SMOKE: The Giant Poodle

Originally published: 10 September 2004

Jack Russells? Got one. Labradors? Gotta love 'em. Great Danes? Magnificent beasts. Collies? At a stretch. Poodles? I think not.

In much the same way as I'm no huge fan of afros, so too do I find the aesthetic of a poodle faintly offensive.

There's just something about the short, curly hair that really doesn't do it for me and the insistence of old ladies to put bows in their hair and on their tails - and to shave them to look like pruned hedges - has simply killed off any semblance of houndliness.

They also have aggressive, spiteful, bitchy little temperaments, and the nail in the coffin is the high-pitched, irritating bark that each and every one of them possesses.

Little old ladies are blessed with poor hearing and thus don't have to worry about the awful aural assault their shrill little dogs force us to endure, and reward them by letting them eat cake off their plate.

It's like unconcerned mothers with noisy kids at restaurants - their antics and noise may not bother you, lady, but they sure as hell bug me.

Our family once owned a Maltese poodle called Wendy and she was cute when she was a puppy. My younger brother had these huge baggy shorts that flapped around his legs when he ran, and he would go haring down the corridor with Wendy snapping at and hanging onto the sides of his shorts all the way.

She also had the endearing habit of hiding in the long grass out in the garden and pouncing unexpectedly on passersby, no doubt fancying herself a jagular, or something.

But she became an arsehole when she got older and was eventually relocated to an uncle.

That's the problem with poodles - as soon as they get older they turn queer and there's nothing that can be done about it.

My Big Poodle Story, however, took place 20 years ago. It was 1984 and my sister and I were on holiday in the United States, travelling to Falls Church outside Washington DC on our way back from Cranberry Island in Maine.

We stopped off at a house in Massachusetts, at the home of friends of our friends. I have no idea who they were or why we stopped there, but we spent a goodly part of the morning there.

I saw my first ever full-size snooker table there and tried to play with my mate, but I could hardly see the end of the table, let alone sink anything.

Nevertheless - it inspired in me a love for the felt cloth of a snooker or pool table, and although it never got as good as that table in Massachusetts (I went in the direction of coin tables at seedy Cape Town establishments instead), I'll always remember it as the moment when I fell in love with snooker.

We moved outside after a while to a swimming pool with a fence around it. Ringed around the pool was a stone walkway and there was even a small diving board at the deep end.

Myles and I hopped in, but he soon got bored and wandered off, leaving the gate open. I was under water and when I surfaced standing before me - slavering and quivering with rage - was an enormous poodle.

You're probably not going to believe this, but I have witnesses who will corroborate my story - that poodle was bigger than a labrador. It was the size of a Great Dane puppy - a genetically-impossible behemoth of a hound.

What made it even more bizarre was that it was shaved and dressed up with bows in the normal poodle fashion - only it was bigger than me. 500 pounds of ripped flesh and a bad, bad attitude.

And that poodle was highly upset that there was a strange boy swimming in its pool. Nobody had bothered to introduce us, you see, so to its mind I was an intruder and one that had to be dealt with.

It began running in circles on the stone ring around the pool, barking insanely with drool flying everywhere. Round and around it ran, time and again, making sure I couldn't get out while at the same time trying to attract attention. It was smart, that poodle - it boxed me in nicely and sensed I was terrified out of my wits.

In its frenzy it lost the bow on its head, and the constant running on the stones cut its paws open. By the time the owner came to see what the fuss was about there was a blood trail right around the pool, a dishevelled poodle that was filthy and missing its bow, and a pool with one small boy in it and a whole pile of poo.

I, naturally, was to blame, and the monster was carted off for foot repairs to the accompanying glances of disapproval. The way I was looked at was as if I'd personally taken a razor to the dog's feet and it was pointless trying to explain - I was South African, and a true example of my Aryan race.

We left shortly after that, as the stones were being cleansed of the blood of my victim.

I've never gone back to Massachusetts.

All Smoked Out,
Luke Tagg
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