Friday, December 6, 2013

My Girl Cate

If you read this blog, you’ve seen many mentions of my dog, Cate. So I figured it was time to introduce her.

Cate is a black—her breeder called her blue, but mostly she just looks black—Standard Poodle. That means she’s a tall girl as poodles go. When she bounces up on her hind legs, she’s nearly as tall as I am. She weighs 42 pounds and has the thin and elegant figure of a supermodel, as well as all the energy of child. This year she turned nine and has slowed down a little, which means only that the bunnies in our yard have an easier time escaping her.

Cate was six months old when we got her from a breeder. We were looking for a younger puppy, but we saw Cate and she was absolutely beautiful. Let me explain that my husband is a Libra. Beauty trumps common sense sometimes. The breeder told us she’d been keeping Cate hoping to train her for agility but decided against it. We later figured out that was a lie: Cate had been sold as a puppy and later returned when the family said she wasn’t working out. But we didn’t know that then and, because my husband loves poodles and I wanted a larger dog instead of one that would get underfoot, we bought Cate and took her home.

It took her a week to come out from hiding in the dining room.

Everything terrified her. She didn’t trust us even enough to take food out of our hands. If I hadn’t grown up with dogs, and with a dog-breeding and showing mother, I wouldn’t have known how to deal with such a skittish animal. But my husband is patient and I worked on teaching Cate we would never hurt her. She came around but sudden movements of human limbs, particularly feet, would send her exploding from the room. For the first two years we had her, she’d bolt every time I crossed my legs while sitting on the couch. I don’t know that she’d been hit or kicked, but I’d put money on it.

My girl is smart. She’s trained my husband to give her treats on command. That’s pretty good! And Cate has a sense of humor. She plays jokes on us and then grins when we laugh at her brilliance. She now stretches out on the floor like a poodle skin rug while we walk around her, comes running happily when we call, and goes with me just about everywhere I can take a dog. Cate’s pretty well-known around town. The people at the bank are her favorites because they line up to give her pets and treats. Another favorite person to visit is one of our elderly aunts who lives in a senior community. The family matriarch doesn’t really like dogs, you see, but Cate, she says, is “a lady.”

When I said Cate was smart, that also means she picked up her training on how to be a good guest.

Being a member of a small but loving adult family has been good for Cate and good for us, too. Working with her has taught me a lot about how early experiences leave deep scars, but that if we work through those scars with patience and love we can uncover a beautiful soul. I’m not sure what it means to Cate that she has a secure and loving home, but I think it probably means a lot, just as it does to me or any of us.

Cate’s still an odd duck as dogs go. She will never grasp that play could be more exciting than “I will taunt you with this toy”. She always has to place herself such that she can keep an eye on all people in a house at all times. But she’s my friend and she accepts the things that are odd and unconventional about me, too. She’s getting blind now and most of the time she sleeps here in my room as I write. I can trust her to bark whenever a delivery man pulls up, though, or if a visitor walks up to the door. And when her dad comes home she positively dances and sometimes steals the first kiss.

Good girl.

Anyone else have a pet they absolutely love and can't imagine being without?

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