My girl was the belle of the ball at our first Intermediate II class. Three or four of the dogs and parents were ones who had moved from Intermediate I with us, so they knew Cleo. The others of the eighteen in class were new to us.
“Oh, my gawd!” said a well-heeled woman with two elaborately coiffed poodles in tow. “I haven’t seen a Bedlington in ten ye-ahs!” I almost replied that I hadn’t heard a Brooklyn accent that thick in decades, but my native politeness won out and I just smiled. “Dawling, look!” she continued, turning to her grumpy-looking husband and waggling a pointy, red lacquered nail in our direction. “It’s a Bedlington!” Her husband glowered down at Cleo and grunted. Unsquelched, the woman continued, “How old is she? Oh, she’s just dawling! Fourteen months? She’s just a baby!” She leaned closer to me, engulfing me in a cloud of expensive but still overwhelming perfume, and lowered her voice conspiratorially. “Mine are almost ten. I nevah have time to work with them, so we’re here for a refresher. I used to show them, but who would know now? They’ah brutes.” One of the brutes was gazing around, showing considerably more interest in everything than its father had, while the other was delicately performing a muzzle sniff with Cleo.
The excitement of meeting new dogs always makes the first week of classes something of a challenge. By the second or third week, the dogs in class have scoped each other out and from then on most of them are a good deal more focused. Now and then, Cleo will become fascinated by one dog—in the beginner’s class it was a Collie—and she’ll gaze at it, transfixed. This time, it’s a large, longhaired brown dog, possibly a Bouvier de Flandres, which clearly doesn’t even know she’s alive. At one point as we walked around the ring this dog was directly behind us. Cleo was so thrilled, she tried to trot backwards in the heel position for about ten feet. A good snap of her collar got her going in the right direction, but she kept craning her neck to catch a glimpse like a teenaged girl at a Justin Bieber concert. In some of our stationary moments, I tried to see what the fascination might be, but I was stumped.
As we stood in a row with our dogs in the sit-stay, the woman two down (Golden Retriever) leaned over to me. “What kind of car do you drive?”
I struggled to process the non sequitur. “Pardon?”
“What kind of car do you drive?”
“Um, a green Prius.”
She shook her head. “No, that’s not it.”
“Sorry?” I asked, more than a little perplexed. I’m willing to entertain that I might not be as informed as some people, but I’m pretty sure I know what kind of car I drive.
“I saw a Bedlington in a car the other day. They’re not all that common, so I thought maybe it was Cleo. She is just darling!”
Wow, she’d learned her name already. Unless the name is unusual, I rarely learn our classmate’s names. I know Bling the Vizsla. I know Chance the English Sheepdog because our trainer pronounces it “Chahnce.” I know Joyce the Irish Setter because that is just confusing (though a great name for any Irish dog).
Anyway, I thought maybe she’d spotted the puppy on a day when John was ferrying Cleo around, but this dog was in the back of a car amid a bunch of packages, so that was definitely not him (“Oooo,” said the Poodle woman, “maybe he was Christmas shopping!”). The idea of a local Bedlington is exciting. We might run into him sometime.
A few minutes later, our trainer, who has a tendency to wander around the building and chat with people while we’re in prolonged stays, was over at the coffee urn. It’s always odd when she chats because her lapel microphone broadcasts her side of the conversation all over the room while the other person’s words are lost to the space. It’s kind of like listening in on a telephone conversation. Anyway, we’re innocently standing around (Well, Cleo’s lying down) when I hear Pluis say, “It’s a Bedlington that’s been trimmed in a lamb cut.” I glance over my shoulder to see her talking with a tiny elderly man. She nods and says, “I know.” She knows what?! What did he say??
I’ve decided that he simply observed the obvious: Cleo is the most beautiful, smartest, most exceptional dog on the planet. There is no response to such an observation other than, “I know.”
The bottom line is that our girl did just fine in the new class. She wasn’t the best in the class and she wasn’t the most clueless. We are right where we need to be. Thank you to all of you who sent us your good luck wishes and your words of confidence in Cleo’s success in the new class.
Lately, I have realized that I’ve been dragging my heels needlessly. She is more than ready to take the test which marks the first stage toward therapy dog certification, the Canine Good Citizen test. I’m looking forward to showing her off.