It’s time I introduced Barney. Standard Poodle. Two years old. Dumped by his former foster family for reasons that will become obvious later. Full name Barnaby Bear because of cuddleability. No relation to Barnaby Joyce though he may be a distant relative of Inspector Barnaby of Midsomer Murders, he of the second series who, if you’re a woman of a certain age, is a whole lot cuter than the first.
Could Barney share the Pooh gene pool? Is he a close relative of an Alpaca? Could he be crossed with a Berber carpet? All of the above are possible.
Barney came to us in the way of most rescue dogs. We’d just missed out on adopting two old poodles through Poodle Rescue when, with no serious intent, I was drooling through breeders on the net, amusing myself with poodle hair colours and ridiculous coiffures, when I noticed a local breeder looking for foster families. We had definitely decided to rescue, but perhaps fostering was as good as rescuing?
Within a week, Barnaby was at our door. He was anorexic, had been shaved back to the skin and, in his twenty-two months, had never been separated from his dog mother, both being fostered by a family who’d unceremoniously dumped them back on the breeder. The breeder said she’d breed from him over a couple of years, and then he was ours. I said yes. My husband says I’m impetuous.
Barney had never seen the sea; he drank a lot of it and ended up with a debilitating dose of diarrhea, not good when we were trying to fatten him up. It soon became obvious that he had a fixation on small yappy dogs, chasing them from one end of the park or beach to the other while I watched helplessly, desperately.
Off to puppy school where I met a man who told me that Standard Poodles understand 300 words compared with 80 words for normal dogs. ‘Never have an intelligent dog,’ he advised, ‘or a wife who’s more intelligent than you.’
He had a Beagle. I asked him if the same intelligence advice applied to husbands. He narrowed his eyes and walked off.
Just before Christmas, the breeder said Barney had faded too much and she’d decided not to breed from him! Faded, I wondered, from what? And how could she tell from 50k away? But if we had him de-sexed, she said we could have him as a Christmas present. Beware false gods bearing gifts and other similar homilies.
Besides his small dog obsession, Barney soon developed a fox fixation, having discovered the scent of them in the bush behind our beach, which results in long periods of absence while I bleat and threaten ineffectually from the other side of the fence. But he has learned to love water and he swims far out to sea, paddling along beside us like a wet sweater with legs, determined to keep his new family safe from drowning.
Next week I have an appointment with a Dog Whisperer to deal with the foxes and yappy dogs. Truly. I’m embarrassed to admit it. City dogs. Poodles. Yes, all of that.
I was determined not to love Barney in the way I’d loved our former poodle but I fear it’s happening again. What risks we take when we love!