(Essay)


A Day in the Life of a Pug

by

Hope Hahn

My two dogs, Puckett and Sukie, have a special place in my family. Each with different personalities, both dogs carry on a different role in the family. Puckett, a social bug who wants to be around people all the time, can never be left alone. Sukie is the complete opposite. She would rather sleep all day by herself than to be with everyone else.

During the day we see their two personalities co-exist, though sometimes they do collide. As the day comes to an end, the noises of cars and children getting off the bus can be heard from the window. Puckett shows up to greet every sound and new person that arrives on the street. Cars come and go, but once the loud exhaust from the car engine stops in our driveway, the pugs show great excitement throughout the house, running everywhere and barking constantly in that high-pitched tone at my dad outside. Finally the pugs run over to the door barking and jumping up and down to greet him after a long day at work.

As my dad sits down in his chair for the night, he says to my dog Puckett, “Everybody’s here, you can relax now.” Peace at last, no noise can be heard throughout the house except those of silence and happiness. Puckett lays down putting his paw under his chin, and then takes a giant deep breath of relief. Then, once he realizes everything is ok, he slowly closes his eyes. Of course, this does not last long; like a toddler he goes on to his next mission in a matter of three minutes.

It is always funny to see what sorts of things grab my dogs' attention. It can be the simplest thing like a car or another dog on TV. Downstairs the TV blares with the football game, while my brothers talk about why the other team just scored. A commercial advertising dog food comes on. In the commercial two dogs run in the sunny park and suddenly their owners say, “Long lasting energy for a dog.” My dog, seated on the brown leather couch, sees the two bigger dogs that are twice his size. He immediately runs up to the big TV and attempts to put his paws on the screen, but before he can make any sort of actions to connect with the dogs, someone yells, “lay down.” After getting in trouble for trying to socialize with every dog on TV, he lays down for a brief moment.

I always wondered if dogs have a sixth sense that allows them to help humans cope with the tough times, and also recognize other animals in TV commercials and movies portrayed as realistic in today’s world. Can dogs tell the difference between real and fake? Maybe not, but they are definitely good at knowing when something is not the way it's supposed to be. For instance, every August, when I return to school, my dogs always know when something is not right because the amount of clutter around the house increases, everything from bags that weigh up to 25 pounds, to boxes filled to the top. Not knowing what is going on, my dogs have to investigate the problem. They think to themselves, “What is happening here? Would somebody please tell me what is going on? I can’t get a whiff of anything.” They sniff around every carpeted room and piece of furniture looking for odors. Up and down the hallways they go. They sniff my duffle bag looking for something that might clue them to what is happening here. After a moment of nerve-racking chaos, my dog Puckett sits down as if he wants something, glances up at me with a look that says, “if something major is happening here, you guys need to tell me right now. You know I do not like surprises.”

Before leaving, I look around. Once more I take in the picture of the beach on the living room wall and the chaos of pictures and furniture that has created my home. Then I pick up the first bag and begin loading it into our red Ford Explorer. Nerves are stirring and Puckett and Sukie's anxiety has risen through the roof, a rocket that is getting ready for take-off. The only problem is they think the rocket is leaving without them. They have no idea what to expect when all of these bags are moved out of the house. Like ping pong balls moving back and forth between inside and out, they move quickly right next to me, observing what is going on and where things are being placed. It is almost like having small children who do not want to leave your side, because they want to know everything, observe all areas, but never actually get the answers because they don't understand completely.

One thing I have learned about having pets around is they are always curious about everything and they are always exploring the things they do not know. Both of my dogs are Chinese pugs with soft tan fur, brown floppy ears, brown eyes, and curly tails unique to pugs. The tails are stationary and do not wag, but Puckett’s tail wags when he gets really excited. And like Sukie's, his wet black nose is conveniently squashed in the middle of his face, as if flattened with a hammer, and is his best tool when it comes to figuring out any odors that smell foreign.

Summer is my pugs' least favorite season because it causes them to wheeze a lot. When it gets hot, their breathing gets heavier and it is difficult for them to stay out in the hot weather. I remember one time especially, when they went outside on the deck, and there happened to be a rabbit in the yard. Puckett ran down to it full speed, barking all the way. When he reached the rabbit, he sniffed it for a bit to investigate the mysterious creature, then after confirmation that it was indeed an animal, he barked at it and chased it all the way around the fence until it vanished in the bushes and into the neighbor’s yard.

Outside, in the flowered area of the yard, my dogs also explore birds in the trees and the smell of fresh cut grass in the spring and summer. The birds, among them robins, brown with spots of orange and yellow on their bellies, are their favorites. They chase after them barking, as if expecting that the birds will respond, instead of becoming alarmed and flying off their perches on the large leafy trees surrounding the bunches of marigolds, daisies and lilies. I imagine Puckett saying to these birds as he arrives outside for his daily duties, “Hey birds! Get out of that tree; this is my yard. You are not allowed in here. See that fence, it’s to keep troubled animals like you out.” The birds would retort, disagreeing with Puckett's findings, “We have as much right to be here as you do, and you shouldn't be scaring us away.”

Couples enjoy a stroll on a lovely spring day, past the sweet smelling flowers and trees. Suckie and Puckett run back and forth in the yard excitedly in their most distracting manner ever, just wanting to say hello to everyone that passes by.

Standing at about two feet tall, Puckett always finds a way to say, “Hello, I am here too!“ Getting himself recognized is not a problem; he only wants to make friends, even with dogs who are way bigger. He runs up to them and starts barking at them. I don’t think he knows that any one of the neighbor's dogs could swallow him in one gulp. But he has no fear; he approaches them and does what I like to call doggy communication, having a constant chat with the dogs until he knows he cannot possibly win.

