North Coast Journal

March 1995 - TAKING NOTES


The dogs of war

by Lisa Ladd-Wilson

The great Franco-Poodle War appears to be drawing to a close, but please pardon me if I shed a tear at its passing.

For more than three years Xan and I have done battle, throwing at each other grenades of poodle statues, poodle coffee mugs and handknit poodle bottle covers. We have fired off rounds of poodles made from sea shells and dodged bombs of poodles that have swatches of rabbit fur glued to their porcelain heads.

Victory was promised to the one who found the ugliest, most appalling French poodle thing of all, but in setting down the rules of war we failed to count on two factors: (1) For every ugly, appalling poodle thing there is an even uglier, more appalling poodle thing; and, (2) the Stockholm Syndrome.

The Stockholm Syndrome describes the phenomenon of the kidnapped growing fond of the kidnapper. Its counterpart in the great Franco-Poodle War was no less insidious, as Xan and I slowly found ourselves more admiring than aghast at the pompadoured nasties being pitched our way.

World War I, most people know, started with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. The Franco-Poodle conflict began with Frederick.

A porcelain dog posed in classic obeyance of the "lie down" command, Frederick was purchased by Xan for me in Christmas of 1992.

Exceedingly pink and covered with ceramic spaghetti-like "fur," Frederick was received with absolutely no sense of foreboding, no hint of hostilities to come. Rather, we toasted his arrival with holiday drinks and marveled at his resemblance to a Chia Pet.

In hindsight, there was an omen in that gift exchange overlooked by all: the acknowledgment by both Xan and I that we generally disliked French poodle things, found them abhorrent, really, but Frederick was an exception and probably the only exception in existence, and haven't we all seen some terrible French poodle things that made our skin crawl?

So when much later I found in Eureka poodle bookends of a nauseous brown hue, I thought it would be a smile to give them to Xan. And when she later found - in Oregon - the exact same bookends but in black, she thought it would be amusing to give them to me.

And so it began. Chaotic, at first, but then rules were instituted:

The poodles should not exceed $5 in price,

Poodles seen while Xan and I were shopping together were not eligible for competition, and it was only polite to wait until fire was returned before taking aim again.

In the three years since, I have been attacked with a white poodle covered in rabbit fur whose red mouth area makes it look like it's spitting up blood; a blue poodle wearing a backpack and holding what appears to be a hardhat; and a large poodle whose handpainted face, my brother-in-law John pointed out, looks just like Joanie on "Happy Days."

But the great Franco-Poodle War has lost steam of late, and I fear it may be at an end. I do not say that I embrace war; yet I cannot say I look forward to peace.

No less a philosopher than Cicero said an unjust peace is better than a just war. But the distinguished Roman consul might have felt differently if, instead of executing him, Marc Antony merely had handed Cicero a silver chalice shaped like a poodle's head.

Lisa Ladd-Wilson, a Eureka free-lance writer, is a former reporter for the Arcata Union and the Times-Standard.

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