I was totally unprepared for Bill to succumb to the charms of another woman. I thought things were going very well for us. Had I been spending too much time with the pugs and neglecting my husband? I’d had no warning at all. But there he was, telling me he loved her, right there in front of everyone at the Pug Picnic that Pug Rescue of North Carolina sponsors every year, shortly before Halloween. At this year’s picnic, I’d been so busy shepherding Sarah and Harley through the crowds of people and pugs, and preventing them from grabbing goodies from toddlers’ pug-level hands, that I hadn’t even realized what was happening right under my nose.
Here I’m dressed as Sir Pugsley, the mascot for Pug Rescue of North Carolina.
The object of my husband’s affections wasn’t even attractive – at least I didn’t think so. She had an under-slung, protruding, bulldog-type lower jaw rivaling that of the old comic strip character Popeye; but instead of Popeye’s corncob pipe hanging from her lips, she sported a snaggly, yellow canine tooth that stuck out from behind her lower lip. On top of that, she was obese, with an immense belly, like those of fat Buddha statues.
She went by the name “Duchess.”
Unlike our fawn Sarah and Harley, this spayed female pug was solid black – definitely a dog of a different color. Soon, we would come to see that she was different from them – and, in fact, different from most pugs – in other, much more substantial ways.
Duchess, who was nine years old, was being fostered by Jill, the Pug Rescue volunteer who’d introduced us to Harley. She brought Duchess to the picnic with the hope of finding someone to adopt her; but because she was taking care of five other dogs, she was willing to settle for finding another foster family for the tubby pug. Jill told us that a young woman, a stranger to her, had dropped off the pug at her house. According to Jill, the woman said that Duchess had been her husband’s dog since his adolescence, but they couldn’t take care of her anymore because they now had a new baby. (This, unfortunately, is not an unusual reason that’s given for surrendering a dog.)
At the picnic, Duchess and several other pugs available for adoption were together in an ex-pen or exercise pen, which is a small, portable wire fence. Duchess clearly was different from the other pugs in the pen. She had difficulty getting up to stand, and when she did, her legs trembled as though they couldn’t bear her weight. She could barely walk, and she had trouble squatting to urinate. It was obvious that something was wrong with her.
Jill lifted Duchess out of the ex-pen and held her up so Bill and I could get a better look at her. She told us that this pug seemed to want to be carried around all day, like a colicky baby. At this point, Bill held out his arms and asked if he could hold the chubby girl.
Bill was quite taken with the black pug. Within a few minutes, he asked me if I’d consider fostering her, since I was managing my own health needs even with Sarah, Harley, and an occasional foster pug in the house. We’d recently placed our latest foster pug in her forever home, so we now had room for a new foster dog. My only hesitation was my concern about what kinds of health problems Duchess might have, but I trusted that our Pug Rescue organization would help us get these issues sorted out.
So I agreed, and we took our new foster pug home with us when we left the picnic. And the royal Duchess began what would be an infamous rule of the household.