As we waiting for yet another snow storm, I’m looking forward to a quiet day in the house. Ernie’s in his favorite position, slapped up against my thigh, as my fingers race across the keyboard. I hear his quiet snoring, and feel his warmth. This is how we work everyday. His closeness made me think about how I got hooked on pug dogs in the first place. Here’s my story.
My love affair with pugs started in my young twenties when I “rescued” a little pug from a mall pet store. I named him Crusher.
I don’t think this 5 pound creature could have crushed a pea, but somehow the name fit him. Crusher was a puppy mill victim, and after I brought him home, he was constantly sick for the six or eight weeks. Our vet was so upset when Crusher died at 14 weeks, he sent his little body to Madison for an autopsy. It turned out Crusher had no air sacks in his lungs, so he suffered perpetual pneumonia. His death broke my heart but taught me a lesson. Never buy a dog at the mall or any other pet store.
I missed Crusher so much, I went on a hunt to find a good breeder to find another pug puppy. This time we bought Rocky from a couple who bred the dogs in their home, and you could truly see how much they loved their pugs.
Rocky was my second baby. (I never told him that. In his mind, he was my FIRST child.) He was so cute and playful; such a difference from Crusher. He was easy going and made friends with our retired neighbor. Dave and Rocky hung out together every afternoon until I came home from work.
When I had my first child four years later, like any older sibling, Rocky got his nose pinched — which is really funny because pugs don’t have very big noses.
When we brought Amy home from the hospital we put her car seat on the floor so Rocky could smell her and get acquainted. He looked at baby,and then up at me as if to say, “You’ve been gone all this time, and THIS is what you brought me?”
Needless to say, Rocky was very jealous. He pouted for a week. He refused to eat. He sat in the corner facing the wall. He didn’t come when I called him. He refused to sit with me–especially when I was holding Amy. He tried all the tricks he could think of to discourage me from paying attention to the baby.
I finally had a “Come to Jesus meeting” with him and told him in no uncertain terms that Amy was staying, and none of his bad dog antics were going to work. As if he understood the terms, he accepted her and took on the job of Amy’s protector.
Two years later, we brought home a new pug puppy. This time Amy was the owner. She named her puppy, Kippi. Amy and Kippi bonded right away. She faithfully, fed, watered, trained, and played with her dog, and Kippi was faithfully hers.
I always got a kick out of how Kippi slipped into her bed after I had finished tucking Amy in when the dog was curled up on the rug. When Amy would ride her two-wheeled bike down to her girlfriend’s home to play in the house, Kippi would wait on the porch until the girls were finished and then she would follow Amy home, running behind the bike. The neighbors still remember this scene of the little girl and her pug.
One of the saddest days in Amy’s life was when she had to give away her dog. She developed asthma at age eight. By then my Rocky boy had passed on, but having experienced his death, I knew how Amy was feeling. We visited Kippi at her new home once, but it was so hard on Amy and Kippi when we had to leave, Amy said she never wanted to go again. That was almost 30 years ago.
I didn’t have another dog until about eight years ago. My daughter Sarah bought Guido for me as a Christmas present. Again, this dog came from a couple who just loved the pug breed and raised the dogs in their home. I got to hold Guido when he was just two weeks old and the thrill of having a new baby in the house again was exciting.
Unfortunately, Guido was a handful. He was an alpha dog, and he thought he was the boss and didn’t have to listen to me. He needed a much stronger owner to control him, and one fateful day when he was outside, he broke his chain, ran across the street to his favorite park, and on the way home was hit by a car. Even though he was such a little stinker, my heart was broken.
Enter Ernie — a rare Silver Pug — about four months later. He was raised by a professional breeder. Sandy’s dogs were some of the most beautiful pugs I had ever seen, but like the other breeders I had known through the years, she brought the dogs in the house and had a genuine affection for them. Sandy wanted to keep Ernie and show him, but because one of his testicles didn’t drop, he had to be neutered and sold.
There were four puppies we could have chosen, but I’ve learned never to force a relationship with an animal. Let them pick you, so that’s what I did. Ken and I sat on the sofa, and Ernie was the one puppy who jumped up to say hello. After the third time he did this, we knew he was choosing us. A week later, we brought him home on New Year’s Eve afternoon in 2007.
Since then, our love for him has grown exponentially. He keeps a steady vigil all day, especially when I’m writing. He cuddles up to my back at night, and even checks on me when I travel down to the bathroom. When Ken is having a bad day, Ernie stays by his side. He’s an equal opportunity companion.
It’s almost a crime how much we love this dog. Some children should be so lucky. I’ve told Ernie he better live to be a ripe, old dude because he will be my last pug. After all, how can I replace perfection? He’s a loyal pal who delights me everyday.
I’m so thankful Crusher made me fall in love him so many years ago. Pugs are just little children with four legs and a curly tail. How can you not love that?