For some reason, I feel compelled to write about how my adopted poodle is adapting to farm life. Pepper was named “Feather” as a puppy. My mom and her boyfriend, picked him up at a pet store when someone walked in to return him. They had purchased the poodle a week before, and they returned him to the store like damaged goods, declaring that they didn’t want him. My mom had enormous compassion for him, and she bought him on the spot and took him home. Mind you, mom was in her mid-70’s at the time, and she was showing signs of needing some assistance herself. What implored her to take on the 2 year sentence of puppy hood, and then the responsibility of owning another pet? Yes, mom already had a poodle, “Scotty.” Scotty did not endear himself to many of the the family members. I saw how good he was for mom when she first acquired Scotty. Honestly, I thought we should have gotten a poodle for her years earlier. Here was a warm blooded, furry creature who loved her, stayed close and kept her great company.
All that aside, Scotty was a bit quirky. He, like other poodles, was extremely bright. He learned that he could get you to give him whatever he begged for. He learned to howl and whine while you ate. He learned to chase cats and other vermin, and make quite a show of it. He was a girly type poodle with a cute little walk. He appeared very dainty. And when mom brought home the new little puppy, Scotty was not at all impressed. The two dogs went on many RV trips and hung with the older crowd, and they tolerated each other at best. Mom insisted on calling the two poodles brothers, but they were far from it. Scotty was twice as old, and he was used to being the top dog. Poor “Feather” was stuck with this alpha dog, and that silly name.
My mom passed away a year and a half ago, and I always wanted the younger, black poodle for my own. My family informed me that I would have to take both dogs, to which I relented. Scotty did not win the hearts of too many, but as he got older, he was less obnoxious. He also had relearned that begging was NOT going to give you what you wanted.
Transitions. To describe what these dogs had gone through, there were many changes in the home as we brought mom home with hospice. Then when mom passed, my niece and her husband agreed to live in the house until it sold. Now there were two new people (granted, the dogs were familiar with them both), but there was new stuff, and oh yes, two cats. The poor cats were relegated to the back bedrooms until that summer when I came out to Oregon. My sister had loaned me her travel trailer, and I moved the dogs and all their stuff in with me the day I arrived. It was a transition to be sure. The dogs had a doggy door at the house, and they were used to coming and going as they pleased. Now they were stuck with me, and I never allowed them back in the house again.
It didn’t seem too take long, and the dogs accepted that the trailer was their home, at least for now. Of course, their dog dishes may have played a part in that acceptance. Mid July, I had to hit the road to return to Nashville for the school year which always starts in the middle of the summer, the first week of August, (God only knows why!) So, I pack up my things, the dogs and their things, and we embark on a 3 day drive across country in my Honda Civic. This was a far cry from the spacious motor home they were accustomed to. When we arrived in Nashville, my little guys learned and adapted to yet another home. Of course, I didn’t have a doggie door, and that presented a problem, especially for the 16, soon to be 17 year old poodle. My house soon took on a fragrance of its own. Even with all these changes, I marveled at how these little guys adapted.
Toward the end of the school year, Scotty had taken a turn for the worse, and he listlessly laid around for about 24 hrs. unable to stand or lift himself. I got him to the Vet as soon as he had an opening, and had Scotty put down to everlasting sleep. He is buried in the back yard along with my two other dogs, and a rabbit. When I think of Scottie, I try not to think of all the annoying things about him, but rather, how impressed I was when I saw him bring new life and purpose into my mom’s life.
Going back,to “Feather”. Here was a name I could not tolerate. Now that he was my dog, I labored to find a name that I could give a 7 year old dog. On that drive across country with both dogs, I came up with the name “Pepper” which conveniently had the same two syllables and the same vowel sound. And of course, he is black like pepper, so the name just seemed to fit. I knew he had taken to the name when I got up one morning to let the dogs out. I was pretty tired, and in my sleepiness, I used the name “Feather” which did not get much of a response. I caught my mistake, and immediately changed to “Pepper”, which Pepper responded immediately to.
