Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Labradoodle antics win a consolation prize

I entered a contest sponsored by Fetch Dog, an online source for specially selected dog products. The contest was titled "My Marley" and asked for entrants to describe the antics of their dog similar to those of Marley from the book and film Marley and Me. I won a consolation prize - with a true account. MaeRose, now six years old, was 18 months when I rescued her from the Pasadena Humane Society. She was born at Rutland Manor. Her first family had two young children who turned out to have such severe allergies that they decided to offer her to the Humane Society. At that time I was one of the few labradoodles owners in the entire San Gabriel Valley (of Los Angeles). I was already a volunteer in the Society's Companion Animal Program, with my Tegan Park labradoodle, Darby. He and I visited children's foster homes, retirement homes, convalescent homes where we were always welcomed warmly.

Because I had more or less introduced "labradoodles" to the Pasadena Humane Society and its training staff, the minute "Lulu Belle" was turned in I got calls from the volunteer office, and from the training director, Penny Scott-Fox. The next day I brought her home - and immediately changed her name to MaeRose (after Angelica Houston's role in Prizzi's Honor). The "settling in" period was, to say the least, "unsettling."

But now, five years later, MaeRose is a star volunteer in the Barks and Books program of the Humane Society.
For three years we have visited a classroom of young readers at a residential foster home, and several local libraries. Each child receives a sticker "I Read to a Dog Today." Our appearances have been featured in local newspapers, and listed on our town's local area cable broadcasts.

Here is my consolation prize entry:

She was a sweet shy little rascal, 18 months old, skinny, matted, noisy, barely trained, when she joined our family. You’d imagine that getting rescued from the animal shelter would make her a bit grateful. After all, she had a new home, a friendly owner, a companion dog, plus lots and lots of treats.

But –

On the first day she-
ate a bar of soap, gnawed a hairbrush in two, mangled a pill bottle, scattering its contents from one room to the next, all in five minutes.

On the second day she-
jumped out of the car, dashed into the street headed for certain death, if a passerby hadn’t caught her.

On the third day she –
ate a tube of doggie toothpaste and an entire loaf of bread – not realizing that a chewed-up tube cap and leftover wrapper were admissible evidence.

Then she settled down for a few days – while I ignored the overturned wastebaskets, garage door-opener activation, dead rat deposited on the porch, and a hummingbird beating wings behind shutters held tight by an inquisitive dog. (It survived.)

But I learned how clever and sneaky MaeRose really was the day she played her trump card -- the day I left her alone, gated in the kitchen, while I made a quick escape. An hour later when I returned, the door wouldn’t budge. The door was locked! From the inside! The only way to lock that door was with a key, or the bolt on the kitchen side. Who was in there? How did they get through the garage into the house? Should I call the police?

Courage overcame fear. I retrieved my spare key from its hiding place, opened the door, and was greeted by a frantically wagging tail, little pink tongue over pearly white teeth, a black furball quite proud of herself. From one end of the kitchen floor to the other -- a trail of coffee grinds, gooey
containers, vegetable peel, chewed plastic, soppy cardboard, muddy pawprints up the side of the door to the bolt – a message loud and clear -
“Don’t you dare ever leave me behind.”

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