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.


  1. ...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 nothing less than a wonderful life full of love.

  2. You are absolutely correct. You and I are both in love with our Bedlingtons. I almost said dogs, and, on reflection, I had to change the word to Bedlingtons. I think the most important issue is that we and most other dog owners are dog lovers. I, for one, yearn to possess some of her finer qualities, and I don't mean going ape when she encounters squirrels. When you anthropomorphize your dog you are a dog lover. Keep up the good work. I enjoy!

  3. My two bedlingtons are mother and son, so different yet give the same love to everyone, never meet a stranger Sterling wants to slobber all over your hands and Gracee wants to have a belly rub. They watch every move I make, as though they are protecting me. If Sterling gets in the recliner in his dads lap first, Gracee will run to the doggy door and bark down Sterling goes to see what she sees, then she runs and gets in her dads lap, the trick worked. When you throw the ball to Sterling he brings it back with the bedlington bounce, when you throw it to Gracee she runs and runs, gets right in front of you and runs again you are suppose to chase her.

    Our life would be dull with out 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. Jan

  4. Love my Bedlington ! He is a Therapy Dog too ! When ever I talk about just how perfect he is - he does something bad - as IF to say to me " 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 !

  5. You know you have a Bedlington when others bleat at her on her walks.