Tuesday, September 26, 2006

That Pudge of mine

I'm posting two days in a row. What is this world coming to?

First of all, I must point out that if you look very closely, you can see one of the first definite signs of fall. No, not beautiful colored foliage or pumpkins....I'm wearing shoes. Real shoes, with socks. For the first time since April, I think. Okay, I'll confess that the real reason I'm wearing shoes (as opposed to sandals; I don't always run around barefoot like white trash, just sometimes)is that I'm way overdue to give myself a pedicure. But still, I'm wearing real shoes and I'm not miserable. Fall is in the hizzouse!

Okay, I promised Pudge I would write about what a wonderful dog he is. I don't want to have to go home and tell him otherwise. Hee. Pudge is an 4-year-old 86-pound Doberman Shepherd mix. I think. I'm sure about the Doberman--his mother was a Doberman who gave birth to him at the city animal shelter--but I'm guessing about the Shepherd. A kind volunteer with one of the local rescue groups took home all six puppies from the litter and nursed them through various ailments--pneumonia, ringworm, etc., and in Pudge's case, a bone tumor on his leg. Eventually his picture and profile were posted on their website, which I happened to peruse when I was thinking of getting a companion for my older female dog, Sadie. (Who was one of the all-time great dogs, but is gone now. Sniff.) I thought his face was cute, so I emailed to ask about him and got in response something akin to "Pudge is the most wonderful, awesome, perfect dog ever!!!!!!" Lots of enthusiasm there (to judge by the adjectives and punctuation), so I figured I should check him out. He came for a couple of short visits, then came to spend a trial weekend and never left. (I like to tell people we met online.) He was 9 months old, and they told me he would be a "good 70 pounds" when he reached adulthood. That sounded pretty big to me. Little did I know! For the first few days, I marveled at how well-behaved he was. He was perfect--no chewing, no barking. Just perfect. I congratulated myself on having selected such a perfect dog. Again, little did I know! He had been crate-trained in his foster home, and just never had the chance to learn how to misbehave. Once the opportunity presented itself, he proved himself to be quite a fast learner. Hee. First it was sleeping on the bed. I was determined not to let him. I already had a 60-pound dog and any number of cats sharing the bed, and that was plenty. I figured he'd never slept ON a bed, so he wouldn't know what he was missing and would be happy to sleep NEAR the bed. Wrong! I gave up after about a week. (And actually, I've now grown so used to him pressing up again my back and giving me lumbar support--I can't sleep well when he's not there. Good thing I'm adaptable, I guess.) Things went on fairly peacefully for a while. Then began the Eating of Inappropriate Things. Not chewing, which I was expecting, and against which possibility I had laid in a supply of chew toys. Eating--chewing up and swallowing. Turns out Pudge has something of an iron stomach, fortunately--nothing ever seemed to harm his digestive tract. He ate small glass perfume bottles. Me: "What should I do?" Vet: "Feed him some bread to cushion it and watch him closely." He ate matches. Me: "What should I do?" Vet: "Watch him closely." He ate bath salts. Me: I am no longer calling the vet at this point. He chewed up a big bottle of blowing bubbles I had gotten as a gag gift. He did this on my bed. Guess what--bubbles don't dry easily. I had a giant wet spot in the middle of my bed for days (and I didn't even get to do anything enjoyable to put it there!). He ate a ceramic music box and pooped out the shards. He did this the day before he was scheduled to have surgery on his leg--the bone tumor had come back. I warned the clinic staff when I dropped him off. "If he poops out ceramic pieces while he's here, don't worry. He ate a music box." They shot back "What tune might he play?" Hee. ("Hava Nagila") He ate a bottle of betadine. In the middle of my bed. I saw a huge reddish brown stain and thought someone had hemorrhaged. I ran around the house, panicked, checking all the animals for wounds, until I found the empty punctured bottle. He ate a brillo pad. I didn't actually see him eat it, but I suspected, and my suspicions were confirmed several hours later when he puked it up neatly on my bedroom floor. He ate books, and CDs. Quite a lover of culture, that Pudge. One day he apparently decided he had a problem with my home decor and he ripped apart all the throw pillows and two of the bed pillows. It looked like a snowstorm had raged inside. He discovered the cat boxes and, instead of merely helping himself to a "kitty crunchy" or two like a normal dog, he turned over all the boxes (and there were several) and spread the litter all over the room. It looked like a sandstorm had raged inside. I was nearly at my wits' end. I made the mistake of yelling at him one day (which I feel bad about, but I was frustrated) and found out that yelling at Pudge causes him to pee in fright like a little baby. Unfortunately, he wasn't a LITTLE baby, so cleaning that up was fun. I didn't know what to do--how do you puppy-proof a house when the puppy is so unpredictable? I would never have imagined him eating bath salts or perfume bottles. So I began confining him to the bathroom when I wasn't at home. He remembered his previous crate-training and didn't seem to mind, but it bothered me that he couldn't be out to keep Sadie company. Nonetheless, that's the way