Newsletter 2
Armadillos and Terriers
Dec. 20, 2009

Hi Everyone,

It's almost Christmas and I hope you are loading up with lots of great dog books. I know I said I would be sending out newsletters every two weeks, but I thought I would take this time to share with you one of my stranger holiday experiences.

Today's topics are armadillos and terriers. The dogs first. I love terriers, I really do. I just can't live with them. I'm simply too sedate to please these little high octane guys full time. After a few days, we grate on each other's nerves. But for an afternoon or a weekend, there's nothing I love more than spending the time with these earthdogs. I can totally understand why so many people say that once you've owned terriers, you'll never settle for any other dogs.

My part-time love affair with terriers, has earned me a designation as official terrier granny. All my terrier-loving friends know that I can always be counted on as a temporary terrier-sitter. Need to go out shopping for the afternoon? Drop your terriers off at Cathy's house. Going to shows for the weekend? Skip the boarding bill and take your dogs to Cat's temporary terrier haven. After a few months, I grow desperate and even contemplate paying people to bring their terriers for a visit.
(Qualification: Now that we have Cocoa, these occurances are rare. She's less than enthusiastic about my terrier fetish.)

I say all this to explain why I found myself, one December a few years back, in south Georgia. I had been invited for a visit by an old friend who lived just north of the Florida state line. I hate to be away from home before Christmas, but she lured me with promises of late night gab sessions, endless bowls of buttered popcorn, and her collection of Christmas movies, everything from oldies like
It's a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street and White Christmas, to more recent additions like Home Alone, Holiday and Sleepless in Seattle. She'd even taped all those seasonal Hallmark TV movies. Sorry, it's a girl thing. The idea of an adult slumber party, presided over by her resident Scotties, was tempting. Then, she added the kicker: you can see my new Norwich puppy. I bid adieu to my husband and son and hit the road.

Sharon and I have been friends for years. We met at a dog show. I was making my way from the van to a ring and took a shortcut through the grooming tent. My arms were loaded with stuff, including a jacket with a rabbit fur collar. Suddenly, a coal black Scottie sprung from a table and attached itself to the collar, holding on for dear life. I turned in a circle and the dog spun with me. I shook gently, but the dog's jaws didn't budge. The only response was a deep-throated growl. Her embarrassed owner grabbed the dog's body and commanded her to let go. Nothing. Finally, I lowered the Scottie and jacket to the ground. Delighted to be on terra firma, the little bitch shook that collar from side to side until she was certain that she had dispatched this menace. She then executed a perfect sit and fixed us with an angelic look.

The owner and I faced each other and then began to laugh and laugh and laugh. We couldn't stop. The tears streamed down our faces, we held our sides and laughed till we were out of breath.

"I guess I owe you a new jacket," Sharon said, when she was finally able to speak.

"I'll settle for lunch," I told her.

Over the typical dog show fare of overdone cheeseburgers and greasy fries, a friendship was born. We discovered that we were both into not only dogs, but dog books. Sharon collects anything terrier. We exchanged want lists and have had some great book swaps over the years. Like me, Sharon is an avid gardener and we've learned to clear out the car or van before visits. We know we're going to be returning home with lots of passalong plants.

Harve's Mom had a strict policy: you never visit someone's house empty-handed. Sarah would always detour to a bakery or deli before visiting someone. So, keeping alive the family tradition, I stopped at the local pizza joint before arriving at Sharon's house. It took all my will not to snag a slice as I made my way out of town to Sharon's little cottage in the woods. I turned onto the gravel drive which was buried in pine needles and pulled up to the door.

"Ruff, ruff, ruff," Sharon's Scotties greeted me. Their little noses perked up at the smell of pizza. I was a hit even before Sharon opened the door. I should take a minute to introduce Sharon's two Scotties: Lionel and Tallulah.

Lionel is a grand old man of 13. His beard is now almost all gray and he's quieter and more mellow than he was in his younger days. In his prime, he had this haughty, arrogant, supremely confident attitude that he was best dog in the world. Of course, Sharon and I told him this all the time, but still the little guy really believed it. Whenever we took Lionel for a walk, other dogs would give him a wide berth. He strutted along like he was the cock of the walk, deigning to stop, every now and then, to receive the pats and praise from people which was his natural due.

