Thursday, December 31, 2009

December 31, 2009 - Remembering Roy


For folks who may not know about Roy, he was one of the most fearless, loaded with personality, independent pugs I've ever been blessed to meet.  I'd filled out an adoption application specifying an older (10+) male. The rescue president called. "You wanted an older boy? I just got one in I think would work. You wanna come over and meet him?" So Cj and I drove over.  The Prez always has a bunch of fosters and newly-arrived "hold" fosters (waiting to be picked up by their foster homes) pugs around, so when a little gray-faced senior boy came up to greet us, we asked, "Is this one ours?"  
"Nope," she said, pointing to the back yard, "See that little lump in the shade?  That's yours. I'll get him."
She went into the yard, came back with an armful and set him on the floor in front of us.  Cj and I looked at him. We looked at each other. We looked at the Prez. We looked at him.  Standing in front of us was possibly the most ancient creature on earth.  95% blind, 100% deaf, gray all over, looking a bit like someone had wadded him up and tossed him, and roughly 120 years old.  (when we took him to the vet for a check, his official, professional, highly trained opinion of his age was "somewhere between 17 years old and four years older than God.")
"His name is Roy.  The adoption coordinator named him for her father, because he grumbles like him. What do you think? You said you wanted a senior." said the Prez, encouragingly.
"I think I want one that will survive the trip home," I replied. "What's his story?"
She told us.  He'd been found, dumped, ancient, blind, deaf and terrified, in a busy parking lot. Animal control had picked him up and called OPR, knowing he stood a less than zero chance of adoption at the shelter. The fact that he'd managed to not get run over was a miracle and a marvel by itself.
I looked at him again. He grinned at me, head tilted because he couldn't lift it up all the way.  I sighed. Cj sighed. We melted, handed over the adoption fee, signed the paper, gingerly picked up the elderly beast and headed for the car.
Adopting Roy counts as one of the smartest things we ever did.  I rather expected a doorstop - at his age, how active or interested could he be?  Instead, we got a dog that let nothing deter him. He'd climb into the strangest places, ninja roll off the bed, chase your toes and nibble on them if you were slow with his dinner (and had an impressive grip - Cj would dance around hollering "Roy, let go!" while I giggled and reminded her he was deaf and couldn't hear her fussing).  His attitude about everything was "ME do!" He didn't like to be carried - he'd walk, thank you very much. (Took forever, but we'd get there.) He slept between us every night; for the first two weeks, he'd wake me up with nightmares, howling and shaking until I'd pick him up, rock him and soothe him back to sleep, reminding him he was found and would never be lost again.  He had a smile that could melt any heart and he used it.  When I'd get home from work, he'd come toddling over as fast as he could (and he could get up some speed when he wanted), get up close to see what shoes were coming, and grin when he recognized mine.  He had a loud, sharp bark that could shatter glass, but only used it when his grumbling didn't get your attention.  We got to love and spoil him for about nine months before he slipped off to the Bridge. He left about two years ago, and I miss him still.  

Happy New Year to all, from the Shady Rest!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

December 24, 2009 - The Night Before Christmas, Shady Rest Style

T'was the night before Christmas, when all through the Rest,
All the inmates were stirring, busy making a mess,
The stockings were...somewhere, in the laundry, I'm sure,
Or hid with the presents, I'm not sure where they were.

A few pugs were nestled in big snuggle beds,
While visions of cheesy goodies danced in their heads,
With a list in my hand, and a cat in her lap, 
We'd have both sold a kidney for a very long nap.

When out on the lawn, there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my desk to see what was the matter,
Away to the window, I rushed like a turtle,
Jumping and dodging each small puggy hurdle.

The moon on the breast of the Midwestern slush,
Gave a holiday sparkle to the half-frozen mush.
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a small SUV that was parking, right here!

With a little old driver, with a beard on his jaws,
I knew right away it was old Santa Paws!
With me to the window, the inmates all came,
And he whistled and greeted each one by their name.

"Hi Spencer, now Loki, now Orville and Sammie,
And Georgie and Archie and Freya, and kitties!
To the top of the couch, now bounce off of the wall,
Will you all settle down? I have goodies for all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the rooftop that SUV flew,
With the bundles of treats and old Santa Paws too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard up above,
The steps of the guy that all animals love,
As I drew in my head and was turning about,
Down the chimney came Santa Paws with a shout.

He was wearing fake fur from his head to his boots,
He was dusted with dog hair and evergreen shoots,
A bundle of treats he had flung on his back,
From which cat fur fell as he opened his pack.

His eyes, how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were a bit flushed, but not at all scary.
An animal lover, he flashed a huge grin,
And he laughed as all of our critters ran in.

He was chubby and plump, a most jolly old elf,
He was shaped, come to think, just a bit like myself.
He rubbed on each head and scratched on each ear,
And wished he could visit more than just once each year.

With a whispered "I love you, you're such a good dog,"
He crouched down beside them, a bit like a frog.
He pulled out a treat for each doggy and cat,
It took but a second, it was over like that.

Then he ran to his car and the gas he then pressed,
And he hurried away from the old Shady Rest,
But I heard him exclaim, and we wish it to you,
"Happy Christmas to all, and a great New Year too!"

From all the residents of the Shady Rest, to all of you and yours, we wish a warm, safe, and joyous Christmas, and a new year filled with small daily miracles, peace and love.  Ya'll come back in the New Year.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

December 14, 2009 - The Cats of the Shady Rest


Another Day At the Shady Rest tends to focus on the pugs, but there are other residents. Three and a half cats help keep things interesting too, and it's always fun to watch them interact with Freya and the pugs.  In spite of all you hear about "fighting like cats and dogs," the Shady Rest is a mostly peaceable kingdom, if you will, with very few interspecies spats.

Okay, I know, you're wondering about that "three and a half" cats thing, so let me explain that before I introduce the permanent feline residents. To cut a very long story as short as possible, about two and a half years ago, a friend's teenage son, Zach, moved in with us for a while.  While he was living here, he went to visit a friend, and called us from there.  There was an abandoned litter of tiny, maybe-four-week-old kittens at the apartment complex, and it was getting cold, and he REALLY wanted one, and we had cats anyway, and he just KNEW we'd love her, and he promised when he moved out he'd take her with him, and she would be HIS cat and he'd take care of her, and, and, get the idea.l  This nearly-six-foot burly male had been reduced to a gibbering five-year-old, already firmly wrapped around the tiny paw of this kitten. I sighed deeply and said, "Okay, bring her home." 

When he arrived, one hand was cupped and nestled in the palm was an amazingly small kitten. (She remains one of the smallest adult cats I've ever seen.) She looked like a gray-stripe-and-white cotton ball with eyes.  Yet, those eyes were open and very alert, and she appeared to be otherwise healthy.  And that's how we first got acquainted with Riddi-kitty. (He'd wanted to name the cat Riddick, from the movie, but found she was female, so she became Riddi.)  It took the teensy terror only moments to take over the whole place.  Oddly, her best friend, mentor and advocate was Freddie, our then 19-year-old senior cat.  If one of the other cats looked at her funny, she'd run to him.  He would actually bestir his old, creaky bones and play with her, rolling and pouncing like another kitten.  Nobody could mess with Freddie's food, except Riddi, who got first dibs on his plate while he watched benevolently.  He was like her instant grandpa. 

Flash forward a few months. Zach's moved out and did indeed take Riddi with him.  Freddie has gone to the Rainbow Bridge to chase butterflies and bask in the sun without the troubles of old age to trouble him any longer.  The phone rings again. Riddi needs a place to hang for a few months, for many reasons which I will spare you, most involving an emergency relocation to a new apartment with an allergic roommate with a big, cat-hating dog.  Can she stay here until February, when the lease runs out and he'll be able to take her back?  "Sure, why not?"

So, with our resident three Shady Rest cats - Thor, Kali and Spare - Riddi is the "half" cat, not really ours but rather like a favored niece. Thor hates her, but then, he hates most other cats. Kali ignores her, but she ignores just about everyone, and Spare tolerates her well, so it's good.  The dogs don't have too much problem with her. Sammie likes to chase her, but she eggs him on, so I think it's a game, not a dispute.  I'm fairly certain George would be unimpressed, if he could find her.  She's too quick, though, and sometimes amuses herself by hiding, poking him in the head, then running off.

Now, back to the introductions. In order of arrival, there's Thor, a solid black mama's boy. He was named for the Norse god of thunder for his deep, rumbling purr, because his meow, when it manages to come out at all, is a high-pitched squeak.  Given his druthers, he'd never touch the ground at all, much preferring to be held 24/7 and squacking in protest when put down. Eating and snuggling are his favorite activities. Thor is not overfond of the dogs, or the other cats, but he is terribly affectionate (to the point of being a pest sometimes) with his humans.

Then there's Spare. Spare, a former feral neighborhood stray, got his name from when we first met. He would come to the deck to eat the cat food we left out for the wildlife and would run when he saw us even move inside the house.  Gradually, he became accustomed to us and would hang around while we refilled the bowl.  We started referring to him as the spare cat, as in "Honey, did you put out food? The spare cat is here."  By the time he moved inside to stay, he answered to Spare and we just left it. Figured it's better to be the Spare cat than the Homeless cat.  Spare is the most Zen cat we've ever met - laid back, tolerant of all, the soul of patience and calm.  We suspect he may have been a Buddhist monk in a past life - he has those thousand-year-old eyes.  He loves his dogs as much as the other cats and the people, often rubbing up against a seated pug and purring his head off.

