As Told to P. Shaw
Q. Judges who have seen you since your ring days draw unfavorable comparisons with Phyllis Diller on a bad-hair day. Comment?
A. At my age, 10, one is always glad to be noticed. What was it the divine Oscar Wilde said? "The only thing worse than being talked about is not being," only now I am blessedly free of the ouchy indignities of the stripping knife. If you ask me, the inventor of the electric clipper deserves a Nobel Prize.
Q. At a time when most Norfolks in the USA are languorous, you persist in energetic daily hiking, avid swimming and, in winter, snowshoeing and Nordic skiing. Was the training difficult?
A. Yes, my person was a slow learner. But my love, patience, and persistence overcame his resistance. Take water sports. During a visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, NY, we picnicked by the lake. Before going for a swim, he told me to sit and stay by the shore. Yeah, right. He swam out about a hundred yards or so then turned for the beach. Imagine his surprise at seeing my little red head bobbing toward him 50 yards out. It was not easy to get him to turn on his back, seat me on his chest facing the shore, and backstroke in. But my determination plus his desire to please overcame all. He's become really quite a good companion person and I never forget to reward him with a lick before he towels me off.
Q. Hiking seems to attract very large dogs. Do these prove a problem?
A. Not anymore. At first, He who must be obeyed (hah) worried that I was too small to keep pace up steep and, at times, near-vertical terrain. He soon learned that he might have the long loping legs of a six-footer, but I've got four-wheel drive and determination. Getting to the top (and the chicken salad sandwich he always shares) was never a problem. It's what happens once we get there. Always there seems to be a male Labrador who gets there first. And that paradigmatic Lab mistakenly assumes I enjoy being sniffed you-know-where.
Hey, give a girl a break, will you? Something had to be done growling doesn't work. So I hunch down, lunge at the brute's front paws, and hold my ground. Haven't come across a Lab yet who won't back off. I may not be able to forestall groping before it starts, but one thing's for sure: I can see that it doesn't turn into the sort of rank sexual harassment that destroys the pleasures of lunch on a mountaintop. Do you suppose that, if more females knew this, politicians might end up a lot better off?
Q. Can you say more about snowshoeing and Nordic skiing?
A. Summer ... Winter ... In between seasons ... it doesn't matter. My person has a thing for hills. Nothing's going to break him of it. The only answer is to do what those corporate types go on about ... you know ... that "go-along-to-get-along" drivel. I shouldn't come off as such a smartass. It got him winter trained. Now he breaks trail. The way I did it was this: the long feathery ends of my coat trapped fresh powder snow forming ice-balls that dangled from my belly and got caught in the pads of my paws. I just gave him a mournful look one day when we were about 3,000 feet up from anything called Iams, did my best to keep on climbing through the howling snowstorm, but let him know the icing made it hard to mush on. Next thing you know, when we got back home he trims the long belly and pad hairs, and buys one of those sling things Native Americans use to carry their children. Now, when his winter madness is upon him and things get too rough, I get papoosed (and a Power Bar). Not bad, eh? Ah, the outdoor life. Nothing beats it.
Q. Have you considered a book about how you trained your master?
A. Heaven forbid ... a girl's got to have some secrets, no? I mean, my dear, why would I want to reveal how I trained him to give me a cookie for not asking for a cookie?
ANTIC, December, 2003
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