Several years ago, when her children were little, Carol Lauren-Schmidt attended a youth soccer game. During a brief moment when the riveting match failed to capture her utter attention, Carol noticed she was being watched.
This watcher’s face was about 50 percent ears, with silky hair dangling from them like Spanish moss. He had foxy brown eyes, a dainty white snoot, and two delicate legs protruding from the proud burst of fuzz on his chest.
“Cute dog,” Carol thought, and then resumed cheering for children bumbling around after a soccer ball.
When her children had grown and her nest had emptied Carol decided to get a dog. Her ideal dog would be smart as a whip, a natural born ribbon winner at competitions, yet also compact enough for convenient transport back and forth from her family farm in Wisconsin. As luck would have it Carol happened across a breeder’s flyer advertising precisely such a dog: the papillon, the same as the imp with which she had locked eyes.
Thus came Casanova.
“Casanova is what is known as a ‘confirmation dog,'” said Carol. “He fits all of the American Kennel Club’s standards for the papillon breed, and he’s smart enough to excel at any event he tries. His eager disposition also made him the perfect ‘pap’ for a first-time trainer.
“It usually takes Cas only three or four tries to learn a new trick. ‘Sit’ and ‘stay’ were nothing for him. In no time at all I had taught Cas to bring me a tissue whenever I sneeze, and to put his head down reverentially like he’s saying his prayers. Even though he doesn’t like the water, Cas was happy to try dock diving for me. He is small, but he can jump two feet up into the air!
“A pap is so smart that you might not know what to expect of them. I trained Cas to pick up litter when we’re going for walks. If he brings me a candy bar wrapper or something like that, I give him a treat. Well, one day at home he brought me a wad of paper. A deal’s a deal, so I gave him a treat. A little later he brought me another piece of paper for another treat. At this point I grew suspicious – it’s not like people are throwing their litter inside my house. So I spied on Cas, only to catch him retrieving the same wad of paper out of the wastepaper basket to earn yet another treat.
“Like a good pap should be, Cas is never shy or frightened. His outgoing personality has made him a great therapy dog. We often join the golden retrievers who make the rounds at children’s hospitals, and the kids always ask for Cas by name. When they’re hugging a bright, happy pap, those are just a few minutes when they don’t have to feel pain.
“We visit a lot of nursing homes as well. The residents are delighted by Cas’s tricks, especially the one where he retrieves a quarter thrown across the room. One time he pranced up to an old lady, who seemed to snap out of a trance when she saw him. ‘Oh, what a pretty kitty,’ she said to my dog. ‘What a pretty kitty.’ An aid later told me that was the first time she had spoken in two years.
“About six months after I got Cas, I got Bella – my little princess. People often ask me the difference between boy paps and girl paps. I tell them this is how it works: When Cas wakes me up in the morning, he does it with butterfly kisses. This is appropriate, because ‘papillon’ is French for ‘butterfly.’ But when Bella wants to wake me, she lies on my chest and waps me on the nose with her paw. Either way I never have to set my alarm clock.”
Carol’s coterie of paps kept growing. Soon she got the rascally Dickens, whose spaniel instincts lead him on tireless (yet fruitless) rat searches around her barn, the adorable Blaise who won the AKC’s coveted “Best in Show: Puppy” title, and Valentino, whose list of distinctions and achievements wouldn’t fit in this magazine.
Carol’s paps are mostly interested in competing for accolades at dog shows and tests of canine athleticism. Their ribbons, if laid end to end, would stretch from St. Paul to Bemidji. Carol’s three generations of AKC Grand Champions also love one another very much, which means tiny puppies often manifest themselves at CasaBella Papillons.
If you would like to learn more about CasaBella Papillons and see when pap pups will become available for sale, please visit casabellapapillons.com.
By David Scheller