Last is Kali (Callie, when she came) an amazingly, shy cat taken in when her human was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  She came with her brother, Freddie. The owner was going to have them both put to sleep, but not because she didn't love them.  She did, too much to have them end up dying in a shelter among strangers, and she couldn't believe anyone would want them.  She felt a quick, painless death with someone familiar and loved by their side was a better fate, even though the decision broke her heart.  Freddie's age at the time - 16- was certainly a deterrent to adoption, and Kali was so shy and fearful that anyone wanting a cat for a companion would look the other way.  Well, you know the Shady Rest likes seniors, and most days I don't like people much either, so we told her we'd be happy to take them in.  The owner was beyond happy to have them in a loving home that didn't mind their quirks at all.  Freddie made it to 20, and Kali's still going at 11.  She's still the shyest cat I've ever met (we have no idea why - her previous owner had had her since she was an eight-week-old kitten and she'd gotten plenty of socialization and handling. She loved her owner, but NO one else.)  She spent the first two years here either under the futon in the family room or under the bed. We never saw her. We just put down food and water, left a litter box near her latest hidey-hole and left it at that.  For year three, she moved to the half bath and started coming out some, when it was quiet and the dogs were locked up for the night.  She comes out more now, and seeks some attention from both Cj and me, but she'll probably never be as clingy as Thor or as friendly as Spare, but that's okay. She's fine just as she is, and as long as she seems content, she's welcome to be as much of a hermit as she likes.

So, those are the cats of the Shady Rest. Y'all take care now!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

December 8, 2009 - Update


It's that time of year, with tons to do and most of it not interesting enough to talk about. Lately, the Shady Rest has been recovery central for Archie. About three weeks ago, we took him to the vet for the removal of a small skin tumor and a dental. Sounded simple enough. We went to pick him up and the vet tech walked out with Frankenpug! Still a little stoned on pain-killers, ears akimbo, and with what looked like miles of stitches! They took off the original tumor, and another they'd found on his butt (poor boy), and while they were at it, took off the big fatty cyst (lipoma) on his side! Oh, and the dental resulted in five tooth extractions. He peered at us with a look that clearly seemed to say, "If you wanted a smaller pug, why didn't you just get one?" So, gently and ever-so-careful not to hit any of his sore spots, we took him, his pills, and his drain tube home, to a soft bed and a soft diet.

First day home from vet.

Happily, in spite of his age, he's recovered very , very nicely. He spent a couple of days in isolation in the bathroom with his favorite bed and his stuffed bunny, to avoid the other dogs' accidentally poking or bumping his sore spots. He enjoyed his meals of warm stew with no kibble, with some extra protein to help him heal, and savored the extra attention.

This past week, the stitches came out, and all that remains is to regrow his thick, beautiful fur. (He has the thickest coat I've ever seen on any pug.) He's totally back to being his normal, happy, bouncing self, following us around, levitating as he barks, and complaining if dinner looks like it may be a little late.

With all the stitches out - next, a bath!

As for the other Shady Rest residents, they're doing well. George is still kicking tail and taking names. Although he will fuss and fume if one of us tries to crate him, he's taken to crawling into either Loki's or Spencer's crate for his afternoon naps. Fortunately, they don't mind. Speaking of kicking tail, Cj was trying to put his bowl down for dinner the other evening. Apaprently, he got a little confused about the exact whereabouts of the bowl, so he took after her toes as an acceptable alternative. She backed away to try to save her toes, which meant the bowl was backing up too. She finally mangaged to pry her toes free of his teeth and trade him for the bowl. You gotta watch him.

Much to Orville's joy, the cats have finally decided he's harmless and have stopped screaming and running when he comes up for a friendly sniff. I think he had a nightmare last night, though. Woke me up in the middle of the wee hours of the morning, scurrying as fast as he could up the middle of the bed until he was tucked close to my side. He put his paw on my thigh. I covered his paw with my hand. He put his chin on my hand and went right back to sleep.

So, that's about it for now. Just another day at the Shady Rest. Ya'll take care.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

November 7, 2009 - Talkin' 'bout My Girl


I don't write about Freya nearly as much as I should, and I should, because even though she's not a pug, she's as integral and important a part of the Shady Rest as any of the pugs.

Freya (Norse mythology - Goddess of love, beauty, magic, and battle) is an eight-year old, fifty-pound mix of Belgian Malinois, Chow and maybe a smidge of something else. Malinois are herding dogs and it shows. Freya must have a job. Without one, she will not only go crazy, she will take you with her. For the first few weeks she was here, an enthusiastic, if unsocialized and untrained, six-month-old, she was determined to herd something. Unfortunately, at that time, we had one aged, paralyzed pug, Petunia, and four cats. So, she did her best with the cats. I tried to explain to her (I explain everything to her) that an impossible task was called "like herding cats" for a reason, and the cats did not so much all want to be in the same place at the same time. Finally accepting this, she took to being Petunia's companion and body guard.

Freya is smart, scary-smart, most of the time, and she understood that Petunia's motion was very limited. She watched over her, played with her by lying down on her belly with a tug-toy, scooting as close to Petunia as she could get, and tossing her head to place the other end of the toy close enough to Petunia's mouth for her to grab it. Toonie would take the other end and pull, as hard and as far as she was able, and Freya would tug back, moving only her head, careful to never be too rough. Even at six months, she was roughly twice Toonie's size, and she could have flipped her head and flung the pug like a rag doll, but she never did.

Freya was, however, still a puppy, and a little teasing of the old pug was not beyond her. One of her favorite games we came to call Pug Tipping. Petunia spent the majority of her time on her stomach. She couldn't walk - we'd move her, carry her, make sure she was clean, dry and comfortable, and she was in no pain at all. She was very alert, still interested in life, taking in and participating in all that went on in her world. Freya would sneak up on her, push her muzzle under Petunia's tummy, and toss her head back, flipping Petunia onto her back. At first, Petunia wasn't too into the game. She'd lie there on her back, flapping her paws like an upended turtle, until Cj or I came to flip her back. After a few times, she decided it didn't hurt any, and it did provide a change of scenery for her, so she'd just accept it.

One day I was home alone and Freya flipped Petunia. Instead of rushing immediately to flip her back, I decided to watch and see what would happen. Freya went a few feet away and laid down, keeping an eye on Petunia. After just a few minutes, she got up, went back to Petunia and flipped her back into her usual position. I hadn't thought she'd just leave her there, and I was happy to be proved right.

I may have mentioned Freya is scary-smart. We really have to be careful what we do in front of her, so quickly does she learn new things. She has a slide-in-and-toggle-shut crate door, that she can get out of quite nicely if I don't crank it down tight. She's performed the Heimlich on a friend, choking on an ice cube. My friend was grasping her throat and sort of gurgling, unable to breathe, and Freya ran to her, landing on her stomach with her front paws, sending the ice cube flying.

I could brag on her for hours, but it would just go to her head (no, I have no doubt she could both access and read this blog if she took a mind to.) Her escapades are only a part of what makes her such an essential element in the Shady Rest story. The other part is the way in which she interacts with her charges, the pugs. You see, once we started having multiple pugs, Freya worked her way swiftly and easily into her job of Official Shady Rest Pug Herd. It is a job she takes very seriously and does very well. She knows each member of her bug-eyed flock by name and will happily fetch me the one I want. The pugs do not go out in the back yard without her. People have asked me "aren't you afraid to let them out without you? What if someone reached over the fence and grabbed one?" I just smile. If someone dared reach over the fence and try to grab one of HER pugs, Freya would bring me the idiot's arm, wagging and grinning (did I mention she has dimples when she smiles? She does.) all the way. I'd give her a treat, of course. She may exercise her right to discipline them, but nobody else besides the Mamas had better mess with them.

Yesterday, for instance, I let Freya out and asked the pugs if anyone want to go along (some potty trips are mandatory, some optional). Spencer and Sammie went, Orville politely declined. A moment after I closed the sliding door behind them, there was a polite tap on the glass from Freya. Not her usual, full-body-slam she does when she wants back in, just a gentle tap. I opened the door and she stuck her head in, looking around. "Orville, c'mon," I told him, "It seems you're missed." He got up and toddled through the door, with Freya sniffing him to make sure she had the right one. Today, they'd been out and I let them back in. I counted noses and found myself one pug short. "Freya!" I called. She trotted over to me. "You're missing one - where's Orville?" She looked toward the door. "Go find me Orville" I told her as I opened the door. Her ears and tail popped up and she bolted through the door to find him. Onto the deck, her head swinging back and forth, then another bounce as she spotted him. Off she ran, and a moment later came trotting back, Orville running at her heels. I highly recommend a smart, helpful herding breed for anyone with multiple pugs.
So, I could go on about her, but I'll spare you. She's my Freyagirl, pack Alpha, Pug Herd, and in truth, co-Innkeeper of the Shady Rest. Here's to you, my brindled beauty. I don't know what I'd do without you.
Just another day at the Shady Rest. Y'all take care.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

October 31, 2009 - Halloween at the Shady Rest


Happy Halloween from the Shady Rest!

