Oops, I Did It Again

There are some mistakes in life that shake your core so completely that they bear repeating. My Min Pin curse is such a mistake. As reported in 2001, I lost my mind and adopted a six pound Miniature Pinscher, Irma La Deuce, who had been dumped at a local shelter. I blame it on my Grandparents, Irma and Virgil, whose love of these wacky dogs has infected my subconscious.

Shortly after Irma la Deuce settled into Angels From God territory, I discovered evidence of my Min Pin destiny, as I sorted through old family photos.  I stumbled upon a faded black and white shot of me at age one, flanked by two male Min Pins, Heiny and Corky.  I became disturbed as I realized that I was inexplicably drawn to this breed when I had not thought of them in years....about 40 years. 

Heiny, Denise and Corky

Life in Manhattan

In fact, I remember taking decisive action to opt for the American Eskimo Dog ...which to me was a REAL dog...the Anti-Min Pin.  The Eskie was the randiest, messiest and most complicated breed I could find...and the most beautiful.  I daresay that my first American Eskimo Dog -- Sasha -- was the physical embodiment of my randy, messy and complicated twentysomething personality...and a grand slap in the face to Berenice and Irma, Mom and Nana, when I moved home with Sasha to rebel against family values, while sponging off them mercilessly.

Sasha lasted a year in my Mother's house....she made me give him away...an act of treason that I never forgave.  Sasha's primary offense was shedding.  There was a certain incident with a stray Sasha hair that turned up in a package of Oreos that Berenice was dunking in milk at midnight on the night all hell broke loose.  The bloodcurdling roar that came out of my mother was deafening...but not as loud as the glass of milk shattering against the kitchen wall.  Soon, Sasha was living in Cicero, Illinois.  Well...after eleven years of rescue Eskies, I guess I showed her.

But, I digress.  Prior to my adoption of Irma La Deuce, I was a competent rescue person.  I had command of the Eskie and there really wasn't any one that I couldn't handle.  Or, thought I couldn't handle....I am known for my overconfidence.  You might say that my overconfidence is the germ of inspiration behind our Rescue.  Clearly, if I had the ability to think before jumping into the fire.... Well, let's say fine tuning that process is on my New Year's Resolution List...every year.   And yet, the wild success of our eleven year Eskie rescue effort is undeniable, and suggests...at least to me...that I am an expert on dogs.  Then Irma La Deuce came along and turned me into a ninny.

Even Toot was seduced by Irma.

Yes, I became one of those frou-frou dog owners who has given birth to her dog...despite a life long pledge  NEVER to "push a Buick through the keyhole", as my Grandmother Irma had often described the birthing process.  Like any new "mom," panic became my modus operandi.  "Where's Irma?" "Is she cold?"  "Is she ingesting something toxic?"  Oye...and the shopping.... The BLING....finding the perfect neckpiece became an obsession....Her favorite became the red ostrich feather boa...which added just the hint of color that such a Diva needs. Miss La Deuce has no fewer than a dozen winter coats, in couture styles fashioned in leopard and herringbone prints, as well as numerous puffy beds and fleece blankets, as well as her own heating pad.  I admit I own a device that straps to my chest for toting Irma in the winter....and I wore it in downtown Manhattan for the Fashionistas to see.

I have done my very best to turn Irma La Deuce into a Kewpie doll. And yet, I watched in horror as she dragged a garden snake from its nap in the bushes and wielded it like Medusa.  I gasped in shock as she munched on a desiccated mouse corpse in my friend Cindy's yard in Maine. "Don't worry," Cindy said, "it's protein." The Min Pin is a born ratter...and Irma's appetite for the disgusting constantly gags me.   Cindy has nicknamed Irma the "Unemployed Rat Catcher."  What an utterly disgusting and indelicate tag for such a paragon of virtue.  Like most dog owners who sport the "Disney Mentality,"  I vehemently deny my Irma's true nature.

Despite Irma's plebeian tastes, she has the soul of an angel.  She loves everyone and everyone loves her.  She has set the bar quite high for her breed....except to those who can't see her through my rose colored glasses.  I shudder to say that our esteemed Webmaster, Ann, my longtime friend and trusted editor, has dubbed my baby, Irma La Fxxking Deuce. Why? Perhaps it was Irma's stealth snatch of expensive French cheese off Ann's dinner table. Or maybe it was the ear splitting uproar Irma created every time I left the room....or maybe Ann is making me pay for my insensitive laughter at these hijinks.  Irma La Deuce is a laugh a minute.


Irma practicing her table manners in a Manhattan restaurant.

All that is to say this....perhaps now you can see why my heart skipped a beat about a year ago, when Brooklyn Animal Care and Control sent me an email about Misty, the Min Pin, that contained this picture:


I gasped, and thought (shame on me): "She looks like Irma....on crack."  And then I read Misty's credentials. It wasn't pretty.  She had a police record.....and had been  "On Hold" with the Department of Health three times for putting the chomp on somebody.  Her rap sheet included biting a kid in the face...usually the kiss of death for any dog.  And yet, this scrapper had charmed her way into the hearts of the rescue girls at the Brooklyn ACC.  They liked her enough to email their rescue contacts and plead her case.  And so, the next morning I called Ann from the road to alert her to the incoming Min Pin. I heard only silence. I don't think Ann wanted to revisit the Min Pin process with me again.   As I recounted all of Misty's non-virtues, I remember saying to Ann "How the hell bad could a twelve pound dog be."  Indeed.

