And yet my father loves that dog. Whenever my dad takes the old blue pickup truck out for a drive-- usually to get a load of hay-- Skippy goes along in the front seat. It's quite the sight to see my dad behind the wheel of the aging Ford truck with the big blond dog sitting alongside him. While you're smiling at that warm image, let me interject that Skippy has entertained himself numerous times on these drives by nibbling through the seat belt, chewing off the cruise control knob and slobbering nose prints on the inside of the windshield. But my father doesn't seem to mind. Nor does it matter to him that Skippy is famously missing the mark when it comes to being a barn dog. He's run off with and buried countless sweat scrapers and riding crops, and nearly every horse brush is peppered with canine teeth marks.
If you're wondering what kind of dog Skippy is-- other than a destructive one-- he's a Labradoodle. My parents have had many, many wonderful Labrador Retrievers, but for some reason they decided to venture into more exotic waters when it came time for a new pup and got Skippy, who's half Lab and half Standard Poodle.
The moptop hair coat is occasionally clipped into a semi-Schnauzer/kinda Cocker Spaniel coiffure. But that requires the services of Sarah, our local traveling dog groomer. She arrives in her state-of-the-art grooming salon on wheels and then proceeds to convince Skippy that he does indeed want to have a bath and a shave. As you can probably envision, that's quite an undertaking, with Sarah at one end of my parents' small ranch, my parents at the other, and Skippy somewhere in between, darting around wheelbarrows, hopping over hay bales and scurrying past the corrals to avoid his hair appointment.
This Christmas, when my sister, my brother and I purchased a gift certificate from Sarah so that Skippy could have a grooming session on us, I asked Sarah, "So this amount will cover everything?"
She sighed and replied, "Yes, it even includes the rodeo beforehand."
I followed up that comment with, "Hey, he really is a good dog... in an amusing sort of way."
Sarah, who has both horses and dogs, then said, "Ya' know, I've 'done dogs' for a long, long time. And over the years I've come to the conclusion that anything with 'oodle' in its name-- Labradoodle, Goldendoodle, Lhasadoodle, Jackadoodle,whatever-- if it has 'oodle' in it, antics will ensue. That's all I'm sayin'."
It's the antics of barn dogs like Skippy that make me appreciate barn cats. Though I'm not really a cat person I do like having a kitty or two around the stable. Here at my house, I'm slowly trying to convince a big spotted feral kitty that I'm not a scary monster. I know it lives underneath the cypress trees I planted on my hill, across from my feedroom, because sometimes when I go out late to conduct a bed check on Wally I see it dash into the undergrowth. Eventually I plan to trap it, get it spayed (or neutered) and tame it enough to get it to hang around consistently. I'll be following the advice found in the article I wrote for Horse Channel: Here Kitty, Kitty... Come Live at My Barn! And by the way, the photo at the top of the article is a picture I took of my parents' formerly feral barn cat. She, unlike Skippy, is quite well behaved and has never once chewed up a set of seatbelts.
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