Alfie contnued

 

Alfie is the first “rescue” dog that we have had. However, to be truthful, as a child, all my dogs were strays and always had “problems”.
On the day that the owner brought Alfie to our house, her choice; not ours, she shared with us that she worked twelve hour days and had four more standard poodles and three toy poodles beside our Alf. When she went to work she locked the dogs in a spare bedroom. She also mentioned that he had been placed with a man and his wife, and for some reason Alf had ended up crated and living in the garage. The man returned Alfie to her.
It was no surprise then that Alfie was very clingy to his old mistress and whined and barked when she left. (For later reference the owner was blond and drove a white car.) When he accepted she was no longer with us, he turned his attention to my wife and has clung to her since then. However, he has been a little more adventurous with each passing day.

FIRST WEEK

We decided that because of his previous experience with the crate and garage we would let him stay with us in our bedroom. That night there was a lot of crying, barking and whining along with urinating in the house which was to be expected. The next day there was some of the whining and none of the urinating

Since my wife had promised to walk a neighbors dog while the neighbor recovered from knee surgery, I was tasked with walking Alfie. It was obvious that several people had tried to work with Alfie, but in his training his was not consistent. Although he wanted to pull, it wasn’t with force; and it wasn’t the charge to the end of the lead that our previous poodles had used before their training.
When corrected for pulling with a pop on his lead, Alfie would turn come back to my left side and wait. As soon as I started again, he went to the end of the lead. Sometimes he would stop at the end of the lead; sometimes he would circle around to my right side. He responded to stay, but momentarily. It was apparent that this was going to be tricky, and I would need to let Alfie teach me what he knew first.

The third day we had to both leave because of a tax appointment with our accountant. We figured that he would be ok for a couple of hours. Boy, were we wrong. We returned to find my wife’s clothes from the hall closet along with his harness and leash strewn around the living room and dining room. He had dragged down a bag of treats and destroyed them. He had managed to get our bedroom door open and my wife’s closet door open. He had dragged her clothes and shoes from the closet and strewn them around the bedroom. He left us a definite message because he had urinated in several spots around the house. All this in less than two hours. OK, message received. The separation anxiety and the focus on my wife were going to be our biggest rehabilitation issues and would need to be addressed before serious training began.

We decided that we would take turns leaving and returning to the house in our natural routine except that someone would always be there. The person staying would ignore his crying and barking. It soon became clear that I could come and go with no problem, but that it was my wife that threw him into a panic attack. He was anxious when both of us were not with him and would search for the missing person.

Alfie and my walks were going well. He was friendly and eager to meet most people but would then bark and back away if it was a man. I soon noticed that a sight of a white car would excite him. He also became excited when he saw a woman, particularly a blond. When he met other dogs on our walks he was eager to greet them. They did their doggie thing, and we went on our way.
I walked him in the morning and my wife walked him while I tagged along in the evening. We notice that he was much more relaxed on the evening walk, and by the third night his tail was up and wagging on his walk.

The rest of the week was spent establishing a routine working on lessening his fixation on my wife. By the end of the week, he was still following her wherever she went but not in a panicked state.

What Would You Call It?

We had two standard poodles, Fletchie and Alfie. Fletchie, our white poodle, we lost a year ago. Alfie, our black poodle, we lost this past July. The loss of Alfie was particularly difficult as all our affection was directed towards him after Fletchie’s death. Also, Alfie was very social and could and did go everywhere with us. He went to, the grocery store, Walmart, the gas station, StarBucks, and Home Depot. (He even had his own orange Home Depot apron.)  This is partially why I haven’t been blogging recently. My wife took his loss even harder.

So, about a month ago, someone posted on our community bulletin board they had three standard poodles they had to get rid of or send to poodle rescue.

They were three years old. We debated and debated and finally decided we would go see these three year old dogs. The owner brought out the three poodles, two males and one female. Immediately the black poodle ran over and started kissing on my wife. He wouldn’t let either of the other dogs near her. Obviously my wife liked the black poodle. It was decided; the black poodle was going home with us. So, I asked the owner what the black dog’s name was. “He’s Alfie.” she said. I think our hearts skipped a beat. The owner could see our response and asked what was the matter. We told her our last black standard poodle’s name was Alfie.

We’ve had Alfie for almost two weeks now, and he already is part of the family. I will relate his continuing story later. Here is his picture.

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A Little Old Man in a Dog Suit

As soon as he was out of puppiehood, Fletchie was in charge.  He knew what time the alarm went off for work and made sure that we were up before that.  Did you ever wake up to a poodle face looking down through big furry ears into your eyes?

When Fletchie thought it should be our bed time, he would go to our bedroom door and bark once.  And then if one bark was not enough he would sulk into another room.  You could hear him thinking “stupid humans”.

Both our boys were curious.  Check out the picture of both boys checking me reading in a previous blog.  Fletchie had to supervise everything.  Anything we did, there was Fletchies head in the way checking it out.  Wash the floor, and there was Fletch.  Put down flooring; there was Fletch.  Plant a garden; there was Fletch.  One day we were pulling out plants that had overgrown a bed and grown into a mat which was supposed to keep down weeds.  All of a sudden, there was our white poodle yanking and pulling out plant roots and matting.  Dirt was flying everywhere.  I guess we were not doing it fast enough.

