One of my earliest memories is of going to pick out my very first puppy. I was so young that in retrospect as a young adult, I questioned my own memory.
“Did we go to a big house that had many rooms with different dogs all over the place? An older lady showed us some black puppies. We walked down a very long hallway to see blonde puppies in a playpen, and I liked them best. Is that right?”
My dad nodded yes, telling me that the black dogs were Scottish Terriers, and the blonde puppies were Pekingese, which he was very much wanting to get for me.
The realization had dawned on him that my three big sisters would all be going off to school, and for the first time in my young life, I wouldn’t have any playmates to keep me company.
I was about 3 years old when we went on that memorable trip. Dad had grown up with a neighbor’s Pekingese and liked how happy the little dog always seemed to be, performing tricks and tagging along with the kids. He was secretly pulling for me to choose the little fawn-colored Peke, who we named Chippi Chan. She quickly became my beloved sidekick, and we grew up together.
I heard every joke in the book about this dog having a face only a mother could love, but she was adorable to me. Her little pink tongue stuck out pretty much all the time, she snored, she demanded my attention.
Always joyful, Chip would ride in my wicker bicycle basket, which was deep enough to keep her snug and safe. She would sniff happily in the breeze as we explored the farms, endlessly curious and attentive, sitting up on her back haunches to see over the fields or to ask for attention.
She got along with our farm dogs, and she seemed to think she was a big dog herself. She would sulk if not included, and would try to follow on those short legs, moving like rotors.
Chip lived a long and happy life, dying in her sleep when I was 17. I missed her, even after the sting of her loss should have receded and other dogs had come along.
Though Doug didn’t see the fascination with the breed, he agreed in the early days of our marriage to take a look at a young adult Peke being offered to a new home due to allergies in the family.
The petite dog we named Lacey came to us unsure, worried. I coaxed her to eat, finally offering a little bite of cheese several evenings in a row, which she finally accepted.
The next evening at 9 o’clock, Lacey went to the refrigerator, dancing and prancing, until I got the hint and offered her a bite of cheese. The ‘refrigerator dance’ became Lacey’s trademark, every single evening for the rest of her long life.
Just like Chip, Lacey tagged along with everyone, once even going to the woods with Doug and his young hounds. At some point, she tired out and simply stopped, refusing to take another step. Doug realized with a grumble that autumn day, as he carried her home in his arms, that he had fallen prey to the Pekingese goofy charm.
After Lacey came Lily, an all-white fluff-ball, who gave us Spanky. Spanky is now 14 and hams it up for everyone who visits. He is a happy little clown, even though arthritis and hearing loss has slowed him a bit. Everyone who meets him falls for him, even those who are determined not to.
Last week, we watched the Westminster dog show and cheered when a Pekingese named Malachy won best of show. As Brian Williams said on the NBC nightly news, “All Pekingese walked a little taller today.”
The dog blogs were filled with mixed reviews, with most expressing disbelief, saying this odd-looking thing isn’t even a real dog. I would be willing to bet the nay-sayers have never met a Peke.
When Spanky was just a pup, I visited our veterinarian at his home. He had known and cared for all of my dogs, and remembered each one.
I still smile every time I remember Doc Smith solemnly saying, “You need to be careful about raising Pekingese, dear.”
When I looked puzzled, he went on with a chuckle, “You know what they say about people taking on the look of their dogs…..”