One of the questions animal shelter people face every day is whether they can “promise” a certain puppy will stay small. That is impossible to guarantee. Whenever tempted to compromise, to fudge the truth just to get a special puppy adopted, I had only to remember Edgar.
Because the shelter was always short-handed, the city asked us from time to time to take on people working out some legal sentence doing community service.
Some years ago, a man who was a welder at the local iron works was sent to the shelter to work off about thirty hours. He was a large, burly steel worker constantly blowing off about his “great” accomplishments. None of us was too impressed by his deeds, but considered him free labor. We just tried to stay busy and out of earshot.
Toward the end of his assigned hours, he told me he raised “teacup” poodles and bragged that his dogs were extraordinarily tiny. He also boasted about how much he charged for them and what a very long waiting list of customers he had. I pretty much just nodded and kept on working. I wasn’t impressed by anyone who added to our canine overpopulation problems, so it was sometimes hard to listen without judgment. He never seemed to realize how absurd it was to visualize such a huge, muscular sort of guy surrounded by a flock of tiny furry poodles.
He finished his time with us and we were sure we’d not see him again.
However, a few years later he came into the shelter with four small puppies in a cardboard box balanced in one hand and a heavy iron frog doorstop in the other. He told me he couldn’t sell the puppies and would give them to me to adopt. The frog was a “gift” he made at the factory for me.
I was actually happy to have the puppies because most people who came into the shelter asked for puppies who would grow into small dogs. While he was basking in the glow of his largesse, he said he wouldn’t be giving me their papers because the dogs would be spayed or neutered anyway. I nodded that we didn’t really need the papers and thanked him for the puppies and my door stop.
He finished signing the release and left without making any “donation” except the puppies. We took them to the back for their immunizations and worming. I took the frog to the storeroom after realizing the underside included large iron male genitalia.
In a conversation that night with one of my sisters, Joanne, who lives in another city, I mentioned the poodle puppies. She said her artist friend Betsy was looking for a small dog as a companion for Scalawag, a dog she had adopted from us. I asked her to call Betsy and tell her the choices. She called back to say her friend wanted the black male puppy.
I already knew she would give it a great home. If anything, she spoiled her dogs and a dog living with her would be in heaven. So, Joanne and Betsy drove down to adopt the tiny black fluff ball. Betsy squealed with delight, giddy with happiness as she cradled her furry puppy, babbling baby talk.
Some months later, Betsy called me. She and her two dogs had moved to another state to be with her mother who was ill. She had named the new puppy “Edgar Allen Poco,” a reference both to the black raven of Edgar Allen Poe’s poem and the tininess (poco) of Edgar.
She told me how much she loved Edgar and Scalawag, who got along well with each other. Then she said, “Didn’t you tell me Edgar was a teacup poodle?”
“Yes, of course. The man who gave them to us raises teacup poodles.”
She took a breath then said, “Well, I just thought you’d like to know that Edgar, the teacup poodle, weighs thirty-two pounds.”