1. Opinion

Pudsey envy: My dogs have talents, too

Pudsey and Ashleigh Butler performed a two-minute routine to the Mission Impossible theme to win Britain’s Got Talent. So far, the Ruth dogs have earned only the ability to charm their keepers.
Pudsey and Ashleigh Butler performed a two-minute routine to the Mission Impossible theme to win Britain’s Got Talent. So far, the Ruth dogs have earned only the ability to charm their keepers.
Published May 17, 2012

Who knew we had been going about this all wrong?

A few days ago on Britain's Got Talent, Pudsey, a 6-year-old border collie/bichon frise/Chinese crested hound, walked (or perhaps danced is a better word) off with the show's grand prize of $800,000. Millions of dollars more await the dog in appearance fees and endorsements. Arthur Murray Dance Studios maybe?

This is depressing. For years, we've tried to teach our goldendoodle, Gracie, to make a perfectly dry martini. Alas, the exercise has been a complete failure. She keeps using too much vermouth. Perhaps it's the French poodle in her bloodlines.

To win the hearts of the judges, Pudsey and his owner, 17-year-old Ashleigh Butler, performed a two-minute choreographed routine to the Mission Impossible theme. Pudsey leapt. Pudsey spun. Pudsey danced forward on his hind legs. Pudsey danced backward on his hind legs. Pudsey twirled. Pudsey did Ms. Butler's taxes. Pudsey mauled Rupert Murdoch. Pudsey had an affair with one of the queen's pugs.

It was, in short, quite a performance. Imagine if you had been a classically trained opera singer who had just delivered the performance of your life with a rendition of Nessun Dorma from Turandot, only to lose to a contestant who drinks out of a toilet. That's show business for you.

Or put another way, Pudsey made Uggie, the renowned thespian Jack Russell terrier from The Artist, look like roadkill. Uggie recently signed a book deal. Pudsey will probably be the next panting Shakespeare, penning The Merchant of the Westminster Kennel Club.

Okay. Guilty. Guilty as charged with Pudsey envy.

It's not that Gracie, along with her companion, the 15 1/2-year-old golden retriever Lizzie (it's a canine civil union), aren't without their own unique skill sets.

Sure, perhaps Gracie and Lizzie aren't exactly the Bob Fosse of Fidos.

But surely the Bombshell of the Balkans and I ought to be able to figure out a way to exploit their gifts for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

For example, Lizzie has pretty much turned sleeping 30 hours a day into an art form, with brief breaks during which she begs for food with the baleful-eyed elan of a Dickens urchin.

There was a time when Lizzie actually retrieved and still does on occasion, although to be fair I have to admit she would come back with the tennis ball in her mouth, but refuse to give it up. I suppose she figured since she went to all the trouble to go get the cockamamy toy, why should she surrender it? And really now, who can argue with that logic?

Gracie has tried retrieving, too, but has a tendency to overshoot the target and crash into the furniture.

But simply because one has all the tortured sense of timing of John Edwards doesn't mean you are a bad dog. I'll see Pudsey's fancy footwork and raise him a beast with the courage of a thousand lemmings.

For an animal who cringes and heads for the nearest closet at the first clap of thunder (if Lizzie isn't already in there first), Gracie at least puts on a good guard dog game staring out the window to viciously bark at falling leaves.

You can never be too secure.

There is at least one arcane talent Gracie has that would put the showoff Pudsey to shame. She talks — sort of.

When the doodle gets excited, which can take as little as mentioning the word "cookie," Gracie leaps and jumps and lets out a long, rumbling, playful growl. Think of this as Gabby Hayes with a tail.

It could be learned behavior. I do the same thing whenever I hear "Dewar's."

The Gracie growl is either quite funny and entertaining, or we're simply easily amused.

But there is a problem. We can't get her to speak on cue. With our luck we would get her booked on America's Got Talent with Pudsey, and Gracie would decide to take a vow of omerta, while the British cur performed Hamlet's "To be, or not to be" soliloquy — in French.

We probably have to resign ourselves that neither Gracie nor Lizzie will ever see her name in lights. No appearance fees to show up at a Purina convention. No endorsement deals with Chewies-R-Us. No book deals to write The Squirrel That Got Away — Again and Again and …

Like athletically challenged children, we have to accept the girls for the talents they do have, like snoring and lying on their backs with their legs jutting out at odd angles.

They may not be million-dollar dogs. But they're awfully cute, and that has to be worth something.