Halloween itself is actually fairly quiet here. Beggar's Night, the night on which kids are legally allowed to go trick-or-treating, was Thursday. Out of consideration for everyone's safety and security (and sanity) Cj and I dressed up and gave out candy outside, leaving the dogs to their barking frenzy inside. It's just easier and as it is, they still manage to scare some of the kids with their howling at the front window. Cj dressed as her favorite Demented Little Girl and oddly, very few of the kids wanted to play with her dolly (the one with the knife through its head...) I was the crazy old lady that every neighborhood has somewhere, usually on the corner with lots of cats (we live on a corner...with cats...)

Halloween is also something of a time for remembering and reflection. When the "veil between the worlds" is supposed to be at its thinnest, it's easier to call up the memories of those, human and animal, that have gone on before us, to wait on the other side. Petunia, our first pug, is always the first to come to mind. She loved Halloween. She wasn't much into dressing up, but she did have an orange tie with black cats on it that she'd wear. She'd march up to the door with every trick-or-treater's arrival and push her chest out proudly, "Look at MY costume!" Sadly, the current crop of Shady Resters lacks her fashion flair.

George did manage to scare the perdiddle out of Cj and I, though. When you can't get a pug, particularly an old one, to wake up for dinner, it's frightening. I knew he was definitely still breathing, but shaking, yelling, patting and scritching all failed to get an eye to open. Did he have another stroke? Is his heart acting up? Did he slip right into a coma? Finally, Cj picked him up and the combination of being lifted and finally smelling his dinner brought him around. Of course, once he woke up and figured out there was food handy, all traces of any problem at all disappeared like the morning dew. Whew. I really wish he didn't sleep quite so soundly.

Still, there was family fun too. We were completely out of dog treats, so we all gathered in the kitchen to make liver biscuits. They're blessedly easy - take two bags of generic Walmart biscuit/muffin baking mix, a cup of water, a teaspoon of garlic powder and a pound of chicken livers, boiled and mashed. Mix it all together well, then drop in spoonfuls on a greased baking sheet and bake. Good stuff, or so they tell me. I HATE chicken liver, but Cj and the dogs love the stuff.

Halloween is also the anniversary of the day Cj and I met (I was in vampire drag and she insists to this day she only agreed to see me again so she could find out what I looked like without fangs...) We always reminisce about that too. Doesn't seem like it was 23 years ago, but it was. Still being together? Definitely a treat.

Now the day is done. Most of the critters are asleep, except for Sammie and Orville, who are intently interested in the bowl of popcorn Cj and I are sharing while we watch a documentary about ghost children (I love TV around Halloween - that's when all the really good stuff is on.) George is back to sleep too, snoring softly by my left foot. If there are ghosts still about, they are only the benevolent kind.

So, all the residents of the Shady Rest hope you and yours had all treats and no tricks for Halloween this year. Y'all take care now.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

October 15, 2009 - It's What's For Supper


Sometimes a rather routine chore takes on new depth, makes me think. Take dinner at the Shady Rest, for instance. Most nights, just fill a bunch of bowls (dogs) and plates (cats), put 'em down, listen to the slurping, keep George from starting a melee, then pick up and we're done.

Tonight, I found myself caught up in watching George with his dinner. He may be old and blind, his heart may not work right, he may have had a small stroke, but his appetite is undiminished. He attacks his dinner with the same vigor that he attacks anyone who would interfere with it. I was impressed watching rice and kibbles fly up around his head. It looked almost like something from a cartoon. I usually give him a little extra, just to account for the amount that's going to end up anywhere except inside him. I'll spend a little time later picking rice grains off my filing cabinet (he opted to eat in the office tonight), at least the ones Sammie doesn't find. I think Cj got the worst of it out of his bed.

He's not the only mess, mind you. Just the most dramatic. When I took his bowl back to the kitchen, I found Archie, very full and content, with one, perfectly clean, grain of rice stuck to the very center of his nose. Not a hint of gravy remained on it, he'd somehow managed to clean it off completely without actually swallowing it. Again, I was impressed.

It made me think a bit of Heff. He got adopted this past weekend, by the way. He'll be very happy, I'm sure - young couple, first dog of their own (though both grew up in dog-loving families - much excitement over the new grandpug.) When we got there, they'd already been shopping and had a brand new, Heff-sized dog bed full of toys and accessories and treats. They confessed they'd actually started to worry that he wouldn't like them! Most people worry about the opposite, so that was a very good sign. Fortunately, in spite of my worries about his shyness, he took to them as quickly as they fell for him.

Anyway, Heff usually wore as much of his dinner as he ate. His entire handsome black head would be flecked from mid-neck up with bits of rice, and the occasional bit of carrot.

It must be a pug thing. Freya will sometimes end up with a tiny crumb at the very tip of her long, elegant nose, but it never stays long, and in all the years she and I have kept company, I've yet to have to dig it out of her ear.

Ah, well. Dinner's done for the night. Bowls rinsed and stacked, Loki, Spencer and Freya put to bed, Archie de-riced and George mostly cleaned up. All is quiet but for the occasional soft burp or snore. Just another day at the Shady Rest.

Y'all take care now.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

October 6, 2009 - Just One of Those Moments


Not too much to say today. It's been quiet here at the Shady Rest - no arguments, no debates with the appliances, no crises. Just a day. Still, I wanted to share the quiet moment, and what a movie-star-handsome old pug looks like, when he's drowsy and being cuddled...

That's George, head on Mama Cj's shoulder, getting his tummy scratched. Life is good sometimes, here, when you're loved and you know it.

Y'all take care, now.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

October 3, 2009 - Talk to Me


"There's facts about dogs, and then there's opinions about them. The dogs have the facts, and the humans have the opinions. If you want the facts about the dog, always get them straight from the dog. If you want opinions, get them from humans."-- J. Allen Boone

It's so true. Talking with dogs, especially pugs, can be very enlightening about what goes on in their doggy worlds, and in their doggy heads. We have many conversations - two-sided ones - here at the Shady Rest. Here's an example from yesterday:

Mama Ky: Archie?
Archie: Hmm?
Mama Ky: Why are you trying to push the empty toner box into the litter box with your head?
Archie: I may be old and blind, but I'm still a pug. It's a pug thing.
Mama Ky: Oh. So, labs retrieve because that's a lab thing, and corgis herd because it's a corgi thing, and you push things around with your head because it's a pug thing?
Archie: Yup.
Mama Ky: You know your butt's cute when you do that. It wiggles.
Archie: Quit watching my butt. I'm busy.

You just know that GSD owners don't have these little talks...

I talk to other dogs too, not just my own, but honestly, pugs are usually better conversationalists. For one, they're more inquisitive. Some breeds are inclined to just accept human behavior as it is, but pugs want to know why. They are very interested in their world and they ask questions.

"Yes, Heff?"
"When you push the thingy on the big bowl and everything goes away, where does it go? I watch and watch, but can't see."
"That's the joy of living in the city, Heff. It all just goes away. Far away, so Mama doesn't have to worry about it."
"That's a good thing, then?"
"Yes, Heff, it's good."

Sometimes you gain insights into things you thought you knew.

"Why do you keep licking Heff's tail? You've been at it for a good ten minutes now. Does it just taste good, or is it some kind of dominance thing?"
"Because if I'm licking his tail, he can't reach my ears to chew on them, and if I don't do something, I'm going to kill him. I am SO tired of the ear-chewing thing today."
"Ah, that makes sense."

I've always been a big proponent of asking the dog. In our dealings with our dogs, we tend to tell, not ask; order, not request; talk AT but not talk TO. We expect them to learn our language and read our feelings and wants, but too rarely are we willing to do the same for them. No, dogs don't "talk" in the sense of forming coherent words and sentences; they don't have the mouth structure or the brain wiring for it. That does not, however, mean they do not communicate. They do, and quite fluently, if you learn to listen. Body movements, muscle tension, facial expression (dogs smile, wolves don't - it's a learned behavior from watching us), sounds, gestures and sometimes, if you're quiet enough to hear it, actual thoughts.

Yes, I'm well aware that a substantial portion of the population would have me medicated or worse for believing that there is more to human-dog communication than just body language and vocal tone, but so be it - I do. I think telepathy is like the ability to play the piano; some people have a talent for it, others have to work at it, but everyone can do it to one degree or another, and if you don't use the ability, it atrophies. I also tend to think that dogs do it naturally and don't have our hang-ups about it, so they try, whether we're listening or not.

So, as George and I exchange morning greetings as we pass in the hall, that's my Shady Rest advice for the day: to enrich your life with your dog, talk to him...and listen.

Ya'll take care now.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

September 20, 2009 - Waiting for Godot?


Pugs are, at heart, patient creatures. Sure, they get excited and want dinner NOW, not two minutes from now, and they'll hurry you along if they see a leash and you're not at the door quite yet, but still, the essence of the pug is patience. You see, the pug, as a breed, has been carefully bred for nearly 2,500 years to do nothing but be a pleasant companion to humans. They don't herd, they don't hunt. They may retrieve something, if they're in the mood, but it most likely won't be a fresh-shot duck or pheasant. They couldn't guard a sheep if their sweet little souls depended on it and are totally useless as "attack dogs." They are companions. That is their only job, and they do it very well.

