Since moving to West Bend a few years ago, I find myself often visiting Sweet Creations, a bakery that reminds me very much of the one small bakery in my old hometown, a town I often refer to as Smalltown.
Sitting inside near the east wall, on a simple bench, I read the latest edition of “Around the Bend,” your publisher’s take on the county she lives in.
What I need is a cake donut and a steaming cup of French Vanilla java. The combination will lighten my day. The friendly chap behind the cash register exchanges one donut and one java, medium size, for my loose change. Would that I could have one of each of the myriad choices in the glass case, but no, one donut and one java are just right at this moment. I should add that I ordered my Thanksgiving pies from the bakery..sweet. Sweet. I also love their loaves of Grandma’s Bread.
But hold on..who is headed in the door and toward the east wall where they halt and make themselves comfortable. A great big black standard poodle leading a lovely woman wearing a red jacket and sitting in a wheelchair. I’m instantly taken back to the 60s and memories of my great black poodle, not a big standard, but one step down to the regular size. His name was Licorice and he was a fabulous family pet. Believe it..he often joined our cat to eat out of a communal bowl.
The poodle snuggled under the table (I can feel his warmth near my feet) is aptly named Gambler, perhaps for a pooch known for taking chances? His keeper will tell you what a grand friend he is, someone to count on; a loyal friend, a true friend, a friend to the end. He is quite the stylish pooch too, with a spunky top knot clip and a show-dog attitude, and hear tell that he’s a regular at the Pooch Palace that is soon to open a new space two doors north of Sweet Creations. He sure is a walking billboard for perfection. His lady friend says that even though Gambler is a male, she does allow him to have glitter sprinkled on his top knot. Tres chic. But after all, Gambler is a French Poodle, and well you know how the French are about styling.
He’s been with his lady friend for six years, but she tells me that the dogs choose who they want to help. It’s not like most folks think. No, she did not shop for a dog, and after much consideration and training, the dog selected her as a partner. Sweet. You might think he’s one tough cookie, having been trained in California at Chino Womens’ Prison. No Gambler is sweet as if he was created at Sweet Creations. The bakery should create a cake shaped like Gambler.
Gambler is quiet and doesn’t beg for a piece of my cake donut. He has his own treats that his friend carries in her pocket. I know this because when his friend was getting ready to pay for her own sweet, she dropped a dollar bill. Gamble picked it up and returned it to her keeping. Gamble got a treat.
He attends church on Sundays too, and his styling sometimes reflects the seasonal changes, such as orange glitter or what not for the top not in the Fall. We are in our winter mode today so Gambler is embellished with blue. When he goes home with his lady, she removes his vest and gives him a release command and he’s free to play or rest or roam just like a regular dog. Did I mention he can fetch things if they are placed on a bottom shelf? One could say he is a regular dog with amazing qualities.
His dusting of glitter is an embellishment his lady friend refers to as fairy dust, and kids often ask her, “Can Gambler fly after a dusting of fairy dust?” Like Dumbo in the Disney movie, if he flaps his big ears, will Gambler become airborne? No, but he does fly around the country with his lady friend, airborne and tucked under a seat, or perhaps in a seat.
He is big. Big and sweet. The daring duo advocate for persons with disabilities. What a pair! It’s hard to believe, but sometimes when they are waiting for a bus, people mistake Gambler for a stuffed animal, because he is so calm and quiet. He has undergone intense training to make him perfection for public space His lady friend says it is actually a felony to interrupt a service dog when it is responding to specific commands. So if you encounter Gambler and his lady at Wal-Mart and she is giving him a command, do not interrupt.
The lady on the other end of his harness leash says Gambler has a big heart and it doesn’t matter if you are thin or fat or in between, tall or short or in between. If you perchance have a disability, Gambler can be of service. He opens and shuts doors, turns light switches on and off, and for this particular lady friend (who is also diabetic), he rouses her at night if her blood sugar fluctuates too much. He’s amazing. I am not easily amazed. He’s a dream dog. And he’s real.