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.

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