Funny Tails: How Canine Comedy Helped Me Cope with Personal Tragedy is the story (not yet published) of how our three pugs have helped me deal with a painful neurological illness that cost me my career as a nursing professor – and was expected to cost me my life. The book also provides education about pugs and their special issues. Here’s a short excerpt:
The Funny Tail
The pug has an extraordinary tail: it’s a cute and comical but perfectly functional appendage. That’s not to say that a pug could use it to swish flies off her hindquarters, but that isn’t the purpose of a dog’s tail, anyway.
Our pug Sarah’s tail curves upward and over her back in a round coil that usually stands straight up, like a bagel balancing upright on a plate.
It’s also quite acceptable for a pug’s tail curl to lie flat on the pug’s back, like a bagel or a round Danish pastry lying on a plate.
For a pug with a shorter tail, you might envision a bagel, flat on the plate, but with a bite taken out of it. It’s much less common for a pug to have a tail that forms a double coil; this is highly valued by dog show judges. (I’ve yet to see one.)
And yes, a pug can and does wag that coiled tail. Wagging just looks different when a pug does it. Sarah’s coil stays neatly in place as it bobs from side to side atop her back, while the base of her tail does the wagging. Some pugs, however, can whip their tails around in such a frenzied wag that they nearly succeed in uncoiling them, leaving only a slight curve at the tip.
At times, Sarah unwinds her tidy tail curl into a loose, limp “J.” If the “J” coils right back into a corkscrew when we offer her a treat, it’s probably nothing to worry about. If it stays down, some investigation is in order, for this usually means that she isn’t feeling her best, whether it’s physically or emotionally. Sarah’s tail coil, for instance, comes unglued whenever it’s time for a toenail clipping, which she dreads. Whenever I put on her harness, her tail also shows me how she feels about wearing it, as you can see from the photo below.
Fortunately, once her leash is on and we start to go out the door, her tail instantly springs to attention, back up in a neat coil, as in the first photo.
(And, yes, most pugs love to be scratched at the base of the tail, where it’s impossible for them to reach themselves.)