Breed-Specific Consternation – A Reminiscence

This morning, the Husband gives Pam a break with a guest post.

I had seen them many times before, walking through the streets of our former neighborhood in upstate New York: a man and his wife, older, but not “elderly,” always dressed nicely but never ostentatiously, in serene and stately stride with their two large and stunning purebreds, confidently but unselfconsciously putting those refined canine profiles and incredibly long, luxuriously silky coats on display for the rest of us to admire.

Each time, it was like being transported to the Westminster Dog Show. And each time, I found the show wonderful to watch—intimidatingly so, in fact. Although neither of these lovely people had ever given me a reason to feel this way, their very self-possession somehow made the thought of initiating a “hello” while wearing anything less than a tux an impossibility for me.

Us? Intimidating? With these smiles?

Us? Intimidating? With these smiles?

I do get into my own head like that sometimes. And this habit leaves me flat-footed when the world outside sends little opportunities my way, such as on the morning the pair happened to look across the street and notice me walking Honey.

“Your golden retriever is wonderful,” the man offered.

“Thank you. And you don’t need me to tell you that your. . . alpacas are magnificent.”

Without missing a beat, the man opened a broad smile and responded, “You’re very gracious.”

I walked away feeling pleased enough with this exchange, but somehow unsatisfied with my particular part in it. And I was halfway down the next block when it came to me.

“Alpacas. . . alpacas. . . afghans.” I had, in fact, just complimented this elegant couple on their llamas. (Not that llamas couldn’t have been just as elegant, the spitting notwithstanding. . . )

And they, in turn, had deftly sidestepped an opportunity to make a well-meaning but otherwise demonstrably ill-equipped neighbor feel like the idiot he had shown himself to be.

Golden Retriever Puppy Smiling

You can throw me a football if you want,
but that won’t make me a golden receiver.

Knowing I would run into them again sometime after the embarrassment that would fuel such histrionics had abated, I decided to restrain the urge to run back right then and there and throw myself down at their feet in apology. And so I was better prepared a few weeks later when another little opportunity brought the entourage across my path.

“Good afternoon,” I offered.

“Good afternoon,” replied the man.

“You might remember me. I complimented you on your alpacas a few weeks ago.”

“Oh, yes.” His eyes lit up with recognition and perhaps a little amusement, but no contempt.

“I just wanted to let you know I think your afghans are magnificent.”

That broad smile again, and “Thank you very much.”

People who live in their own heads, such as I do, need many little opportunities to learn lessons that are perfectly obvious to anyone living in the world outside. The one I learned here is that it is OK to make mistakes—even embarrassing ones—and that the world outside does not necessarily require you to surrender your dignity as the price of setting them straight.

Oh, one other lesson, taught me by a classy-looking couple in my old neighborhood in upstate New York: Classy is as classy does.


We forgive you too.

We forgive you too.

Photo credits

Afghans: IMG_0545 via photopin (license)

Alpacas: Alpaca pair via photopin (license)

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  1. Welcome to the pet blogging community, Mike! Great story! And sweet of you to give wifey a break this morning!! Tell Pam that my girls and I say “hello!” My hubby hates computers — he lives for the television! Yuck!! — so I’ll never get him to do a guest post. But that’s okay cuz I enjoy sharing stories about my three “stinkers”.

  2. Good story and good lesson. We are hardest on ourselves, but should be easiest.

    • Mike Webster says:

      The Husband replies:
      Yes. Well, easier, anyway. (Some of my worst mistakes descend to the level of “mortal sin,” and nobody will find me writing about those here. . .) :)

  3. I can see myself doing something like that. Mike, you need to guest post more, I always enjoy your stories.

    • Mike Webster says:

      The Husband replies:
      Thank you, Mary. I would like to write more, but my ego can take only one story-worthy social disaster per year.

  4. Oh boy, that was funny! My mom is still laughing! Stuff happens!

    • Mike Webster says:

      The Husband replies:
      “Stuff,” of course, being a polite substitute for. . .

  5. Great story, Mike. Sounds just like something I would do. It’s nice to hear from others who are ‘in their head’ much of the time.

    • Mike Webster says:

      The Husband replies:

      Thank you, Martine.

      Yes, I have always been quite comfortable in the room behind the windows that are my eyes and ears. But I’ve only recently become aware of the need to get those windows open.

      Oh, and occasionally to shut the one that is my mouth. :)

  6. This made me laugh out loud. Hmmm… You and Pam may be the most introspective couple I’ve seen in print. Good thing you have dogs — and the occasional alpaca — to provide perspective!

    • Mike Webster says:

      The Husband replies:
      Pam has threatened to bring cats into our house to help me increase our perspective. But I think I’ll need a narwhal.

  7. But they DO look kind of like alpacas! It’s great to hear from you Mike. Sounds like you broke the ice with some nice neighbors in your own charming way :)

    • Mike Webster says:

      The Husband replies:

      They DO, DON’T they? I’m relieved someone else noticed.

      (Granted, the resemblance falls seriously short of the one between fraternal twins. . . )

  8. Your posts are always fun! I have to say I would have beaten myself up over a slip like that….probably to the point of losing sleep one night 😉

    • Mike Webster says:

      The Husband replies:
      Taryn, please never be so hard on yourself. Pam can attest that I am blissfully immune to losing a night’s sleep over anything. :)

  9. Haha! Good one. Actually having owned one of those black “Alpacas” once, I’m sure they were quite amused with the errant moniker. I’ve always thought ‘classy’ people stayed classy even in the midst of slip-ups which is what makes them classy in the first place. :)

  10. I love this story!! I can definitely relate to it, as I could hear myself making the same mistake, and beating myself up over it afterwards.
    I have a bad habit of trying to guess the breeds of dogs when I meet someone, and I often get it wrong. So I commend you for knowing those were afghans, even if you didn’t get the word out right! (I need to stop doing that, and just ask them what breed it is!)

  11. I always blank on the words when I run into magnificent dogs. That’s probably why I stick with the generic: “Your dogs are gorgeous!” It’s harder for me to mess that up!

    Jean from Welcome to the Menagerie

  12. Mike Webster says:

    The Husband replies:
    I have historically had a bad habit that is similar but broader in scope: faking answers to any question I haven’t mastered. If I should ever walk accidentally into an operating room and hear the anesthesiologist call me “Doctor,” heaven help the guy on the table.

  13. Hilarious! And a very good reminder that we all make mistakes, and it’s not the end of the world.

  14. That’s so funny, it sounds like something I would do, lol! Your story is a great example of how two classy men can relate to one another in a world that can sometimes be a little harsh. :)

  15. That was priceless – and you handled it so well. Doodle Dad would have played it off for the rest of his life! He would never had admitted his mistake – you did good!

  16. I’m not sure I could have stopped myself running after them OR being so gracious in ‘fixing’ the situation. Glad you are giving Pam a break, it’s good to read you Mile.

    Err…you might remember me, I typed “Mile” instead of “Mike.” :-)

    • Mike Webster says:

      The Husband replies:
      Mistakes or not, how could I ever forget you, Jodi?

  17. I think I might have avoided him the second time – only because I’m a wuss. I’m glad you got to straighten everything out – those are indeed some find alpacas.