Personally, I think Lionel has always resented having such an English-sounding name. Tell me, who names a Scottie Lionel? Sharon always reminds me though that he is named after Lionel Barrymore, who was American, not British. It all happened late one Christmas Eve, after a couple of bottles of wine had been consumed. Sharon was watching
It's a Wonderful Life, when Lionel's mother went into labor. She named the puppies after actors and characters in the movie. Lionel has brothers named Clarence, George Bailey and Mr. Potter. Thank goodness there were no girls in the litter or there would surely be Donna Reed and Beulah Bondi walking around.

Lionel surveys everything that goes on from his own special chair. It's one of those miniature arm chairs that they sell for children. Sharon had it upholstered in tartan and Lionel looks great sitting in it. The chair was added when Sharon's boyfriend and soon to be husband (now ex-husband) declared that he didn't like dogs on the furniture. That should have been the great tip-off that the relationship would never work, but Sharon's a disaster when it comes to picking men. On the other hand, it was great for the dog's coats. Every time they had a fight, Sharon would take out her frustrations by grooming her dogs. During that black period, Sharon had the best groomed Scotties around.

Tallulah (yes, she's named after Tallulah Bankhead; what can I say?) is Lionel's opposite. Where he is dour and slightly aloof, she's unfailingly cheerful and has never met a stranger. Like her namesake, Tully, as everyone calls her, is always the star of the show. It's her mission in life to entertain people and she's a born clown. If she can't get your attention (and applause, she loves applause), she'll do something bad just to provoke a reaction. Tully's a pistol and I'm just glad she has the right home.

And, there you have it, Sharon's two treasured Scotties. Lionel, who if some burglar broke into the house, would attach himself to the man's pants leg and never let go, and Tully who would bath him in kisses and lead him to all the goodies.

Sharon waited until I had been greeted by both dogs (an extended paw and a hugging for Lionel; wild racing around the room, culminating in a leap to my lap for Tully) and then had my pizza before she introduced me to the newest member of the family: Snickers, the Norwich.

What can I say? Love at first sight? Okay, all puppies are adorable and I find them hard to resist. But that little guy was flat out cute as could be. I took one look in his eyes and knew that Sharon was in for an interesting year. There was that spark, that little gleam in the eye that just spelled mischief.

We spent the rest of the afternoon decorating the Christmas tree. When this was completed, we broke open a bottle of wine, cued up the VCR and settled in for a night of movies, surrounded by pillows and dogs. After a couple of movies, Sharon pulled out a battered old copy of
The Night Before Christmas and insisted on reading it. It's one of her family traditions and since she doesn't have any other family living nearby, the dogs and I were her audience. Then back to the movies.

Somewhere along the way, Sharon zonked out. I was getting pretty sleepy myself, when I heard what I can only describe as clatter. You know, clatter as in reindeers on the roof? In fact, it was one heck of a clatter, but it wasn't coming from the roof. I tiptoed into the kitchen and onto the screened back porch and peeked outside. There to my wondering eyes did appear a pair of little armadillos playing together just like they were puppies. They leaped, twisted, turned and play-attacked one another which resulted in the most clattering racket. Every time they bumped, their chainmail suits clanged. It was one of those special moments in life that gets imprinted on your memory.

For those who live in northern Florida, the Gulf States and Texas, armadillos are frequent visitors. They barely bat an eye when they see one. For the rest of us, we're likely to spot one in the car headlights on a lonely night where we have to swerve to avoid them. And, sad to say, we're probably more apt to see them as roadkill.

Armadillos are the bane of gardeners since they love bugs and will poke their noses into any hole to find them. They are also great diggers and, since they're nocturnal, they do their damage at night when nobody's around to shoo them away. Many gardeners awake to find their yard looking more like one of those shots of Mars with all its craters. It's sort of like someone turned 101 untrained terriers loose on your lawn. Sharon would probably cry in the morning.

Armadillos have another trait. They have remarkably poor eyesight, which is why I was able to stand so close by and enjoy their antics. The reverie was broken when Snickers spied me by the door. He sounded the alarm and then all hell broke loose. Boy, did the terriers want to get at the armored guests.

So, now you know why every December, I take out a couple of minutes to remember a magical night shared with armadillos, terriers and an old friend.

For you who are still looking for Christmas presents, check out the new things we've added to the
store. And, remember to spread the word and pass this newsletter along to your doggy friends.

Have a great holiday,
Cathy, Harvey and Cocoa