By Jean C. Keating
The bleakness of January was brightened by several funny letters in response to the Christmas card from a dog. One cousin wrote to say she didn’t know whether to send the name of a good psychologist or just take comfort in the fact that I was at least communicating again. The long awaited letter regarding my Papillon puppy arrived with the new year also, and sent me digging for new knowledge. The letter brought an offer for my adoption of a beautiful black-and-white beauty named Maaca, along with her pedigree and pictures of her standing by the pool.
Now I think of myself as reasonably intelligent. Or I did until faced with a six-generation pedigree. Oh, boy! I worked through the easier parts. I’d already learned that long names generally comprised a kennel prefix that indicated who bred the dog and a unique name that signified the dog. And I was helped in identifying the conformation champions by the fact that these appeared in red and in caps on the pedigree, so the ‘CH’ in front of names was understandable. But I despaired at every getting the strings of letters at the end of each dog’s name straight. Entries like ‘CD’ and ‘CDX’ became clearer after reading up on obedience competitions, but stings of information like ‘DOM’ and ‘SOD’ after names left me feeling frustrated and foolish. In the coming years, I would learn that these last two signified Dam of Merit and Sire of Distinction respectively, titles awarded by the Papillon Club of America to signify milestones in champion get produced by these beautiful dogs. But in the beginning, I just knew that my friend Vinnie’s father was a ‘SOD’ so it must mean something great.
Finally, when it came to trying to understand why some half-brothers and half-sisters were bred to each other, and why the same names appeared in more than one generation, I gave up the book research and called a good friend who bred and showed dachshunds.
Knowledge and experience are wonderful things. My friend took about two
minutes to view the pedigree and answered all my queries with a single
brief suggestion. “Go get the little girl, and count yourself very lucky.”
Like Vinnie, she was sired by American and Canadian Champion Kinrennie Udell. The SOD. Her dam was another beautiful champion named Heidi [CH D’Ronde’s High Hope]. While I learned in a few months that the DOD after Heidi’s name signified she had whelped more than ten champions and in fact had produced two previous all champion litters with Udell, it would be many year before I would really begin to comprehend what an astounding feat it was for a bitch to produce that many champions. At this time, I only knew that this little one was rare and precious and I felt very honored to have been offered the chance to share her life.
Unlike Vinnie, she was not all happy kisses and welcoming tail-wags. Friendship was one thing; her half-brother Vinnie could be casual about that. Entrusting her life to a stranger was another thing altogether, and this dainty, black-and-white beauty seemed to know it. The deep brown eyes she trained on me were intelligent but wary. At ten and a half months, she was no fat, cuddly baby but an elegant young lady who already knew her worth in the world. She posed regally just out of reach of my hand and eyed me critically during the entire time I was consulting with her breeders and signing the final papers of her adoption. She did consent to being the subject of a demonstration of correct brushing techniques and feet trimming conducted for my enlightenment. But her queenly attitude left no doubt that I was being evaluated by her royal regalness during the entire time.
Freshly brushed and trimmed, she danced away with elegant neck arched and big ears flashing their independence. Little white feet seemed to glide over the floor as she returned to play with her kennel mates, including my first-love Vinnie.
We were invited to spend the night at her breeders and Maaca went upstairs with me into the guest room. She eyed the bed with a calculating gleam in her eyes, finally walked over to lick my hand in acceptance before demurely trying out the new crate and bedding I’d brought along. I guess it was satisfactory, because she slept through the night without any fussing and made the four-hour trip back home the next day sleeping soundly.
We went for a brief walk before I took Maaca into her new home to meet the rest of the crew. Peanut barked ferociously at her, seeking to defend the house against an unknown invader with the dedication only a rescue dog seems to feel. Maaca ignored her, gently shouldered her aside and walked straight into a nose-to-nose face-off with Pittypat. Sable bounced around to the rear, tried a butt sniff and got chastised sharply by the queen. After a few grumbles, Pittypat backed off and Maaca started a leisurely exploration of her new digs.
Feeding schedules had to be adjusted to reflect Maaca’s expectations of her accustomed dinner of liver and ground beef with rice, human variety if you please. This idea was readily supported by Pittypat, Sable and Peanut and in exchange, Maaca never complained that dry kibbel wasn’t available all the time, since free feeding had proved impossible with Peanut around.
I worried about the impact of a fourth dog on evening outings. Four leashes plus a spray bottle were getting to be a little more than I felt capable of handling. I need not have fretted. The first night we approached the house with the loudly barking dog’s head in the second floor window, Maaca responded with a piercing scream that rivaled the fire station alarm bell rather than even remotely resembling any bark I’d ever heard. The offending head was withdrawn so quickly that part of the torn screen was pulled into the upstairs room behind the disappearing black skull. Unfortunately, Maaca’s scream did about as much damage to Peanut’s nerves as the barking dog in the upper window had achieved, so I still had to carry our little cripple home in my arms. But I was laughing all the way at the response of this regal lady to a challenge to her walk.
We enrolled in training classes offered by our local all-breed dog club.
Maaca was the star of the class, but it soon became apparent that I had
no talent or interest in actually entering a ring and showing a dog. The
additional sixty mile commute to classes on top of a hundred mile commute
to work each day was a small part of the problem. It left too little time
for anything else, including the three other trusting companions in my
She was eleven and a half months old.
With Maaca in the ring with an accomplished handler, I was free to sit at ringside and delight in the intelligence and innate showmanship of this little dog. She was handed to the handler at ringside, so there was little time for training by her handler. Yet she knew just who to play up to. Her eager, expressive eyes and constantly moving ears and tail were always focused on the judge.
At home, the interaction of the four very different canine personalities intrigued and delighted me. Pittypat was older, established as the senior dog, but calm and unassuming. She wouldn’t give up her pillow or favorite toy without a fight, but she was too laid back to really want to push about anything. Peanut never tried to take anything, always responded with a submissive posture if conflict over space or food occurred. Sable, the only male and the one closest to Maaca’s age, was always pushing, always trying to get whatever anyone of the girls might have just for the pure joy of initiating a reaction, but it was a lot of noise and little more. Maaca quietly or cunningly got what she wanted.
If Pittypat had the favorite spot on the sofa, Maaca would wander into another room and a few minutes later bark at nothing. Peanut, ever ready to defend her much appreciated home, would rush to Maaca to support her alert. Sable would then join the party with his furious barking since he seemed to love the sound of his own yip yaps. As soon as Pittypat joined the group in response to the false alert, Maaca would made a swift end run back to the sofa and grab the favorite spot just vacated by Pittypat.
It was a source of endless fascination to me to see the cognitive reasoning exhibited by this first of many Papillon companions, although the noise from such group barking sessions did little to enhance my TV viewing or my phone conversations.
© 2003 Jean Keating All Rights Reserved Jean Keating can be reached at
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