At my house we often discuss what Puckett and Sukie would say if they could talk. How would they sound in tone and would their conservational mannerisms change? I’ve thought often, if I could have a conversation with one of them, it would consist of scattered ideas not clearly thought out, because they seem to get distracted so often. And I don’t think that having vocal cords would make a difference to their attention span.

What would they say? I thought he might say something like this to the big dog next door: “Hey! Big Ears, get away from my fence, this is my place. Got it?”

Then the big ugly dog might say something like, “Listen here, little pooch, this is my yard and the other side of the fence is mine. If you ever come near here again I will squash you in a second.” Well, maybe the dialogue wouldn't go exactly like that, but pretty close.

One of the things dogs have a hard time dealing with is change. Change, no matter what type, a pug has to adapt accordingly. For a pug, even the slightest change can be a big deal, not to mention a huge adjustment. For their human owners change usually does not call for drastic measures, but to a dog a change is a sign of bad news. “The family is going on vacation, and we are being watched by the neighbors again.” Even an object moved, or something that smells different, can signal for them a change coming. If something, for example, a blanket, is not scented with dog hair or other familiar odor that does not smell the way they remember, can upset them. I can always tell when they are upset by this, because they will sit there and look at me with sad droopy dogfaces for a while, then go and lay down. I think it is their way of getting some sympathy when they know something is not right. Even though they cannot change what is about to happen, they believe their cute doggy face will make us change our minds.

Tricked by the cute face or not, they are always there right next you, just like a little child who is not allowed to leave his mother’s side. They have their way of telling us things, too, and sometimes the way they approach it, is quite amusing. Sitting on the couch in the living room with the blinds open and the sun barely peeking in, the six o’clock news recites itself in the background. As I am sitting comfortably on the soft cushions of the couch, a 25 pound pug leaps up and lands on my chest putting all his weight on his front paws. I lay there for a minute, uncomfortable and unable to breathe. I say to myself “Okay, you’re hungry, I’ll be right there.” I get up and walk over to get the food, but before I can pour it out, both dogs are crowding me with so much excitement they cannot contain it. I imagine that if my dog could have told me he was hungry like a normal human being, he would have said “Hey! Its supper time, get me some food.” But instead, the words “chow time” set off an alarm in their brains like a microwave timer that never stops, jumping up and down, barking, running up and down the hallway. Who knew suppertime was so exciting?

One by one, the sound of those little brown kibbles clanking against the two glass bowls sets off a signal in their minds. They sit there so perfectly perched, waiting for me to stop pouring until the moment they have been waiting for, the moment when I back away and let them chow down. Yes, back away before I get run over. Two scoops of food poured in vanish in ten seconds. The sounds of their dog tags hitting against the glass at each bite always makes me wonder if they are actually hungry, or do they feel rushed to finish because they know there are other things that are more exciting. But, for a dog what’s more exciting than eating? Maybe taking a nap or going to sleep at night.

I guess I will never know, but if there is one thing I have learned from having pets, it is that being sad or in a bad mood is not allowed, at least in their book. If I am having a bad day I always go to my dog because I know that even though dogs are not human, they can understand some things. As he lays in my lap with his head rested firmly against my knees, Puckett looks up at me with those sad, droopy eyes, takes a deep breath of relief, puts his head back down, and closes his eyes. He falls asleep and I lay there watching him sleep. Loud snores echo from my dog’s nose, as if he is actually a person taking a nap. Can animals really feel a person’s pain? Is it possible for them to know that I am sad and is this their way of making things better?

The role my dogs hold in this family is special because they can never be replaced in the present or the future. My dogs are quirky and funny and no matter what they do, it always makes me laugh in some way. It always amuses me the types of things they come up with every day, some stranger than others, but interesting. At any moment in the day all they want from you is the smile on your face and that unique laugh that only escapes when they do something out of the ordinary. If either of them had the power to talk to humans, I imagine they would tell me how they do not like being alone during the day because their separation anxiety kicks in. Or, how much they love bones and dog treats. I bet they could talk all day about that.

After a moment of thought, I stop to listen for the usual noises of the TV and the normal family chatter in the background. But it is peaceful, completely silent, and as I take in the silence, I begin to wonder, is this peace a sign of something good to come.

As the day winds down and the trees outside grow more restless with every gust of wind, inside the house it is pleasant and happy. On the couch Puckett lays with his head on the arm, looking outside and observing the kids next door playing ball, and the neighbor’s beagle running anxiously around his fenced-in area, barking at every little child in sight. A loud gust of wind blows through, and neighbors arrive home from work with a chorus of car doors slammed and kids rushing out to greet their parents. All of this makes for a day a dog will never forget, and hopes excitedly the next day will be as good as yesterday. Resting for the night and ready for bed, they dream of tomorrow's excitement and adventures.

Upstairs everyone sits watching TV and relaxing. It's 10:30 p.m. and Puckett and Sukie slowly but surely make their way to the basement door, letting us know it’s their bedtime. Knowing we have kept them up past their usual time, we take them to their beds to dream about the day’s events. If he could speak in human terms, Puckett would say, ”Hey! It’s time to go to sleep; I have had a long day barking at birds, other animals on TV, and objects that normally do not move. Let’s get moving now!” At snails speed, Sukie follows Puckett, who has never-ending energy, to her bed. She lays down and the door is closed.

Every day the excitement and enthusiasm we share with them, fuels their energy. But when we are not happy or are having a bad day, they share those feelings as well. Our life, wrapped into their emotions, ultimately creates human beings that will be just as happy or sad as we are.

Copyright by Hope Hahn

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