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A Halloween Life Lesson

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. We carve a jack-o’-lantern, fix caramel apples and dress our artificial Christmas tree in fall foliage. Our four dogs always enjoy the extra activity in the house, especially if there is food involved, but each has his/her own opinion of the evening’s main event, the trick or treaters.

My wife’s Toy Poodle, Fannie, is Will Rogers’ evil twin sister. Will famously said, “I never met a man that I didn’t like.” While Fannie likes most women, she has never met a man she likes, and she dislikes children even more. Most Toy dogs would simply avoid trick or treaters. However, Fannie has no fear of anything and would love nothing more than to chase Cinderella down the street until she ran out of her glass slippers. Accordingly, she will be banished to a back bedroom on the second floor with no view of the evening’s festivities.

My Scottish Terrier, Bernie, thinks that any event that invites strangers into our home is ill-advised. He will start filing complaints early in the day as we set up the candy station by the front door. He will even visit the entryway when he can sneak by me and bring the stuffed animals back into the family room, grumbling under his breath all the while, “This is how things go missing. You can’t trust those people. Look, they’re wearing masks!” He’ll spend the evening standing in the family room, scowling at the front door, and refuse every invitation to come meet even the most darling of the costumed visitors.

My Italian Greyhound, Pepe, the youngest of my dogs, is not yet 2 years old. He will take many of his cues from Bernie. Pepe would like to be the alpha dog, but he has learned that he is no match for a Scottie and will defer to Bernie’s lead. However, Pepe, unlike Bernie and Fannie, is the gregarious type. He wants to be involved in everything and adored by everybody. He has to supervise every embellishment of the entryway and the Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas tree. He is especially interested in the big bowl of human treats at the candy station by the front door. While he is well aware that his human never shares, he also knows that his human is not always that observant and might leave him an opening to snatch one of the treats.

Pepe’s enthusiasm for the day will not last long. Soon he will realize that most of the visitors picking up the human treats are of the mutant variety. You know, the ones less than 36 inches tall, that move frenetically, running from house to house waving their arms, squealing like bats. Pepe has spent the last month in a house with such a mutant human, a 5-year-old who chases him through the house while shrieking at a high pitch. He will soon join Bernie, sit behind him looking over his shoulder at the front door, and plead with him to keep the mutants out of the family room.

However, my Cairn Terrier, DeeDee, will begin the day dancing around my ankles, totally jazzed by the whole idea of doing something different. The fact that she is allowed into the foyer is a treat unto itself. She will follow every detail with a genuine sense of wonder. “Wow, you’re going to bring those decorations in here? Is that bowl really full of human treats?” When the doorbell first rings, she will bark, not in alarm, but in anticipation of meeting someone new. When I open the door, she will greet all the little mutants with unbridled joy. She will not just wag her tail from side to side as she does when I wake up each morning. She will wag her tail in furious figure eights, a greeting reserved only for people she genuinely adores, like all the little mutants. She won’t just do this the first time I answer the door. She will do it every time we answer the door over the next couple of hours.

At the end of the evening, as I break down the candy station and turn off the front lights, DeeDee will check the front windows a couple of times to make sure that no else is coming to see her. She will then join me, Pepe and Bernie in the family room. Pepe will work his way into my chair to sit as close to me as he can. Bernie will spend the rest of the evening next to my chair on his ottoman in front of the window that looks down the drive. He will not move until we go to bed and he can reassure us that the street has been cleared of all the mutants and their normal-sized human companions. DeeDee will move back and forth between my wife and me like a child who doesn’t want a perfect day to end.

I am, by nature, like Bernie. I am cautious, suspicious of strangers and protective of my family. However, I can’t help but think there’s some life lesson to be learned from DeeDee. At 3 1/2, she is no longer a puppy, but she greets every day like it is an adventure, every open door as an invitation to explore, and every new face like a potential lifelong friend. All in all, it’s probably as good a model for living as I have seen. And that’s today’s Back Story.

Written by

Billy Wheeler has been attending dog shows as a spectator and exhibitor for over 40 years. Billy is the man behind the popular Dog Show Poop. He is a retired management consultant who has advised multiple organizations affiliated with the AKC and the Cat Fanciers Association on business management, long range planning, customer service, and legislative matters. After 25 years of living in the big cities of New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC, he now resides in his hometown of Memphis TN with his wife, Brenda, her Toy Poodle and his Cairn, Scottie, & IG. When he is not blogging, Billy can be found in the kitchen cooking, and listening to opera.
  • Ruby October 31, 2012 at 2:43 PM

    Having lived with and loved a few Cairns, I was enchanted by Billy’s story, and couldn’t agree more that his little Terrier girl has exactly the right idea in her approach to each new day, even one that includes lots of small people in odd attire coming to the door, naturally to visit her. I’m certain DeeDee will believe that each of tonight’s visitors getting a treat is secondary to their delight at meeting her.
    How lucky we are to share our lives with dogs.

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