By Joe Darby
Let me introduce you to Baby. She’s a little 12-pound fuzzy ball of love with a poodle ancestor somewhere in her past along with a lot of other unknown pooches. My vet would doubtless describe her as a poodle mix. I call her an Oodle or a Doodle Poodle, simply because I like the way that sounds when I say it out loud.
You may have seen my column two weeks ago in which I wrote about how I had to place my dear wife Mary in a nursing home because of advanced dementia. So, having Baby, with all of her incredibly affectionate, loving ways, goes a long way to helping me tolerate my loss.
I’ve had dogs pretty much all of my life — two or three dozen, probably. I loved all of them but some, of course, stand out as being particularly great canines. Maybe it’s just because of what’s going on in my life, but as of right now, I would have to rank Baby as my No. 1 dog of all time.
She shows love like a small, loving child does. She is not content to hop up in my lap and get the back of her neck scratched. No. She likes to rest her entire body and head against my chest, literally cuddling, and coming as close as a dog can to giving a hug. As much as she gives love, she is also a needy little pup and thrives on love and affection shown to her, also.
We got Baby from Hope for Paws, towards the end of 2019. Mary was still aware and alert, but the signs of her dementia were rapidly becoming more noticeable. But she instantly fell in love with Baby. Baby loved her too (and it should be admitted at this point that, from what I can see, Baby pretty much loves everybody.)
And as time went on, Baby spent more and more time in Mary’s lap. You know, they say dogs can sense when a person is ill and our Oodle Doodle Poodle certainly showed special affection to her Mama.
The way this all came about was that, after we had lost a previous dog, we had gone several months without one, because having to see our beloved pets’ lives end was becoming more and more painful. I have five dogs buried in my backyard right now. Anyway, we were missing having a little four-footed friend around the house, so I began looking at the website of Hope for Paws, a Natchitoches rescue outfit that places homeless dogs with loving families.
Most of the pups shown at that time were large dogs, many of them pit bulls, and Mary and I preferred a small dog, one that could comfortably snuggle up in our laps. Then a picture of a little curly haired white dog, with black spots around her eyes, caught my attention. She was named Sadie. So, long story short, I made some calls and Sadie’s foster mom, Carla Salard, brought her by our house. It was love at first sight and before you could say Oodle, Doodle Poodle, it, Sadie had joined our household.
Mary and I always liked to name our own dogs and the moniker Baby just popped in my head for some reason. For one thing, when pronounced out loud, it sounds like Sadie, and that would minimize any confusion for the dog when we called her. So, Baby it was.
As you may have gathered from my above remarks, the pup has been a perfect fit for me. I call her, in a child-like voice I use just for her, “Da sweetest little dog in da wuld.” (The sweetest little dog in the world, in everyday English.)
She loves to go for walks or rides in the car and when she sees me with her halter, she goes crazy, wiggling so much that it’s difficult for me to get the thing on to her body. She’s also a very vocal little dog and actually squeaks with delight as we prepare to go out. She makes the same sound when I come home from an outing on my own. Or, truth be told, she makes the same sounds when a guest comes in the door. As I said, she loves everybody.
If she gets a little bored she will find her little green rubber bone squeaky toy, jump up in my lap and challenge me to a game of keep away. She lets me win, because that way, when I get the toy, she knows I will throw it across the room and she madly dashes after it and then back onto the couch with me, where the game begins all over again.
She loves people food, of course, and eats her dog food only after letting it sit in her bowl for a while. I usually let her have the last small bite of a meal, or let her lick a plate. But iIf I leave a hamburger or candy wrapper in a waste can, the moment I turn my back, she dives into the can to see if there are any remnants for her to scoff down. Also, one time, I stupidly left a large pack of M&M chocolates on my bedside table. I left the house and when I got home I had a pretty sick dog on my hands. She had to stay overnight at Dr. Joey’s clinic. But I learned my lesson. Candy — and even gum — is now left in places that Baby can’t get to.
I let her sleep with me, of course, and she likes to snuggle. So much so that I have to be careful not to roll over on top of her. But, right now, I don’t know what I’d do without her. Some folks say we should call our dogs “non-human companions,” rather than pets. I think that’s kind of silly, because Baby doesn’t know anything about the definition of “pet” or “non-human companion.” But she is, in fact, my companion, my pal, my little friend. I’ll say it one more time. I don’t know what I’d do without her.