I have learned this about puppies: they are not as angelic as they look. When our puppy Timmy first came to live with us a few months ago, I thought we would not be allowed to keep him. A doggie version of the Prophet Elijah would come down in some sort of doggy chariot and tell us (probably in a compassionate voice) that they had made a mistake, that Timmy was really an angel, and that he would have to go back to Heaven because he was just too good for us. Well, I have changed my mind; I am beginning to think we might not be seeing Elijah any time in the near future.
Now that Timmy has run around with every dog in Central Park, given a squirrel a literal heart attack (it fell dead out of the tree where Timmy had chased it, I kid you not!), invariably returned from Central Park looking as though he had been through a mud bath, harried and then eaten any ants he can find in our backyard, made “mistakes” on our carpets, wheedled food out of strangers by playing the “cute card, ” torn up papers, gnawed at chair legs, and destroyed “indestructible” toys, I suspect that Heaven will wait.
That I always considered myself a Labrador type of guy and that Timmy is a poodle is already something I have learned to live with. He doesn’t look like a poodle because we have not engaged in topiary on him, but a poodle he is. That means he is smart enough to run our house. He also does very good impersonations. In the incident with the aforementioned dead squirrel, we were in the country when Timmy spied the innocent little rodent. He immediately did a very passable impression of an English pointer. He stopped still, slowly lifted a paw in the direction of the squirrel, and then, in exquisite slow motion, each foot being gently and silently placed on the ground in sequence, advanced upon the hapless animal. At the last moment, he changed into his impression of a Doberman, lunging and barely missing the squirrel with a roar. The squirrel got away only to fall out of the tree a minute later, dead from terror.
Actually, I am quite proud of his impersonation of a bird dog when he chases pigeons. I have to confess I am not a New York pigeon lover. I think of them as “flying rats.” I recognize that sounds harsh, but I have been known to urge Timmy on to chase them when the opportunity arises. To date, he has not given a good impersonation of an eagle; he hasn’t got the flying bit down yet.
He has convinced our veterinarian that he can read. Again, I am not joking. The other week we got a card addressed to Timmy at our home. It came in the mail. To Timmy, our address! And it reminded Timmy that he needed his six-month shots very soon. My son is a veterinarian (I have the vet school bills to prove it), and I thought they were a profession of intelligent people. Either I have clearly made a mistake or (surely not!) Timmy can read.
Your child may have told you that Timmy comes to York Prep on most days with my wife at around 8.00 a.m. to be petted and adored by the sixth and seventh graders. He has his timing very well worked out and leaves after the mid-morning break when the students have to go back to class. The good thing about poodles is that they have the non-allergic hair or fur (I never know which is which), so our students do not sneeze or get a rash after they stroke him. He does not bark when classes are in session, does not bite children, and on Friday when I walked him through the lobby where we were having a bake sale, he calmly threaded his way through a hundred children.
Obviously, Timmy has lovable puppy qualities, and I have to remember not to anthropomorphize him as much as I do. One has to put up with his peccadilloes (even embrace his mischievous nature) and not expect an angel. Now if I could only find my left slipper…
Ronald P. Stewart, Headmaster
“Headmaster’s Thoughts” for previous months are archived in the section More News. You may access additional months by clicking Headmaster’s Thoughts Archives on the same page.