Molly the Woodle at the Olympic Torch Relay

After a long journey across the country, the 2010 Winter Olympic Games Torch Relay has made its way to British Columbia. On Monday, it came to our town.

I knew that I wanted to go see the flame. I’m not a huge sports fan, and I sometimes feel that the grandeur and significance of the games has been cheapened of late. Between the overwhelming presence of corporate sponsors and the scandals that fly in the face of the sportsmanship and camaraderie the games are meant to exemplify, the Olympics have begun to leave me a little cold.

And yet…there is still something about the torch relay that thrills me. I think it has something to do with the fact that ordinary people, who would never have anything to do with the Olympics otherwise, have an opportunity to carry that flame. In this day of millionaire athletes on a podium meant for amateurs, the tradition and ritual of that flame passing from hand to hand, community to community, makes me understand, if only a little bit, all the fuss over the Olympics.

And that is why Molly the Wonder Dog and I decided to go watch the flame run through town.

We’d been invited to attend the relay with some friends and their dogs. At first I hesitated and considered leaving Molly home. It’s not that she’s a bad dog; it’s just that she has a few habits that can make public outings a bit embarrassing at times.

Molly is a Woodle. And Woodles woodle.

A bit of history is probably necessary here. Molly joined our family about 3 ½ years ago. The phone rang one November morning and I half heard a conversation between my husband and his father. The gist of it was that he knew of a Maltipoo puppy that needed a home. My husband has never been a fan of toy breeds and so he said no. As he was telling me this, something in me tugged. I wanted this dog. After a bit of discussion, we called back and said we’d take the puppy.

About a week later my husband picked her up. He knew from the moment he looked at her that she was nothing resembling a Maltipoo. He took her to his parent’s house, where I was waiting, and placed her on my lap. Bright intelligent eyes looked out of a wolfish little face. Her body was lanky but tall, and she had huge paws.

We settled on Molly as a name. We now had no idea what kind of dog she was, and those giant paws weren’t getting smaller. We bumped into a friend on a walk who, upon seeing us with her, remarked that he didn’t know we’d gotten a wolfhound. A wolfhound? Irish wolfhounds can grow to be over six feet tall on their hind legs and can weigh up to 120 pounds. Some toy dog!

In time, Molly grew up and filled out, although not to the size of a wolfhound. She is about 30 pounds and is a terrier / schnauzer mix (as far as we and our vet can determine). However, one day, while still quite small, something outside caught her attention. She stiffened, made a few sharp barks, and then threw back her head and…woodled.

Molly’s howl (and with sufficient provocation, she loves to howl) is a bizarre noise that sounds like “woodle woodle woooooooooo!” This noise, along with the fact that we had earlier thought she was part poodle, part wolfhound, led to her being known as “The Woodle.”

When she was a puppy, almost anything could set the girl to woodling. As an adult dog, she reserves it for real threats, or real excitement. Meeting new dogs to play with can bring on Woodling. Seeing a person she likes can set her off. And so you can understand why I was hesitant to take her to the torch relay. However, I wanted her to get out and do some more social activities. I had been watching “The Dog Whisperer” and Cesar always says to embrace challenges, and with that in mind I tied her Canada flag bandana around her neck and off we went.

She was quite good on the walk to town, despite the excited crowds lining the sidewalks. Once we arrived at our destination things took a turn for the embarrassing. Upon meeting a few new dogs, she started her woodling which rapidly escalated into her newest noise, reserved for when she’s really excited and happy. This noise is best described as a scream, and you’d swear I was stomping on her feet when she lets loose with it. I could feel my face getting red as I cajoled her and tried to get her to quiet down. Finally, we found ourselves a quiet spot away from the crowd to watch the torch.

As the torch approached, I felt myself relaxing. Molly sat by my feet, calm and happy now. I fed her a cookie. The corporate presence was there; incongruous I thought but ah well. The torch bearer reached the next runner and the flame was passed. Cheers erupted from the crowd. Molly made a little noise but another cookie stifled any further protest. And then it was over, the relay procession going off down the road.

We met up with my husband and we had a good laugh about our dog daughter, who he knew was in attendance; even though he couldn’t see us he could hear the woodling. As we headed home, I was glad that I had attended, and even happier that my girl had attended with me, howls and all.

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