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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Missing My Sous-Chef

I used to work with an amazing sous-chef every time I went into my kitchen. For over twelve years, an eight-and-a-half pound poodle named Paris assisted me every time I cooked or did other kitchen chores. She left our lives on August 27, 2012, but we still laugh and cry and love and remember her every day.

I feel that it is important at this moment to tell you that I never wanted a poodle. I thought that they were silly dogs that just sat around being pampered and given puffball haircuts. Boy, was I ever wrong! When we decided that we wanted a puppy, we saw an enclosure containing four male miniature Schnauzer pups, and one with four female toy Poodles. We weren't too keen on getting a male since we wanted to litter box train, but we picked up one of the Schnauzer pups and put him on the floor. He immediately began humping Trent's shoe, so we put him back with his brothers. The poodles were all curled up asleep, three on the bottom, and our little girl sleeping on top of the others. And this desire to be "on top of things" lasted her whole life. I picked her up and she immediately cuddled up by my neck. My heart melted. I was smitten. Trent said he thought she was too mellow, but changed his mind when we put her on the floor. She saw a piece of paper and ran and attacked it. We knew we had found our baby.

So we took home this lovely two-pound puppy, and she quickly became one of the most important creatures in our lives. When I woke up in the night to go to the bathroom, I woke her and put her in her litter box. She was trained in very short order that the box was her potty. She sometimes got shy - if Trent was in the bathroom when she went in, she'd get this look that said, "Never mind, I can do this later." I think it took her about two seconds to learn that the kitchen was where delicious magic happened. She always had a bowl of kibble available, but we sometimes gave her canned food as well. We'd be just sitting around, and hear her "talking" in the kitchen. We'd find her there, her front legs down on the floor, and her head laid sideways on them. Her tail would be wagging as she asked the refrigerator to please give her some food. Who can resist such an adorable display? Not us!

Paris also loved to watch me when I went into the kitchen to cook. She was a big fan of her Mommy's cooking, so she liked to be right there to see what delectable dishes I was creating. In our last apartment, the setup was perfect for her. We placed an extra dining chair in a corner where the sink was directly next to her on one side, and the stove on the other. She was smart enough to never attempt to get on the stove, so there were no worries about her getting hurt. As my sous-chef, she knew that not only was something good coming, but that she might be invited to taste some of the ingredients. She never refused to quality-test a bit of hamburger or a bite of stew meat or steak. And she loved it when I made chicken in any form; it truly was one of her favorites. When I would cook a whole chicken into soup, she was ecstatic. I would get a small pot to cook the giblets and neck with some vegetables and rice. When I put them in the pot, I would show it to her. I'd tell her, "This is for you, Paris! This is your chicken stew!" Sometimes the excitement was too much for her, and she would have to avoid the kitchen to avoid losing her mind. But when the soup was done, and some of the meat added to her stew, she ate her chicken stew with gusto. And then offered to help us finish our soup. All I had to do to create a frenzy of excitement was to say the two words "chicken stew."

The kitchen in this apartment is set up differently than our last, so sitting on a chair didn't give her all of the views she would have liked. Instead, she sat on the dining-room carpet, just outside the kitchen entrance, where she had a good panoramic view of anything that happened in the kitchen. From time to time, she couldn't contain herself any longer, and came into the kitchen, lightly putting her front paws on my leg. "Do you want to see?' I'd ask. She'd give a cute sneeze of assent and I would pick her up in one arm and remove the lid, if necessary, with my other hand. She would wait for me to waft the steam forward, and sniff deeply of whatever was cooking. "Does it smell good, Paris?" Believe it or not, she seemed to give it a "licks rating." If she licked her chops two or three times in response to the question, she thought it smelled heavenly! And her tastes were not indiscriminate. Any time she was offered something new, she'd take a tiny bite, examine it, and taste it to see if she really wanted to eat it.

I miss having Paris in my kitchen. When I am making chicken, Trent or I will say, "Not till later, Paris!" If I am portioning hamburger into smaller amounts for freezing, I can almost feel her staring at me, getting ready to ask for a taste. And if I drop something on the floor, it's no longer accidentally-on-purpose, it's just an accident. And I will have to pick it up myself. Talking like she is still around doesn't mean we have lost our minds. We lost out heart to this precious little dog. These moments are our way of celebrating our life with her and our love for her, and expressing how much we miss the sous-chef.

Paris surveys the Thanksgiving 2011 feast she helped prepare.