A Tribute to Harpo, the Little Poodle who Loved to Travel
Almost everyone who met us in person during our years of traveling will remember Roscoe, our "Salt and Pepper" Schnauzer who made friends with everyone he met.
Not quite as well known to most was our Little White Poodle Harpo. She was quiet when strangers came around and let Roscoe handle the greetings. When a poodle lover would begin to pay attention to Harpo, Roscoe would talk to them. His barks essentially meant "Hey, I'm the cute one here! Pay attention to me, not the silly poodle". Inside the familiar home, Harpo would boss Roscoe, but outside she was glad to let Roscoe be the "top dog".
Harpo came into our life in August of 2003. I was recovering from a closed head trauma injury and had been working from home for months. Phyllis needed something to bring some laughter into her life while she was caring for me. I could not even sit up for more than one hour unless my head was supported.
Roscoe, our Schnuazer puppy, was a year old and becoming a coach potato. I needed a lot of rest and could not be very active. Our solution was us to get another dog to keep him on his toes. In the same pet shop where we bought Roscoe, we found a small but very active white bundle of energy and hair. At two pounds six ounces she was a pound of hair, a pound of attitude with a few ounces of dog in there somewhere.
While Roscoe's main mission in life was to please Phyllis and I, Harpo's main mission was to please Harpo, It took a lot of correction to make Harpo a livable companion. She did learn, slowly, but she did learn.
The first time Harpo was allowed in a neighbor's yard to play with a dog that was a friend on the other side of the fence, she learned a tough lesson. This much larger dog, 5 times her weight and more than twice Roscoe's weight, accidentally stepped on Harpo's tummy. Harpo yelped in pain. Roscoe went for the larger dog's throat.
Harpo had learned two lesson's. She learned she was a little dog and she never forgot it. She would never again play with another dog besides Roscoe. She also learned that fearless Roscoe, who never believed he was a small dog, would protect her with his life. Inside our home, and later our home on wheels, Harpo would bully Roscoe who was twice her weight. Outside, she would refrain from meeting another dog until Roscoe made sure everything was okay.
Before we went on the road, we lived on a lake, and often had ducks and geese land in our yard. Harpo in particular loved taking on the job of keeping these birds from making a mess in our yard. Phyllis would open the back door and send both dogs out with instructions. In a minute the yard was clear and the dogs would be back with a look that said "I love my job".
When it became apparent I would not really heal well enough to resume my work, Phyllis suggested we sell everything, and I would take early retirement, and we would become full time RVers. "If you stay until you planned to retire, it would kill you and I would be a widow with a pension. I would rather have you." We spent several months getting ready to hit the road, giving items away, selling others, and selling our house.
While preparing to go on the road, we stayed in a nearby campground and sold our house to our son. Harpo adjusted well to living in our camper. Both dogs found a lot of admirers.
We ended up working our way around the country at low paying -- and low stress -- jobs. On moving day, after we hooked up the trailer, Harpo would run to the truck, put her paws on the running bar, look back with a look that said "Can we go now?" She really was "Harpo, the Little Poodle who loved to travel.".
Harpo's car seat was in the middle of the extended cab bench seat. She would watch the road ahead of us or sleep. There was one time I was ready to throw her out of the truck. We came to a herd of bison in Custer State Park in South Dakota. There were hundreds of cows with calves. We parked and started taking pictures from our seats in the truck. Harpo, all 12 pounds of her, started barking at the near one ton bison to challenge them. Fortunately the cows with calves were pretty mellow as long as nothing was moving toward them.
Phyllis with Harpo (in her arms), Roscoe (in his protect posture) and our friend Carolyn Walters and her dog Lucy at Aranasas National Wildlife Refuge, TX in 2005.
Harpo traveled, with Roscoe and Phyllis and myself, all around the 48 contiguous states. She was with us from Florida to Maine to Michigan and California and most of the states in between. She walked the beaches of the Atlantic and Pacific, the Gulf of Mexico and the fresh water ocean called Lake Superior. She walked trails in the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains as well as the Black Hills and Sierra Nevada mountains. Any National Parks that allowed dogs had Harpo's paws on the paths. National Forests and National Monuments and Bureau of Land Management areas also had Harpo visitation.
Harpo was incredibly athletic in spite of her hips not aligning correctly. She ran fast, but could not run in a straight line. Her running path was always curved. She could jump straight up in the air and make a 360 degree turn. Yes a full circle in the air. This was her signal that she wanted to play and was always given inside. Outside, the only way to get her to play was to drop a squeek toy on the ground and step on it. Then she would bark like crazy and play, but only if no other dog was around.
Roscoe with Harpo and Phyllis in the Grand Teton Mountains. Mt. Moran is in the background. WY 2005.
Roscoe and Harpo with Phyllis and Larry in Grand Teton National Park, WY 2005. Click any picture for a larger version.
Harpo, unlike most dogs, would not overeat. She would eat slow to torment Roscoe. Roscoe would finish his food quickly and look around for more. Then Harpo would begin eating slowly, knowing we would not let Roscoe take her food while she was eating.
Harpo was eventually trained to be quite obediant. When off leash she would take off after a rabbit and stop when Phyllis or I called "STOP!!"
Harpo was the only poodle I have ever saw that shook like a Schnauzer. She learned from Roscoe.
Roscoe learned from Harpo as well. Roscoe never would fetch before we brought Harpo home. Harpo taught him to fetch..
Roscoe and Harpo with Phyllis on a covered bridge near Gorham NH 2008.
Harpo has very interesting mannerisms. She would also carry on conversations.
If she wanted to tell me she was unhappy with what I was doing, she would face me and sneeze.
If her her paw pads were hot, she would put them in her waterbowl.
She would walk through mud puddles without hesitation, but she would NOT walk through wet grass if she could possibly avoid it.
Roscoe and Harpo with Phyllis on Boca Chica Beach near the mouth of the Rio Grande, in South TX 2010.
As Roscoe's health began to fade, he was like a zombie dog on a walk. He noticed little. Harpo began to take the role of Roscoe's protector. She would meet other dogs to be sure they would not threaten Roscoe. We had to put Roscoe down just after Harpo's thirteenth birthday. She became an only dog, and people began noticing how cute she was when I walked her. She was with us until she was 18 years and 7 months.
Roscoe, Harpo and Phyllis at Bridgeport Covered Bridge in South Yuba River State Park in CA 2011.
Harpo made the move with us from a travel trailer in Texas to living with our son in a house in South Carolina.
Harpo gradually faded. When she would see a squirrel, her chase became a walk. She almost never barked. She finally just tolerating attention from people on her walks, instead of relishing attention and returning love. We will not "replace" Harpo. At our age, and with the health issues that forced us to stop traveling, a puppy is more than we can handle, and another dog is not really affordable.
We will forever treasure our travels around the USA with Roscoe the Traveling Dog and Harpo, the Little Poodle that Loved to Travel.
Harpo and Roscoe, Christmas 2012.
Harpo in South Texas (2009).
Harpo in South Texas (2009).
Harpo and Roscoe with Paul at Padre Island National Seashore (2010).
Roscoe and Harpo Beach Romp (2010).