A Work of Nonfiction by Gladys Swedak

For two cases of beer and twenty dollars we were the proud owners of a five-week-old purebred apricot toy poodle who had no papers. The owner of her parents said they were purebred.

I thought she was a little young to be away from her mother but that was the way it was. Her three siblings had already gone to homes and we got the runt, the last of the litter to be taken or wanted. Boy, they didn’t know what they had left behind as a runt.

We fed her pabulum and baby food, mixed with milk for about a month. What to name this little bundle of fur? Missy, no, that didn’t fit. How about Princess, no, she was by no means a princess that was for sure. No name fit until one day after we had had her for a couple of weeks; we were playing on the couch and she did something and I said, “Oh, you muffin, you are a bad girl.”

There, that was her name, Muffin. Even she agreed it was a good name. Almost immediately she was answering to her new name.

We lived in a townhouse with no back yard fence. It was up to me to train her to stay within her boundaries. It didn’t take long and there was an invisible fence. She would not go outside the yard. Well, almost never. If there was another dog she knew, she would go and say hi then come back home with a look on her face as if to say, “Well, I had to go, Sparky or one of my friends was going by.”

Since they first met, Sparky, a neighbor’s old Pomeranian male, took her under his paw. He was like a father to her. They had a wonderful relationship, but he had no interest in her as a female because he had been neutered many years before.

She was sometimes punished for going to say hi to her friends. But when I realized the punishment was given after she returned, I was punishing her for coming home, and so the punishment stopped.

When she was about nine months old I took her for the first appointment at the doggy salon. She needed a clipping badly. How was I to know she was special and had to be clipped at least twice a year if not more? She was the first dog of many I had that had her own hairdresser.

I took this shaggy, long-haired pup into the Shoppe. She wasn’t matted because I brushed her daily. Only once was she clipped like a show poodle, a town and country cut it is called, because she was matted and needed her hips shaved that time. When I returned the first time I didn’t know this proud trimmed beautiful young lady. She recognized me long before I recognized her. Now she looked like a princess, bows in her ears and her apricot coloring showing, but still didn’t act like one.

Some weeks later a black-gray male toy poodle, no collar or identification, arrived from out of nowhere. We had no idea who he belonged to or where he came from.  He came into the yard and played with Muffin. She was quite happy to play with him but when he tried to mount her she turned and fought for her virginity and won.  He hung around for days but never got to do the deed. We didn’t want to feed him for fear he would not go home. I wondered what his owners thought, and if they worried about where he was as I know I would have. We knew she was in heat and wanted her to have one litter before we had her spayed. Through three years of two heats, he came and was disappointed.

During the fifth time she went into heat, she followed him somewhere and I had to get Sparky to find her. She didn’t go far but was not coming when I called. It didn’t take Sparky long to find her. I thought for sure this time she would be pregnant, but no, she was still a virgin.

She was almost four years old when one evening I coaxed the black poodle into the living room and held her while he mounted her. He had been around twice a year since she was nine months old. Muffin had been a prude long enough. I thought it was time. I really hurt her feelings, because she ran upstairs and under the bed for the rest of the night after he dismounted to show her displeasure. She wouldn’t come out even for my husband. By morning she was over her anger.

Several months later she was the proud protective mother of four beautiful puppies. Two were apricot like their mother and two were like Daddy, black/gray. We called him Daddy because we didn’t know his name and he succeeded with help where no other male had. We had homes for all the pups. Spades, the first-born was to go to a niece. He had his name the minute he was born because I said, “Look, he’s as black as the Ace of Spades.” The name stuck. Raison, the other black pup went to another niece. Mom and I took him and his mother to Prince George, B.C. to his new home. Like his mother he was nameless for a few weeks. My niece and her family finally put names in a hat and the one that got picked was Raison. The two like Muffin went to friends: I knew their names but have forgotten them over the years. I didn’t let the puppies go to their new homes until Muffin decided it was time, when they were about two months old, by growling or snapping at them.

Over the fifteen years of her life, Muffin burrowed deep into our hearts. She was a part of our family; where we went she went. Anywhere we took her she was a lady. She had been in many motels and others people’s homes. She was always told she could come back anytime.

She was very protective, if she thought she had to protect her pups, her home or my great-niece. Muffin could be fierce when she thought she had to be; size didn’t matter to her, hers or the other dogs or human. One day when my great-niece and I were out walking Muffin, she ran from where we were, to a place between my niece and a big German Shepard that was coming towards us. She was going to protect Rema if it meant her life. One summer I was in the parking lot and Muffin was in the yard. I watched a sales man coming towards our townhouse. As I was about to speak to him Muffin stood in the gateway barking like a dog ten times her size.

I told him, “Don’t move. I don’t think she will bite, but she knows the house is empty and the door is open.”

He didn’t move until I picked her up and told her it was okay. He remarked on her protectiveness. If I hadn’t approached he wouldn’t have argued with Muffin even though she was just a toy poodle.

Another time she wanted to take on a police dog, another German Shepard, who was in her yard. Someone had reported our patio window being broken and the police came to investigate with their dog. We had been sitting in the living room when a rock came through the window. It was a Saturday night and I figured nothing could be done until Monday, so why say anything. It never occurred to me to report it. Why report it? I didn’t know who had thrown the rock, anyway. When the policeman arrived with his dog he asked me to take Muffin upstairs, as she would stop barking. I put her in the spare bedroom with the door closed but she didn’t stop until after they had gone and she inspected her yard to make sure that the dog was gone.

It was hard the night she crawled up onto my husband’s chair and lay down beside him and ever so slowly took her last breaths. We told her it was okay to go. We would miss her but it was her time to go to my Mum.

A Chihuahua we adopted about a month or two earlier helped ease the pain of her passing, but we still missed our little lady. Cheech had been a stray and only because Muffin let him come in the first day he visited, without too much concern, after putting him in his place, we kept him. Maybe she knew we would need someone to help us get over her loss. His death years later hurt just as much as Muffins. With him I had to take him to the vet and come home alone. But that is another story.

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