Maine Through the Eyes of a Wheaten

Mary and I are taking care of a dog, actually two dogs. Ours, and our friends’ who live down the street. We like to say Lola’s got a boyfriend. She had two, but one died, suddenly, of a heart attack while hanging out with Lola if you can believe it. I kid you not. Was Gulliver jealous of Juno, or did Gully’s heart simply fail after burning red hot during his all too short life? All three dogs Wheaten Terriers, which I’d never heard of until Mary did some research on dogs who don’t shed or make her sneeze.

We’re here in Maine with Lola and Juno because our friends’ now teenage girls fell in love with Lola ten years ago when we first moved into Brookline with our Soft Coated Wheaten. Yes, that’s a real breed name. We’d be walking Lola around the neighborhood, and people would stop to pet her.

“She’s so cute,” they’d say. “What kind of dog?”

For the most part, no one’s heard of a Wheaten.

“Is she a Doodle?” they’d ask, which makes Mary a little crazy.

“I’m not much of a fan of Doodles,” Mary says. “They’re dopey. Only Golden’s are worse.” We both remember reading the story about the guy who created the first Doodle. His piece an apology for creating the breed, if you can even call it that.

“I opened a Pandora box and released a Frankenstein monster,” said Wally Conron in a Times piece. The pet originally intended as a guide dog, not a fashion accessory.

“I bred the labradoodle for a blind lady whose husband was allergic to dog hair,” Mr. Conron said. The idea went viral the way TikTok videos do.

Lola’s no Doodle, and so popular with our friend’s daughters that one day they all show-up with a pillowcase and ask to rub it all over Lola.

“Sure, but why?”

“Our dad’s going to see if he can live with the breed, or if he’s allergic,” the obvious answer. Obvious to them, but not me since Lola had already spent some time with these girls, which had gone well. No sneezing. Lots of loving. But sleeping on a pillow rubbed in Lola would leave no doubt. Seven years later, here we are with two Wheatens romping in and out of the cold waters of Christmas Cove, Maine.

These two are city dogs, which makes their love affair on the coast of Maine a hoot. When at home in Brookline, both families walk them on tight leash. Sure, there’s the occasional run in the park. But for the most part, Lola and Juno don’t get out much, so when we make the turn down onto route 129 in Damariscotta Maine, and crack open the windows, their noses take over. Wheatens don’t see all that well due to the way groomers leave them shaggy. I surmise they depend on sense of smell more than other breeds. And let’s not forget—they are terriers, which means they root in the dirt to sniff-out rodents.

“Don’t open it too much,” Mary says of the van’s rear window. “He’ll jump out.” Not far from the truth with Juno, who at seven still behaves like he’s two.

“Juno, no!” I shout more than once while keeping one hand on the wheel. “Down!” as he lunges to get out of the van after another dog he’s spotted out the window and across the street.

We love having Juno, like you might love having a nephew or niece visit from out of town. His spirit looms large, and the constant threat of him literally eating Lola’s lunch keeps her well-fed.

“You’d better eat it now,” Mary says to Lola, now thirteen and used to just leaving food in her bowl until she’s good and ready. We’ve turned strategic when feeding them—create a bit of a competitive feeding frenzy to keep nutrition high. I should record their stereophonic snuffling.

“Lola comes alive when Juno’s around,” I say to Mary. And so do we. “She seems done fighting with him.” Which is true. Less of Lola nipping at Juno in jealous and protective fits of dominance, more acceptance of his unbound energy.

We adore having two dogs in Maine — see the place through the shaggy mane of Lola’s suitor.

“This place is dog heaven,” we all but hear him say. We agree.

Maybe he’ll finally ask her on a date. “Wanna’ go for a swim?” he’d bark. “How about a sniff in the woods?” Simple doggy pleasures remind us our our own.

Lola’s come around over the years, and now loves Juno as her best friend. They born to be a pair. We grateful to host their love.

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Steve Mooney

Steve Mooney

Writer, photographer, wannabe musician.