By Guest Blogger Renee Skudra

My dog Jackson, a Bichon Frise, watched me one day as he reclined comfortably on a velvet blanket that cost a small fortune. He is a study in canine beauty. All white fluffiness shaped into the breed standard by a careful and all-knowing groomer who reminds me regularly that “he takes at least six hours to make him look right.”

If you know anything about the Bichon Frise, you’ll know this: he or she is a Diva Dog whose double-coat must be brushed daily. You must be willing to make an investiture of time once you commit to owning this breed. It’s a labor of love you undertake so your pet is a representation, not only of his type, but of his very best self. A dog like this is a significant investment not only of time but of money too. Your dog will undergo once or twice-monthly baths, groomings, flea/tick and heart medications. Don’t forget the special diets of organic beef bone broth and liver treats! There are also “props” that make Jackson a stand-out dog. These include faux-diamond collar and leash, trendy pet clothes, toys and accessories which announce that he is canine royalty.

I love this dog beyond all reason. He was my anchor in a never-ending anxiety storm. He sat by my side when the power went out in my home, soft as a cloud yielding to the angst of any moment. Jackson was supreme in the apparent confidence that this too shall pass. While I was shedding tears of no-work-related anguish, his amber-colored eyes regarded me with what can only be characterized as equanimity.

A funny thought, spurred by a friend’s casual comment, suddenly resurfaces. “Your dog looks better than you do!”

It is true that I have not been to the beauty salon or had my nails done since February 2020. I wince in the acuity of this observation. While I have gone without, that cannot be said of my Bichon Frise.

I have taken virtually no pains with my appearance. As such, I am happy with simply wearing a pair of jeans purchased many years ago and my trademark black turtleneck sweater, a Target sale item.  No one has fussed over my hair, massaging it with specialty shampoos and concoctions and blowing it expertly out. Truth be told, I yearn for someone to fuss over me. I miss the inordinate amounts of attention to get me into a regal and glamorous shape. And while my fur baby has pet insurance, I have limited (instead of plenary) insurance myself.

Admittingly, I enjoy all the compliments about “your beautiful dog” and how passers-by cluster around him at our neighborhood park. The bi-monthly visits to the groomer are worth the exhilaration. I admire his geometrically perfect halo of white glistening hair and perfectly white combed out (but still curley) coat. His amber-colored eyes are the same beautiful hue as that precious stone in an antique ring bequeathed me by my Latvian in-laws.

I’m proud of my Bichon who ineluctably elicits audible sounds of visceral pleasure from the onlookers. He equally enjoys the occasional “Is he for sale? I would pay a very good price!”

Jackson knows he is beautiful. He is a centrifugal force of inspiring compliments. Jackson walks on the grass just as a show dog might confidently traverse the contest ring. His gait measured and precise. Elegant head held high. If you have been around Bichons, then you are familiar with their undeniable charm and sense of humor. I wish I had half as much composure. Nothing can sully his day. Not a thunderclap or a yapping dog can undermine Jackson’s poise.

He knows he is doggy royalty. All the pomp and ceremony is deserved.  He patiently endures the daily ritual of combing his hair with a fine-tooth steel comb. He loves touch-ups on his groomings. All this for the awe-inspiring impact that he never fails to make.

As for me, I am giving some thought (now that I’m fully vaccinated) to getting my own hair done and buying some new clothes.  That doesn’t mean, however, that I will forfeit the pricey regimens that my pooch is accustomed to. His groomer is a diva too. If she suggests I am not maintaining my Bichon Frise exactly as he should be makes me shake in my purchased-at-a-yardsale cowboy boots. The two of them are a package deal. She’s a critical part of the taking-care-of-the-dog infrastructure. I tolerate her criticisms because she is part and parcel of making him shine just as his breed demands that he does.

I recently laughed out loud at a bumper sticker on an old dented Honda. It read, “My dog is in charge.” How well I know the truth of that sentiment. I can live with the quip that Jackson looks better than I do.  As soon as I find another job, I will work on that scenario.

*This article also appeared in Forsyth Family magazine

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