My Friend Merlin

Merlin Among the Violets
Merlin Among the Violets

It is hard to lose your best friend human or canine.

My dream since my mother died in 2005 is to retrace John Steinbeck’s 1960 trek across the US in, “Travels With Charlie.” If you have not read it, it is the chronicle of writer John Steinbeck driving from Long Island to Maine, to Isle Royal in Michigan, through Montana to the West Cost, South through his home town of Salines, CA, and back to Long Island via the Southern route in the days after Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act.  His partner, and goodwill ambassador, was a black Standard Poodle named Charlie.

My idea was to make this same journey with a black standard poodle, Merlin, and my father.  I would stop at the same places as Steinbeck and chronicle how the country has changed. My Dad would add absurdity to the trip; he is the most negative person on the planet. Putting the funds together for a trip like this is a feat I have not yet accomplished, but a person can dream.

About a year before my mother died, my father bought her a black Standard Poodle for her birthday. My dad liked to save change and he had several high-boys full of silver change and one of just pennies. He rolled it up over a number of weeks and it amounted to a thousand dollars. I am not kidding. So he got the idea to buy my mother a Standard Poodle because she talked a lot about Standard Poodles after seeing so many of them when visiting me in New York City.  My sister found a reputable Poodle breeder not far from her house and took him out there to see them. He placed a deposit and told them he wanted a large, black male with nice hair. It took almost nine months, but in November of 2003 they brought home a black, curly fuzz ball. My mother named him Merlin.

I first met Merlin at Christmas time in 2003 when he was 4 months old. I was impressed by how he walked on a leash at that age and how interested he was when he saw people. Standard Poodle puppies look and act like the full-grown versions of their smaller cousins. Very few people realize they are puppies.

I saw Merlin a few times when I came home for visits in the summer and at Christmas the following year. My mother died suddenly March 28, 2005, and I spent two months with Merlin and my father in Michigan. Merlin was good for my dad after my mother died. He walked that dog all over the city. He had never lived alone before and with Merlin there, he was not alone. He became known as the Poodle Guy. For six years Merlin was his buddy.

In 2011, my Dad had to have his leg removed at the middle thigh due to complication from diabetes. Feeling sorry from my Dad not only adjusting to life with one leg, but giving up his house and his dogs including his best buddy Merlin; I decided to move to back to Michigan so my father could stay in his house and keep his dogs. The transition was harder than I ever thought it would be. Merlin was the only bright spot. It was not long before he was my dog.

I love all dogs, but for me Poodles are special. They seem to understand every word you say and they do the goofiest stuff. Take a look at this video I made of Merlin and his favorite sewer. For some reason he was obsessed with this sewer behind the school that is across the street from my house. Some days I had to put his leash on and drag him away from it.

I learned to groom Merlin myself. Unfortunately, being a black poodle, it is hard to see details in photographs. Below is a photo of the first time I trimmed him in a cut called a Desi which is a pet version of the famous poodle “lion” show cut. The idea of the Desi is the poodle appears to be wearing pants and a jacket. I wanted to try a show cut, but it is a lot of work and not the best choice for a poodle who likes nothing more than trudging through the marsh and collecting burrs.

Black standard poodle in a Desi cut.
First Desi cut.

My Dad can be very difficult. He does not think the glass is half-full or half-empty, he thinks it is always shattered. That level of negativity coming at you every day is wearing. How did my Mother do it? Merlin was the bright spot in my day. He was always happy to see me and always ready to go do fun stuff.

On March 5, 2015, in the middle of his 11th year of life, Merlin died. I will not go into the details of his death only to say that it was due to complications from surgery and I was with him when he died.

I was devastated. The thought of coming home everyday and not seeing my Merlin was unbearable. To deal with this huge hole in my life, I started a search for a new Poodle. Merlin’s breeder died in 2006. I am a poodle girl and I cannot be without a poodle. It can take a while to find a Standard Poodle because you want to get one from a AKC preferred breeder and not one that breeds “doodles” of any kind.

I got lucky and found a great dog in about three weeks. I wanted another black poodle, but this guy from Targa Poodles in Saline, MI, charmed me with his temperament. Here he is the day I brought him home at ten weeks old.

White standard poodle puppy.
Meet Charming

I named him Charming. He is like Merlin in that he is a poodle.

Merlin walking with GG.
Merlin walking with GG.
Two dogs walking on leashes.
Charming’s first walk with GG.

That is where the similarities end. When I first brought him home I kept thinking Merlin would like him. I still miss my Merlin. Charming makes me laugh and he keeps me busy. Not only do I have to teach him the regular dog stuff like walking on a leash, sit, stay, recall do not potty in the house; but I have teach him to like baths and grooming. We are learning together. I have never raised a puppy myself. I always adopted older dogs. This is a lot of fun.  See what I mean?

Muddy white poodle.
He’s so Charming!

Yes, that is marsh mud. This type of getting dirty takes a special talent. Merlin taught GG about the marsh, and GG taught Charming.

Maybe I will write, “Travels with Charming.”

Here is a video I made staring Merlin not long after returning to Michigan.

In memory of my friend Merlin.

23 responses to “My Friend Merlin”

  1. I just got a black, miniature Poodle puppy in January. She is all you say about Merlin. Thank goodness with the coronavirus I have time to train her.


  2. I am sorry for your loss. I know what a hole in your heart and life they leave when they are gone. I too had a black standard poodle named Antigone. I could picture exactly what Merlin looked like in the front seat because Antigone would sit the same way, stick straight and regal. Although I was never pulled over by the police I would get strange looks and laughs at stop lights.
    I’ve had poodles all my life but Antigone was my first standard. There is something different about standards. I remember the day she died, 5/1/17. She was 1 month shy of her 17th birthday. Ever since I have been looking for another black standard to rescue but they are few and far between in California. So I am still looking but I do have others dogs whom I love dearly. Unfortunately we don’t have that same connection. I hope one day to find that connection with another black Standard poodle.