The problem with being born and bred to keep humans company is that it requires a great deal of patience, both in the sense of waiting around a lot, and in the sense of being highly tolerant of behaviors that make absolutely zero sense to the canine mind. Nothing in their DNA or their canid instincts offers any clue about wearing sweatshirts, and particularly not sweatshirts emblazoned with "Mommy's Little Stinker." Yet our pugs, because it amuses us, wear them, sometimes in public places in spite of the snickers they probably draw from the more practical herding or hunting members of the canine family. They put up with scented baths (often after just getting their scent "just right" by dog standards,) and wear jewelry never seen in nature. Even some of the really nasty things we humans do to them, they tolerate. I've seen it in rescue - a dog that's been horribly abused still trusts the next human it meets, still wants to be friends. When they have every reason to fear and distrust anything on two legs, they don't. They still approach, sometimes shyly, offering affection. The patient heart of the pug.

And they wait. Lordy, how they wait. They wait for dinner, they wait for walks. They wait for chores to get done so somebody can play with them. When I emerge from the bathroom, at least two are lying in the hall, noses to the bottom of the door, waiting. When I pull into the driveway at the end of the workday, a little silhouette of a head in the window is the first thing I see, waiting.

All this sitting about and waiting would make most humans crazy, but not our pugs. Or, if we do exasperate them, they mostly keep it to themselves. They're just happy to see us, delighted to finally get their share of our attention. "You're home!" and they spin and dance and yip. "You came out of the bathroom! Hooray!" No judgments, no grief, no "Where have you been?" Just pure unbridled joy at being our focus again.

Yesterday, for example, was Santa In September, the big fundraiser we do each year to benefit Ohio Pug Rescue. Cj and I were gone most of the day. Normally, we take the pugs with us, a chance to play in the park and spend time with the mamas, even if the mamas are busy, but this year we left them all at home. Too much to do, too many empty spots on the volunteer schedule, to add pug-wrangling to the day's duties. (Freya always stays home - crowds make her twitchy and unhappy and she'd much rather have some pug-free peace and quiet guarding the house that day.) When we got home, they raced, first to the window to see us pull in, and then to the door, to wait some more for us to get unloaded and come inside. I might have felt horribly guilty at leaving them to amuse each other and annoy the cats while I spent the day in a sunny park with a hundred other pugs, but not one dirty look did we get from our own pugs. Nope. They spun, danced, jumped, squealed and yipped, ecstatic just to have us back home with them. We were dead tired, aching in every cell, but we didn't crash in bed - we sat and cooed and crooned and scritched ears and tummies because, well, who could resist that kind of greeting?

When I did awake this morning, I opened my eyes to Orrville, sitting quietly beside me on the bed, watching the cat and waiting for me to wake up. He could have taken off after the cat, across my head, jolting me awake, but he didn't. When I opened my eyes, he looked down at me. I reached up and started scratching his chin. His eyes started to drift shut and apparently he decided that this getting up business wasn't all he'd originally thought. He slid down, ending up sound asleep with his chin and one paw on my bicep, cuddled against my chest. Sometimes, waiting is nice.

I talk to my dogs, a lot. As I move through my day with my little furry entourage at my heels and often underfoot, we chat. They're good listeners, too, pugs, another trait bred for as part of their companion duties. I like to think it helps them feel included as I do things that really don't require puggy assistance, like the dishes (though I'm not sure I could do it without their help any more, so accustomed to it have I become, nor do I think I'd want to.) We talk about everything - what else needs to be done, what's for dinner, how work went. They seem to enjoy it but in truth, I don't know for sure if it really does anything for them or not...or if it just makes me feel a little better about worrying about mundane chores when I could be spending the time with these wonderful, gentle souls that surround me, waiting...

That's another day at the Shady Rest. Ya'll take care.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

September 6, 2009 - Why Do I Love Thee?

Everybody wants a puppy. Ask any rescuer. The adoption applications pour in for healthy pug puppies, preferably fawn females. Nobody's sure why the preference for fawns or females, but the puppy part isn't hard to figure out. Puppies are fun! They're active, inquisitive, playful, and best of all, they smell like puppy! A puppy has his whole life, probably years and years, ahead of him. You can train him the way you want.

So, if puppies are so great, why is the youngest pug at the Shady Rest three, and all the rest over six? Why do I spend my days surrounded by snoring, gray-faced lumps that must be stepped over, medicated, and cleaned up after? Lumps whose lifespan may well be measured in months instead of years?


Because senior pugs have a charm all their own that cannot be replaced by any bouncy puppy. Puppies are cute; seniors are handsome. Puppies have energy; seniors have dignity. Seniors are survivors, and they're smart. In our "everything is disposable" culture, dumb dogs that can't or don't learn often end up dead, not ever reaching senior status. Puppies have to learn everything from scratch; seniors figured out the basics, and how to get along with humans a long time ago.

Don't get me wrong. I don't dislike puppies, and we'd certainly take one in if he/she needed a place. It's just, if given the choice between an old dog and a baby, I'll take the old one. I know someone will step up to take the puppy. They're fun to have around and usually move on to their new homes fairly quickly, so they're "easy" fosters, or as close to "easy" as any foster can be. With the old guys, you risk them never leaving at all, either because no one opens their heart and home in time or because some medical condition develops that turns a senior foster into a Hospice Foster.

I'm also not saying anything whatsoever negative about people who prefer to foster puppies and younger pugs. Heaven love 'em all. There's a place in rescue for every taste and preference. We have fosters who "specialize" in ones with medical problems, ones that need surgery or therapy, ones that are way obese and getting them trimmed down, and ones that specialize in the waifs that need fattening up. One that takes mostly puppies, and Blessed Be, the Shady Rest isn't the only one that takes mostly seniors. Sadly, there are more than enough pugs for all of them and a few more.

If you should find yourself wanting to adopt a rescued pug, I'm not saying you have to take a senior, but please at least consider it. There are no guarantees on how long any dog will live, and a senior still has his whole life in front of him. He deserves love and safety and care too, and will reward you far beyond your expectations. I lost a pug once to a heart condition at just two years old. No guarantees on length of life, ever, but I can guarantee you all the love you could want.

So, why do I love thee, gray-faced old pug? I love thee for the depth of thy soul, developed over time. I love thee for the wisdom and tolerance that only years can give. I love thee for thy gentle nature, grateful for small favors, that makes it feel even better to do more for you. I love thee for thy sturdy spirit that denies defeat and soldiers on without thought for age. I love thee for thy simple acceptance of the infirmities that living brings, and for celebrating the "is" instead of mourning the "could have been." I love thee for the handsome lines of thy gray-streaked face. I love thee for thy sense of humor, developed over years of dealing with humans. Mostly, I just love thee for being thee, sweet senior.

For Roy

A treasure trove discarded,
Just because the chest looked old.
Opal eyes, silver fur
and heart of antique gold.

A soul of deep devotion breathes
Within that form grown frail,
And happiness still dances,
In that joyous, crooked tail.

Your eyes don't register the glow
Of sunlight from above,
But see, with sharp acuity,
The inner lights of love.

Your ears don't hear the words of love,
Whispered in the dark,
But your heart hears every syllable,
And answers in your bark.

I cannot make you young again,
And I'm not sure I would.
Your years have made you who you are,
A treasure, bright and good.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

September 5, 2009 - Heff, Foodie Wannabe


Heff is a very bright boy - scary-smart sometimes - and I am captivated watching what he learns and how he puts information together. He doesn't always get it right, but you can tell he's really thinking about things in that glossy little head.

He's figured out that "all food comes from the kitchen," so of course, it's his favorite room. The problem, at the moment, is that his sense of cause and effect is still a work in progress, and he's also come to the conclusion that "if it's in the kitchen, it must be good to eat." That part of the equation isn't working so well for him.

We did grocery shopping today and I bought an onion. Just one, not a bag. (I only buy them one at a time and for reasons I'm sure it would take a psychiatric research team years to figure out, I take an unreasonable and thoroughly irrational pride in finding a really GOOD one. You'd think I had to hunt and capture it in the wild myself. Cj quit asking years ago. She just beams back at me when I proudly hold up my "catch" and put it in the cart.) One fine, fat red onion. As we put stuff away (with intense puggy supervision, of course), I put the onion in the "root" basket, where the onions and potatoes live. Heff immediately ran to the basket, grabbed the edge with his paw and pulled it off the shelf. The little head went right down into the basket. Much sniffing. I said, "Heff, it's an onion. Dogs don't like onions, and they're not really good for you anyway." If he heard me at all, I got not so much as an ear-flick in acknowledgement. He poked at the onion with his paw, rolled it around in the basket, wuffed at it. He poked at it some more, until he got it rolled around to where he could reach the little knob of paper at the top, then he grabbed it, picked it up, and started to trot off WITH MY ONION!

The weight was a little much and he dropped it. He proceeded to pounce on it, roll it around, trying to pin it down and get hold of that "handle" again. Looked like a little black soccer player with a little purple soccer ball. He nudged it, tried to grab it with his paw, bit at it. Meanwhile, I'm torn between wanting to take it away from him while it was still fit to use, and fascinated watching him work so hard on it. When he finally settled down with it between his paws and looked like he'd decided to turn it into a chew toy, I took it back. For now, the onion is living on the counter, NOT in the basket.

