It's Pappy's night at doggy school. We're standing in line waiting our turn to do a long distance drop on recall. I was half watching the working dog and half looking at Grayson, the beautiful Australian Shepherd in line ahead of us.
"Grayson looks handsome tonight. Looks like his ear finally went up," I remarked.
"Prick ears," his owner answered with a voice so disgusted she might have been saying "dog vomit."
That got my attention. "Huh?" It was beginning to register that I'd said something stupid and probably offensive.
"They're called prick ears. They're a severe fault in the breed. He didn't get them from his father, they came from his mother."
I looked across the room where Grayson's father, Casey, was training. I've know Casey for three years now and his ears are breed standard, breaking forward and over. Whatever was I thinking? Even more important, what do I say next?
Grayson's owner is a kind lady. She gave me an out by saying, "Lots of people like the erect ears."
I still felt very sorry for mentioning Grayson's ears. Ears can be a very sensitive topic for dog owners.
My little Papillon rescue dog Pappy has one ear that hangs because the cartilage is broken, either from abuse or an accident. I'm forever having well intending people tell me how cute it is that one ear is up and the other down.
I never know how to respond to that compliment. While I don't give a hoot about meeting Pappy's breed standard, I do care that one of his ears was so badly injured. The fallen ear will never be cute to me because of the pain it represents, but it is endearing.
I'm going to start answering that way: "It is endearing." Much better than trying to splutter thanks for something I wish wasn't true.