In Dogster’s delightfully silly photo essay “If the Characters in Downton Abbey Were Portrayed by Canine Actors, What Breeds Would They Be?” it is the character of the love-starved Lady Edith Crawley who gets to be a Bedlington Terrier. Now, I say “gets to be,” but Dogster describes the Bedlington like this: “Basically an ugly Poodle.” I mean, really! I think I have made my feelings about Poodles (and Poodle owners) fairly clear in blog-posts past, and I reiterate that there isn’t a Poodle alive who is worthy of sniffing a Bedlington’s ear tassel. Ugly Poodle, indeed!
Then again, beauty is often in the eye of the beholder. It’s true that when we meet people out on our walks, many will furrow their brows, wrinkle their noses and twist their mouths into sneers before asking, in mystified tones, “Is that some sort of Poodle mix?” As soon as we answer, “No, she’s a Bedlington Terrier,” their expressions clear into wide-eyed delight. “Oh! She’s adorable!” they say (right before adding the ubiquitous lamb comment). It seems to relieve them that she’s not a Poodle-hybrid of some kind.
And it’s not just Bedlington parents or intelligent passers-by who see the beauty in the Bedlington. As I may have mentioned, our trainer is not given to flights of fancy where dogs are concerned. Yes, she will rhapsodize about the nobility of dogs. She’ll lecture on the intelligence of the species. She’ll talk to us about the absolute necessity of respecting our dogs, of learning to communicate with them, not as mini people, but as the dogs they are. Yet she never gets all gooshy and squishy about dogs. Except where Cleo is concerned. Last week, Cleo and I were in class, practicing figure eights. Our trainer came over to observe us and of course Cleo gazed at her in rapt adoration. “Yes, I see you,” Pluis told her warmly. Then she turned to a woman in our group. “Isn’t she lovely?” she asked. “There’s just something about that face. It’s so cute! I just want to suck on her nose!” Okay, ewww, granted. But it was just such a funny, eccentric thing to say that we all laughed.
At school, there is one student who spends virtually all her free time with Cleo. Two out of every three of her utterances involve the words “so cute” or “the cutest thing ever.” It’s not uncommon for me to come back to my office after a class or a meeting to find students clustered around my door observing Cleo. I’ve given up saying to them, “You know you can go in and pat her!” The usual response is, “We just want to watch her sleep. She’s so adorable.”
She’s not just cute, though, not once you’ve seen her move. It has been pouring down rain here this week. During a brief respite yesterday afternoon, we walked Cleo up to the park near our house where there’s a wide open grass lawn that is always empty. We took off her leash and let her rip. She warmed up with sprints between Daddy and Mommy, flying from one end of the field to the other, looping wide around one of us, then pelting back to loop around the other. She ran over to an adjacent lawn next to several barbecue pits, tearing around the circuit at top speed. Around and around she sped, now circling the edges, now slaloming through the center. As she banked around the turns, she dug into the lawn and leaned, her shoulder almost brushing the grass. In the straight-aways, she was airborne, her feet seeming to tap the earth just enough to keep her aloft. She flattened herself to the ground, grinning, tongue and ears streaming back in the wind of her own making. She was exultant; we were exhilarated. At the end of one circuit, instead of banking, she launched, up and over a waist high wall that divides the park from the sidewalk. She cleared it without the least sign of strain. I had no idea she could jump that high. The terrifying picture of her dashing into the street (empty though it was) made me shout, “No!” Instantly, she came to a dead stop and turned to face me, tongue lolling. The leash safely clipped on and our steps headed back home, I said to John, “I’ve got to get her back into agility classes.” The beauty of that grace and easy athleticism is kind of awe inspiring. You feel as if you’re not doing your Bedlington justice if you don’t provide an outlet for that extraordinary natural talent.
To be completely honest, though, I haven’t been a hundred percent complimentary about her looks since last Thursday. For two grooming cycles, we were trying out a new groomer. She didn’t pan out, so we returned to our original groomer. By the time he was able to fit her in, Cleo was looking pretty shaggy. For whatever reason, he took her hair down very, very short, including on her face which is now pointy rather than having the distinctive Bedlington curve. She looks like a fuzzy pterodactyl. At least that’s what I’ve been calling her since last Thursday. It doesn’t seem to faze her in the least. Cleo isn’t image conscious; she’s just a little lovey snuggle girl.
After their misguided first sentence, the dogster people go on to say, “Loyal to a fault, hard-working, and just wants someone to notice. Longs to curl up at your (or anyone's) feet and finally be loved.” Most of that is absolutely right. The only part I’d argue with is the last phrase. “Finally be loved?” That’s true for Lady Edith, but not for Bedlingtons. Who can resist loving them the instant one lays eyes on them?