“Can we please, please Dad? I`m begging you, I promise I will be good for the rest of my life”. Sophie started up at her dad, her big blue eyes blinking, long dark lashes accentuating and framing her wide eyed innocence.
“How can I say no to that?” Martin looked at his wife. She raised her eyebrows and shook her head. Eight year old princess Sophie always got what she wanted.
Martin had been absentmindedly telling his wife Ann about his dog breeder friend recently having a litter of French bulldogs for sale, forgetting his eight year old daughter innocently playing with her dolls could hear every word. Martin had shown dogs for years, often having four or five show dogs at a time, his dad had before him and his dad before him. However, when his son and daughter came along within a year of each other, he didn’t have the time for all the shows and the effort it took to look after and prepare pedigree show dogs.
It had been seven years since he last had a dog, he thought back wistfully, he had enjoyed that part of his life. His parents continued to show, on a small scale now though, just two dogs both poodles but only about four shows a year. More of a social thing, like a mini break catching up with other dog lovers they had made connections with over the years and getting to visit different parts of the country.
“Okay darling, we can have a show puppy.” He added the word “Show” to let his wife know his intentions, see how the land lay. He held his breath slightly waiting for his wife to contradict him but the noise of his daughter screaming and whooping around the room drowned out any reply his wife might make.
“George, George, we are having a puppy”. She ran upstairs to tell her younger brother.
“Wait for it…” Ann laughed nudging him to look towards the stairs.
“Is it true? Is it true?” George ran down the stairs two at a time.
“Yes George we are getting a puppy.” Martin replied leaving the word “show” out this time in case he was pushing his luck.
The four weeks until the puppy was ready to be away from its mother passed slowly, very slowly, punctuated with daily questions about how much longer they had to wait until they could bring the puppy home. To try and pacify the excited children they went shopping and picked out a basket, blankets, a travel cage, dog toys and even a puppy coat (much to Martin`s disapproval).
Finally the day arrived and they drove to collect the new addition. Arriving at the house they were led into the study where a large basket with a thick, fleecy red blanket was full of wriggling fur.
“Oh look they are gorgeous!” Sophie ran to fuss them. Martin asked the technical questions about the litter and their parentage with his eye on winning in shows. He was ensured both parents were exemplary and that the puppies were really good examples of the breed. Two in particular he said seem to have all the prerequisites of future champions. His friend was about to point out the two to Martin when Sophie shouted “I want this one!” Sophie had picked one up and cradled it to her chest smothering its soft head with kisses. Martin frowned, he could see instantly that this would not be a champion, the markings were all one sided, he was small, his eyes looked squinty. He glanced at the breeder who was shaking his head “Choose another one.” he said quickly “That one is the runt of the litter”.
Martin crouched by his daughter “Look at that one.” He spoke softly and reached out for the biggest dog with the best markings. Sophie shook her head. “No daddy, I want this one”. She held onto the runt tightly.
“Sophie darling, he won’t be any good for showing. Put him down and look at the others”. Sophie’s face crinkled and she held the runt tighter turning towards her mother with tears forming in her eyes.
“Mummy I want this one, I love him”. The dog in her arms suddenly sneezed .
“Martin, let her have the one she wants”. Ann chided. Martin looked exasperated, he didn’t want a full scale tantrum and his wife was clearly on Sophie’s side.
“Okay, but let her look at them all first”. Martin had one more try he gently ushered Sophie towards the other pups saying “Look at this one, look at his cute paws”. To no avail Sophie had firmly made her mind up.
Martin begrudgingly paid his laughing friend for the puppy. “Good luck with that runt mate, he aint going to win you any prizes.” he sniggered.
“I am going to call him Beauty.” Sophie announced proudly in blissful ignorance. Martin shook his head and muttered to Ann “She is going to call the ugliest dog I have ever seen Beauty”.
“Shhhhhh” Ann scolded “She will hear you.” Sophie did hear, but she didn’t care.
Sophie and Beauty were inseparable. She patiently taught him to sit, give his paw, roll over and although his lop sided marking and squinty eyes made him an ugly looking dog, he did have a lovely temperament. Martin had got used to the idea of having him as a family pet instead of a show dog but one day Sophie had insisted “Beauty is ready for his first show now”. Martin tried to explain gently to Sophie that he wasn’t the sort of dog that would win prizes at shows but Ann had interrupted “Martin, let her give it a go, it’s not all about winning”. Martin reluctantly paid the fees and filled out the forms to enter the dog.
No one was more shocked than Martin to see the bright yellow third place rosette on Beauty as Sophie carried him proudly. “See Dad, beauty is not always on the outside, sometimes it’s about having a beautiful temperament.” Despite having being told off, Martin had never been more proud of his daughter.