Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Reader Responses

Such wonderful stories and comments have come from last week’s post!  For those of you who get these installments without the comments section and for those who replied via email, Facebook or other format, I want to share some of the responses to my call for reader feedback.  All of these will be anonymous, but if you want to lay claim to your story, feel free to do so!

From an experienced and dedicated Bedlington parent:
“...and so it begins. You have entered into a world of addiction for which there is no cure. I got my first Bedlington, Lambert, 9.5 years ago. From the first day, he entwined himself in my heart and my life. It is almost impossible to describe the bond I had with him. I rescued Lily when she was a year old. She has all of the same sweet traits as Lambert, but is a little more high strung. Lambert passed away unexpectedly in February, I am still grieving his loss. About 6 weeks ago though, a adopted a 12 year old named Rocky. He is a special needs Bedlington. He is deaf, has cataracts, has copper toxicosis, had a rectal tumor which was just removed on Tuesday, and he has some sort of spinal injury that makes his hind quarters weak. Even with all of these issues, his Bedlington ways shine through. I am not sure how long he will be with me, but what I do know is that no Bedlington deserves anything less than a wonderful life full of love.”

I am so moved by this degree of love and dedication.  Bedlington parents are some of the kindest, most generous people I’ve ever known.  And Bedlingtons do inspire such love.  I’m glad there’s no cure for the addiction!

Here’s a comment from the converted:
“Absolutely without doubt the greatest breed ever!  My husband, who never wanted a dog, bought Miss Dog for me 10 years ago & wouldn't be without her now!”

John, too, thought he would be perfectly happy without ever having another dog.  I think I’ve chronicled in this space how that has changed!

An enthusiastic endorsement:
“Love my Bedlington! He is a Therapy Dog, too! Whenever I talk about just how perfect he is, he does something bad, as if to say, ‘Look, nobody is perfect – see?’ I love him and wonder why more people don't have Bedlingtons:  They are the perfect size, no shedding, great personalities and smart, smart, smart!”

I attribute the perverse behavior to the famous Bedlington sense of humor.  When Cleo shows me up, there’s more than a little snickering behind her sparkling eyes.  Keeps me humble!

A wonderful conversation developed on the “I love Bedlington Terriers” Facebook page.  It began with a contributor asking if other Bedlingtons didn’t like being watched while they were eating.  It turns out this isn’t an uncommon situation.  Also not uncommon?  Bedlingtons who don’t like to eat, period.  I used to agonize over Cleo’s resistance to breakfast (I can hear John muttering to himself now: “Used to agonize?!”).  She happily eats dinner whenever I feed it to her, but breakfast is a different story.  Sometimes she’ll eat it at noon, sometimes at 4 PM, sometimes at 9 AM.  But no matter when she eats it, she’s always ready for dinner as soon as we get home from school!  It was such a relief to get a note from Cleo’s grandmother saying, “Don’t worry; Bedlingtons are not aggressive eaters.”  My girl still has her Audrey Hepburn figure! 

I am intrigued, though, by the contributor who said her Bedlington eats five raw chicken necks a day.  I imagine his breath is pretty good…  This comment sparked a delightful conversation among folks who feed their dogs chicken necks, raw wings and feet.  They go to the butcher and pick up a variety pack along with “raw pet mince.”  According to the chicken enthusiasts, the necks and feet are terrific for dogs’ teeth.  I’m thrown back into my vegetarian’s dilemma, but I’m also really interested to see how Cleo would react to a chicken neck. 

Another comment posted on the blog site made me really want to meet this writer:
“You and I are both in love with our Bedlingtons. I almost said dogs, but on reflection, I had to change the word to Bedlingtons. … I, for one, yearn to possess some of her finer qualities, and I don't mean going ape when she encounters squirrels….” 

That Bedlophile sounds like a whole lot of fun to hang out with!!  And, by the way, I’m trademarking  the word “bedlophile.” 

A faithful reader who has known Cleo since the instant of her birth writes:
“I have two Bedlingtons, mother and son.  If Sterling gets into his dad’s lap first, Gracee will run to the doggy door and bark.  Sterling goes to see what she sees, then she runs and gets in her dad’s lap.  The trick worked!“

I love this!  Cleo works this kind of trick on us all the time.  If they only had opposable thumbs, Bedlingtons could be grand master chess players.

This reader also goes on to describe “the Bedlington bounce.”  It’s such a wonderful trait.  If you’ve never seen it, you can approximate it in your imagination: Picture the way an antelope springs across the prairie, launching from its rear legs and bouncing forward onto its forelegs.  Such joy and exuberance!  Now convert that to a lamb-sized dog and you’ve got the idea.

She concludes:
“Our life would be dull without a Bedlington.  They are the smartest, most loving, and if you are anxious or stressed-out just lay down with them and snuggle.  The soft, loving response will always make you feel better.  I could go on and on.”

Hear, hear!

Finally, a reader summed it up well with this succinct contribution:
“You know you have a Bedlington when others bleat at her on her walks.”

Thanks to everyone who responded!  We so enjoyed reading the thoughts and reflections on all the dogs we heard about.  The bottom line: We are so lucky to have these remarkable companions, be they Bedlington, English Conformation Labradors, Cocker Spaniel or whatever.

