Mainely Claire

Darlene, Claire and I are enjoying quiet, off-season days at Ocean Park, Maine. Our three-pound Yorkie is a random smile generator wherever she goes. In this photo, Darlene presents her to a couple on a bench in front of the cottage. At My Wonderful Dog in Portland yesterday, our ace trainer, Elsa, worked with Claire on several important skills, including how to wait for permission to walk through a door. Elsa said Claire at four months has reached a phase where she is more skittish. This means making sure Claire gets lots of opportunity to interact with strangers. After the training session, Darlene made sure everyone who came up to admire Claire had a chance to feed her a treat. This is to embed the idea that people = treats in her permanent memory.

Darlene is amazing in her friendliness with people who want to visit with Claire, spending all the time they want. I confess to getting irritated with how long it takes to walk a block in a city with this adorable little fur ball. I have to muzzle my temptation to respond perversely to the same old questions. “What kind is she?” “She’s a cross between a sabertooth tiger and a mouse.” “What’s her name?” “Rabies.” Etc. But mainly, it’s a delight to accompany Claire and see how much fun she distributes. I notice that even those who don’t stop will often walk by with a smile at the sight of her. When she runs on the sidewalk, she often raises both her front feet at the same time, prancing to some inner joy at her own movement. This is a good thing.

By the end of the afternoon yesterday, Claire and her handlers were all tired. After visiting my favorite Portland used bookstore, Cunningham’s on State Street, we caught the Number 8 bus back to the waterfront. Claire slept in her black bag next to Darlene, who fielded a cell phone call from her friend Tish in New Zealand. Back at the cottage, I built a fire in the fireplace, and Darlene made oatmeal cookies. Unlike our visit in August, we sleep with the windows closed against the crisp fall air. But I can still hear the muffled sound of the surf, and I sleep like an adorable puppy.

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