By Gerry Wendel, Groovy Reflections Founder and Team Member
The photo was small, but it was easy to see that the little dog had personality. I noted the price and the phone number, with full intention to call later that day. I was in the borough hall of my home town, located in an early 1900’s structure that housed the police department, borough clerk, courts, and post office. We didn’t have house numbers. We didn’t have mail delivery. Folks enjoyed coming to pick up their mail and running into neighbors, enemies, and perhaps a famous person or two. The borough hall was a place to pick up your mail and a little gossip.
In the main hallway was a very large bulletin board. If you wanted the latest happenings, baby clothes for sale or bake sales, here was the place to look. And that’s where I saw the photo for a mini-poodle for sale.
Got home. Called the number. Spoke to a woman on the other end. Strangely, she said, “Oh, you have to make an appointment”. An appointment? To see a dog? I played along; we decided on Friday at 3PM. Then she described where she was located, no house numbers, remember? I almost gasped out loud. It was the former Diffleburg* home, set back from the road a ways, at the western edge of town. But rumor had it that it was the current home of Stevie Wonder. How could this be?
I couldn’t wait for Friday. My curiosity was killing me.
Finally, the big day. I drove down the main street of town, down the hill about two miles. Made a right at the light. A minute later, there I was. Pulled up the to the gate. There was an intercom and a small plaque that read “Morris”. A soft voice said “Yes, what would you like?”. And I said “I’m here to see the dog.” The gates slowly swung open, and I drove my not-very-fancy Chevy Nova up the driveway and parked in front of the garage.
I could see part of the backyard, where two (or maybe three?) young children were playing. There were swings, a sandbox, a jungle gym, a slide and pretty much anything that a kid would want or need. Two mini-poodles were on chains, far away from each other.
One was white, the other a light brown color.
A woman stepped out of a side door of the house and introduced herself. She was a nanny or housekeeper; honestly, I don't remember! She brought me over to the white poodle, and told me that the dog’s name was Champagne. “Champagne fights with Café all the time.” She then told me. “The two dogs just don’t get along”. Champagne? What kind a name is that for a dog? Oh, I get it. Poodle. French. Sparkling wine. Great.
I spent a few minutes petting Champagne and scratching behind his ear. He was bright-eyed, bursting with energy, and thoughtfully licked my hand. That’s it. I was in love. Where had you been the first year of your life, little Champagne?
We then moved into the house, into a huge kitchen with a black and white checkered tile floor. Nice. Of course the whole time I’m thinking, where’s Stevie? Unfortunately, he was not going to make an appearance on my part, but what’s wrong with being hopeful?
The conversation continued. One of the more memorable statements I recall was when I was informed “If that dog don’t eat, you just feed him chicken”. Sigh. This is a characteristic that I’ve noticed ALL dogs have. And me, being of solid mind but lacking pockets bursting with wealth, started haggling on price. Score! Asking price, $100. Final price, $85 and a big, big bag of Purina Dog Chow.
And so that pretty little poodle went home with me. For a day or so, as we bonded, I struggled with that name, Champagne. Couldn’t find a decent nickname, Pagny? Champy? Pane? Finally, it dawned on me. In fact I was patting myself on the back for coming up with such a clever solution. When my Dad came home that evening, I excitedly told him that the dog’s name was now Stevie. Stevie the Wonder Dog.
Stevie was with me for over 16 years, through thick and thin. I always wondered if the more famous Stevie petted him often, or if that little poodle curled up by his feet. Suppose I could write a fictional piece about that, can’t I?
For the record, the real Stevie Wonder lived in my town only for about two years. During that time, while I was coming home at 5 in the morning from somewhere, I did see his limo making a turn into his street, no doubt returning from some activity in nearby New York City. That’s the closest I’ve ever come to seeing him. I read somewhere that he still owns the house, and his ex-wife (or girlfriend) still lives there.
* Name has been changed.
Note: Photo is Stevie the Wonder Dog at about age 6.