But especially the Bedlingtons.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Best of All Possible Dogs

As anyone who has ever worked in a school can tell you, the end of the school year can be a wild ride.  Whether it’s spring fever, the promise of summer vacation, the end of high school for the seniors, or simply exhaustion from the ten month cycle of classes, extracurriculars and homework, students start to resemble squirrels on an acorn high more than the dedicated young scholars who have been filling our classrooms since August.  Suffice it to say that Cleo and I have been kept busy these last few weeks.  Add in a wonderful, whirlwind trip back East, and the absence of posts for the last month is explained. 

While I was out of town, John sent me a photo of Cleo taken on their morning walk.  At the time, I thought to myself, You know you’re in love with your puppy when getting a picture of her sends you into paroxysms of delight, even though you’ve been gone for less than a day.  This got me thinking.  Everyone believes their dog is the best, right?  I have a student who insists that her dog flunked out of puppy school.  She says the trainer asked them not to return.  Between you and me, I think this was a problem with the trainer, not the handlers and certainly not the puppy.  Be that as it may, she adores her dog and wouldn’t trade him for anything.  She comes in regularly with a friend and the two of them fuss over Cleo, but spend the entire time talking about how wonderful their own dogs are. 

Now, I don’t have a lot of experience, so comparisons are tough for me.  Cleo is my first Bedlington Terrier, and as I’ve mentioned in this space before, my previous canine partnerships have been limited: a miniature schnauzer who followed my mother around like she was the second coming, an Irish setter who could have made a box of rocks look like a rocket scientist, a Sheltie who I never really connected with, and a Chinese Crested who I loved a lot.  To me, Cleo is truly special.  I don’t want to sound disloyal, but it has crossed my mind that her specialness has more to do with her being a Bedlington than it does with Cleo herself.  (I feel a little guilty even admitting that!)

A regular reader left a comment saying, “For some time now I have been feeling that my Bedlington is as smart as your Bedlington.”  Honestly, I’d be disappointed to hear anything else!  I mean, I would hope that all parents feel that way about their dogs.  But then I read an article about Bedlingtons written by someone who really knows them and who has a wide basis for comparison: She has raised and bred a variety of dogs and has a line of championship Bedlingtons that stretches down through generations.  Full disclosure, I’m referring to Cleo’s paternal grandmother, Lucy Heyman, whose champion Lover Boy is Cleo’s dad.  She thinks they are the best of all possible dogs.  As she described them—their lion’s-roar bark, their loyalty and protectiveness, their charm and sense of humor, their fleet and agile forms—I began to suspect that many of the things I love about Cleo are traits shared by Bedlingtons in general.

So I thought I would ask readers to compare notes.  I’m going to suggest a few identifying traits, and I hope readers will share their own experiences with their Bedlington Terriers, corroborating, debunking or adding to my own insights about what makes Cleo (Bedlingtons?) special.  So here goes.

You know you have a Bedlington when you are three thousand miles away celebrating your sister’s sixtieth birthday and you reach your hand into your jacket pocket and realize you have accidentally brought with you a poo bag and a handful of dog treats.  You experience a rush of joy at the thought of how lucky you are to share your life with your dog, then you tuck everything back into your pocket to have ready when you see her again.

You know you have a Bedlington when finding the right groomer is a years-long, crowd-sourced quest.  If she knows what a Bedlington is supposed to look like, can actually make the Bedlington look like that, and is also kind and patient, she is worth her weight in platinum.  I would sooner give up my own hair dresser than lose the wonderful groomer we have finally found.

You know you have a Bedlington when every day she teaches you something about loyalty.  As I write, even now, Cleo is on the chaise behind me, her head turned over the back so that she can watch me.  Yesterday, I left the house to visit a friend.  I got into the car and started it before I realized I’d forgotten something important.  I hopped out and ran back to the house.  When I opened the front door, Cleo was standing exactly where she’d been when I said goodbye.  She was watching the door in case I returned.

You know you have a Bedlington when your dog is your model of patience.  All through the difficult days of the last few weeks when almost every minute of my workday was filled with meetings or classes, Cleo patiently lay on my office couch, happily greeting guests or accepting the cuddling of students when she could, napping and quietly contemplating the birds in the canyon when there was nothing else to do.

You know you have a Bedlington when the shrill squeak of a ground squirrel can turn an eager-to-please, loving dog into an obsessive basket case.  Our campus is overrun, especially one ravine that is the Shanghai of ground squirrels.  Cleo will stand, quivering, at the edge of this ravine, staring down at the colony of varmints.  On Friday, Cleo’s friend Betsy and I paused to watch her.  Betsy turned to me and said, “I bet I could outrun Cleo down that bank of iceplant.”  It’s easy to be fooled by that lamblike physique; the fact is that Bedlington Terriers are fast, agile, sure-footed and excellent jumpers.  Betsy took Cleo by surprise as she ran past her and leapt down the first incline.  Within two seconds, Cleo was three yards ahead.  She bounded through the iceplant, reaching the bottom of the ravine in seconds, then, seeing a student by the art building on the other side, ran up the far slope, leaving Betsy to struggle along behind her.

You know you have a Bedlington when a thirty second adventure of running through iceplant is followed by thirty minutes of sitting on the floor of the office while your mom painstakingly separates burrs and foxtails from every inch of your Velcro-like hair.

But listen, don’t let me mislead you.  Though I suspect that Bedlington Terriers all share these qualities, I can’t help but believe that Cleo is the most magical, most sensitive, the smartest and funniest creature that ever lived.