Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Leigheaux the neurotic poodle


This is the story of a dog named Leigheaux.

For those of you not of the Cajun persuasion, that's pronounced "Leo."

He's a standard poodle, and a fine one at that. He has soft, curly jet black fur, with just a hint of a little tuft of white on his chest. And his eyes are so dark that sometimes you can barely see them. He's tall and strong, if a little skinny. His hips and his back legs probably aren't as strong as they should be. And I don't know why that is.

He came to us in the summer of 2006 from a poodle rescue group. Skinny, scared and scarred for life, he wandered out of a swamp near Denham Springs into the backyard of a local woman who promptly named him Big Foot. From there, he was sent to another woman in Prairieville, and she posted his picture on the Internet. That's how I found him.


I'm already the mom to Lollee Sue, the world's greatest poodle. Sweet, soft and very smart, Lollee has never given us a day of trouble. Oh, OK. It took her a while to figure out that she was supposed to go out the doggie door to pee, not just go to it and stop. And she did eat a few of Lora's toys when both were babies. But she grew into a wonderful dog with the sweetest disposition. For the last three years she and I have made monthly visits to local nursing homes and hospitals as part of the Visiting Pet Program.

But I worried about her. Our schedules are so crazy and we are gone so much, I worried that she was home alone too much. So I started looking for a companion. And I got sticker shock! The ads in the paper wanted anywhere between $400 and $800!!
Lollee was a gift to us from the owners of a sire who were offered a pick of the litter. They took pity on me after I had to put both of my dogs down the same week. Laycee was my first standard and my constant companion for 13 years. Lucy was the funniest mutt dog I've ever seen. Both crashed the same week and are now buried in our front yard, next to another rescued standard named Lyon and near a statue of St. Francis Asissi. So I started checking the Internet for rescues. And that's how I found Leigheaux.

Marty was adamant. He didn't want another dog. But I drove to Prairieville, "just to look."

He growled at me when I walked in the room. Didn't want anything to do with me. Wouldn't even look at me. He was curled up on the floor next to his caretaker, who tried to shush him. But he just growled at me. He had a slight limp back then, but no obvious injury. I was very leery, not knowing if he would bite. Eventually he took a piece of a bone from me. And eventually he was in the back of my car, headed to Norco.

It took him a long, long time to trust us. Even longer to love us. He still distrusts strange men (who doesn't?), especially if they're wearing a hat. He has gotten used to the neighbors, but he absolutely hates the mailman and simply cannot understand how and why that stuff comes through the slot in the door every day. In his frustration, he often eats it. And he detests bicycles.

I wish I knew why. I wonder what they did to him. I am so glad I do not know. They did something to his snout that left scars of some type. He is constantly rubbing his nose on the side of the sofa to scratch it. And he doesn't like me to touch it.

I wish I knew what his name was. Sometimes I throw names out to see if he responds. I think he was an Oreo (for his little white tuft). But I should have named him Shadow. Everywhere I go, he goes -- especially to the closet. That is where I change into my walking clothes. He loves, loves, loves to walk. And his limp is long gone.

Like me, he is a night owl. Loves to stay up late, prowling around the yard. Sleeps late. Plays all night. I can hear him sometimes, running around, playing by himself. And on more than one occasion that has gotten him in big, big trouble. He liked to eat things -- toys, furniture, shoes, books. Anything, really.

But he also earns his keep. As much as his barking can annoy us and the neighbors and the meter readers and the pool guy, I feel a lot safer with him here. Lollee would likely invite you in and show you the good stuff. Leigheaux will scare you.


Then, there is his squirrel. Marty has a bunch of bird feeders hanging in the tree outside our dining room window. And there is a persistent squirrel who loves to raid them. And Leigheaux firmly believes he is going to catch him one day. He will stand for hours in the dining room, looking out the window, waiting for that squirrel to come his way. And just when he thinks that squirrel has let its guard down, Leigheaux will barrel out the back door to get him. Of course, that takes about five seconds, giving the squirrel plenty of time to make his get away. So Leigheaux comes back inside, and waits. And this goes on all ..... day ..... long .....

There is no doubt in my mind that Leigheaux would kill that squirrel if he had the chance.. And he probably would bring him inside and plop him on my sofa to show me that he had, as if to say, "See I told you I'd get him one day."

There have been many days when I came home to find a living room full of tattered paper and destroyed magazines. And puddles. And sprays. And plops in the wrong places in the yard. And dead plants. And chewed up Barbies. And some visitors have left our house little teeth marks on their butts. And my hardwood floor has some nasty scratches on in.
But I have Leigheaux. And I think I'm pretty lucky.

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