Such was my sweet Iris – the foundation of Always Bouviers.
When she came to me, Dutch was a mature dignified three-year-old and Lizzie – my rescue – was middle aged and still shy. Their lives changed dramatically that day, as did mine. I like to think that both of them eventually forgave me for upsetting the status quo.
From the beginning, she was the center of the household. Energetic, bossy and enthusiastic, she had a huge love of life that she was never hesitant to express. Training Dutch and Lizzie had been relatively easy. They were, for the most part, compliant dogs. Demanding and powerful, Iris taught me that patience, humility and humor MUST be a part of training a Bouvier. I have said many times that she had the potential to be that dog that is returned to the breeder or taken to a shelter. She was a major alpha bitch. Almost daily, even near the end, she would look me in the eye and the question I saw there was “Are you up to being the alpha bitch today or is it my turn to run things?” I felt that if I ever got lazy and let down, she would take over in a second. She ruled the other dogs with an “iron paw”. Her intentions were always clear—no mixed signals. Do it her way and life would continue harmoniously. Step out of line and suffer the consequences. All dogs entering the house were forced to submit, especially her pups that would come back to visit or for grooming. She was not a dog that could be turned loose at the dog park!
Chow Hound didn’t come close to describing Iris. At a St. Louis specialty, she broke into a big Rubbermaid tote and ate so much food I thought she was going to bloat. That was a sleepless night for us both. She would eat most anything – she had adventurous taste. All flavors of leather, anything that even sat next to food on a shelf could possibly be edible, by her standards. I think she would have “baited” for a rock rubbed with Crisco! I finally asked my Italian friend to give up bringing me nice leather gloves, wallets and other “delectables” as Iris always seemed to be the final recipient. She once ate a package of cracked black pepper fettuccine (yes, uncooked) leaving slobber laden pieces all over the carpet. It stuck to the carpet like cement and wouldn’t come up with the vacuum, meaning I had to pry off dozens of little pieces with a knife.
Iris was a tough competitor earning eight AKC titles as well as many other awards. She did well in obedience, earning her CD with three out of four qualifying scores. Agility left too many avenues for her to do her own thing so there were many DQ’s, though even those were entertaining for the audience. She was so reactive that often just the flick of my eyes to the next obstacle would be seen by her and off she would go. She earned four agility titles. Herding was a war of wills. She actually had enough respect for me to earn her PT in one weekend. Iris was one of six littermates to earn her championship. And what a producer she was. With just two litters, eleven pups in total, her get have earned 32 titles to date with four of her kids still working! But she set the bar high. Iris earned her final AKC title – Rally Novice – in just three tries. The amazing fact was that she turned 12 on the day she earned the final leg to the title! What a birthday!
At over fourteen and a half years old, she still held court. None of the bitches that lived under her paw dared look at her food dish, old and frail as she was at the end. Not one of them ever thought of challenging her. She could hold a dog with her stare even then. What a tough old gal she was! For all of her accomplishments, Iris was, above all, my companion, guardian and my dearest friend. She was always Queen Bitch of my life, exemplifying all the most desirable (and undesirable) traits that make a Bouvier a Bouvier.
To this day, the Greeks plant iris on women’s graves, believing that the Goddess Iris would guide the souls of the women to their last resting-place. To me, it is a comforting thought.