Friday, June 11, 2010


Today I said goodbye to Tessa, a blind pug of indeterminate age who had survived a puppymill to spend her final; two years of life here with me.

Tessa came to me in a load of retired breeders. She was the oddest-looking pug - short, squat and wearing oversized skin that rolled when you grabbed it  - it was like holding a water balloon. My roommate quickly nicknamed her Tub-A-Goo - I christened her with her formal name. 

It quickly became apparent that Tessa had major issues, courtesy of human greed. Wall-to-wall pigmentary keratitis ensured that the the little ladypug had zero vision. Though she was trustworthy on the bed we shared, she proved unhousetrainable. Blood work we had done showed kidney disease, and that was the kiss of death for her adoption potential. Although we did post her as "available for adoption", no one ever even asked about Tessa. We put her on prescription food, and expected her to die in six months or less.

Two years later, I carried her in to our vet to find her in congestive heart failure. She was suffering, struggling to breath, and I could not allow that to go on. We sent Tessa to the Rainbow Bridge.

Usually, when a pug is never adopted, I feel I've failed them. I really cannot say that about Tessa. It's probably not much of an understatement to say that it would have taken a saint to adopt a blind, unhousetrainable old pug with kidney disease. Saints are in short supply.

So Tessa stayed in this house, a rescue house. But she knew it was her house. She knew the geography of the house and the yard like the back of her paw, used the pet door, and fell into a steadfast routine here that she adhered to religiously. Each morning, we delivered meds (Tessa took an antihistamine twice daily for allergies), then Tessa was placed in a kennel and fed her special diet. After her meal, she retired to a doughnut bed in the bathroom. There she slept until I got home from work. We'd go outside for awhile, then do evening meds. Tessa looked forward to this - her meds were delivered in braunschweiger. After meds came bedtime for Tessa. If I was too slow to let her in my room, she would patiently rest her chin on the bars of the safety gate across the hallway until I came to open it, or lift her over.

Tessa was one of my "special" pugs - the odd ones who were allowed to sit in the bathroom while I bathed, or on the bed as I watched a movie. My girls. At mealtimes, Tessa did the "Four-Paw Shuffle" - it was the most animated we ever saw her. At bedtime, she wandered down the hall to my room and waited to be lifted onto the bed. She always had to lay right next to me so she could rest her chin somewhere on my body.If it was warm and I moved her away, she'd come right back. Occasionally, she would come into the bedroom and lose her sense of direction, staring at an end table or closet door when she really wanted the bed. On these occasions, I would lean over the edge on the bed and blow a stream of soft air in her direction. As soon as it hit her, the tail started to wag, she'd turn and come straight for me.  I'd lift her up and tuck her in for the night. "There's my Tessa".

Today, I am crying and I'll continue doing so on and off all day. I've put my phone away. I just want to curl up in a ball. I miss her so much already...the little pug no one wanted...she stayed long enough to tear me apart when she left.

I try to remember the good things. Tessa loved me, and she knew I loved her - she knew that very well, and was utterly secure in that love. I never left her anywhere that she did not know I would come back for her. I know this with a certainty. For any lengthy trip to the vet or groomer, she was never scared when I picked her up - just impatient ("It's about time," she'd sigh). She had two really good years here, post-puppymill, years filled with love and belonging. It was the closest thing she ever had to a real home - in Tessa's case, I guess it was a real home.

I'll never forget you, Tessa. And I'll think of you often from now until I get to join you. I know one day I'll think of you and smile. I'll talk about you with people who knew you, and we'll laugh about some silly thing you did. But not today. Today my heart is in ashes.

I love you, Tessa. Goodbye.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


A couple of weeks ago on a Sunday evening, I was lying in bed half-asleep when my cell went off. I grabbed it. It was my rescue friend, Lisa. 

"I'll be coming down I-255 in about a half-hour. Wanna meet me?" Not many folks could induce me to leave my bed once I'm tucked in for the evening. But kindhearted Lisa has been donating puppies to IMR to help us pay for the old puppymill survivors who are our staple clientele. I knew we needed the little ones she was bringing. "I'll be there," I replied. I rolled out of bed, through some jeans on. Twenty minutes later, I rolled up behind Lisa at the Flying J.

Lisa's car was packed to the rafters, as always. She handed me two beautiful creme cockapoo puppies - enough to pay for four seniors easily. Then she pulled out a little wad of blackish fur that wiggled in her hands. She held him up so I could see his belly, pointing out a barely visible hole. 

"He needed surgery," she said. "The vet did this so he could pee from here. They think his mom might have chewed some of his equipment off my mistake. Either that, or it's a birth defect." She then pointed out the lack of a tail - not even a stump to suggest a tail. "They called him Possum. His mom is their house dog. Her name is Possum, too." Ah, puppymillers - not a terribly inventive bunch. The little dog could not have weighed a pound-and-a-half soaking wet and he smelled like a chicken coop.  But there was something about him that made me want to give the little poodle a shot, and "Possum" seemed to suit him. 

After three baths and careful trims so they could at least see where they were going, all three pups settled in nicely at my house. They made impressive use of the house and yard, running and rolling like tumbleweeds when their feet got too fast for the rest of them. All of them were darling - who doesn't love puppies? But it quickly became apparent that Possum was a force to be reckoned with. The smallest of the three by half, he held his own in play-battles. He stared at us and stood on our shoes, demanding to be held. If Possum had issues with something, he protested LOUDLY. 

On afternoon, I heard Possum yowling as if the hounds of Hades were shredding him right there in the hallway. I rushed in to see him spinning in circles, pausing to screech his frustration, then spinning some more. It seems Possum did not appreciate being unable to reach the poop on his butt. This was not an anomaly - I have since seen this behavior duplicated. Each time, it continues unabated until the butt in question has been cleaned with soap and water and patted dry. Possum is a fastidious fellow.

Possum knows his name now. There is nothing funnier than seeing that little ball of fur whose head barely breaks a wave in the grass beating feet like the ship is pulling away from the dock without him when someone calls his name. What Possum lacks in size, he more than makes up for in heart.

The best thing about Possum is that he never feels sorry for himself. Not ever. He's always up for anything. If he tries playing with a grouchy old pug and is reprimanded, he simply goes to the next dog. When you pick Possum up and hold him near your face, prepare to be smothered with kisses. This is one happy puppy.

Yesterday, Possum went to the groomer for the first time. He didn't have much done - it was more of a "get acquainted" visit (meet Mr. Clipper), but his face was shaved and his nails were trimmed. He looked really foo-foo when I picked him up.

I think a couple of bounces around the yard will fix that.

Possum is unique. With his physical defects, I doubt he will be adopted soon. But just to be sure, I put an exorbitant fee on him. 

Of course, that will be reduced for the right person. But they can take their time finding Possum and me. I cannot look at this quirky little man without smiling. 

Sometimes, I really need that. At least, for a little while.