...discussing directions.

The Brooklyn trip was the maiden voyage in my new Land Rover.  I had resisted the notion of an SUV for six years, until my Passat collapsed under the stress of Eskie tonnage.  The new Land Rover was a beauty, indeed, and very fancy inside.  I was enjoying the drive until I hit Brooklyn. I decided to lock the doors, because it would be inconvenient to be carjacked mid-rescue.  As many of you may know...NOTHING interferes with rescue.

So, while I sat at a stoplight in a busy Brooklyn intersection, I searched for the dashboard door lock. You'd think such a vital mechanism would be obvious...but no. Since Land Rover dashboard functions are coded in Hieroglyphics, I was baffled.  I began banging knobs willy nilly.  The doors remained unlocked...but, the lights, air conditioning, stereo and heat worked perfectly.  On a scorching Brooklyn summer day, I was thrilled that the heater was so efficient.


In desperation, I snatched the remote key from the ignition and pressed the Lock button.  Immediately, the SUV went into red alert lock down.  Lights were blinking....horn was tooting, and all the doors locked.  BINGO. But, the damn thing wouldn't start.  I was in lock down through three red lights at a busy intersection in one of the worst neighborhoods in the country. Luckily, I hadn't yet been carjacked...there would be no ousting the perps now.  So, there it was...the omen of trouble to come.


After about five minutes of dashboard pounding and swearing...(every desperate situation improves with profanity)... the SUV started and I made the fateful left turn to Brooklyn Animal Care and Control.  I announced myself, and discovered Misty entertaining the rescue girls.  She was flitting about, darting under desks, having a fine time. 

When I got my first, head on, look at Misty, I gasped. She was mighty rough around the edges.  You see, the dame's pins ain't exactly perpendicular.   That is to say..Misty is bowlegged with an enormous muscular chest.  She has a bulldog-like, tough guy stance that would look more at home on one of those poker-playing, stogie smoking dogs in the schlock-classic paintings.  When she ran toward me, she had a gait like a Hummer with a flat tire. Her tiny eyes and broad head gave her a "Get the Hell Out of My Way" look.  This was a face only a mother could love.  And I thought (shame on me again)..."This is no Irma La Deuce."  Ok...so let's give her the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe she's beautiful inside.  She certainly gave the impression of friendliness.

Then, it was time to put on her leash....and nobody would go near her.  Ah, this was an anomaly...a dog everybody loves and nobody wants to touch.  Misty came right up to me and I reached down and put on her nylon choke collar and leash.  I was quite pleased with myself as I marched her outdoors, picked her up and plopped her in the front seat of the SUV.  She looked up at me with gratitude...sun beaming on her smiling face, and she kissed me on the hand.  So far so good.


And soon I realized with certainty what I had known all along.  There is no gratitude in rescue.  After two weeks of Misty bliss, the little bitch had conned me into thinking that all the rescue girls were nuts, and that all the bite reports were rooted in human incompetence.   I couldn't have asked for a sweeter, more genteel house guest than Misty.  I was ready to begin interviewing adopters for her.

I had written her profile, renamed her Mystique La Rue...for the sake of panache... and photographed her from the most flattering angles possible.  I was ready to reveal her wonderfulness to potential adopters when the bubble exploded. It started innocently enough. I noticed that Misty had some crusty schmutz in her eyes.  She was recovering from the inevitable kennel cough that plagues shelter dogs.  So, I moistened a warm paper towel and lovingly cradled Misty in my arms to remove the eye schmutz. The bitch bit me....hard.

Well....I did what successive Eskie rescue dogs had trained me to do.  I ran into the kitchen, rifled around two drawers, and pulled on two pairs of thick leather gloves and a down coat to finish the schmutz removal...because...I do not take any crap from a 12 pound dog.  I returned to the scene after a five minute delay, fully armored and ready for battle. The bitch bit me again.  I had twelve pounds of Min Pin dangling from my favorite leather gloves, her teeth stuck in the layers of leather and cashmere.  Well, I never.....

Mystique La Rue did not endear herself to me at that moment.  Further, I became unglued.  Her options for adoption had withered before my eyes, because... as you know, we are American Eskimo Dog Rescue, and our adoptors tend to be Eskie folks. When we occasionally take in a mix or an alternate breed, these dogs have a better shot at adoption if they don't bite the adopters.  Mystique La Rue certainly would bite...and, realistically, a bite during an adoption does not provide the "Disney" moment that most folks expect.  So, I thought the only plausible course of action was to contact Min Pin Rescue and ask for their expertise.  Surely, Min Pin rescue, with their national presence and extensive dog adoption record, had the depth within their organization to accommodate Mystique La Rue and rehabilitate her in one of their Min Pin savvy foster homes.