So, a few hours pass. I feel a little peckish and need to do up some dishes anyway, so while I'm in the kitchen, I open a bag of chips. I nibble as I get stuff together and empty the clean stuff from the dishwasher, then I open the junk drawer for a clip for the top of the chip bag. This drawer has NEVER had food in it. It was designated the Junk Drawer the day we moved in and has remained so. Still, Heff is right there to watch. I pull out a binder clip for the bag, and there is another binder clip attached and it falls to the floor. Heff is on it like white on rice. Snaps it up and trots off with it. Finally, safely out of reach of the other dogs who might steal his prize (and whom, in actuality, couldn't care less about something that made a metallic "ting" as it hit the floor and does not smell like food of any kind), he drops it and studies it carefully, trying to figure out what kind of food it is and how does one go about eating it. Fortunately, I snagged it before he reached any conclusions on consuming it.

He still runs to check every time I open any kitchen drawer or cabinet. I've tried to gently explain that not every space contains food, that the pan drawer has and forever will have skillets, not food, and the baking dish cabinet has and forever will have baking pans. He listens to me, bright-eyed, ears perked, tail wagging and I know. He understands every word...and doesn't believe a one of them.

Just another day at the Shady Rest. Y'all take care now.

Friday, August 28, 2009

August 28, 2009 - I try, I really do... not hurt anybody, not upset anybody. I'm not a violent person. So why are the ones I love and who allegedly love me trying to kill me???

I head for the kitchen, wanting only a coffee refill. Thor, the cat, comes zooming in, squacking at the top of his lungs for no apparent reason, and slams into my right foot. Wouldn't be much of a problem, except he hits hard enough (right on the ankle-bone, mind you) to smack the foot right out from under me. Again, wouldn't be a problem, but the other foot turns out to be in a little puddle from either Archie or George that I hadn't noticed, so it starts to slide. A good bit of flapping and blue verbiage ensues, but I manage to keep from going down. Put down the mug, put down a pee pad, pick up the mug, get my coffee, ever so carefully pick my way back to my desk.

(Thor, the

All is quiet. Dogs sprawl about, dozing. The TV is on, but not loud, crime show, nothing blaring. Suddenly, a male voice (not often heard around here) is shrieking at me at full volume about what THE LORD wants me to do as illustrated RIGHT HERE in verse 33!! I nearly had a freaking heart attack. Riddi kitty had jumped up on the highboy in the bedroom, landing squarely on the "Sleep" button of Cj's clock radio, still set on whatever station it came with, as she's never, ever played it, some gospel station. Scared me, scared the cat, nearly needed another pee pad (for me). I levitate from my chair, trip over Heff while trying to run across the hall (fortunately he's fine and I still manage to remain upright), turn the bloomin' radio OFF and come back. Let my breathing and heart rate return to normal. Take a sip of coffee. All is quiet again.

Then the phone rings...
Yep, just another day at the Shady Rest. Y'all take care.

Monday, August 24, 2009

August 24, 2009 - I Just Called to Say I Love You


Living with many animals, I'm always interested, and endeared, by the many ways they communicate their feelings, particularly when they love you and want you to know. Freya, the non-pug, is a real dog-dog, and shows it. When she's happy to see you, her ears perk up, her eyes get bright, her tail wags frantically and she sometimes forgets herself and jumps up on you. Typical "happy dog" response, and one that always works.

The pugs, however, each have a style of their own. Spencer's the quiet one. He'll run to the door, but then sit and just look, quietly but adoringly, at your face until you notice him. Loki just wiggles all over, his whole body asquirm with joy. Sammie runs right to your feet, as close as he can get, following every movement (which can make it a bit of a challenge to set down your purse or lunch bag), ready to be scritched the second you have a hand free. Not pushy, but definitely persistent.

Heff spins. This is a delightful change. When he first arrived, he was so shy that the closest he got to greeting you was to run away a little slower than usual, but now he spins. If you stop moving, he'll run over, sit down as fast as he can leaning against your leg and stay as long as you'll let him. He's figured out that "touch is good" and is making up for lost time by keeping contact as much as he can.

Orrville is the weird one. He likes to march up to you and rub his lips on your leg. Not lick, not sniff, just push his lips on you. If he's really excited, he'll rub them up and down some before walking away and waiting to be petted. Sometimes, if you're just sitting somewhere, he'll walk up, push his lips up against your calf, stand for a second, then wander off. He seems to find it reassuring.

Archie takes a minute, but once you're close enough for him to see that you're there, he works his way up to his feet and prances back and forth from front paw to front paw. Sometimes he wurfs too. Pet him and he tilts his head back to savor the interaction, delighted to have been noticed in the crowd.

Then there's George. George is sweet, but public displays of puggy affection aren't really his thing. IF he's having a good day, he will notice you're home. That's it. If he raises or turns his head, consider yourself greeted with great enthusiasm. Still, his crusty exterior does conceal a softer heart than he'd admit to, and if you croon at him and rub his ears, you'll be rewarded with a grin that would make Brad Pitt green with envy. Nobody grins like a movie-star handsome, white-faced senior pugboy. George doesn't really say "I love you," but when he turns that smile on you, you know he does.

So, if you happen to find yourself at the Shady Rest, you know what to expect. Y'all take care now.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

August 9, 2009 - The Unexpected Guest

Cj and I were sitting at our respective computers this morning, enjoying a cup of coffee and checking email before starting doggy spa day (several need baths and nail trims), when we heard our next-door-neighbor (the good one) hollering our names. We hollered back to let her know we'd heard her, at first afraid that something had happened to her and nobody else was home to help her. Nope. She's fine. "One of your dogs is out!!!" She hollered. doG love her, she keeps an eye out for pugs outside our fence that should be inside. I counted noses quickly - all our dogs were accounted for, but we went out anyway. She said "he's over there, between my yard and the one around the corner. I can't get him to come to me." Apparently, Cj and I must look like pug people, because we spotted him, said, "Hi, Sweetie." and he ran right to us, and let Cj scoop him up. We could just about hear him thinking "Pug people! They'll know what to do with me!"

He was most definitely not one of ours, though he chilled with the rest of the Shady Rest crew while we tried to find where he belongs. He looked to be about 2-3 years old, neutered fawn male. He was clean and looked recently fed (he burped at me when I introduced myself), so he probably hadn't been AWOL long and we were betting someone's missing him. He was clearly well-cared for and in good condition (better than mine, actually, see note above about bath day), nails short, ears clean, good teeth, and well-socialized with people and other dogs.

We called OPR, in case someone called there to check ("why, yes, as a matter of fact, a couple of our volunteers already have him in custody"), left descriptions with the two area shelters and one all-breed rescue that has a shelter too. Called the two nearest vets too and left messages, in case the little fellow might be on their patient roster.

It isn't always a good idea to put up a lot of flyers if you find a lost dog. It posts your phone number all over the place with no safeguards, and may invite people other than the real owner to call and try to claim a dog that isn't really theirs. Still, I thought, if it were my dog and I was out frantically wandering around on foot or in my car looking, just a little guidance on which direction to look would be more than welcome. So, we decided to place just four flyers, one at each end of our own block and one at each of the next closest cross streets. Just "Found Pug" and Cj's cell number. Figured if it was the legitimate owner, they'd know the rest.

A little time went by. Foundling made himself at home with the rest of the Shady Rest gang and seemed to be enjoying his "play date." Then the phone rang. A very nice, somewhat stressed young woman described his collar, color and style, and the tag that was attached so we agreed to take him to meet her. She'd seen one of the "found dog" flyers as she was on her way to make copies of her "lost dog" flyer. She just stopped the car where she was and called on her cell, so we told her to stay there and we were on our way (after making sure we had the right fawn pug - there are so many around here.)

We knew immediately it was really his owner. Friendly though he had been with us, his whole face lit up and his tail started flapping the minute he saw her. She was equally delighted to see him, and while they got back together and exchanged hugs, we discovered his name was Chico. Apparently, a son had left a gate closed, but not latched, and Chico had taken advantage of the opportunity to go walkabout. His mama told us she was very happy he'd ended up with pug-lovers and not alone in the heat. Turns out he was only about three blocks from home.

I love a happy ending. That's today at the Shady Rest. Ya'll take care now.

Monday, August 3, 2009

August 3, 2009 - I'm Walkin'


Well, no, I'm not walkin'. That's the problem. Ambulation is a bit of an issue at the Shady Rest, and not just for the dogs with some limb issues. One of the delights of pugs is that they always want to be near you. Always. Very near. Preferably attached to your ankles like barnacles to a boat's keel. Cozy, as long as you're not needing or wanting to actually GO anywhere for a while. Perfectly delightful for keeping your toes warm while you read emails on a cold winter's day. Not so much in August, when you're already sweating, with a fan and only a T-shirt and your drawers on. Seven small, hairy bodies generate an amazing amount of heat when they're just laying atop your feet. Heaven forbid you actually want to walk about the house.

Freya, our non-pug pugherd, is part Belgian Malinois. The Malinois is a herding dog and she can't help herself. She has to herd something, which was a hoot when she was still a puppy and hadn't yet learned that they call an impossible task "herding cats" for a reason. Still, at least her DNA makes it make sense when she insists on walking everywhere right behind me, usually nudging me with her nose every few feet, just in case I should forget the route from the office to the kitchen.

The pugs, however, clearly have NO herding DNA whatsoever in their breed makeup. They insist, all of them, on clustering in front of me and milling about. I wouldn't mind them walking in front of me if they'd actually walk. They don't. They mill, in a sort of Brownian motion that would make a physicist proud. This results in me spending much of my day sounding rather like a cow - "Moooooooove!" "C'mon, mooooooooooove." If I can get them all milling around in the same general direction, sometimes we can make progress.

