When I was in my second or third year of school, my dad felt bad because our dog Pug had died. Pug was only part pug, and the one picture that I remember of him makes me think that Pug was a beagle-pug mix. There was something about Pug’s Pugness that made Dad buy two pugs from the grandparents of two of my school friends. These pugs were named Pat and Bill. I don’t know how old Pat and Bill were when we got them. They were an unrelated pair meant to bred more pugs…but they lived well in to my high school years. I don’t remember when Pat died. She was a nice pug, although an indifferent mother to her puppies. It would have never occurred to her to rip open the amniotic sac, so my mother had to do it for her. Her last litter, I did with Dad looking on and later announcing that he and I delivered the puppies. I corrected him. HE hadn’t done a thing. We weren’t a puppy mill, and Pat wasn’t constantly pregnant. I don’t remember a lot of litters. Once we ripped open the sacs and got the puppies breathing, she took over the rest of the job. Pug puppies are adorable. They’re born looking like little grey rats with straight tails. Slowly, their tails curl and they lighten in color. They’re beyond cute. I used to wish they would stay puppies because they were so much fun.
My dad gave my sister and I each pugs of our own, and my pug Susie was even at my wedding reception. Bill and Pat produced Susie and two others in her litter, Shawn and Sheila, (I didn’t name them, my sister did) when I was 11, so until my sister left the house and gave Shawn away, we had four pugs. Bill was the undisputed patriarch of the family. He was proud, and a gentleman. I loved to take Billy on walks. He’d wait gallantly until I stepped off the curb, and then he would step up. When we crossed the street, once again, Billy would hesitate. He would wait until I stepped up on the curb first. Billy didn’t walk down the sidewalk. He pranced.
As gentle as he was with me, he was no pushover. Billy ruled his little kingdom, or should I say pugdom with an iron paw. The pugs lived out back in the yard in a doghouse, since Bill and Pat preferred the outdoors. They were loved and in the house as often as we could get them to stay. Pat was kept in the house whenever she had puppies. Every evening, Mom would put out a huge stewpot full of dog food enough for all four of them. Pat, Susie and Shawn would rush the pot, with Billy holding back. He’d let them eat for a while and then let out a huge growl, which made the other three dogs scatter. Then he would go to the pot and eat his fill. Mom never got tired of watching this.
Dad used to love to tease Billy to the breaking point, and Dad always knew when he’d gone too far, because he’d call Billy and Billy would walk right past Dad in his recliner as if Dad wasn’t there. I always hated Dad’s teasing, but at least Billy drew the line, and one time even drew blood. Dad realized that he’d had it coming, and Billy never bit anyone else. Just Dad…just the one time.
Pat died of old age before Bill. We didn’t have to put her to sleep, or I would remember. One day she was there, and then she wasn’t.
I think by then that Susie, who was my constant companion,was sleeping in my bed with me in the house. Billy was old and getting frail, and Dad wasn’t about to let Billy sleep outside even in a well built doghouse that was off the ground. So, Billy moved in the house against his will. He was never really happy being in the house full time, but he did adjust. Billy eventually learned that the TV was the main focal point of the living room. So he’d lay in front of the TV to make sure that he was seen. Often on my way to the kitchen, I’d pass Billy on the way and say “Hi Billy,”, and get a gentle wag.
One day I was home alone, and Billy was in his usual spot in front of the TV, staring ahead. I walked past and said my usual “Hi,Billy”, and Billy didn’t wag. I was startled, and waved my hands in front of his eyes. Billy didn’t blink, either. I was horrified. Billy was DEAD! Teenage girls have a corner on the hysteria market. I called my mom in tears…saying that Billy was dead and he was in the living room in front of the TV. Mom, being of practical German stock, said, “So move him.” I burst into tears and said ” I can’t. His eyes are open!” Exasperated by the melodrama unfolding over the phone, Mom said, “Well cover him, then until I get home!” I got a white towel with a green stripe down the middle (courtesy of Grandma who stole everything not nailed down incuding the towels in the hotel)and covered Billy and there he lay until Mom got home. Mom walked through the door and immediately strode toward Billy and lifted the towel. Billy continued to stare ahead. Mom, who was rattled by nothing, was a bit non-plussed. She lowered the towel, and we both sat and waited until Dad came home. Dad came home, and we told him the news. Dad was amused by our squeemishness. Dad was the one that had buried all of our other dogs that had died, and he was prepared to bury Billy. Then he lifted the towel. Dad quickly lowered the towel and strode down the block to have a talk with the neighbor. Dad couldn’t touch Billy, either. He paid our neighbor good money to bury Billy. I felt vindicated. Mom and Dad couldn’t move him either!
I’m glad that we had the pugs. We all got a lot of enjoyment out of them. They were good, friendly dogs. They were never any trouble. One time Dad heard Susie howling softly from the bedroom. She’d wanted on my bed and couldn’t make it. She hadn’t wanted to wake up the whole household, and knew that I couldn’t hear her. So Dad investigated, and discovered Susie beside my bed. He lifted her up and she was happy. I had to leave Susie with Mom and Dad against my will when I went away to college because none of the apartment complexes allowed dogs. When I got married, the reception was in the yard, and my parents let Susie out. I said, “You’ve let the dog out at my wedding reception?” Dad pointed out that Susie wasn’t huring anything, and I had to admit that was true. Suddenly I didn’t care what anyone thought and let Susie roam through the crowd to her heart’s content. I had insisted on a champagne toast, and a lot of my friends didn’t drink…so they lifted the glass and put it down on the grass. Susie discovered that she liked champagne and we didn’t realize it until it was too late. Susie recovered just fine. I have a great picture of me and a very old pug feeling no pain whatsoever. It’s my favorite picture of me and Susie, and one of the last times I saw her, for I had to finish college and then move on to Germany. Mom wouldn’t let me take Susie with me, so that picture captured the end of an era for me. My best memories growing up are all of the time I spent with the pugs. I’ll always be grateful for the day we brought home a gallent male pug, and his partner.