Here’s another dog story for my collection, this one contributed by my granddaughter Elizabeth (Warden) Smith. It’s the hilarious, and heart-warming story of a little pet who managed to bungle her way through life with her less than impressive doggie I.Q. (Sounds like the perfect dog for Octo-woman.)
Let’s hear the story from Elizabeth:
Throughout high school, college, and most of my 20s, I had an adorable Pomeranian named Julie Belle. She looked like a stuffed animal, and almost everyone who saw her wanted to touch her. Unfortunately, Julie had a few problems that made that a pretty bad idea. See, Julie was not quite all there, if you know what I mean. She had more than a few screws loose.
Julie’s main problem was her almost constant confusion, combined with blatant (but endearing) stupidity. Even as a young dog in her prime, Julie could literally not find her way back out of a Cheetos bag. She needed lots of protection and supervision, because you could never trust her common sense to help her out of a difficult situation. These symptoms increased as she aged and her depth perception went down the tube.
As a young dog, Julie had amazing jumping power. She was only a 4.75 pound dog with a tiny birdlike body, but she could easily leap on and off of couches and even soar over the recliner, clearing both arms and the seat! Jumping became an automatic reaction for Julie whenever she was freaked out. I think the head injuries she inflicted on herself that way may have contributed to her vision and perception problems later in life.
Some of Julie’s more memorable jumps included flying leaps out of my parents’ very high up van seat, where instead of jumping down toward the ground as any sane dog would do, Julie leaped up as high into the air as she could, only to come crashing back down on the cement driveway. Of course, we tried to stop her, but she was speedy and sometimes took off before we expected her to!
My parents have a deck in their backyard, and it’s a pretty big distance from the ground, with wooden stairs that have openings between them. Turns out, those openings are just the right size for a spazzing out Pomeranian to accidentally hurl herself through. Julie scrambled up those stairs and lost control right near the top, so she came squirting out between the top couple of steps and landed on a pile of bikes.
Amazingly, Julie came through these events without serious visible injuries. Instead, I think those experiences damaged her in less visible ways that we came to see later… As her depth perception decreased, Julie started having trouble judging the distance between herself and furniture that she wanted to jump up on. This made for some hilarious moments where she came running into the living room and took a flying leap all alone in the middle of the room, hoping to land on the couch but instead landing on the carpet four feet from the couch, looking confused.
Julie was never what I’d call a friendly dog. She was reserved and accepted only a small, select group of people. As she got older, she had more difficulty identifying the people she knew from those she didn’t. This meant that she could be perfectly sweet to a stranger for a few minutes and then turn into a crazy snarling monster when she realized she didn’t know that person after all! Good thing she had very few teeth by that point and couldn’t cause any damage.
Even without the teeth, she managed to cause some damage to my roommate’s boyfriend. I lived with three other girls in Davis, CA, while I attended grad school. Julie lived with me and, naturally, terrorized the household. One night, I was on the couch watching TV with Julie. On my right was my roommate, Christina, and on her right was her boyfriend, Alex. Somehow, at one point, Julie snarled and freaked out Christina, who flung her arm out and wacked Alex right in the mouth, giving him a fat lip. Julie was not a popular dog in that household!
Because Julie was so compact, it was easy to take her places. She was good at being very quiet in a small bag, as long as she knew I was nearby. If she thought maybe I wasn’t right there, she would start yelping. There were a few days when I took Julie to school with me because maintenance people were coming to fix the shower in our townhouse. We had a “no pet” policy and were blatantly disobeying that policy with three large Labrador retrievers at the time. Tiny Julie Belle was the least of that violation! But this meant that whenever maintenance people came by, we had to get all the dogs out of the house.
One of those days, I had a big Latin exam that I couldn’t miss, and I also couldn’t leave Julie in the car in the hot California weather. I packed up a little sports bag as if I was going to the gym later. I lined it with towels and threw in some dog treats and Julie Belle and headed to class. I noticed a large “NO DOGS” sign on the building as I entered. I sat in the very back row of the big lecture hall, as far away from the other students as possible, so they wouldn’t notice the wiggling and scuffling going on inside my bag.
Julie liked small beds, but she also liked to dig at them to arrange them into a comfy nest. Whenever she got too enthusiastic and I thought other students might notice it, I reached down and snuck a new dog treat in the bag to distract her. I took that exam as fast as humanly possible and then realized I would have to walk it up to the front, leaving Julie in the back row. I was so nervous that she would yelp if she noticed that I walked away! I hurried up with my heart racing, dropped off the exam, and shot back out the door with my sports bag!
Julie had a habit of constantly turning in circles when she was excited. She always spun in the same direction. She got out of my parents’ yard a few times and we usually found her in the neighbors’ driveway, spinning in circles. She also usually spun in a few circles before running into her crate for the night.
When I was in my mid 20s, Julie and I moved into a studio apartment in Seattle. I set up a big, comfy palace of a crate for her to sleep in, with pillows everywhere. But Julie preferred her raggedy little travel bag instead. She loved that travel bag so much! I think it probably meant that she liked to go places with me. I eventually gave in and let her sleep in that darn uncomfortable looking bag.
I still had Julie when Sean and I were married in the summer of 2005. For a few months, the three of us lived in that tiny studio apartment together while we sold Sean’s house in Everett. Although Julie was tiny, she did her best to drive Sean crazy by keeping him awake at night. For one thing, she snored like a huge man at night, and she was constantly getting up to rearrange her bedding by digging at it loudly.
One night as Julie was getting ready to go to bed, I had set a black plastic filing box down right next to her ugly black travel bag. I hadn’t even thought about the fact that poor Julie couldn’t tell the difference between the two black objects! She did her little trademark spin and then ran at the filing box! Her little head smacked against the plastic and she looked confused. I ran over and moved the box and helped her identify her bag. It was impossible not to laugh, but Sean and I were also sad to see her crash into the box like that.
Other weird and memorable features of Julie Belle include her horrific smelling breath that just about knocked out my sister Gretchen during a road trip to California, her trademark panting sound that went “Huh, Huh….Huuuuuuhhhhhh,” and her ability to dig herself a comfy nest in all sorts of weird places.
When Sean and I bought our first house together in Ballard in November of 2005, Julie Belle was still going strong. She loved to gnaw on chew bones with her few remaining teeth, and she looked like a beautiful little puppy even when she was almost 16. She lived in that house with us for about a year before she passed away. She had health problems for years with her trachea and with arthritis in her back, and I was amazed to realize that she had regained health at age 15 and had not gone to the vet once in her last year of life! Julie passed away in November of 2006.
I am thankful for the many happy times we had together. She was a weird and quirky little dog, and I loved her very much.