In memoriam Taffy: the world's cutest toy poodle
Having recently had to put an old dog to sleep, my wife Pat and I drove out to a poodle breeder in June 1998 to investigate a some puppies. Pat had a treat in her purse, and we selected the fluff ball that climbed in to get it. Taffy, as we soon named her, weighed all of a pound and a quarter. The breeder said she'd probably get to be about eight pounds.
When it became apparent that she would grow to no more than four pounds, we began to joke that we got only half the dog we paid for, or that we paid enough for a real poodle, but only got a toy.
Taffy's best friend in all the world was whoever came into the house that didn't live there. She loved people. She was afraid of all other dogs, including young puppies and dogs not much bigger than she.
Once, a neighbor invited us over to celebrate their daughter's high school graduation. They had a ten-day-old kitten. Pat went back home to get Taffy. Surely she wouldn't be afraid of this little cat. Wrong.
While I was holding the kitten, Pat carried Taffy close to me. The curious kitten, wondering who this new creature was, turned to get a closer look. That spooked Taffy, who started wiggling frantically to get down and get away. That, in turn, startled the kitten, who sought security by digging its claws into my arm.
Once, at least, Taffy showed no fear in the presence of a cat. We took her to visit some friends who had a rather large and very imperious cat, a little bigger than Taffy. It froze in disgust when it saw a little dog invading its territory, apparently hoping that if it stood still enough odious interloper would take no notice.
Instead, Taffy went to sniff out this creature that didn't seem to want to attack her. The cat put up with her a few seconds, and then strode from the room with great dignity, giving one and all an offended glare before making its final exit.
When we got Taffy, neither we nor any of the neighbors had fences, so we only let her out on a chain. The neighborhood was full of wildlife, especially squirrels, rabbits, and ducks. Whenever we put her out, these creatures would keep a respectful distance, but basically go on about their business without concern. They knew Taffy never chased them.
The squirrels' business seemed to bother Taffy. Before we got her, they had been in the habit of coming to the back door for handouts. One or two would take nuts from our hands, and one, who wasn't quite that brave, used to climb up on the recycling bin and hurl its little furry body at the sliding glass door to let us know it was time to toss out a nut. (Hmm. I see I'll have to write about those squirrels some time.)
And so when we let Taffy out to do her chores when the squirrels were in the yard, she looked around nervously. When she finished, she immediately came came back in the house, likely as not with one or more squirrels in hot pursuit, hoping to get a handout before the door slid shut. Taffy is the only dog I ever met that I suspect of being afraid of squirrels.
It made much more sense that she was afraid of Duke, the doberman two doors up the street. We were wary of him ourselves; he wasn't very friendly. Duke had a deep, authoritative bark that seemed to offend Taffy. Whenever she heard it, she barked back loudly with her shrill little yapping--that is, when she was safely inside the house. Outside, she would look in his direction with annoyance, then turn away and bark under her breath, almost in a whisper.
She made up for her fear of live animals with her love of stuffed ones. She frequently sought comfort in the arms of a large stuffed bear. Otherwise, she loved to carry them around, chew on them, or bat at them with her paws. She claimed ownership of every stuffed animal that entered the house.
Unfortunately, my wife taught second grade and would occasionally bring in stuffed animals intended for class, not for Taffy. We especially remember the bat, which Pat intended to use to illustrate the story Stellaluna. We certainly couldn't let Taffy chew up something so delicate and fragile.
Pat's utterly incomprehensible stinginess really upset poor, innocent Taffy. Although she normally had a very short attention span, she spent almost fifteen minutes walking back and forth on her hind legs and barking.
She had more toys than she knew what to do with, but her favorite was one Pat called Harry the Hedgehog. Or more accurately, a succession of Harrys. She chewed poor Harry until the stuffing started to come out, at which point we had to go out and get another one. If we'd ask "Where's Harry?" Taffy would go get him, even if it meant going into another room.
Alas, she succumbed to liver cancer when she was only 9 years old. Ecept for a traumatic week of ultimately unsuccessful surgery, she was happy and playful until a week before we finally had to put her to sleep. After a few months without a dog, Pat decided she wanted to get two puppies. If people like this Hub, I'll have to write about them, too. Meanwhile, here's an account of one thing they did, slightly fictionalized as a childrens' story.