You probably noticed that my lovely post about ospreys was hijacked by the peanut gallery. So I guess it’s time to introduce the models for Rory and Al, the dogs in the Jeweler’s Gemstone Mysteries.
Rory is a Standard Poodle and anyone who’s ever lived with one will recognize his intelligence, sensitivity and sense of humor.
For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure, poodles have a long history of entertaining their humans. They originated in Germany, not France, where they helped fisherman working in the Black Sea by setting nets, retrieving tackle and other duties as needed. The curly, non-shedding hair that makes them a popular house pet, however, could drag the dogs down when swimming. So the fishermen shaved their bodies, leaving tufts of hair over their organs and on their heads, ankles and tails. The fishermen tied colorful rags on the dogs’ heads to identify individuals and make it easier to yell commands from the shore.
This is all assuming, of course, that the playful poodles responded to their owners’ commands. As Kimberley West knows, poodles are notorious for breaking out into graceful running (known by the technical name of “zoomies”) when happy, stressed or wanting to entertain.
The model for Rory, Paradigm Sam Clemens, is no stranger to zoomies. I once made the mistake of entering Sam in an obedience competition at the Poodle Club of America’s national event. No, we hadn’t trained for obedience. But at age two, Sam had earned a dog dance title, performed for school children and shamed a heavily obedience-titled border collie by racing across a field when I called him (the collie ignored his own companion’s calls, continuing his hunt for non-existent sheep).
Given Sam’s already impressive credentials, how hard could an obedience trial be?
What I hadn’t realized was that the competition was being held on six inches of horse-flavored dirt. Sam dropped his nose to the ground and trotted by my side as if he were a tracking bloodhound. As the exercises continued, I grew increasingly nervous. Sensing my mood, Sam’s own body tensed. When he finally looked up, we were facing the audience.
The combination of emotional stress and potential fans was too much for Sam. He broke away from me and immediately began zooming around the ring.
I stood there, waiting for the horse-poo encrusted dirt to swallow me, thankful the audience consisted solely of poodle people. No strangers to inappropriate zoomies, after a brief intake of breath, Sam’s new fans commented on his beautiful running form. Sam’s breeder, Nancy McGee, even took credit for his perfect structure.
The judge must have also been familiar with poodles. After Sam zipped around the ring three times, she asked if I could stop my dog. I said I could try. I called Sam. He dropped into a play bow, tossed one final grin to his new fans, then trotted back, tail wagging at a job well done.
Sam is now twelve years old and though he’s performed (twice) at the historic National Theatre in Washington, D.C., accrued international dog dance awards and become a favorite with school children throughout the eastern U.S., we never again attempted competition obedience.
Next week I’ll introduce the model for Al’s character.
In the meantime, if you want to read more about poodles, please click the link below.