Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

Brûlée: Our Perpetual Puppy

Once again my ever-deserving dog failed to win the Westminster Kennel Club Best of Show. A beagle named Miss P won instead.

Miss P

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Beagles are appealing, thanks to Snoopy. But they can’t replace the dog at your feet in front of the home fire. They are the real Westminster winners.

Let’s face it, we love dogs. What else could explain spending hours watching a show on TV that features pampered pups, pointless patter and poorly dressed trainers leading dogs around in a circle. The sight of a dog prancing proudly down the runway makes our hearts melt.

Dogs are the supreme companion. Petting the pooch can cheer you up from the deepest doldrums. Being greeted with boundless energy by your dog when you arrive home can erase any memory of a bad day at work.

Our canine companions are skilled at reading our faces. They can sense tension and other emotions. They think a good lick in the face can cure just about any problem.

Of course, doggy attention spans are short. They are easily distracted by squirrels or crows or the neighbor’s dog. But a quick call, combined with a treat in your hand, and the dog’s attention is riveted back on you. It is an affirmation of the universal Law of Self-Interest.

Coton puppies

Coton de Tuléar puppies

Our dog is a mix of cocker spaniel and Coton de Tuléar, producing a pup with floppy ears, an eager personality and an irresistible face. Her brown and tan coloring made naming her a cinch – Creme Brûlée. This is the first year Cotons have been allowed into the Westminster competition. The breed should be a winner soon.

This is not to take anything away from beagles or poodles or Westies, but Cotons may be the cutest dogs on earth. Plus they don’t shed, are hypo-allergenic and come with sturdy bodies. They aren’t exactly lap dogs, even though their luscious hair makes you feel like you are covered with a rich blanket.

I have received domestic criticism for being too partial to Brûlée and overlooking some of her less desirable qualities, such as the occasional indoor accident, knocking over a morning Starbuck’s or barking loudly at passersby from our front window. I say, “She’s a dog. What do you expect?” This is clearly not the answer my domestic critics want to hear.

Brûlée is nominally daughter Sophia’s dog. It was one of household’s most treasured moments to see Sophia and Brûlée meet for the first time.


Creme Brûlée

But dogs remember the first ear they lick, which happened to be mine. In many ways, she has become my dog. I clamor out of bed in the morning to take her on a walk and give her a late-night, off-the-leash run before bed time. When I’m not home, though, she is Carole’s dog. Brûlée sits on her lap and finishes off her yogurt cup.

When family and friends come over, Brûlée is excited to see and interact with them. She loves the guy who dog sits her when we are away. She trots into neighbors’ houses to say hello. I’ve concluded Brûlée is everyone’s dog. And that is part of the charm of her personality. She is a perpetual puppy.

That will make it all the harder when that inevitable day comes when Brûlée departs this world for doggy heaven. Until then, she will be and always remain our Westminster winner, even if she chews up my dinner napkin.



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