Sunday, November 10, 2013

Naughty Dog Requiem

Eleven years ago, except for when I was a kid, I'd had nothing but cats. I'd moved out of a roommate situation, amicably, but into my own space, the first apartment I'd had just to myself. My cat, a fluffy Himalayan, had passed a few months ago, and I decided I wanted a dog. No one I knew had a dog. All my friends were cat people. Yet the idea persisted: a black pug was the dog for me. "Dogs take so much attention," the cat people warned me. "Are you sure?" Yet I searched on. I found a breeder. I kept thinking, overthinking, agonizing. It became a calling. The trepidation increased: was it the right thing to do? Could I give him enough attention? Would I walk him enough? Still, I decided on a name. Pugs are rather hobbitlike - stocky, focused on creature comforts, independent, second-breakfasting - so Pippin was perfect. In Lord of the Rings, a life manual of sorts for gamer nerd girls like me, Pippin was the mischievous one who did things his own way, yet it always worked out for him. Though I chose the name before I even knew the dog, it fit.

In the vast marketplace of the interwebs, I lit upon a photo of a pug puppy. Someone who was in my life then, but isn't now, who was a dog person, said, "I like him." This emboldened me. I trekked an hour plus to the lady's house who raised him. I went twice, and even brought a trusted friend. On the second visit, in a laundry basket, there were two pups left. One was pulling the tail of the other, fooling with and bothering him, with no regard for the wishes of his brother. There's something about all contrary creatures, those that play with other beings, that disregard the rules and upset the order, that appeals to me. I knew, watching him, that Pip was my kind. He was the dog for me.

Through these past eleven years, he was constantly by my side, almost always within three feet, if not touching me. I've never married and have no kids of my own, so in that kind of life, pets become even more magnified in their unconditional devotion. No matter what winds were blowing outside the walls, or within me, his snorty, snuffling love endured. The moments of joy, frustration, and laughter he brought me are countless: As a baby, he sat behind me on the couch when I sat on the floor watching The Sopranos and yanked my hair in his tiny teeth again and again. I christened him "Overly" (overly cute) or "Hobbit Dog" (because of his name) or "Gator" (because of how he bit my fingers snapping up his favorite food - chicken) and a thousand other things, depending on his whimsical antics. We went for walks in the park, unwittingly terrorizing dog-fearing ladies. He ruined floors and mattresses, anointing my house with unauthorized pee for over a decade, trenchant in his dedication. We played "Toro" after he got out of the bath as he charged, dripping wet, into the drying towel again and again. He went into a biting, berserker frenzy if you ever stepped on his toes accidentally, and drew blood from me more than once. Back in the days of AOL, he trained himself that when he heard "Goodbye" from the PC, mom was going to bed, so it was time to head to the bedroom. Armchair ottomans were not a place for feet, but an intermittent threat to be menaced by him, chewed at and tugged across the floor. He once found beef jerky, forgotten in a road trip bag in my closet, and kept going in, snuffling through anything his nose touched, for years, determined that he might find hidden treasure again. At age nine, after the vet confirmed he had lost his sight, I held him and cried, but even blind, he was never afraid of anything, charging down the sidewalk on his leash as he always had. He never cared a lot what I wanted, and any shouted admonitions from me went unheeded as some irrelevant noise outside the realm of his concern. He loved me more than anyone he knew on earth, but had his own pug agenda, not to be trifled with by humans. That defiant spirit carried him through two more days than he should have survived.

On Friday evening, I lost him. He and I fought hard, with money and lots of vet effort and love, but it was time. I was there, and he wasn't alone or in a hospital kennel, so I'm glad for those things.  I have three other dogs, and I love them, too, but they came along, needing rescue. They weren't chosen so carefully, haven't yet been cherished so long. We aren't supposed to, but we do have favorites, and he was mine.

Pugs are said to be "multum in parvo" - a great deal (of personality) in a small space. My Pippin was that, a memorable character, and is mourned this weekend by everyone whose life he ever touched. I'll love him always.

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"All you got is this moment." - Hutchence, Farriss, Pengilly, Beers, Farriss


2 comments:

TJ said...

I am so sorry for your heartache over the loss of your wonderful doggy. I wonder if we can ever repay them for all they give us. Best to you in your healing.

Carl J. Elitz said...

A wonderful piece of writing, V. I really enjoyed it.

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