it continued for several months. Then I was forced to steal my neighbor's cat one night, under cover of darkness--they let her get pregnant and then couldn't be bothered to provide shelter or adequate food--and I needed the bathroom for her and the kittens she delivered shortly thereafter. So I left Pudge loose in the house. Looked him straight in the face and asked "Will you be good?" And you know what? He was. He was perfect, that day and from then on. He was almost exactly two years old at that point, and apparently that was the magic number. Hallelujah! Since then he's been a total delight. He's huge, goofy, sweet and smart. He and Sadie bonded very tightly--how tightly I didn't realize until I took him in for his leg surgery, and she moped all day, refusing even to go outside until he returned. When I walked in the door with him, she wiggled herself silly greeting him, stopping whenever I looked at her, all "I don't really like him, you know" but I knew better. Pudge loved Sadie, but that didn't keep him from playing her. They both loved to be in the primo spot on the couch next to me, and would swap it back and forth all evening long, seizing each opportunity to "steal" it from the other. Pudge, smart little goof that he is, realized he could take advantage of Sadie's tremendous territorial instincts, and when she had posession of the coveted spot, he would run to the front window and bark as if he saw something. Sadie would leap off the couch and race to the window to protect her turf, and Pudge would instantly leap on in her place. He got pretty lazy about it after a while. He wouldn't go to the window, just stand next to the couch and glance in the general direction of the window, emitting a tepid little "woof." She fell for it every time, though. It was hilarious. Later, when Sadie was ill, I brought her home for what I knew was in all likelihood her last weekend with me. She had exploratory surgery scheduled for Monday, a last-ditch effort we knew was a long shot. Her breathing was very labored at that point, and the vet told me to keep her as still as possible. I made her a bed in the floor, next to the couch, so she wouldn't have to jump up. She laid down, and Pudge immediately became confused. He stood there, looking back and forth between Sadie and the obviously empty spot on the couch. Why wasn't she jumping up there? Finally, he went and got a bone from the pile and placed it in front of her, went and got himself a bone and laid down with it next to her on the blanket. They stayed that way for probably an hour while I sobbed on the couch. What a sweetheart. And they say they're "just" animals. ("They" can bite me.) Sadie's cancer turned out to be inoperable, and we lost her. Pudge grieved as hard as I did. Maybe harder. For several days he'd race to the back door each time I took him out, and when he realized that she wasn't in the yard waiting for him, he'd sink back, dispirited and wait for me to take him back inside. It was a long time before he even made it more than a few feet past the door. I made the mistake of pulling her collar out of a drawer one night--I had remembered where I had stored my other departed doggy collars, and wanted to put it with them. Big mistake. He came racing over, sniffing the collar and wagging and looking around. Obviously he smelled her, and thought she was in the room somewhere. It broke my heart. Gradually, he's returned to something more like his old self, though I think he still misses her. Eventually I will find the perfect dog to add to the household, but it's so hard. So, that's Pudge. He makes me laugh. He's trying very hard to be the protector of the house, (which was formerly Sadie's job, and boy was she good at it) but his innate goofiness makes it hard for him. My next-door neighbor's been having a good deal of work done to his house (following a fire, caused by lightning--scary) and the workmen in his yard are making Pudge crazy. He wants to be brave, so he'll charge toward the fence, barking madly, but stop a good ten yards short of any actual interaction. (Sadie would never have held back, bless her heart.) It makes me laugh. It's a terrific bark, though, I must say. I don't think an intruder would notice the ten yard gap. One day, one of the workmen asked "is that one of those Warlord Dobermans?" I managed not to laugh out loud--wouldn't want to hurt my brave dog's little feelings, and replied "Well, he's a Doberman mixed with German Shepherd, I think." Warlord Doberman. Hee. I don't even know what that is, but if there is anything Pudge is not, it is a warlord. He IS sweet, smart and funny, and he enriches my life far beyond what I expected when I chose him to keep Sadie company. The cats adore him, my family and friends adore him, I adore him. When he settles himself down on the couch and drapes his mile-long legs across my lap, he lets out the deepest, most contented sigh you ever heard. He's my Pudge.


Jurgen Nation said...

Oh, I'm teary. Sadie sounds like she was a wonderful, beautiful soul. I hope she's in a big field with bones and Greenies and stuffies, along with Boomer, Shelby and Ginger. I'm so sorry. I know how much you're aching.

Pudge sounds wonderful. What a joy! Jurgen was a little insolent before he turned 2, too. I think they are testing us and 2 years is when they just give up.

lizgwiz said...

I think 2 is the magic number. I'd just forgotten that, since it had been several years since I'd had such a young dog. Sadie was young when I got her, but she already had puppies, and I think that made her wise beyond her years. Thanks for reading!