Not that walking is the only activity impeded by puggy inertia. I had this conversation with Orville last night, while trying to change out of my work clothes:

"Hi, Mama! Whatcha doin?"
"Trying to take my jeans off. Could you move please?"
"Hows come you keep hitting me in the head with your pants leg?"
"Because you won't move. Scoot over some, wouldja?"
"OW! Mama, you kicked me!"
"I didn't kick you. I tripped over you. Mama's sorry, now move."
"Like this?"
"No. Maybe I wasn't clear. By "move" I meant go over there, not spin in a circle and sit down in the same place."
"I love you, Mama. I want to be close."
"Mama loves you too, my little bug-eyed barnacle. That lumpy thing under your butt? That's my foot. I need it now. Please move."
"Are we gonna eat soon?"
"Not if you don't get out from between Mama and the kitchen, no."

I'm not sure which one's worse; Orville, who sits on my foot; Archie, who gets in front of me and just prances up and down; or Sammie, who takes a perverse delight in trotting obligingly along in front of me, but then grinding to a stop with no warning and for no apparent reason. I sometimes wonder if he's trying to kill me in retaliation for all the fosters.

So, anyway, if you need me for anything, I'll be here. Right here. Trapped here in this chair with about 115 total pounds of pug draped over my numb feet.

Y'all take care, now.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

August 2, 2009 - They Got Us Again

Howdy! I know it's been a while. Budget time at work, yard sale time at home, and a new addition to the Shady Rest crew. Heff moved in last weekend, a handsome, black puppy mill surrender. For a mill dog, he's in great shape - very handsome, very healthy, if a bit shy from lack of sufficient socialization. He's learning fast, though, that belly rubs are good and treats aren't bad either.

Yes, we were at capacity. We try to keep three foster slots - one for an older or special needs one that isn't really too likely to get adopted, one for a pug that may or may not get adopted, and one for one that probably will get adopted and relatively soon. George, Archie and Orville, respectively, fill those slots now. So, you ask, how did Heff, a baby at three years old, end up being the Shady Rest mascot? Because the rescue has us on speed-dial, under "pigeon," that's how. The words "Emergency!" and "needs a foster home today or else" did the trick. Sometimes you can wait a little, work with the family, buy a little time, but sometimes you gotta get the dog NOW. Heff is a "NOW" pug. So, late at night, as soon as he arrived in town, we picked him up.

Here he is, the very night he arrived, and yes, his ears do pop right up to the top of his head when something catches his attention. He's very bright, carefully observing the other dogs and how things work. He wants so much to be friendly - he's every cell a pug - he's just not quite sure how, but he observes and takes notes. He loves to cuddle, especially with Orville, and sleeps in the Pug Palace with Loki at night. He'll make someone a delightful companion after a little vetting and socializing.

That's it for now. It's late, all the Shady Rest residents and staff are asleep except me, and nothing will make you drowsy like a house full of softly snoring pugs. That's today at the Shady Rest. Y'all take care.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

July 16, 2009 - Curses, Foiled Again!

Wow! It's been a while! It's been busy here at the Shady Rest. I told you that Peapod got adopted, so that opened a bunk and Orville moved in. Orville is about six, a delightful little fawn imp that doesn't cause trouble...much. He doesn't scare easily, Orville. He came from a home with a lot of small children, and even Freya's snarking at him to show him who's boss leaves him less than impressed. He's pretty small and honestly, his head looks a little big for his little frame, but he has a big grin and loves to cuddle, so who cares. He gets along very well with everybody, if you can excuse the fact that he really wants to play with the cats more than they want to play with him.

Orville will be off to the vet in a week or three to get chipped, snipped and shot. His back legs are a little weak, looks like maybe some nerve damage from an old injury, but aside from a little wobble he gets around great. He can even jump on the bed by himself. Otherwise, though, he's a bright-eyed, healthy, happy, inquisitive, affectionate pug.

Orville is also smart. We haven't had a problem with any dog getting into the trash for years, but suddenly this little guy with the wonky legs was managing to knock the whole can over and romp among the contents! I heard a crash, went to investigate, and found him lying on his tummy in a pile of coffee grounds, contentedly licking out a cat food can from the night before. I explained that this was NOT acceptable behavior. He was unimpressed (see note above about Orville not scaring easily.) I thought that perhaps it was the fairly low level of trash in the can and light weight that allowed him the leverage to push it over, so I put a brick in the bottom of the can and thought the problem solved. Until the next day. Now I was truly puzzled. I looked at the can, the trash, the lid, the bag...the bag. THAT'S IT! There were small tears and tooth marks on the edge of the trash BAG, not the can. He wasn't pushing it over, he was grabbing the edge of the bag and pulling! I had to admire his cleverness, even as I tucked the edge of the bag up under the lid. Foiled.

The other denizens of the Shady Rest are doing well. Archie's weight loss continues and he now has a recognizable neck and waist! He's even more handsome than before, and getting more active the easier it gets for him to move. Check him out!

For some reason, Loki has made himself a little nest in the corner of the bedroom closet. I assume maybe it's a little cooler in there, or he just likes the peace and quiet, but that's where he spends several hours a day now. Spencer is his usual charming self, in need of a bath now after frolicking in the mud in the back yard. George is George, comforting in his consistency. He's moved into the bathroom for the summer, enjoying the cooler tiles, so I get to spend a little more time rubbing his head and crooning at him how handsome he is. We both enjoy the time. Sammie has taken Orville under his wing and they hang out together, investigating every noise and smell shoulder-to-shoulder and napping hip-to-hip.

The Shady Rest - a mostly peaceable kingdom. Ya'll take care now.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

June 25, 2009 - Notes on the Dance


Ever hear that country song, "Life's a Dance"? "Life's a dance, you learn as you go..." Very, very true. Half the joy of living at the Shady Rest is being allowed, privileged, if you will, to watch the Dance - the interaction of species and personalities.

Sometimes, George gets irritated with Archie. George, not realizing Archie can't see either, takes offense when Archie runs into him, and sometimes harsh words ensue (always on George's side - Archie's middle name is "Mild" and he never gets upset.) Then the music changes and, as tonight, they sit, shoulder to shoulder, in companionable peace.

The cats join the dance too. Spare loves dogs, all dogs, and even more so his pugs. Spencer will be sitting in the kitchen and Spare will sidle up to him. He circles, a feline do-si-do, rubbing against Spencer's chest, purring in time, bowing on the turns.

Riddi, our guest kitty (belongs to the kid who used to live here - long story) prefers teasing dogs to cuddling them. I'm trying to convince her that hiding up on the dining room chair seat and poking George in the head as he goes by is not the friendliest of games, but she remains unpersuaded. It's becoming their little ritual. As long as she continues to be quick enough to keep him from catching her at it, I'll let them work it out.

Dancing... Last Friday, we went to Dogs on the Deck - a local bar opens their deck space once a month in the summer to Ohio Pug Rescue, allowing us to come, have fun, share the profits and make some money with grab bag sales and a raffle. We get to bring our pugs to join the other dogs playing on the deck, and to show off our fosters in hopes of finding them interested possible homes. Cj and I didn't get to bring one of the Shady Rest boys, because we had to go right after work, but we were fortunate to be sharing a table with an adorable, older pug named Harvey. Small, cobby and devilishly handsome, Harvey charmed the socks off anyone who approached the table (paying particular attention to the people carrying pizza or nachos...). Music played, a variety of types and styles to suit everyone. Then it happened. The first notes of Harry Belafonte's "Banana Boat Song" wafted through the air. A lovely young woman from the next table over, who'd been flirting with Harvey for some time, approached Harvey's parents and politely said she'd like a dance partner, and was Harvey available? He was, so carefully, she swooped him up in her arms. With one paw on her shoulder and one paw in her hand, gazing raptly into her eyes, Harvey showed no sign of fear or discomfort, only a joy that was mirrored in her smile.

"Six foot" (lean left),
"seven foot" (lean right),
"eight foot" (straighten up),
"Bunch!" (Up Harvey went, lifted briefly up in the air),
"Daylight come" (spin around) "and me wanna go home" (full dip.)

Together they danced, in tune with the music and with each other. Harvey was completely relaxed, trusting this stranger completely, full eye contact the whole time. They both smiled at each other, joined by everyone around who stopped eating, drinking and talking, to watch. At the last "me wanna go home" she dipped him again, planted a kiss on his nose, and returned him to his mom.

The dance. People ask me sometimes, "Why do you keep taking in seniors? They die so soon. It has to hurt," and indeed, it does. Still, to quote another country song, "I could have missed the pain, but I'd have had to miss the dance." I wouldn't have missed a step I've shared with these guys, the present and the lovingly remembered.

Y'all take care, and if you have the choice, I hope you dance.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

June 18, 2009 - The Oldsters

The oldsters are at it again. If I've learned anything, it's that people who think that old dogs are dull, slow, or boring, have never spent a second at the Shady Rest. My senior fosters, George (11) and Archie (12), cause more problems than the other three combined. Since I didn't meet either of them until they were seniors, I have no way of knowing if they were evil as puppies or just got that way with age.

In addition to the whole near-toe-loss thing I told you about with George nearly taking my foot off, later, we had Archie barking for no reason, which wakes up George, who has to bark because someone else is, which startles Thor and sends him running down the hall, which sets off Sammie's prey drive and sends him scurrying after Thor, running past George, spinning him around so now he's barking AT Archie, who's now carrying on because somebody's barking in his face...sheesh.

