Tuesday, May 4, 2010

My dogs-part two

3. Templomkerti Paloc Suba (aka Finney and Louie)

I didn't get another dog (since I was all over going to school and such) until after Bern and I were married.

One cold day in Cambridge, my wedding band came off and disappeared into the snow. A guy with a big white dog came by and saw me searching. He showed his dog his wedding ring and the dog snuffled in the snow and found mine! I asked what kind of dog it was and he told me it was a Hungarian Sheep Dog. So when we moved back to Morgantown we happened upon a Hungarian Veterinarian who referred us to a woman in Pittsburgh named Magna Vudi. We called her and after several conversations decided we might be worthy to own a Puli. A few months later a litter arrived from Budapest, bred by a Jesuit priest (Templomkerti means 'church yard' in Hungarian) and we were invited to have one.

What neither the guy with the dog in Cambridge or Magna Vudi shared with us is that there are two distinct breeds called "Hungarian Sheep Dogs". One is the Komadore which is large, white and practically mute for all they bark. The other is a Pulik which is smaller, black and capable of barking for hours if need be. The Puli came from Asia with Atila the Hun and is one of the oldest breeds in the world. The Komadore is native to Hungary. The Pulik (the k is silent and seldom even used in writing the breed's name) herds the sheep and alerts the presence of Lions and Tigers and Bears. The Komadore drives the Lions and Tigers and Bears away. Until we climbed the stairs to Magna Vudi's apartment and heard 6 dogs barking like we were Lions and Tigers and Bears, we had been expecting a Komadore. Instead we got a Puli.

All the way back from pittsburgh he pushed himself up under the driver's seat--what he did most every time he was in a car and then enjoyed the ride--and bern and I agreed to never let him on our bed. When we got home bern ran up the steps before me, ran in our bed room and dropped him on the bed. He'd won from the beginning.... He liked riding in the car so much that when we lived in Charleston we'd let him sit in the car while we were in the back yard. One day he knocked the car out of gear and drifted backward through the driveway gate. I swear he was trying to steer and get away....

I was reading a dog book at Barnes and Noble the other day and of the Puli it said "most Puli's own people rather than the other way around." They are smarter than whips, stubborn as a winter storm and as loyal to their people as Kamikaze pilots were to the Emperor. And, they are a pain in the ass.

How smart was Finney? I used to show off by saying to him, "go get your ball and put it in your bowl". He'd look at me like I was an idiot but off he'd run and find his ball and come drop it in his food bowl and then look at me like I was an idiot.

How stubborn was he? When we brought Josh home from the hospital he tried to climb up into my arms to see him and wouldn't leave him alone. I thought we'd have to get rid of him because he would hurt our baby. I took him in the basement and wept. But Bern put Josh on the floor so Finney could smell him up and down and from that moment on he would have killed Lions and Tigers and Bears for Josh.

How loyal was he? We'd take Finney and the kids to Wooster Park and let the kids go wild and Finney would circle them like his little lambs the whole time we were there and park himself between any human or dog that came near them with his fierce teeth showing until we called him off. A Puli is a bit aloof and not good with strangers--but the people the dog knows need not fear lions or tigers or bears when he's around.

He lived with us in Morgantown, Alexandria, Charleston and New Haven. He was a pain in the ass but we loved him and he never failed to be unerringly loyal. He was smarter than we were by half, but we were young and up to challenging his dominance.

He was 12 or 14 when we left him with a house sitter to go to the beach. He hated the beach. His hair and disposition didn't take well to sand and heat and crowds of strangers on the beach. He was the talk of Wooster Square because he'd go up to the park by himself each day. But while we were gone, his unerring sense of knowing how to cross Chapel street let him down and he was killed by a car. Coming home to an empty house was one of the most painful days of my life.

I could tell you a thousand stories about him, even now, some 25 years later. You never forget a dog that smart, independent and loyal. Never. I still miss him.

Oh, his name....He was Finney after Albert Finney the actor and became Louie because we called him 'goofball Louie' so many times it stuck.

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.