In our last episode:
The time had come, however, to say goodbye and to move on to what would be, in many ways, our greatest challenge: taking care of two poodles. Yes, we’re cat people but we’re open to dogs, too, mostly. The more they bark, or bite, or don’t listen, or fuc_everything up the less so, but I believe I can speak for all of the members of our family when I say that poodles are the absolute dregs, not only of the canine world but also of the entire animal kingdom.
Some time ago I was delivering drinks, and one of my customers was an elderly woman who possessed four or five of these yipping, prancing, bouncing bundles of knotted, putrid-smelling hair. Before she paid for her drinks the universally followed procedure in her house was to give all of the doggies a treat. Like, ME! Me give poodles treats! When I found it difficult enough not to stomp on them and just get it over with. I said no, and I told her I had never liked poodles and wasn’t interested in rewarding them for being an annoying race of dogs. To which she replied that they were also God’s creatures. To which I laughed and said they were as much God’s creatures as a Ford Pinto; they’ve been bred way the hell out of Nature’s Plan a long time ago.
So, OK these Australian poodles were definitely dealt a crappy hand this time.
We slid down to the coast on an asphalt slide and took our positions in a fine house a mere 5-20 minute walk to the mighty Pacific, depending on whether the dogs were with us or not.
Missy was a twelve-year old poodle with luxurious and heinous-smelling black fur, and Roxy, also a poodle, was also twelve and her grimy-white fur had a fine brownish-purple tinge (naturally?!) toward the ends of her limbs. She took one look at us when we walked in the door and gave us a look that said, “we won’t ever be friends”- perhaps assuming that we wanted that – and disappeared under a bed at the back of the house.
Maybe she had seen me give her the selfsame look upon meeting her..
Something funny happened on day two or three, however. Roxy came out from her hiding place and decided to give us a chance. She also gave us several other looks which disturbed me; whenever we got close she looked as if she was expecting to get hit or bawled out. I didn’t like how things stood with the dogs and felt sympathy towards them – that’s saying a lot considering our preformed opinions toward their race.
We didn’t like how scared Roxy seemed to be, and we, as fitness trainers, felt especially uncomfortable with the information we received from the owners, that the dogs basically didn’t need to be walked. Yes, they were old. And just about totally stone deaf. And yes, neither was fit or able to move well, Roxy especially was overweight and couldn’t hang with Missy anywhere. Like many extremely overweight creatures on this Earth, she would lean way over to port or starboard to enable a paw to drag itself forward over the other side, because she just wasn’t able to pick ’em up and lay ’em down like you should.
We decided to take them for walks, and I started the next morning taking them for a stroll up the street and back – maybe a football field all told – and they enjoyed it. They didn’t enjoy it half as much as what happened the next day, however.
The next morning I took both of them down to the beach. Like, all the way down. It took hours. Once there, they both had a tough time getting across the dry sand, especially Roxy, but once down by the water … WOW! I don’t know the last time I’ve seen such pure, unfiltered, honest joy. I also don’t know if the dogs had ever seen the beach before, but, judging from their reaction, probably not.
Missy hopped around, seemingly unimpeded by whatever age or ? – induced injuries or restrictions she had. When I looked at Roxy, OK, my steely heart turned a little molten and went soft.. MAYBE! She was chirping! She couldn’t stop! God knows why, she was just basically standing there; but she could not stop herself: Yip! Yip! Yip! she went. I didn’t want to leave. I even baby-jogged a few feet in both directions and they both baby-jogged with me, Roxy chirping the whole time.
Can’t help including this here: GET UP AND EXERCISE!! It’s not just friendly advice but a heartfelt plea. Your body needs it! Your body wants it!! It’s the most natural thing in the world, except maybe sex and breast feeding, and if you don’t give your body the opportunity to exercise you’re not only doing it a great disservice, your body will sooner or later take active steps to wreak its revenge. So..
All in all we were in the house for two weeks or so, and most of the time it was a chore taking care of both of them: their bladders were weak and they couldn’t maneuver themselves up and down the back steps well to relieve themselves on the back lawn, so they let it loose on the back porch. Guess who got to clean that up?
But this joy that Roxy showed on that special day is something I’ll never forget. We would sit on the beach on subsequent evenings, all together, and Roxy would cuddle up real close to my leg. Even Missy joined in the act. They loved the beach. They loved us. They loved being alive. Neither seemed able to comprehend the luck they had at being “stuck” with us.
It was the reason we became fitness trainers in the first place: to unlock that same joy in people by showing them how rewarding exercise could be. By showing them a direction to go that was truly worth going in. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a reaction so well-expressed as Roxy’s on that day. And although my opinions about poodles hasn’t softened all that much since our adventures with Roxy and Missy, I haven’t been that well-rewarded by anyone, for anything, in a long time. And that’s definitely worth something..