While eating his dinner, George got into a scuffle with the bathmat. It was draped over the edge of the tub to dry and a corner brushed his ear (he opted to have dinner in the bathroom that night; he does that sometimes. I dont' ask why. He's a senior, he can do whatever he wants.) He grabbed that corner and didn't let go until the evil bathmat beat a hasty retreat. (Well, okay, it fell over the edge into the tub, but I'm not telling him that.)

Anybody have a puppy I can borrow for a couple of days? I need the rest.

Yep, just another day at the Shady Rest. Y'all take care, now.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

June 14, 2009 - An apology and update

First, I'm sorry that it's taken me so long to do an update. I promised myself I'd shoot for at least two entries a week, and I haven't given up, but I didn't make it this time.

First, I work two and sometimes three jobs, and one had shifted into high gear for the end of the season, so, much to the dismay of the Shady Rest denizens, I had practically no time at all outside of work and work. That's done now, though, and for a couple of months, at least, there should be more time for creative endeavors.

Secondly, it's already time to be gearing up for Santa In September (SIS). SIS is a fundraising, rescue-networking event that Cj and I host. Santa himself shows up, taking a break from his toy-making supervisory duties to take pictures with all kinds of critters. The money from the gate, Santa pictures, raffles and concession stand all go to the pugs of OPR, but other rescues are invited and can make money at their own booths. It's a great opportunity for rescues to get acquainted and do some networking, and to get free exposure to the community while having some fun. It's also rather labor-intensive, as there are rescues to invite, donors to schmooze (absolutely everything is donated so 100% of the income goes to the pugs), and vendors to lure.

Finally, nothing guarantees peace and quiet like looking at a bunch of pugs and announcing, "Okay, guys. Mama has a blog to write. Do something funny!" (insert sound of crickets chirping here.)

There have been some changes here at the Shady Rest. Peapod, the baby of the group, found his forever home and was adopted. Cj and I did the adoption Friday night and were very impressed with his new home and family. Two adult humans who fell for him immediately, no kids, a HUGE yard to romp in, and a big, happy, good-natured Lab named Lola to romp in it with. Peapod warmed up faster to them, Lola included, faster than we'd ever seen him warm up to anyone, and we're taking that as a good omen that he'll be very happy there for the rest of his life. Lola is clearly treated like a princess, and there is every reason to believe that Peapod will be the prince in residence.

George and I did have a "moment" yesterday. (Why is it always George?) I'm wearing my usual schelp-around-the-house-in-warm-weather footware - a pair of Crocs knockoff sandal thingys. This is a good thing. I walked into the bathroom in the dark and failed to notice that George had crawled in there for a nap. I didn't really step on him or hurt him in any way, but I did bump into him and startle him awake. This is never, ever a good thing to do. He was on his feet, spun around and snapping at my foot faster than a blink. I managed to yank my foot up and back and he got hold of the shoe. Three good snaps, a grab and a serious shaking followed before he released it! He had that puppy up over his head wailing on it. I was SO glad I was wearing something I could slide out of quickly. I might have really lost a toe if he'd grabbed me instead of the shoe. I was impressed, in a kind of shaky, "holy crap" kind of way.

Well, there you are. Another week at the Shady Rest. We'll probably get in another foster soon, now that Peapod is happily placed and you know you'll hear it here first. Y'all take care.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

June 3, 2009 - Yep, That's Where I'm Going

Thought on the afterlife - I know where I'm going...and my handbasket is packed and ready. I know I'm going there, because that's what happens to people who laugh at old, blind dogs, even if the dog in question doesn't catch them at it.

You must understand - George has, at best, a love-hate relationship with most objects in the kitchen. The refrigerator sometimes threatens to take his dish, and apparently the stove looks at him funny from time to time. They must, for he frequently attacks them furiously for no reason obvious to us non-dog types or, for that matter, to the other canine residents of the Shady Rest, who look on in tolerant bewilderment. The appliances don't seem to talk smack to them, but perhaps George has communication skills we can only imagine.

Let me explain - on the kitchen wall opposite the sink and stove stands a very narrow book case. The upper shelves hold cookbooks, but the bottom shelf holds a Longaberger basket. In this basket is where the potatoes and onions live as they await their culinary fate. Normally, any bagged potatoes are removed from the bag and placed in the basket, but this time I was in a hurry and just set the bag in the basket to deal with later. This left the top of the bag flopping over the edge of the basket.

Tonight during dinner, George managed to scoot his bowl over by the bookcase. This put him within range of the bag top and it brushed against his cheek. ATTACK! Furious that something was that close to his bowl, he commenced barking, growling, snapping, determined to fight it off. I think that's about the time I bought my ticket and boarded that bus. He gets this serious look on his handsome, gray face and I just started to giggle. He glared in the direction of the bag, still growling furiously. Cj attempted to negotiate a peace. "George." Fierce barking and another snap. Now the bag top is draped over his head, clearly counterattacking. This brings on an enraged snarling growl. "GEOrge." A deep growl. "GEORGE!" Grumble, grumble. "It's okay, George. You scared off the potato bag." He shakes all over and stomps away, satisfied with his least until he smacks head-first into the refrigerator. ::Sigh:: Maybe that's why he doesn't like the fridge.

Yep. Just another day at the Shady Rest. Y'all take care now.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

May 30, 2009 - Moments

In spite of what some people probably think, after reading my on-line posts and stories, the Shady Rest isn’t always a laugh-a-minute circus. It’s never dull, mind you, but often it is, as its name suggests, a place of peace, where the quiet rhythms of daily life predominate. Days without “episodes” so much as “moments,” the kinds of moments you take for granted unless you consciously stop and think about it.

Moments like running the obstacle course from the office to the kitchen for a coffee refill. I’m sure it would seem troublesome to those who have no pets, or maybe one, but here it’s a taken-for-granted routine. Move Spencer off my foot, warn Sammie I’m moving so I don’t run over his toes, roll the chair back, get up. Pick up the coffee mug, step over Freya dozing in the doorway. Down the hall, veering to the right so as to not step on George, who is once again sleeping half in the hall and half in the bathroom. Get to the kitchen, dodge to the left to miss Archie, who has guard duty in the kitchen arch this afternoon. Slow down while passing the sink because Peapod will be running over to watch me pour the coffee. Fill the cup, then carefully reverse the whole process to get back to my desk without sloshing hot coffee on myself or anyone else, then evict Loki from my desk chair before sitting down again. Not a problem, not unusual, that’s just how you get coffee here.

Of course there are times when just leaving the office at all is fraught with adventure. Yesterday, for example, Spencer was sound asleep and Cj got up and left the room. He didn't notice, but when she came back down the hall, he woke up, saw movement in the hall and charged her! Back up, barking his head off, and nearly bit her! He slid to a stop by her ankle, sniffed it, and his little tail just unrolled. He felt so bad about attacking his mama. His head drooped and he came back in the office and flopped down on the snuggle bed, barely looking in her direction. Of course she came in, rubbed his head, told him he was a very good boy for defending the mamas, and that any misunderstanding was forgiven. He perked up a little, but still looked a little discouraged. My brave defender.

Sometimes, it’s not even “moments,” so much as snapshots. You know the ones. Images you see in passing that stick in your mind for years, or forever, and always make you feel good when they bubble to the surface of your mind. Waking up yesterday morning to Sammie, flat on his back, paws in all directions, head on my pillow, sheet covering him up to the armpits, and snoring softly. Nothing “happened,” but that picture will stay in my head in Sammie’s file of memories. Walking by the bedroom and noticing Freya and Spencer (who don’t always get along really well) sound asleep together on the bed, with her muzzle resting on his hip. Peapod, lying in the path of the fan, head back, eyes half-open, just enjoying the breeze ruffling his ears. George, standing in the kitchen, barking fiercely at the bookcase for no reason that anyone but George comprehends. Snapshots.

It’s late, but the day isn’t done yet. I still have to go out to the kitchen and strip a chicken. I tossed a whole bird in the stew pot this afternoon, just for the dogs, and I’m sure I’ll have plenty of supervision for that project, canine and feline alike. Nothing like a chicken to bring a fur family together.

Yep, just another day at the Shady Rest. Y’all take care now.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

May 24, Some Pics from Yesterday


I'm still a little pooped from yesterday, so this will be short, but I wanted to share a couple of the pics I took at the event.

Here's our crew at the registration/check in table. Unfortunately, I could never quite find a chance to get a pic without the sign, because there were so many people checking in. This is a good thing!

Here are the OPR booths, with sales, Pennies For Pugs weigh-in, donations, information and general good-natured cameraderie all day long.

Annie the pug's folks, with Annie under Dad's knee. For all her obedience training, she just wasn't into the "come out and smile for the camera" thing. Such a sweet family.
Y'all take care. I'll see you soon.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

May 23, 2009 – New Life, Sickness, Healing, Death – a Microcosm of Life on a Sunny Saturday at the Park.

Today was the annual Ohio Pug Rescue Reunion Picnic, a grand and always-popular day to go to a beautiful park with your own pugs, show off your foster pugs, greet the Alumni (former OPR pugs that have been adopted and are now living large in their Forever Homes), play games, eat hot dogs, shop the vendors, and buy as many raffle tickets as you can squeeze out of your retirement fund. It always makes money for the rescued pugs and a good time is always had by all, and sometimes, it can even make you think about life’s Bigger Things.