Min Pin Rescue had one simple, but very clear message for me: "If you are not prepared to find the dog a home, then you should not have pulled her from the shelter."  ...Apparently, they had passed on her because of her bite history.  Well, honestly, if you are going to criticize every little thing....

Something in me snapped.  Apparently, I had another red zone dog on my hands...and it was not an Eskie.  I was faced with tragically limited options for Mystique La Rue, because she was clogging up my one foster space for an Eskie, and I was needed on the Eskie front. There would be no easy way out of this dire situation.  At last, I had stepped in a pile of dog crap so large that my Manolo Blahnik was stuck.  So, as I hovered around Rock Bottom, I said to myself...."Self, you are going to grow a damn spine and figure out this Brooklyn Bitch. And, forget Min Pin Rescue....You have found her a home, and it is yours." 


The human spirit can accomplish amazing things once it reaches a moment of clarity.  A decision had been made...that was clear...but the execution of the decision was still unclear.  Soon, clarity came in the force of my Toot. A toot de force, if you will.  

Now, Toot is somewhat of a celebrity in the Eskie World.  She has lowered the breed standard for personality and has taken every opportunity to put the chomp on any person or dog who looks at her cross eyed.  She was my first foster dog and ten years later, she bailed me out of this Mystique La Rue jam. 

You see, my attitude toward Min Pins is different from my attitude toward Eskies.  I was not able to turn Mystique La Rue into the Kewpie doll that is Irma La Deuce.  Many small dog owners make the mistake of nurturing instability in their tiny terrors, by inadvertantly giving them the upper hand.  Clearly, I had become one of those owners.  Mystique La Rue had an ax to grind, and she required the Toot touch. And so, it was Toot...and also Nadia (let's give credit where credit is due). The Toot-Nadia Nexus is responsible for the rehabilitation of Mystique La Rue.

It started in my bed.  I was catching up on my soaps with Mystique La Rue snuggled into my side...impersonating a perfectly reasonable dog.  By now, the Brooklyn Bitch had been re-named Mystikal...after my botched understanding of some dubious rapper's lyrics.  After all, a dog with an edge has to have a name with attitude, I thought. Never underestimate the creative ability of a female Baby Boomer to whitewash the most filthy, explicit rap lyrics into a love song for her dog.  After all, Dick Clark taught us that if it has a beat, and you can dance to it...thumbs up. 

Sometime during General Hospital my Toot jumped onto the bed and attempted to cross over Mystikal to get to my lap, when Mystikal turned and snapped at Toot.  OH NO, SHE DIDN'T!!!  Yes, she did, and within a nano-second, the Brooklyn Bitch was flipped and pinned, with her spidery legs flailing as Toot pressed her front paw across Mystikal's jugular.

I stood in amazement....standing, of course, because I had jumped my fat butt out of bed as quickly as Toot had pinned Mystikal, lest I be nailed in the crossfire. 

I wondered....how the hell could the seventeen pound Toot get control of this attitudinal bitch in such short time, while I....weighing in at considerably more than seventeen pounds, continued to be flummoxed by l'essence de Mystikal.

And, then, I noticed that Toot had flipped and pinned Mystikal without first running to the kitchen for gloves and body armor.  Ah...a revelation.  The correction must be quick and to the point.  No thinking needed.  And, "not thinking" is surely my Olympic sport...so now, if only I could apply it as naturally as Toot had demonstrated, my rapport with Mystikal should improve.

And so, within the last year, Mystikal has been flipped and pinned numerous times...once involving a trip to the vet for antibiotics and bite wound treatment (and it wasn't me who bit her)....but, she has come a long way.  I have learned to correct her with stealth...and she now treats me as the Alpha Bitch that I am...particularly since she sees that I can call off Nadia with the "raspberry."  And, that I can "Chhuch" Toot into submission. I think Mystikal sees me more as a Sorceress than an Alpha Bitch. 

Mystikal still expresses an occasional opinion...as she did recently while we were indulging in our latest guilty pleasure...Bonanza reruns. She had splayed herself across my lap, belly up.  I was inspired to teach Mystikal how to perform Rockette kicks to the Bonanza theme.  Honestly, is there a piece of music more deserving of Rockette kicks than the Bonanza theme?  Well, not to Mystikal.  She did two or three impressive kicks, and then nailed me in the forearm like a rattlesnake.  Well, Cindy would say she was justified...but nonetheless, I did not speak to her for at least an hour. 

Mystikal has been more or less rehabilitated, sometimes more...sometimes less. Clearly, she has taught me ALOT about unconditional love, and the most valuable lesson that I have learned in rescue: I don't know everything.  And, not a day has gone by that she has not given me a grand belly laugh. She has shown me that the cure for the Holiday Blues is a bowlegged Min Pin in a Santa Suit. Mystikal has bonded with Miss Irma La Deuce, and she has grown like a fungus on Nikita, Nadia and Toot....and yes, I have given birth to yet, another Min Pin.  Friends tell me that this will indeed be the last one.

For the time being, it's....the Angels From God and the Rat Pack.

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© 2009 Eskies Online/Denise Gareau