Now, I have seen the dog left behind grieve something terrible at the loss of a family pet. That was not the case with Pepper. Pepper would growl at Scotty a lot, particularly as Scotty got older and more frail. Scotty never seemed to notice, but it seemed to help Pepper express himself. Once Scotty was gone, Pepper began to find himself and his place. He was a much happier dog, and that is saying a lot for a dog who was always (and still is to some degree), very insecure.
When I had both dogs for that year, I gave them several experiences which were new to them. We went camping along the Blue Ridge Parkway. I pitched my tent, and invited the dogs in to bed for the night. Honestly, if dogs could talk, I’m sure they would be saying: “Seriously!?” “You expect us to sleep outside in that!?” I got a real look from both these motor home dogs. This was definitely new to them. I also took them on a hay ride at the Alta Loma Apple Orchard. They seemed to take all these things in stride. I went out of my way to give Pepper many opportunities to meet people. He has always been a shy dog, not willing to warm up to people much. When there was a party at my mom’s house, there would be people everywhere, and it was always loud. Pepper retreated into the shadows. I always identified with him that way. I liked to hide too. Big crowds and noises are definitely not my thing either.
So, fast forward to the end of school. I literally gave away, threw away or packed up my entire house in three weeks. I packed what I wanted to keep into a 7×7 POD, and I hopped in my car June 1st, bound for Oregon. My tiny house was to be delivered June 5th, and I needed to arrive before then to finish preparing for the arrival of the tiny house. So Pepper and I slept in the car on our trip across country (Walmart camping is free!), then we spent about two weeks in my sisters trailer, and finally, we moved into the tiny house. Talk about transitions! Poor Pepper is still freaked out by things he doesn’t recognize, and things out of place. Imagine boxes in a tiny house! And the steps to the loft were steep, narrow and slick, being made of wood. He finally got the hang of going up, but coming down was painful to watch. He tried speeding up the process, but when he hit the bamboo floor at the bottom, his little body would just skitter across the floor in an ungraceful slide. I put my foam bathmat at the bottom of the stairs, and that made for a nice landing pad. After a couple of attempts, Pepper got the hang of it, and now the loft provides him with a level of security and comfort. He can hang out up there, and watch what’s going on below.
Farm Dog Poodle
Adjusting to a tiny house is one thing, but how was a miniature poodle going to do on a farm with Great Pyrenees, horses, goats, pigs and chickens? Well, to start with, Pepper is like my shadow when we are on the farm. He goes nearly everywhere with me. If I hadn’t already named him “Pepper”, “Shadow” would have been an appropriate name!
He has been in the horse paddocks with me. He was been in the goat pasture with me (though his first experience left him uncertain, when one goat tried to butt him with her head). He has been literally lying on the ground at the arena when a horse walked by, and he seemed totally unfazed. If I was that little, and I was laying on the ground, seeing that big horse would have made me more than a little nervous. I was so proud of him that day. In fact, the only place Pepper has never ventured with me, is the pig pen. I get a bit nervous close to feeding time, because those pigs only have one thing on their mind, and they are no small porkers. Pepper watches me closely from behind the gate, and waits patiently for me to finish and come out of the enclosure.
Two days ago, I was picking up all the limbs and wood that have littered some of the various pastures. I was in the pig pen, and I misstepped, sinking into a hole that was made either by the big dogs, or the pigs. Fortunately, I only went in about a foot, and I didn’t twist anything. It caused me to fall surprising gently into a sitting position. And while I wasn’t really hurt, getting my bearings and getting my knees to move into action, took a minute. All of the sudden the Great Pyrenees (“big dogs”) started reacting to something in the pen. I looked up, and there was Pepper, my fearless poodle, coming to check on me. He had seen me fall, and when I didn’t get right back up, he came to my side.
I must say, I was so touched by that. I have realized a few things about Pepper since we have lived here. First, he is his happiest when he is hanging out with me on the farm. He literally has a smile on his face! And second, I’m his person. He is my dog, and I am his person. It’s a bond that seems different than any I have ever had with any previous dog. Pepper knows he is home.