    • Sorry for loss. Merlin was only 11 when he died. He got bloat after surgery and died while I was brining home from Michigan State University. I should have had three more years with him at least.

      It is very hard to find a Poodle in rescue. I purchased Charming as a puppy and Henry is a retired show dog I got because I hang out with a group of Poodle breeders


  3. My Merlin was named Murphy . When he was a puppy he wouldn’t answer to any name I tried. My girlfriend and I ran thru so many names but he responded to none of them.. When she called him Murphy, his head spun around and he came right to us. I guess he knew his name before I did. Murphy was my buddy in everything and although he passed away a year ago, I still grieve. I’m about ready for another Murphy or Merlin! Thank you for your wonderful article!


  4. Thank you for your story about Merlin, but also about the stunning incidents of vehicle stops by police. It was so wrong on more levels than can be discussed in such a forum as this message. I, like you, would not have put two and two together until the comment that there was a man in your van. I have had Russian Wolfhounds, or Borzoi, and one my females was a larger version of that breed, than the norm. She, ( Fox ) was often mistaken for a human passenger in my pick-up as she had long tan to blondish colored hair on her ears and neck ruff and from the back looked to be a female human. I had a guy come up to me in a filling station and asked to be introduced to my companion in the back seat. Evidently, Fox had laid down before the guy could see the “landing strip” of a nose that those dogs have on their face. I very happily took the guy out to meet Fox, and you should have seen the guy’s face when I opened the truck door. Hilarious!
    Your situations with Merlin made me wonder…what if it had been a black guy or woman? What grounds would justify pulling someone over because they had a black human passenger? That is one of the more stunning aspects of your experience, the what if and the “jeez whiz” scary aspects of the abuse of power, or the potential abuse.
    I feel your loss of Merlin. I have lost way too many of my best friends over the years, and every Borzoi was a rescue. I have a Tibetan Terrier and a Lhasa Apso, who helped me through the loss of my husband and living situation and who keep me busy as they age. But I find that I miss having a laid back, goofy Borzoi around and miss all four of those very hairy, long nosed wonders every day.
    Good luck with Charming and may his life be long, joyful, and with great health.


  5. 🥰 nothing better than loving and being loved by a poodle. I live in a city apartment and have little experience training dogs, so I’m partial to minis. If they get out of control, I can just swoop them up.

    My first was a poodlish-mutt rescue. I was devastated when he died. Then I adopted a chocolate mini poodle. I didn’t want to go to a breeder in initially, but it was much harder to find a mostly poodle rescue in NYC than it had been in Chicago. Or maybe I was lucky to find Marley.

    Marley started out black and turned gray within a couple of years. I corded the hair on his head so he had dreadlocks like Bob Marley.

    The chocolate poodle is just a year old and I’m also working on cording his hair. 🤎

    Thank you for sharing your stories about Merlin. 🖤


  6. A friend passed this on to me. My first Standard was also a Black male, Cowboy 💕. I never got stopped by the police because after about 6 months he was trained to only ride in the backseat. But if I had a nickel for the startled reaction I got Everytime someone walked by my car at the supermarket or gas station and he would turn his head slightly and people would visibly startle put their hand to there heart and go “Oh ! I thought that was a man!!! I’m sure as much as not (Black) was left out of the statement 🙄 He also always was waiting his turn to Drive😝


  7. I’m sorry for your loss, and I get the connection you had with Merlin. I had a similar connection with my Max, also a black poodle. He was so sweet. I christened him “The best dog in the world.”


  8. My husband is named Merlin and we had a miniature poodle “Teddy” we raised for 8 weeks. He was a perfect dog. You could take him anywhere…even to church and concerts. We sadly put his to sleep at 17 and a couple of months later got two rescues, mom was full Bischon and her son is half poodle. They are a handful but adorable. Lucy and Linus. Perfect names. We still miss Teddy and tell the kids ‘Uncle Teddy is watching them’. Your Merlin was beautiful and may be playing with Teddy.


  9. Dear Cyn,
    I am glad you took the tough decision of adopting another dog just when you lost Merlin. Many pet owners face this difficult time by backing off pets for all time but you were wiser and this has perhaps helped you bear the loss easier. I commend you on this and the fact that you have provided another doggie a loving home for life. God bless !


    • Thank you. I had to have something to divert my mind. I have seen people wallow in their grief and did not want to do that. I do have two other dogs, but, as poodle people will tell, it is not the same.

      Charming is not a rescue. I did purchase him from a breeder. I was a bit selfish there and do not regret it. I should do a post about my experiences trying to adopt a poodle both now and when Merlin was 9.

      I am all for adopting dogs, most of my dogs are rescues, but I will no longer deal with “rescue” groups. I adopted my cats from the Humane Society and my local Animal Control. It is a longer story than I can share here. All writing is practice.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I sincerely hope your new poodle Charming brings you as much pleasure as Merlin did. It is so very difficult to deal with losing a pup, so many people just don’t understand what these babies mean to us. We have a 12 year old black standard named Morgan Lane, I like you cannot bear the thought of not having a poodle, they are just the best!!!
    great write up.


  11. I don’t even know Merlin, yet I am in love with him. A beautiful and friendly dog you must have. I found the beginning a little sad when you spoke about losing an animal and/or friend, it really is hard when that happens.


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