Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Lady Maria

Maria will be thirteen on February 7th. Unimaginable! She is ageless.

Maria was the fourth whippet in as many years to join our family. First came Gracious who was going to be my only whippet ever. A year and a half later Caruso flew across the country to keep Gracious company. The next year Giacomino came, in Operation Rescue. Then Maria. She was the baby. A dear friend who helped out at a large show kennel fell in love with her and conspired to get her in a loving home. "There is something about her expression," she said to me. "You have to have her."

I went to the kennel. Because of the sheer number of whippets there, I was horrified. All of the dogs were happy and all of the runs were clean. But there were three litters with only a few weeks separating them in the "puppy building." My friend led me by my appalled elbow to the front of the run which housed Maria, her mother, and her litter mates. The litter was seven weeks old. The mom stood and wagged at us, waking her sleeping brood. The puppies tumbled over each other, yawning and stretching and running to meet us. Maria stayed out of the scrum, but her eyes never left mine as she play-bowed and did a little twinkling "ah-roooo."

My friend got her out of the run. At seven weeks, she already stacked (the legs parallel, head up show pose) perfectly, but she was uncomfortable being held. She was friendly and engaging, but stiff as a board when you held her in your arms. I imagined with this many puppies, the only time they got held was to do toenails and vaccinations and wormer. So I put her down and played with her. "Woo ah-roooo!" she said. Such a mouthy little one.

Show breeders like to keep their puppies to "grow them out." It's much easier to see if a five month old pup is likely to make it in the show ring than a nine week old. My friend kept nagging at the breeder to "give" the red and white bitch to Patience. Finally at a show, I was in the ring with the breeder. We were both in line waiting for our ribbons after a large class was judged. She was a Big Deal in the dog show world and I was a Newbie. I was intimidated. I said, "See, if you let me buy that red and white puppy I will get her out and show her. I'm still learning, but I'm getting better at handling."

"Oh, you want to buy her? Your friend was trying to get me to give her to you. If you want to buy her, I'll bring her to the show tomorrow and you can take her home." All righty then. I had no idea my friend had been trying to get me the puppy for free. And I was so new "In Dogs". I had dogs all of my life, but the Dog World was a novelty with unfamiliar rules and customs. I am now ashamed of having supported a breeder who churned out litter after litter after litter after litter.

But I just didn't know back then.

So the next day Maria came home. She was five months old.

I named her Maria to appease Bill. He had wanted to name his oldest daughter Maria, but his waspy first wife thought that Maria Renzulli sounded too Italian. I'm waspier by double than his first wife, but I thought Maria was a lovely name, and how could Bill mind another whippet if it bore his first choice name?

She was a darling puppy. So full of spit and spirit. And mouthy! What a talker. She never, ever challenged Queen Gracious's authority. I could not get her over her dislike of being held, and Lord knows I tried. She would tremble and hold herself at arm's length, pushing with all her little might. And when I would put her down she would shake herself off and bounce grateful "woo-woo's" at me and run and find a toy to kill. Glad to have escaped the torturous lap time alive.

And now, when she'll be thirteen in a couple of months, she has finally had a change of heart. For all of these years she has been the House Clown. If I had a nickle for every time I have exclaimed, "Oh, Maria you make me laugh," I would be able to buy a nice motor home, free and clear. And her mouth! She has even gotten mouthier in her dotage, as impossible as that seems. I borrowed a trick I saw from another whippet person. I can ask Maria, "What does a cheerleader say?" "Rah, rah, rah!" she says, bouncing her forelegs off the ground with every rah. I need ear plugs to fix their dinners. She starts when I move the bowls from the sink to the counter. "Whine, rooo, rah-rah, don't forget me! Hurry up human. Oh, the help is terrible these days. A mature whippet could starve to death by the time you get the bowls down. How hard is it to scoop the dinner in the bowl? Are you still at it? What is taking so long? Hellooooooooooo? Yahooooooooo! Here it is!" Then she daintily eats, one kibble at a time, staring daggers at any dog who finishes before her and saunters over to see if she's going to eat all of hers. "RRhhhrrrrrr," she warns, keeping one eye on the interloper and one eye on her dish, refraining to take another bite until the curious backs off. "Oh Maria you make me laugh! Eat your silly dinner."

But back to that change of heart. In Maria's contract it clearly states that she must be covered. Any time, day or night, she will woof to summon her Humble Servant to tuck her under her blanket. Now, she is perfectly capable of doing this herself, and when I come back from running errands, I will find her all tucked in. She pulls and bites the blanket, and circles and moans, and finally she is completely invisible in her shroud of warmth. But if I'm in ear shot, downstairs, upstairs, in the middle of a dinner party for twelve, in the shower, whatever, I will be mustered to her Ladyship's bedside.

