Leia is ruffly 30 pounds of Australian Miniature Shepherd and a welcomed guest in the Stiebel household. (Photo courtesy of Rick Stiebel)

Rickter Scale: Brushing off a royal visitor

The Rickter Scale is a regular column

The bride and I are humbled to share intimate details regarding our recent visit with royalty during the holidays.

Although we have been honoured with Princess Leia’s presence for a couple of nights at a time in the past, the week between Christmas and the first days of January marked her Royal Highness’s first extended stay.

Named after the princess of Star Wars, Leia is ruffly 30 pounds of Australian Miniature Shepherd, coloured in shades of cinnamon and caramel, with contrasting patches as white and fluffy as the towels stacked on a shelf in the bathroom of a five-star hotel.

Unfortunately, parts of the visit were spoiled by the rain that pounded the Island relentlessly during the holiday season, and because the bride was plagued by a nasty cold that kicked the snot out of our Kleenex budget. We did manage to squeeze in a few sessions for Leia to fetch the red rubber ball she never tires of retrieving, but much of the visit found the three of us parked on the couch watching TV, Leia sprawled with one paw across Joan’s leg to prevent any interruption in the cuddling continuum. Those sessions only ceased when she heard the fridge open or the rustle of the bag of Snausage treats, for which she would perform her routine of physical feats with an impatience approaching warp speed.

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The feelings evoked by Leia whines when Joan left to consult with the pharmacist reinforced the notion that dogs indeed do have hearts that can be broken. The way Leia reacted upon the bride’s return was something to behold, her bum wriggling and wiggling so enthusiastically that her front legs slipped and slid across the floor.

If you’re thinking this column is just another “OK, so he likes the dog, I get it, enough, already,” stay tuned while I return to the topic of the television.

I have consulted with numerous owners of canines, and can assure you none of them have observed Leia’s particular quirk exhibited by their pooch.

Even when she’s dozing off, Leia reacts instantly to the sight or sound of any two or four-legged critter that appears upon our screen. That includes the little green lizard featured in Geico commercials and especially the bear that pokes his head through a kitchen window to pitch a brand of cough syrup. What begins with a deep ominous growl turns into yips and yaps faster than you can change the channel. She also becomes completely catatonic at the first glimpse of a feline, including cats in cartoons, forgoing the growl to launch into fits of barking that leave you amazed at how a dog that size can sound so ferocious.

I started mourning her departure the moment Joan took her home to her Mama, Rosie, a former workmate who has blessed us by adding our names to the list of babysitters eager to host the queen of whatever household she graces. Although I have loved dogs since Oscar the German Shepherd would wander over to our backyard when I was young, I now fully understand first-hand why they become such cherished members of so many families.

Rick Stiebel is a semi-retired local journalist.

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