I have two daughters born 16 months apart and a son who is 11 years younger than Ilene, my younger daughter... and just in case you’re wondering, that was by choice, not by accident! I was only 19 when my first child was born, so it was almost like having two families.
When our son, Chris, was about 4 years old, he attended nursery school at Elizabeth Seton College in Yonkers, run by the Sisters of Charity. Summer vacation was about to start and Chris came home devastated. It seems for the entire school year the Sisters and students had taken care of a homeless dog and now that school was closing it was being sent to the shelter.
Chris pleaded with us to rescue his “best friend.”
“He’s beautiful,” he said, “and real cuddly.”
So my husband, Jason; the girls; Chris; and I drove over to the shelter to save his friend.
The first dog we saw was an adorable cocker spaniel puppy with long golden ears.
“Is that him?” I asked.
“No,” said Chris, “my dog is better.”
Next, we saw a majestic Great Dane.
“Him?” I asked hopefully. “No, mine is better.”
Finally, Chris shouted, “There he is!” and threw his arms around the scruffiest, woe-begone looking, kind of a Terrier I had ever seen. He was bandy-legged and skinny and had large, long pointy teeth.
Jason took one look at him and facetiously said, “With teeth like that, he’s got to be a Talbot Terrier,” referring of course to Larry Talbot, also known as “The Wolfman,” and portrayed by Lon Chaney Jr. in the wonderful old horror movie of the same name.
We called him “the Tramp,” and after a bath and some TLC, Tramp became a respectable looking canine and when asked what type of dog he was, we all said, “Talbot Terrier.” We went even further. Whenever one of us saw someone with a grungy-looking, obviously-rescued dog, we’d go up to them and ask, “Do you know what kind of a dog that is? It’s a very rare breed, and known as a Talbot Terrier.” People never questioned us, they just went away smiling happily.
One rainy Sunday afternoon, having been stuck in the house for what felt like a millennium, the girls and I decided to have some fun. We started calling all the pet shops in Westchester County, asking whether they had any Talbot Terriers.
“No,” they said, but they’d ask around for us and see if they could find one.
Three hours later we struck “pay dirt.” A very clever gentleman answered his phone and said he was so sorry but had just sold the last one. Would we be interested in any other breed or wait until another came in? And that was how, on a mainly Sunday afternoon, we legitimized the “Talbot Terrier.”
My children never forgot that day and all the fun we had. In some ways, it was a lesson to them on how vulnerable people are and how we must never take advantage of the ignorance of others or let them take advantage of us. I explained that creating a “Talbot Terrier” was a harmless ruse, but to always question when something didn’t seem plausible, and never carry a joke too far.
Of course, the only thing I really regret is that we never did convince the American Kennel Club!
Adrienne can be reached at AKL.firstname.lastname@example.org.