Bigger Things, like new life. There were a LOT of puppies in attendance this year, some just barely old enough to have had their shots and be in public. Their energy, curiosity, playfulness and puppy-clumsiness gave smiles all around. It takes a hard heart indeed not to grin when a tiny, wall-eyed pug puppy is climbing on your foot, trying to sniff your ankle, meet your dog, and eat his leash, all at once.

Bigger Things, like a fresh chance at life. One of the most rewarding moments of being in rescue is seeing a former rescued pug, one you remember as skinny, sick, or scared, now fluffy, happy and confident, adored by his new family and having the chance at a second life that is much better than the first one.

Bigger Things, like sickness and healing. I met an older couple today, wonderful people, and their little pug girl. They had married when he was in his late 70’s and she in her late 60’s (which already won my heart – I’m a sap for a good love story, particularly one that involves people over 30.) When they wed they agreed “No pets, not even a bowl of goldfish.” That lasted until they fell in love with a pug, one in a television commercial, no less. They stopped whatever they were doing when it came on and watched for the pug (they still don’t recall what the advertisement was for, they only remember the pug.) He became ill and was hospitalized. To cheer him, she brought him pictures of pugs to put up in his room, until one day he told her, “I want one. I want a pug.” Knowing that some commitments are more important than others, she agreed, and when he came home, they found a good breeder and picked out a puppy. Not surprisingly, the lucky puppy was the one that toddled right up to him and snuggled in like she already knew where she belonged (and I have no doubt she did.) She told him, “You are responsible for this dog. You have to feed it, walk it, train it.” And so he did. Nearly 80 and fresh out of the hospital, he took the puppy out in the middle of the night for potty breaks. He bent and reached to fill her bowl and serve her, and in the process of all the work that goes into a puppy, he improved. He improved so much that now the couple is attending pug events with their pug, and so much that his rehab nurse is recommending pug ownership to many of her patients for faster, better healing. Medicine is strong, the animal-human bond even stronger.

Bigger Things, like death. One rarely expects Death to appear, and especially not on a sunny, happy, spring day of fun. Still, about halfway through the picnic, the dreaded cry that no one EVER wants to hear rang out – “PUG DOWN!” People ran – rescuers, volunteers, guests – with only one thought. “How can I help?” Cell phones emerged like wildflowers in spring as a dozen people, some with a cell in each hand, dialed frantically to find a vet that might be open on a Saturday afternoon, or at least might have a vet on call, or an emergency vet clinic closer than the other side of town. Two EMT’s in the crowd immediately started full CPR when it became evident the condition was worse than simple overheating. They didn’t hesitate at mouth-to-snout rescue breathing or chest compressions. One member called ahead to the emergency clinic so they’d be ready, then drove the pug (Barney) and his mom so mom wouldn’t have to drive in a panic, and they followed another member who drove so there would be no time wasted getting lost. As they pulled from the parking lot, the entire assembled crowd fell silent, as everyone prayed to whoever they pray to for this little pug. When the call came later with the outcome, the activities of the moment were interrupted, and with a breaking voice, the announcer let us all know that Barney had not made it. Another silence descended as everyone stopped to wish Barney safe passage to the other side, and to ask for strength and comfort for his family.

The Biggest Thing – Love. Barney’s mom returned to the picnic, gracious in her grief, to thank all those who had worked so hard to save her boy, to see if she’d won the 50/50 raffle, not because the money was more important to her than her loss, but because if she did win, she wanted to donate her half to the rescue in Barney’s memory, and to find, perhaps, some comfort in the company of those who would understand her pain better than any one – fellow pugfolk. A collection was taken, among people who had already dug down to the lint in their pockets to help the rescue, and the money was raised to cover Barney’s vet bill and cremation bill.

(NOTE: The vet confirmed that a heart attack, probably from underlying and undiagnosed cardiac problems, took Barney to the Bridge, the heat was NOT the cause. I do NOT want anyone mistakenly thinking, because I wasn't clear, that he was not properly cared for in the warm weather. He was a happy, well-loved and well - cared for pug who will be sorely missed.)

The Shady Rest pugs – Sammie, George, Archie and Peapod, were, of course, in attendance (Loki and Spencer, not being OPR pugs, relaxed at home with Freya and the cats) and were a big hit. They came home tired, hungry and a little overdosed on ear-rubs, belly-scritches and general making over. They’re all sound asleep now, except for Archie, who should have no tummy fur left after all the belly rubs he received. Archie is guarding the bedroom door, smiling benevolently and content with his lot. Humanity could learn much about life, death, love, comfort and contentment from pugs, and from the people who love them.

Y’all take care of yourselves, and of each other.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

May 20, 2009 Hidden Treasures


Well, it's been quite a day - while I was at work, Archie, occupied himself with tormenting Cj.

She let the dogs out for morning potty and Archie strolled out with them. Normally, Archie confines his morning constitutional to the deck, being not overly fond of the steps to the yard. When she returned just moments later to let them back in, Archie was nowhere to be seen. Concerned, she stepped out on the deck to find him, expecting him to be either just behind the corner of the grill and out of sight, or perhaps, if the warm weather had him feeling adventurous, browsing at the base of the steps. Nope. No Archie. Cj begins roaming the yard. It's been recently mowed, so he's not lost in the grasses or anything. No sign of him. Now she's getting worried. Could he have somehow gotten out?? How?! The fence is secure, gates closed and secured, no holes a squirrel could have gotten through, much less a pug of Archie's dimensions. She goes back to the door, summons Freya the pugherd and Peapod, Archie's best buddie, to help her, figuring one of them will go right to him. She follows them all over the yard. Still no luck. As she returns to the deck, she sees movement from the corner of her eye. There he sits, the cause of all this effort, on the bottom shelf of the grill, watching benignly as she drives herself and the other dogs crazy looking for him. Archie, were he human, would be considered legally blind, not totally. Details escape him but he is capable of watching large shapes in motion - like a full-figured human circling the yard - and seemed to be enjoying being the object of the fuss. Once he was spotted and the game was up, he toddled back in the house under his own steam, the very picture of cooperation.

Yep, just another day at the Shady Rest. Y'all take care.

Monday, May 18, 2009

May 18, 2009 - Introduction

I probably ought to start by introducing the current residents of the Shady Rest, so the rest of the blog makes some kind of sense, or at least as much sense as it can, in a house full of pugs.

The Permanent Residents:
Ky - your mistress of ceremonies, ringmaster of the circus, keeper of the zoo, cook and bottlewasher.
Cj. - Ever-patient, pug-loving life mate to Ky, alternate cook and bottlewasher.
Freya - 7 year old Belgian Malinois/Chow mix, alpha canine, professional pugherd.
Sammie - 10-year-old fawn male, rescue pug, Ky's shadow. Good natured and mostly sensible.
Spencer - 5-year-old fawn male, a big, happy, loving lug, body like a tank, heart like a teddy bear.
Loki - 6-year-old black male. Our Ebony Einstein, he's not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but he makes up for it in being very sweet. Chaos follows him despite his not having a deliberately malicious bone in his little body.

The Fosters:
George - Senior Foster. 11-year-old, totally blind fawn male. Movie-star handsome, alternately sweet and grumpy.
Archie - 12-year-old mostly-blind foster with some, um..., "weight issues." He's on a serious diet and exercise program.
Peapod - 3-year-old fawn male. Sweet, polite little gentleman.

The Cats:
Spare - 8 year-old orange tabby boy. Reincarnation of some Zen monk taking a vacation between human lives. He is the most calm, mellow, unflappably philosophical cat I've ever met. Loves dogs.
Thor - 7-year-old, solid black male. Handsome, and a bit of a clingy mama's boy.
Kali - 10-year-old white on the bottom, black and orange on the top calico girl. Well beyond shy, she's lived in the half-bathroom for nearly three years now. She enjoys the occasional quiet visit, but isn't much for going out.

Here's your Shady Rest story for today. Perhaps it will give you a bit of a feel for what's to come.

Foraging honey bees perform a dance upon their return to the hive. A "waggle dance" indicates that food is farther away, while the "round dance" indicates food is nearby. The laden forager dances on the comb in a circular pattern, occasionally crossing the circle in a zig-zag or waggle pattern. The runs and turns of the dance correlate to the distance and direction of the food source from the hive. The orientation of the dance correlates to the relative position of the sun to the food source, and the length of the waggle portion of the run is correlated to the distance from the hive. The more vigorous the display is, the better the food.

This was brought to mind as I was watching Archie preparing to have a poop. He goes around and around, head down, his nose the maypole around which the rest of him circles. He changes directions, waggles back and forth, zig-zags. From the movement, duration and vigor of his dance, he resembles nothing so much as a very, very pudgy, beige bee describing to an Ohio hivemate a particularly tasty flower somewhere in Albania. He paces briefly back and forth, then zeroes in again on his target foci. Around and around his plump butt goes. He's making ME sweat, he's working so hard at it. Then, finally, his message complete, he freezes. Slowly the butt lowers and the moment comes. A poop the size of a chapstick. That's it. Just one. So much effort, so little result. Still, pleased with himself, he smiles as he rolls off to take a well-deserved nap.

Yep, just another day at the Shady Rest. Y'all take care now.