Two Things L’Ombre Taught Himself

I’ve burned a lot of pots boiling water for tea since L’Ombre died.  He taught himself several things, and one of them was coming to get me when water started boiling.

The breeder, Linda Coggins, whose name shall forever be blessed on my lips, had me start him off by mixing his crunchy food with canned food and hot water. So he came to associate boiling water with meals. Realizing he had prevented me from ruining another pan, he always got lavish praise for this.


How L’Ombre Came into My Life

I never really thought of myself as owning L’Ombre.  It was more like he just “came into my life” in the way that friends and lovers and mentors show up. Kismet. We were a symbiotic team. He protected me, and he had a great life going places most people can’t bring their ill-behaved hounds. He was invited to parties,

including Christmas dinner at my minister’s house.

Before L’Ombre, I was a tad fearful going out and about in Baltimore. I was a reporter, and staying home wasn’t really an option. I’d been mugged on my own front doorstep and dragged down 11 cement steps on my back, and spent a year being laid up a lot of the time.

Two Angels: Linda Coggins & Roz Terhune

The dog editor at the News American, Roz Terhune, decided I needed a Doberman. She’d played a role in starting the Marine Devil Dog unit for FDR in World II. But I didn’t know that until after she died a few years later.

Roz took me to a huge obedience club with maybe 100 dogs on the floor, in different rings, being put through their paces in classes. L’Ombre was nine months old, and Linda had decided to give him up.

And so this beautiful animal came into my life. He could take my breath away when he ran, every line flowing into every other line as Joanna Walker wrote. He was smart and funny and caring.

One time I was sobbing over something, as young women are wont to from time to time. He brought one of his toys over and put it in my lap.  It wasn’t to play; it clearly was a gift, his brow crinkled in frown lines. So I gave him a little pat.

Then he brought another toy over to my lap, and a third. The silent message: “See, I will give you everything I have.”

Sherlock of the Misplaced Keys

L’Ombre also taught himself to find my keys.

I’d totter around my tiny apartment muttering, “Where are my keys? We can’t leave until I find my keys, l’Ombre,” I’d admonish him as he anxiously danced around anticipating a nice walk and run.

He figured all by himself that my mini tizzy ended as soon as I had the keys in hand. So he took to pushing them with his nose so they’d jingle. Lavishly praised for his amazing perspicacity, he soon responded to “L’Ombre, where’s my keys?” They’d tumble to the ground next to him, saving us all those wasted seconds. He’d have a silly grin on his face at the prospect of the thousands of smells in grass and the chance to maybe chase a squirrel or two.

Never Saw A Puddy-Cat He Didn’t Want to Chase

One thing he never learned was not to chase a city cat onto a windowsill. The cat inevitably turned around and swatted him on the nose, drawing blood.

He was sorely miffed by this indignity. By that time, I’d have his collar and drag him away. Each encounter made him hate cats more and chase the next even more fanatically, with the same result.

He also always knew when he was working, and there was no chasing cats or squirrels then. This is exactly the same street and porch where these great cat encounters occur. But if he was heeling, sitting at my back facing the street while I got groceries out of the car, he was on duty. I could trust him. He knew the difference.