It seems only apropos that I write about the Paddle Pups, our restaurant’s awesome beloved and well-known mascots. After all, we are in the dog days of summer where the days are sultry at best — muggy, humid and, at times, down right oppressive.
Especially, I suspect, for our canine companions.
We (I’ll explain the “we” later) now have three dogs: Wyeth, Watson and WyNott. They are German wirehaired pointers hailing from Wisconsin and Florida. Often affectionately referred to as the “Ws” in our Facebook postings or on our website, their breed is considered a versatile hunting dog which means they double-duty on both upland birds and waterfowl. Frankly, German wirehaired pointers excel in most anything athletic, including agility, dock diving, Frisbee play and hiking, because they are driven to perform. They need a job.
They have to have a purpose and it takes a great deal of time and exercise to tire them out. The Ws are no exception.
The plan was never to get three Paddle Pups. It all started with Wyeth, now almost 5 years old. It had been years since my last dog, a Labrador. After four-plus months of research for a new breed that would fit in with my lifestyle and be a good “fit” for our restaurant, I decided on a German wirehaired pointer. One October Friday night, I snuck up to my office on the second floor of The Paddle and made a call to Oconomowoc, Wisc. Jan Nahorn of Mason Creek Kennel answered the phone in a stern, but polite, voice. I knew that her slogan was “Hunting … it’s what we’re all about!” and I immediately informed her that I wasn’t a hunter, nor did I want to be, but I would make a terrific owner of one of her puppies. She let me go on and on for what seemed like an eternity and then, when I had stopped talking to take a breath, she said: “Thank you for your call, Mandy, but I will never sell you one of my dogs.” After politely bidding me a goodnight, she simply hung up the phone.
I was left with the phone to my ear and no one on the other end.
I was in disbelief, and a little shocked, but I never wanted anything more then at that particular moment in time. I picked up the phone and redialed. I recall saying something like “Please, hear me out …” and she did.
Almost two hours later, and many knocks on the door from Chef Phoebe because my presence was needed on the floor as the hostess (which I ignored, by the way), Jan finally said she’d make the first exception in her entire 50 year career of breeding hunting dogs. She’d sell me a puppy.
A little while later I flew out to Wisconsin to bring home my girl, Wyeth. It was a short trip, only two and a half days. We walked down to Jen’s well-kept kennel barn and I sat on a hay bale. She let out the two available girls and immediately the littlest of the litter ran right up to me. I bent down and she gave me a kiss. I decided at that second that this would be my Wyeth, my Paddle Pup. We brought her up to the house and Jan asked if I would like to see if she had any hunting prowess in her. Of course, I said, but reminded her that I didn’t have any intentions of bird hunting. She let out a little giggle and said that this was just for fun, prefacing the demonstration with the caveat: “I have never worked with your pup, Mandy. I have no idea what she’ll do.”
We were now in her living room. Out came a bird wing tethered to a little wooden dowel. Wyeth was doing puppy stuff … running around, smelling plants, scurrying this way and that. Jan got her attention with a “hup” and flung out the wing. My little dog’s head swung around and immediately – as fast as you can blink – she went on point. I can recall that I was overcome with exhilaration and pure joy. I had never seen anything like it. Jan, of course, couldn’t have been more proud.
She then brought Wyeth over to a long hallway; she closed all the doors so there wouldn’t be any way for the dog to escape. She knotted a little sock, got Wyeth’s attention and threw it down to the end of the corridor. “Fetch her up, Wyeth” and down the carpet bounded my two-month old puppy, snapped the sock up in her mouth and, with no where to go, turned around and brought it back to Jan’s outstretched hand. Just remarkable.
Following our demonstration, Jan never spoke, again, of the hunting thing. We had dinner, talked a bit and Wyeth and I went to bed, snuggling under the sheets.
The next day, Jan drove us to the airport in Milwaukee. I got out, with Wyeth’s head poking out of my airline carry-on bag. Jan and I embraced and I started to cry. I held on to her for the longest time and, once I caught my composure, I whispered in her ear: “If you’ll have us, we’ll be back in a couple of months for some training on birds.”
Her grasp tightened around my body and I could tell she was pleased.
“I can’t wait,” she said.
Later that night, after flying all afternoon in a snowstorm, Wyeth and I returned to Vermont. The next day, I arrived to work with our Paddle Pup, our mascot, to much fanfare from dinner guests wanting to meet her. After everyone was gone, and the restaurant chores completed, the entire Paddle Crew sat down to play with her.
She was home.
And, our little bistro would never quite be the same.
A little postscript: Remember, I mentioned that I’d explain the “we” have three dogs? Well, Chef Phoebe – after a short spell of being a naysayer – encouraged me to get Wyeth. When I got the notion two years later to get a brother for her, Phoebe wasn’t too keen on the idea of two Paddle Pups. “I love Wyeth, Mandy, but another in the office?” Well, can you imagine her reaction when I told her that I was getting another pup this spring? For two months, all I heard was “But, why, Mandy?” Finally, my new little girl’s name came to me.
Her name would be WyNott!
And, yes, Wyeth and Watson are avid bird hunters and I’ve got a pretty good shot. As for four and a half month old WyNott, she’s pointing a blue teal bird wing my friend, Max, gave me, tethered to a wooden dowel.
Mandy Hotchkiss and Phoebe Bright are co-owners of the Blue Paddle Bistro in South Hero.
The Paddle Pup Popsicle
Thanks, to our sous chef, Eric Goodrich, for helping me develop this simple delicious Popsicle that I serve to Wyeth, Watson and WyNott on these dog days of summer.
- 3 cups blueberries
- 2 cups applesauce
- 1-½ cup granola
- Emulsify and freeze in a plastic cup or use ice cube trays.
- Remove plastic cup before serving.
- Makes eight ½-cup servings