First appeared in
The Multi-colored Poodle Club of America
June 2009 Newsletter
Theme: "Summer Activities with Poodles"

By: Charlene Dunlap

Blue skies, green woods, sultry air . . . it’s a typical summer day in North Carolina. With 16 hours of light, the days seem endless. I, personally, would gladly hibernate in air-conditioned comfort throughout the entire summer. However, as a good Poodle mom, I know that my two Standard Poodles Jyah and Sydney need to be outside for a period of time each day. Vitamin D, you know.

Although I dislike summer heat, there is one outdoor summer activity that I enjoy on a daily basis – riding in the Mule. The Poodles and I love tooling along through the woods, feeling the breeze on our faces, listening to the birds singing, smelling the pine needles, seeing deer, squirrels, and tortoises. We have all the benefits of an outdoor walk without ever breaking into a sweat or acquiring tick passengers.

Several years ago, my husband Glenn bought me a Kawasaki Mule, a small farm vehicle. I had wanted something to ride around our property in which would also carry the dogs. The Mule is about the size of a golf cart with the addition of a 3’ X 3’ dump bed, a space large enough for three Standard Poodles to fit in quite nicely. (I’m sure this means we should get a third Standard Poodle.)

In the 200 wooded acres behind our house, Glenn made several roads that are laid out in big, meandering loops. It takes about 25 minutes to drive over all of the roads. In autumn and winter, we and the dogs spend a lot of time out in the woods walking on these roads. However, summer humidity brings out so many ticks that I’m surprised we don’t come across deer carcasses drained of all their blood. This time of year, these woods are no place for a dog or human on foot! Riding in the Mule gives us our own safe traveling place . . . . sort of like the bubble which guards the Pope in the Pope-mobile.

One of the benefits of the Poodles riding in the back of the Mule is that they have acquired great balancing skills. The Mule lurches and wobbles over bumpy roads as we careen around trees, go blithely up and down hills, and splash through puddles made by rain.

They learn about nature too. The other day on our trip, we found a box turtle bathing in a puddle in the middle of the road. Upon seeing a large green monster bearing down on him, the turtle was understandably startled. I’m sure he had no idea what would happen next; that he would be unceremoniously hoisted up an incredible height to be examined by three very strange looking creatures. As always when we come across a turtle, I picked him up to show Jyah and Sydney. The Poodles think male turtles are the most fun because they thrash their necks from side to side and flail their limbs in a running fashion as if they think they can walk away while hanging in mid-air. The females immediately lock themselves inside their shells and won’t come out until the ordeal is over – I can only imagine what nightmares the sight of our leering faces must give them.  

How does one tell male and female turtles apart, you ask?  The females have dark-brown, soft eyes; the males have bright orange-brown, rather fierce-looking eyes.

We saw our resident herd of deer today – we call them the "Girls’ Club" as members are made up of does. They usually stand quietly browsing as we pass by. (Our putting corn and watermelon rinds out for them may have something to do with this.) Sometimes they see us and turn and flee as if their lives depended on it. I’ve never figured out what we do different to cause this reaction.

Each time we return from a Mule ride, I’m always in a lighter mood. Because of the Poodles, I enjoy summer much more than I would otherwise. Poodles, as we all know, are very good for a person’s well-being.

This female box turtle is about half-grown.