Her change of heart? Lately she has stood by my chair and whined. Being a limited and dumb Servant I try several different tacks to appease her. I move her great granddaughter off of Maria's favorite chair. "Is that what you want?" No. I go and open the door. "Do you need to go out?" No. "Are you chilly?" I put her jammies on. That's nice but no. I let her lick my oatmeal bowl. "Is that what you wanted?" Yum, no. "What ever is it, Sweetheart?" Whine, whine, sad eyes, whine. "Oh, Honey, I'm sorry. I'm so slow. Humans are just so hard to re-train. Here you go."

I scoop her up and hold her in my lap. She stiffens for the lift up and for an awkward moment until I settle her just right in my arms. Then she nuzzles in, and sigh-moans in contentment. And relaxes and melts into my heart.

Oh Maria you make me laugh. After twelve and a half years you are my lapdog. What a lucky human am I.


And now for a little excitement! There is a group of wonderful bloggers called Dogs With Blogs. The whippets are making lots of new friends there from all over the world. They met an unreservedly delightful little Wire Fox Terrier named Asta from NYC that has taken the waggle under her sweet paw. She does not talk baby-talk, being a clever and precocious litter terrier, but she does have a bit of trouble pronouncing her "r's" - probably part of that New Yowk accent.
She is so kind and sweet and her secretary helps her to have just the nicest blog, so we made her this award to show our appreciation:

The Blog With Heart Award
  • For consistently using compassion, humor and intelligence to create a blog worthy of the dogs who inspire us.

Do visit Asta's blog, and you'll see what I mean!

(The whippets are a little embarrassed by my lack of graphics skills, but they think that Asta will understand.)


  1. Oh Sweet Whippet Waggle..I am so vewy honowed..Tjis is a weally bootiful Mommi says she's nevew had a dog with mowe love fow evewyone than me..and I twuly haven't met anyone I don't love..I nevew expect to eithew! thank you!!!

    I loved youw stowy about Maria(BTW a bootful name!) and I hope she delights you fow many many mowe yeaws!
    smoochie kisses

  2. I was beginning to think that we had the only Whippet in the world who didn't like to be held. She, like Maria, also gets stiff as a board and shakes and makes her escape as soon as possible. She is getting more affectionate as she gets older (almost 6 years now)and tolerates our kisses and rubs with a little less maybe hugs and cuddles aren't far behind. Thanks so much for your insight and humor.

  3. RiRi we hear you ALL the way in PA roo-rooing. Can you hear Ms. Snicks talking back?!

  4. That was great. We are glad Maria is now your lap dog. Asta deserves that award. How nice of you to make it for her.

  5. Asta is the best! But so are you! And all the Dogs With Blogs!

    love and licks, Marvin from Scotlandxxxxxxx

  6. What a wonderful story! Maria is one special girl and how nice that you have given Asta this award! Asta is one of the sweetest doggies we know!

    Love ya lots,
    Maggie and Mitch

  7. Oh,dear Patience-many more wonderful yrs together for you and Her Ladyship! I had my sweet Cie for nearly 17yrs, so far my record for Whippies-Dakana Saluki was nearly 18yrs, as was her son Joshua.Then, some go much too soon and suddenly...As always, Martha C and P-Doggy

  8. Ah Maria. You have the best birthday ever. I should know (wink wink ;).

    You sound a lot like my Piper. I hope you enjoy your new found cuddledom.

  9. Happy Birthday Maria,

    The Mommy loved your story and your Mom told it so well. It made her cry because it sounded so heartfelt. The Mommy had her Samantha, a dachsie like me, for almost 15 years and the stories she tell about her make us laugh.

    What a wonderful girl you sound like. The Mommy would love to hold you sometime.

    Love Mona

  10. Maria sounds a little bit like me when I am picked up AND when there is food anywhere near me that I MIGHT be getting. I tell the humans ALL about how much I want that food!!

  11. There's nothing better than the joy a whippet in your arms brings. What a lucky Human you are!

  12. Mizz Maria, da mouth of da south. You have rubbed off on my boy Nearly, he not only sounds like a 47 Chevy startin' up, ruhruhruhrrrrrr. He also refuses to be held, he is positive he will die.

    Smooches to you sweet lady,


  13. Aww... The sweet Lady Maria! And we want to say we think darling Asta is very worthy of your award!

    the WriggleButts


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