Scanning Around With Gene: Oodles and Oodles of White-House Poodles
I’m ecstatic on a number of levels about the First Family Elect, not the least of which is the promise of a new first-puppy for those two adorable girls. But thanks to Malia’s allergies, the search for a First Dog is limited to hypoallergenic breeds, a rather short list. These days, thanks to designer breeding, that list includes a number of “doodles,” breeds that have been mixed with Poodles. Apparently the Obama kids have their eyes on a Labradoodle, a very popular choice right now, along with the Goldendoodle.
But these designer breeds may exhibit behavior problems and are harder to find at shelters (an Obama preference) so the family may be pressured to consider the original allergy-free breed, the mighty poodle, pure and simple. This week I’ll share poodle images and relay my own experience growing up with one.
Click on any image to see a larger version.
Because my sister also suffered from allergies, we ended up with a pure-bread toy poodle, which we promptly named Pierre. Actually, we officially named him “Pierre Jacque Gahbell,” hoping that sounded more French and would make the neighbors with mutts even more envious of our good fortune and international savoir faire.
Here are poodle pics from the book Poodles by Harry Glover.
Our enthusiasm over the puppy ended pretty quickly when we realized that poodles are a bit, shall we say, high strung? Pierre was small enough that his aggression was pretty harmless, but he did spend a lot of time growling, baring his teeth, and nipping at various body parts. That or humping them.
I know that there are a lot of great poodles out there and I’ve met a few in my time. Many of the problems we had with Pierre stemmed from our ignorance of proper dog raising, and I will admit we teased him unmercifully just to get him riled. Our most infamous trick was placing him in a large fiberglass bowl (which usually held the family mail), plopping it in the swimming pool, and setting him off with a great twist. We re-christened the bowl the “Poodle Spinner,” and it, along with Pierre, is seen here in a tattered snapshot. I suppose it's no wonder that Monsieur Gahbell was un chien fou.
My wife and I still have that bowl and currently keep our mail in it.
Poodles are a noble breed of hunting dogs; it’s not their fault that they've come to look so silly in modern times. Because they don’t shed (thus the hypoallergenic quality), poodles must be groomed to avoid a big curly mess. And grooming dogs is a little like dressing small children: It’s the perfect opportunity to play out fashion fantasies that have nothing to do with reality. Here are a number of paint-by-number poodle pictures from the 1950s.
I once boned up on poodle history when I took Pierre to school for show-and-tell, so I do know that a few of the haircuts given to poodles have some historical point, mainly to keep certain joints warm when swimming after dead fowl in freezing lakes and streams. But it’s been quite a while since the average poodle went hunting for anything other than a warm sofa, so the haircuts are now all about fashion. Here, from a book on poodle clipping, are a number of the more popular styles.
Poodles, like so many breeds, come and go in popularity, though the poodle is always right up there according to the American Kennel Club. I think of poodles as a '50s icon, not so much that they were more popular then, but that was when they became a symbol of sophistication and wealth.
Here are images from a 1974 Time magazine essay on pets, an Avanti greeting card, a Hallmark card, and an unknown postcard.
There hasn’t been a Presidential Poodle before, though at one time Richard Nixon did own the breed. And of course you don’t have to make them look silly. Give them reasonable haircuts and they look like any number of fluffy curly-haired breeds.
Go to page 2 to see a poodle light switch, and Gene's favorite poodle cartoons!
It’s hard not to evoke a lot of clichés about poodles, and at one time I was a poodle basher along with the best of them. But since my wife began working at a large animal shelter as a trainer, and we expanded our own dog family to five (mostly terrier mixes), I’m much more sympathetic to the breed. It’s the owners I often have problems with. Here are four playing-card images followed by a “Poodle Power” light-switch cover.
I sincerely hope the Obamas get a good dog and I do hope they can find one from a shelter. I can’t, based on my own experience, completely endorse the poodle breed, but I know there are plenty of passionate poodle owners out there. Pierre lived to a ripe old age and my Mom really missed him when he finally humped his last chair leg.
Here are my two favorite poodle items of all time, a great Gary Larson Farside cartoon (copyright United Features Syndicate), and another cartoon from Lynda Barry called “Poodle with a Mohawk” (copyright Lynda Barry).
If you have or did have a poodle, please share your story by clicking on the Comments button below.