At the blessing of the animals at St. Raymond’s school a year ago yesterday, I promised to do my best to get my children a dog in time for the blessing of the animals this year. My wife and I decided to search for a poodle (non-shedding, which would be vital since there are some allergies in the family, and, at least according to all the dog books, very smart, a point on which my wife insisted. “With five children in this house, I want a dog that can get with the program.) Many, many thanks to the dozens of readers of this happy Corner who sent me suggestions for breeders as the clock was ticking down last week. (Apart from anything else, you enabled me to make one of those odd but somehow gratifying anthropological discoveries that goes with blogging on NRO: Dog lovers feel loyalties to their favorite breeds, I learned, by comparison with which the loyalties of Republicans and Democrats to their political parties represent the most trifling of attachments. You informed me, kindly but firmly, that I would be mad to get my children any dog other than a shih-tzu, a beagle, a wheaten terrier, a Tibetan terrier, a bichon frise, a lhasa apso, an English setter, or—and this email was written with conviction and charm—a pot-belled pig.)
By some miracle—St. Francis of Assisi himself, I began to think, must approve of my project—I found a superb breeder of standard poodles in Benicia, about an hour-and-a-half north of our home at Stanford, that had two twelve-week old, cream-colored males available. The Robinson children, and—this is crucial, Mrs. Robinson—fell for the smaller and more comic of the two. We picked him up on Sunday. After a couple of hours of serious but delighted conversation, the children named the puppy Crusoe (as in “Robinsons’ Crusoe,” see?) Z. (for Zorro) Robinson.
Yesterday morning, the feast day of St. Francis, I took Crusoe Z. to the parking lot of St. Raymond’s, where several hundred children stood waiting, with their pets, for the priest to emerge from the church after mass (the pets included countless dogs and cats, of course, but also several rabbits and hamsters, a box turtle, and, on one boy’s shoulder, I bird that I took for a cockatoo). Just as I was pulling Crusoe from the car, the principal of St. Raymond’s, Sister Ann Bernard, a woman of the highest standards of personal dignity and comportment, emerged from her office. “Oh, that must be your new puppy,” she said politely. (The children had been spreading the word that we would be gettting a dog.) “Yes, Sister,” I replied, and lifted Crusoe high for her to see. Whereupon Crusoe let loose, freely—lavishly, really—peeing down my shirtfront.
At last, we have a dog.