CIX. Wallie-isms

May 27, 2013 — I sat on my front porch a few days ago when a big rabbit hopped onto the lawn, came right up to the flower bed in front of the porch, looked straight at me, whereupon I said, “Hello, Bunny,” and then the rabbit casually proceeded to eat the clover. One bold bunny, especially with all the loose dogs and cats in the neighborhood.

I have been Wallie-sitting recently for my friends’ white bichonpoo, Wallie, on two separate long weekends.

When Wallie arrives, he comes with his bag packed with dog food, an array of toys and his little bed. I immediately take out all the toys and toss them around the living room floor. He then carries them upstairs, one-by-one, and that’s where they stay, because that’s where I stay, mostly. He has a knack for matching toy color to rug color, so inevitably I step on them. One night I went rushing up to him, to hug him lying on the couch in the dark – “Wallie, Wallie” – SQUEAK – “what a sweet boy.” Only one of his toys squeaks, thankfully.

Upon his arrival on his first visit, he set up a command post at the top of the stairs, surrounded by his toys, and where, through the window of the front door below, he could reconnoiter the neighborhood and the return of his owners.

I talk to him to tell him what’s going on and what I’m doing; it’s nice to have someone to talk to other than myself; we go for walks where he encounters the chocolate lab, Willa, and they play chase on opposite sides of her fence.

Soon after Wallie arrived the other day for his second visit, I took him, on his long leash, out into the backyard. Instantly he picked up the scent: “Bunny! Bunny! Bunny! BUNNY!” he said, nose to the ground tracking the bunny first to under the hedge and then to the rabbit hole beneath my shed.

There we faced a dilemma: “That’s where the bunny lives,” I said. “I can’t fit down there,” he declared. He looked up at me: “Now what are we gonna do?” He tried every way to figure out how to get to the bunny, until I distracted him.

Once, when it was time to take Wallie out, it was raining. I let him out, on his long leash hooked to his harness, just to the bottom of the back steps so he could piddle while I waited at the top, inside. When he came in he kept trying to shake off the spritz of rain on his coat. I got a small towel and told him to come. “Oh, no, not me,” he said, and stubbornly refused to budge. I used my deep, authoritative voice, “Come!” “Nope,” he said, “I don’t know WHAT color that cape-looking thing is that you’re waving, but I’m not coming.” I had to go to him and dry him off. He loved the massage and felt so much better afterwards, he raced around the house for a minute.

I wanted to know more about this addictively lovable crossbreed, so I researched bichonpoos, sometimes known as poochons. We’re not totally sure what Wallie is, because he is a rescue dog. About the size of a miniature poodle, he certainly exhibits all characteristics of Bichon Frisés and poodles – smart, mellow, energetic, chicken-lover, and this which I read online: “Both are susceptible to small dog syndrome, whereby a dog attempts to become pack leader of its human owners, so care must be taken to establish dominance.” Taking care, it took him no time to establish dominance.

I have trouble remembering the name of the Bichon Frisé breed because, after my years of studying ballet, I get that name confused with the most difficult to master ballet step, brisé volé, without getting your feet tangled mid-leap and falling derriere over dog biscuits.

Here is a good demonstration of the brisé volé if you’re interested in seeing the execution of that step: This is the Kirov Mariinsky Ballet in 1999, the “Bluebird” Pas de Deux from The Sleeping Beauty, performed by Andrei Batalov and Svetlana Ivanova. Andrei Batalov is considered one of the greatest male ballet dancers ever, and his performance here of this “Bluebird” Pas de Deux, 5:15 minutes into the video for the brisé volés, is one of the best Bluebirds I have seen. Ah, but I have danced into the wings chasing rabbits. Back to Wallie-dog.

A friend, a dog-lover who owns a blue heeler rescue dog, called me a woman of gold for taking care of Wallie. Now, “Woman of Gold” found a tennis ball for Wallie. I bounced it down the steps, he chased it, brought it back upstairs, stubbornly refused to share it, rolled it away, picked it up, tossed it into the air, caught it, played with it at the top of the staircase until — it disappeared. It rolled away from him and fell through the space between the balusters, landing in the hall below. Wallie sat there: “Hmmm….” Woman of Gold had to retrieve it. Then Wallie came downstairs. WoG bounced the ball in place while Wallie ran into the other room to see where it went. He finally figured it out. I tossed it halfway up the stairs where it bounced and he grabbed it mid-flight and took it back upstairs with him. Then he went and chewed on his synthetic bone.

The last time he visited here, he was ASTONISHED to encounter the dog that looked just like him in the long mirror. He stood nonplused, spellbound momentarily and then went on his way, refusing to look at that other dog again. This visit, though, he did use the long mirror to see me, sitting across the room, but did not once look at that other dog.

I laid a fleece blanket on a cushion of the sofa in my studio. So, he can relax near me when I sit at my computer desk, or right up against me when I sit on the sofa to read or watch a movie on my computer. We watched Django Unchained the other night. Like WoG does during some movies, Wallie slept through it but for the part where the dogs barked that captured his attention.

He loves to have his coat brushed and it’s a good bonding measure for the two of us. But I spoiled him royally when I took him up on my bed with me while I watched three hour-long series pieces on Sunday night PBS. I couldn’t just leave him on the floor alone. Later, when I sat on my bed and turned on the TV to catch a moment of news, out of the corner of my eye I saw this white fluffy thing pop up, fleetingly, above the edge of the bed, grab the edge of the mattress with his forepaws, slip off and crash land. Too short to jump up, fortunately for me. Once I turn off the TV he knows it’s time to go to sleep, and he is fine. He’s a very smart dog. Show him something once, he pays attention and he remembers.

Sometimes we just relax and sit out on the porch together, surveying the neighborhood. It’s a pleasant way to pass time with a companion.

Ultimately, Wallie’s owner came to pick him up, and although Wallie greeted me happily when he arrived, on seeing his owner he was so ecstatic, he forgot to say goodbye.

Quiet. The house is empty without him. I miss my little buddy. But, he’ll be back for a ten-day visit in June.

—Samantha Mozart