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.