Night (and day) of the iguana

Seen on the street in Yonkers this morning, right there in plain sight, right there in the gutter: a BIG dead green lizard, which (not being a lizard expert) I’m guessing was someone’s escaped or discarded pet — perhaps an iguana. I looked at the dead lizard and had an epiphany…a realization…an awareness…

I thought: “Never in my life have I ever seen a dead lizard, in the gutter, in the morning, in the streets of Yonkers…”

Pilgrim Poodle

Want to know what my daughter Laura’s and husband Harold’s poodle — named Noodle — has to endure in exchange for food, fun, companionship, a nice home in North Carolina, and a chance to be ogled by big dogs who chew tobacco and eat grits instead of dog food and ride around in the back of pickup trucks whistling at cute little poodles from New York?

This  photo says much, much more than any words could communicate…

Happy Thanksgiving, Noodle. Here’s hoping some of your human friends slip you a little turkey under the table when Laura isn’t looking…

Putting on the dog

So last night I attended the finals of the American Kennel Club’s Westminster Dog Show at Madison Square Garden and today I learned that the top dog — a Sussex spaniel from Texas who answers to the name “Stump” but is known in this strange world of deluxe dogs as Ch. Clussexx Three D Grinchy Glee — actually shares my birthday!

This might be even more amusing and surreal than the notion that I even attended a dog show, that there had to be 10,000 people there last night chanting the winning dog’s name as they tried to pressure the judge into choosing the Sussex spaniel over the Standard poodle or the pug or the Scottish deerhound.

That Stump and I were both born on Dec. 1 (and, no, Stump and I are not anywhere near the same age either in dog years or human years) might even be more amusing than the guy who sat behind me and in all seriousness made comments about each dog including these personal favorites: “Oh, look! Like a little runway model!” and (referring, as I recall, to a pug as it strutted around the Garden floor) “How proud my little boy looks!” and (referring to a poodle) “You can just tell how much she loves the applause!”

Now I have to admit that my own enthusiastic companion oohed when she saw the beautiful Siberian huskie and aahed when she saw the elegant Scottish deerhound and even sighed and murmurerd a little “awwwwwww….” at the sight of the cute little Yorkie. And I have to admit hat I kind of envied the folks who were sitting right down near the floor — the actual dog owners and card-carrying members of the AKC, I’d imagine — all decked out in their tuxedos and gowns, drinks in hand while I debated whether to spend $5 for a bottle of water.

But I also have to admit that I had second thoughts about how harmless and amusing this whole affair really was when I headed downstairs to Penn Station to wait for a train back to New Jersey, and there was only one seat available on the bench, and it was next to a homeless woman who coughed right on me in her sleep, which prompted me to move to another part of the waiting room where I watched a man throws a McDonald’s bag into a trash can and then watched another homeless woman walk quickly over to the trash can, remove the bag — and look inside it to see if any scraps of food remained.

I wonder what the poor woman would have thought if she’d seen the extravagent, frivolous, oblivious celebration that erupted upstairs after Ch. Clussexx Three D Glinchy Glee won that Best of Show crown. All that money spent — for show tickets and Manhattan hotel rooms, on booze, on those elegant gowns, on training and breeding those perfect dogs, and, yes, the more than $100 we ourselves had spent earlier on a Cuban dinner and Italian dessert downtown in the Village — would have bought those poor women downstairs at Penn Station a safe, decent place to live and a hell of a lot of Big Macs.

Noodle the Poodle

A while back, I promised to write about my daughter’s poodle, Noodle. I hadn’t done it yet, and my daughter reminded me of this again last night, when she proudly told me over the phone that Noodle, just a few weeks past her first birthday) had graduated that morning from obedience school.

When I asked what Noodle had learned at obedience school, my daughter replied: “Noodle’s gotten much better when it comes to impulse control.”

Here’s a photo of Noodle, taken a month or so ago, before she learned to control her impulses:

Noodle

Noodle

Anyway, this obedience-school stuff makes me uneasy.

What I’ve come to like most about Noodle is her enthusiasm — the way she rushes to the door whenever someone arrives, and jumps up and down like it’s the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to her –even if you just walked out of the house five minutes ago to get something out of your car — and then runs around the house for two minutes celebrating your return until finally screeching to a stop right where you’re standing to have you either (in order of Noodle’s preferences) 1) Throw a ball for her to chase and catch, 2) take her for a walk or 3) give her a treat.

I’ve also come to like her innocent and endearing lack of poise. An example: A few weeks ago, when Noodle stayed with us for a few days, I was walking her on a leash in our backyard. Our neighbors have a horse, a big horse. Noodle looked up and noticed this huge animal walking toward us, and suddenly changed from a poodle into a greyhound as she dashed back to the safety of our house.

Most of all, I’ve been charmed by Noodle’s inability to control her impulses. I’m not talking about her occasional inability to resist the urge to crap on the living room floor instead of going on the pad in the kitchen or, even better, waiting until she goes for a walk. I’m talking about Noodle’s compulsion to wake me up in the morning by climbing up near my pillow and licking my face. I’m talking about how Noodle melts like butter and sprawls on her back, legs akimbo, smiling a dog smile, when someone rubs her belly; I’m talking about how she can’t resist the impulse to run at full speed to chase any tossed bouncing object and my admiration for how she’s become so adept at the chase that she’s even learned to catch balls mid-bounce, in mid-air.

The American Kennel Club has this to say about poodles:

The Poodle, though often equated to the beauty with no brains, is exceptionally smart, active and excels in obedience training. A very active, intelligent and elegant-appearing dog, squarely built, well proportioned, moving soundly and carrying himself proudly. Properly clipped in the traditional fashion and carefully groomed, the Poodle has about him an air of distinction and dignity peculiar to himself. The poodle has about him an air of distinction and dignity peculiar to himself. Major fault (tends to be) shyness or sharpness.

The AKC’s experts know their poodles. All of those good qualities apply, amply, to Noodle.

In conclusion I must note…

*that the references to poodles as “him” can be blamed not on me, but on the very traditional and slightly stuffy American Kennel Club.

*that Noodle, as it happens, is purebred AKC herself, thank you. Her father was a purebred but a commoner. But there’s a pretty impressive line on Noodle’s mother’s side, with AKC champions going back a few generations.

*that I definitely would not like Noodle nearly as much if my daughter ever lost her senses and gave Noodle one of those goofy poodle haircuts so she looks like the French poodle Pepe Le Pew falls in love with in the classic cartoon “Little Beau Pepé” —

Pepe Le Pew leers at a French poodle

Pepe Le Pew leers at a French poodle

And so, while I’m certain this will not be my final word on Noodle, I do have these parting words about the obedience school training that threatens to erase Noodle’s charm and perhaps even destroy the essence of what I might describe as “Noodle being Noodle.”

Just two parting words, as a matter of fact, and those words are: FREE NOODLE!!!