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.