white puppy. Before we got to selecting a puppy there appeared to be a series of questions as to whether we would be selected to get a puppy: Were we familiar with the breed? We’re we too old to raise them? (We were in our fifties.). Were we physically fit? Did we have young children in the house? Finally the last question. Does your husband like dogs? She then introduced us to Gentry, the stud for this litter. Gentry was a magnificent silver poodle. He immediately came over to be petted, and petted, and petted. He obviously used to being the center of attention. She put him up on the grooming table so we could continue uninterrupted and meet the bitch of the litter, a small white female Chenile, who was as timid as Gentry was outgoing. Finally it was time to move over to the pen and meet the puppies.
All the puppies clamored at the side of the pen to be picked up except one. The single white poodle sat in the corner of the pen watching the fracas and growling when his litter mates came near. (Let it be noted that in the multitude of discussions about this addition to our family, my only criteria was that the dog would not be white. White dogs are very difficult to keep white and take a lot of grooming to keep them white.) That said, the breeder lifted the puppies one by one from the cage and handed them to my wife who took the wriggly puppies. I stood aside petting Gentry, keeping him occupied.
One by one she held the puppies and put them down on the floor. Finally, the breeder reached to the farthest corner of the pen to retrieve the white puppy and handed him to my wife. The place he had been guarding on the newspaper was completely dry an free from puddles of puppy pee. I guess if I was white, I’d keep and protect a clean spot for myself. She handed the white puppy to my wife. This puppy didn’t wiggle about, but nestled in my wife’s arms, putting his head over her shoulder.
Guess what color poodle we ended up with? In the mean time I looked down at my feet to find a poodle puppy napping on each foot. We had picked our pup, now all we had to do was wait for him to be old enough to be separated from his mother.
While we were waiting our white puppywas busy. There were visits to the vet to verify that he had no problems, shots, and a visit from the breeder’s trainer to check for potential show dogs.
Life can never be simple. The breeder called to say that she didn’t want to sell the white poodle because he would make the best dog for show. We had a contract; she wanted out. As a compromise we would keep our dog, but show it. He would no longer be a companion dog, but a show dog. It seemed like a good solution — to someone who knew nothing about showing dogs.
We had no idea what we were getting into and more importantly what we were getting our little white puppy into. We had to come up with a name for his AKC registration. That name had to include the breeders AKC name. We ran into conflict immediately. We named him after the owner of Saint Croix Leap, Fletcher Evan Pence. Saint Croix Leap on the island of Saint Croix. He loved his dogs and large women. He made objects from recycled mahogany trees. This was not a name she wanted to follow her kennel’s name. We prevailed.
Fletcher Evan Pence became our beloved Fletchie. The most important thing with showing poodles is the fur. What this meant for us was making sure that interaction with other dogs didn’t damage the fur. It also meant daily groomings. It meant limited socialization. We did what we were told; until we met the trainer. The trainer explained the training and showing process, we became less and less enthusiastic. The dogs are loaded in a truck with cages stacked along both sides and transported from one show to the next until they get their points. She took us into a dark barn where the dogs she trained were caged and kept. As we entered, the dogs started barking. She grabbed a plastic baseball bat and hit against the cages. The sound was deafening and the dogs whimpered to silence. The trainers husband came out. I told him Fletcher could be a little stubborn. He said he would take that out of him. On the way home we decided that we would not be showing our dog.
Three years later we were in Las Vegas at a campground next to Circus Circus when one of these trainers pulled in with a semi truck of show dogs. Pens were set up in the sun on the asphalt in 100 degree heat and the dogs were brought out in rotation for their fresh air. We knew we had made the right decision.
Since we both worked, we decided we should have a second dog, and the two dogs could keep each other company.
Enter Alfie, Alpha Centauri Last Flight Out. I was looking for a red poodle this time. I never learn. We visited kennels specializing in red, apricot, silver, and black poodles. One by one they were viewed as unacceptable for various reasons. By now, since my schedule was more flexible, I was doing the visits. I pulled into the driveway of a modest home in a rural area. I rang the door bell and once again was met with a cacophony of barking. The door opened and a middle aged woman stood in front of a half dozen standard poodles of various colors. She turned to the dogs, “it’s ok, go play.”. The dogs turned and sacheted back to whatever they were doing. She asked me to wait by the garage door. It opened and out scampered five white puppies straight to me. One black puppy shot right past me and went pouncing into the flower bed. She explained that he loved to catch the little lizards so common in Florida. He was to be our Alfie, focused hunter, two speeds – off and full on, climber of trees, catcher of moles, digger of holes, and lover of everyone and every dog. He saw only the good till he was shown otherwise.
Next: The Poodle House