One of the qualities required to be a homesteader is a penchant for “doing it yourself” projects. There are others as well but a can-do DIY spirit is the backbone in my opinion.
Four years ago when our daughter, lip a-quiver longed for a puppy, we began a nearly year long search in shelters for an adoptable addition to the family. I love dogs…you know, big dogs, real dogs. I am also allergic to many dogs. My daughter had fallen in love with two poodles owned by friends. I did not want a poodle. “How about a Wheaten Terrier honey?” I would ask, trying to sway her. These are lovely mid sized dogs, good on farms and hypo allergenic. “No mama! I want a poodle!” would come the reply.
We went to a shelter one day and I swear this was the reply to our request, “Do you have any poodles?” “Oh, darn, we just had TWO here yesterday, but they’ve both been adopted.” This scene played out over and over. We got on lists, we left our number. About 6 months in I started looking online for breeders. Ugh! Turns out poodles are expensive… quite expensive…cha-ching. Our local pet store had some poodles. We went there to look them over. Snap, every-single-pup-gone. I left my number with them also since they were not willing to share the breeder that had provided them with the pups, EVEN THOUGH I offered them a ‘finder’s fee’ of sorts…we were getting desperate.
One day several months later, we stopped in to the same pet store. Asked the same question. Got the same reply. I noticed that my phone contact was no longer near the register with all the other hopeful dog owners waiting ever so patiently. Then a funny thing happened. The owner stepped away from the counter and the girl behind him whispered to me, “Hey, I know a poodle breeder 20 minutes from here.” My heart did a jig in my ribcage… “Really?” I asked. “Please, tell me the name, do you have a number?” not trying to sound too desperate. She provides me with contact information, soto voce to avoid the owners wrath. How weird is this I’m thinking. Like trying to purchase some illicit product!
When we phone the breeder he informs us that he currently has two pups, both male, apricot miniature poodles. We drive out. Arriving at the farm is easy. It’s a beautiful place near the river where horses, goats and poodles are raised. A lovely elderly couple greets us at the door. We enter their living room and sit on the sofa. A small fuzzy puppy literally jumps into my daughter’s lap. The brother is much more active racing around the room. I looked at my friend and then at the breeder, and say, “Well, I think that’s settled.” After signing the papers and paying what feels like a rather modest $300.00 (after all the internet searching at least) we leave with a little fuzzball puppy.
The farm raises all the puppies right in the house. It’s a poodle pack twenty strong! The owner takes the dogs, including pups out on walkabout several times a day as a pack…no leashes. Everyone is house trained. They are all mellow and decidedly NOT the yippy screeeechy chaos that is what I think of when I hear ‘poodle’.
I vow that even though I own a poodle, I’m NOT going to give him a poodle hair cut. Fast forward a few months and I’m still not wanting to have the ‘poodle hair do’ thing. The pup acquires the nickname “Fabio” because his hair is so long and fabulous. BUT, it needs to be brushed…daily. And I know you’ll be shocked….I got that honor. After the first snow the pup enters the house weighing twice what he did before he went out because he has masses of snow the size of golf balls caked onto his leg hair. I bathe him in warm water to melt the snow, but even I realize this is not a sustainable system for our climate. A bath every time he goes out to pee! After the bath I dry him off and take out the scissors and cut the hair on his legs. When I’m done it looks like we now own a miniature lamb not a dog. Picture a hugely fuzzy mass on four stick figure legs, yep. Now I’m a practical gal, but I must confess it looked ridiculous. The whole idea of the poodle hair cut was starting to take on new meaning. So I booked an appointment with the groomer. Well, $50.00 later yes he did look better, but damn, I don’t even spend 50 bucks on my own hair cuts!!
About two weeks later, I purchased professional grade grooming clippers with two blades a good comb for mattted hair and off to the library for a how to book. I have never groomed a dog before. But my do-it-yourself gene was in full gear. The ‘puppy cut’ was my goal. It’s an even length all over with the top knot and tail in a nice puff. Very simple, very recognizably Poodle. I’d heard tales of mellow dogs flipping out when being groomed and I was prepared with treats and I had nothing else on my plate for the next few hours. It went surprisingly well. I suppose the pup might think otherwise, as I fumbled with the clippers and generally muddled about. In the end, he looked good though. Almost as good as the first pro job.
Three years out, the clippers have long since paid for themselves. The pup actually enjoys the grooming, except for the nail cutting. I’ve gotten more efficient with the clippers and scissors and it only takes about an hour every other month or so. I’ve tried other cuts from the book such as the puppy-lion and the standard style you see in show rings. But primarily I stick to the puppy cut. It’s simple, clean and yes, he looks like a poodle.
This little guy I’ve come to love like a fluffy four legged son. If you have a dog that needs grooming, go ahead and give it a DIY whirl…what harm! You may just learn a new skill. Happy Friday folks.