Archive for the ‘Tuesdays With Madame N’ Category

Madame N is allegedly a Collie X.  We got her from the SPCA in 2005 when she was 9 weeks old.  This is her story.


As I opened and closed the sundeck door for the millionth time this weekend, it struck me: our dog, Madame N, had morphed into a living, breathing piece of furniture that needed to be let outside once in a while.  Did the girls even know what true dog ownership was about?

Sure we let them feed her, give her treats, and encouraged them to encourage her to chase the squirrel who sits in our walnut tree and robs us of fresh walnuts every year, but aside from that, Madame N’s existence in our life is pretty low-key.

When I adopted Madame N, the stout matron at the S.P.C.A. gave me the hairy eyeball when she reached the part of her schpeel that included previous dog owners who had dumped dogs back at the S.P.C.A. because of children.  “And what will you do when you have children?” her accusing voice inquired.

“Keep her?” I said.  I had meant the words to be stronger, more certain, of course when you have children you keep the dog.  We would keep the dog.  But my voice betrayed my brain and followed up weakly with, “My husband has grown up with dogs?”

I must have passed, because two hours later.  Yes, two hours.  A different worker whispered loudly, “That girl’s still here waiting for a dog.”  I was taken back to the kennels where I found Madame N, right where I’d left her, curled up, snoozing hard.

“Well, pick her up, if this is the one you want.”

I hesitated, but not because she wasn’t the right dog.  Madame N had chosen me: licked my hand, then curled up and fell asleep while her sisters barked and brew-ha-ha’d at my ankles.

I hesitated, because I equated picking a dog up with holding a hamster, or a guinea pig, both bony scratchy pets other people had in my life, not me.  I was a cat girl, my husband was the one who knew what to do with dogs.

With an exasperated sigh, the woman lifted Madame N up and placed her into my arms.  Madame N didn’t flinch, or wiggle as I carried her warm body out of the cement and steel cage and into the bright February sunlight: our own quiet Escape from Witch Mountain.

In her heyday, Madame N raced around climbing structures at the playgrounds, running up slides and running back down them.  She dug holes to China, and sprinted head first into the frigid waters of the Pacific for pretty much anything you’d throw.

When we moved into our house, she met Crazy A, and together they’d wrestle and romp for hours.  Back then, there wasn’t a chain-link fence separating our backyards and the two dogs would race from yard to yard for their playdates.

Then we started having children.

The words of the S.P.C.A. quality control agent were etched in my brain.  I could hear her sneer, “And what will you do when you have children?” every time I hissed at Madame N to stop click-clacking her nails on our hardwood, because a baby was sleeping.

I could hear her voice the handful of times Madame N stepped in her business and tracked it into the house, sending the baby I was holding into the crib and me into a cleaning frenzy.

And I heard it again tonight, as I nursed on the couch and Madame N barked to be let in.  Though she only barked twice, it was enough to make me grimace, “I’m only one woman, Madame N, give me a break.”

But alas, as intuitive as dogs are, they don’t know they’re annoying you with their long clackity-clacking, or tracking stuff through your house, or barking.  In the case of Madame N, she just wants to have her nails clipped, backyard picked-up and to be let in; all her annoyances are human made.

So, in the spirit of celebrating this pooch who has been beside me through thick and thin (literally and figuratively) I decided to declare Tuesday: the day of the dog, which brings us to Tuesday…


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When I proclaimed Tuesday, the day of the dog, Miss Q informed me that we show our love to her everyday by feeding her and letting her outside.  Precisely the reason we needed a day of doggy love.  So we took her to one of her favourite beaches: Island View.

There is nothing more beautiful than a sunny January day spent at the beach.  Though there was a bit of a nipply breeze on the walk back, none of the littles seemed to mind.  As Miss Q challenged Madame N to a race I drank in their joy, the salt air, the sunshine dancing on the water, and then I remembered the cougar.

With visions of the one that had been spotted in the area leaping out of the bush, I called off the race, though I’m sure if a cougar was in the area Madame N would have alerted me.

Unphased by their mum’s irrational fear, Miss Q and Miss S tossed rocks in the ocean for Madame N to chase, and squealed when Madame N shakes got too close.  They waded after her in tidal pools, until Miss S got stuck.  And they called to her when Madame N wandered too far.  (She ignored them.)

When we got home, Madame N waited patiently in the back yard for me to let her into the house.  My intent was to hose her down in the tub with the girls’ help, and have them dry her off afterwards, but the moment we got in, Miss Q and Miss S were cold and hungry, and Miss C needed to be changed and fed.  Madame N day was put on hold.

It was a full 1.5 hours by time Madame N came inside.  We still gave her a bath, but the littles just watched.  They also watched and squealed while I dried Madame N.  Miss Q gave Madame N a treat, but after that, it was movie time, and Madame N settled back on her bed in the corner of the living room.

I suppose this is why you never believe your child when they beg you for a pet and promise they’ll help care for it.  But, what can you do?  When your children are 4, 2 and 2.5 months, it’s all about showing, and including, not expecting.

And though the minivan is a tight squeeze with five humans and one 65 pound dog; and I hate the feeling of hot doggie breath on my arm while I’m driving, we will continue to take Madame N on our adventures (that allow dogs) as she is one of the family.

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