It is our custom to have our morning coffee on the porch next to the pool, read the paper, and chat.  Initially, Fletch would lay looking at us as we talked and try to talk.  I am not talking about barking, but rather modulating sounds with his throat and mouth.   In disgust, he finally gave up, but would lay facing us and listen intently as if he understood every word.

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He didn’t care for other dogs.  After all, they were dogs.  And, he was, after all, a little old man merely in a dog suit.

 

A Poodle of Many Titles

Fletcher, Fletchie, Playboy, Ballman, Little old man in a dog suit – –
Fletcher and Fletchie are obious names.

PLAYBOY
It was about his personality. I have known lots of dogs who chase balsl, fetch sticks, the usual. Fletchie is the only dog I have known that modified play and invented his own games. Every morning before work, my wife and I would sit on the floor and roll the ball on the floor between us in a game of keep away. Fletch would try to get the ball. Of course, after awhile, he got the hang of it and got the ball. He would drop it, and we would play again. As his skills increased, we bounced the ball. Finally, we would toss the ball. He was very hard to beat. One day he caught the ball, walked over in front of me and dribbled it. When i reached for it he would yank it away. Fletchie was playing keep away.

One evening we were reading, and we heard the tennis ball ricocheting off the walls. We looked at each other puzzled. In the other room, Fletch was using his paws to bat the tennis ball against the wall and then catching it.

We got an oversized tennis ball which was about the size kids use in the game 4 square. He batted it with his paws, pushed it around with his snout, then stopped and looked at it. Then he pounced on it with his front paws causing it to come up off the floor. With each pounce he got it higher till he got it high enough to stand on his hind legs and bat it at us with his front paws.

BALLMAN
Fletchie loved tennis balls. Most of the time he carried one in his mouth even on a walk. Slometimes he would dribble it. Other times he would squeeze it between his jaws. His favorite game we called “READY”. We had half a dozen ball which we would bounce on the sidewalk in different directions — left, right, straight, high, low. As soon as a ball was caught another ball was thrown in a different direction. It was very seldom that he didn’t catch all the balls. He loved the challenge. When play was finished he would lay in front of us with his tennis ball resting on his front paws.
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In the end we had to really slow “Ready” down.  He had a heart condition and arthritis in his spine.

This video is of “Ready”

Fletchie passed in July of 2012

FINDING OUR POODLES

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.

baby fletch

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.

Alfie

 

Next:  The Poodle House

 

WHY STANDARD POODLES?

I had been blessed with having a number of dogs share my life.

There was Pepper, a small mixed breed, who had followed me home after much encouragement and was returned to his owner the next day.

There was Paladin, a black and white miniature collie, who suffered from epilepsy and had to be put down.

There was Sandy, a cocker spaniel, who became my closest friend, companion and confidant.  He was with me a couple of years.  Sandy was as the saying goes, “as dumb as a box of rocks”, but we loved each other.  I can still remember his scent as i hugged him and cried into his fur.  Unfortunately, Sandy was also a chicken thief and murderer which is why I found him dead on our front porch obviously poisoned.

Star was the dog of my adult family.  She was a cross between an Irish Setter and a Golden Retriever.  She was supposed to be my son’s dog; but you know how that goes.  She became the dog of my wife and I.  Among her credits are:  she ate a sofa down to the wood frame, in chasing a squirrel she broke a number nine wire with her chest, she caught possum, chipmunk, groundhog.  She had two crowning achievements though.  during a picnic celebrating our son’s baptism party with the grandparents and neighbors she brought to the table, one at a time, a half eaten mother rabbit and four of her babies.  The other was hypnotiizing birds to catch them. We watched her lie very still and gently tap her front paws on at a time on the ground.  The birds would walk right up between her paws and she would catch them.

As she aged, she developed arthritis in her back.  I had an auto accident because of which i had a debilitating back injury.  We walked together; it was more like we hobbled along together both realizing that if we didn’t keep moving we wouldn’t be able to move at all.  Her spine finally collapsed and the vet was kind enough to put her down in her home with her head cradled in my wifes lap.  She went peacefully with those that she loved and who loved her.

It took us ten years to be ready to bring another dog into our lives.

My wife was complaining that she missed having a dog to welcome her unconditionally when she came home from work.  I offered to lick her face; but I could not get my tail to wag, try as i might.

So, what kind of dog?  I was a huge fan of John Steinbeck and had read his autobiographical  travelogue, Travels With Charlie.  Steinbeck had decided, in his later years, to revisit all the places that he had lived and write about how the country had changed.  His traveling companion on this journey was a black standard poodle named “Charlie”, short for Charlemagne.  I loved the traits exhibited by Charlie on this adventure and with research found that these traits were characteristic of the breed.  They were one of the brightest breeds, active, friendly, family oriented, great hunters, and protective.

Next came the search for a standard poodle.

FOR LOVE OF DOGS

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We lost both our boys within the last year.  Alfie, the black standard poodle on my left, just weeks ago.  Fletchie on my right we lost a year ago.  We were truly blessed to have them in our lives.  They loved being read to, even if there weren’t any pictures.  They were as different as the color of their coats.  As i am able, I will share their amazing personalities and stories, mostly for our benefit as catharsis.