Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Bruiser and Kira

My favorite saying in the world is this: "What goes around, comes around." This simple phrase is uttered by yours truly on a regular basis, and I firmly believe it. Why it's true, I do not know. But it is. Every once in awhile I come across a case of karma so profound, I have to sit back, look up at the sky and just marvel at the Big Plan. When I get a chance to throw a little assist into the cosmic blender, well, no one is more tickled than me.  

About a month ago, I received a call from someone here in town who had a pug to surrender to rescue. He was, of course, "very sweet". I didn't care, we take all pugs in trouble. I swung by her house that weekend. Jan and Bruiser met me in the front yard.

As it turned out, Jan was not actually Bruiser's owner. Bruiser, as the story was recited to me, had belonged to a boy who left for college and decided not to take the pug he'd had from puppyhood. His parents, who clearly were not interested in having a dog, began looking for someone to take Bruiser. Jan, a concerned neighbor and animal-lover who had all rescued dogs herself, offered to take Bruiser home with her. Whether or not she originally intended to keep the pug, I'm not sure. But she saw a few unsavory issues - particularly a tendency to dribble urine - and called rescue. 

What I saw in her driveway that Saturday, was a handsome fawn intact male pug, with a pronounced limp. As she lifted Bruiser, I reached out to examine a his paw to see if overgrown nails were causing problems. Bruiser immediately snarled and snapped at my fingers. As I pulled my hand safely out of reach, Jan commented, "Oh, she did say he doesn't like you touching his feet". Now you tell me, I thought. obviously, there was some pain involved here.

"I'll ask the vet to examine his leg while he's anesthetized", I responded. Then I asked, "Why didn't she keep him?"

"He belonged to her son," said Jan. "He left for college and couldn't take him. The mom said it was just too much for her to handle with Bruiser. She was looking for somebody to take him. I offered." Like most stories I hear, it sounded a bit fishy. I could feel simmering anger, but tried not to show it. Our Number One Rule is: Get The Dog. 

"He's intact, " I said. "He needs a dental. Has he ever seen a vet?"

Jan shrugged. Don't know. "He marked a little here. Urine dribbles a bit when he walks." She wrinkled her nose. "I can already smell it."

"Probably a UTI," I answered. "Very easy to treat."

"She did ask me if she could visit him." She looked at me expectantly.

"No," I responded. "He's being displaced at nine years old because she 'can't handle him'?  They haven't taken care of him - he's probably never seen a vet. And he'll cost considerably more than his adoption fee, if we can place him at all. Believe me, she would NOT (emphasis here) want to talk to me." 

"She's dealing with a lot," said Jan-the-compassionate-neighbor. Then she told me the woman had lost her teenage daughter in a car accident a couple of years earlier. "She is still fighting depression." I actually remembered the accident - an awful tragedy - and my temper cooled considerably. Jan pressed $40 into my hand. "It's something," she said. I wondered why Bruiser's family had not provided decent care when the houses around me cost three times as much as my own. They could clearly have afforded it. Still, losing a child is a terrible thing. 

I mulled it over and called Jan when I got home, leaving my number so the woman could make arrangements to visit Bruiser. I needn't have bothered. She never called.

Bruiser and I pushed bravely onward. A round of antibiotics took care of the UTI. Our veterinarians neutered him, cleaned his teeth, trimmed his nails, microchipped him, provided all vaccinations and heartworm tested him (thankfully negative). It was a Bruiser makeover. On examination, he was found to have a partial dislocation of the elbow and painful arthritis, so we started him on a quality puggie joint supplement. Bruiser became my little shadow, following me everywhere and sleeping right next to me, too. I knew it was time to send him to Kristen's house, where he would be one of three instead of one of twelve. He transferred gracefully and fit right in.

A week later, my friend Nadine emailed to tell me someone on craigslist was looking for a pug named Bruiser.

"Can't be the same one," I said. "This guy was an owner surrender. No one would be looking for him." Bruiser is a common-enough name. I dismissed it and went on to the next rescue.

A Familiar Face Here
A few days later, I opened this email and read it:

"Hello I'm trying to get in contact with someone about bruiser, the 9 year old pug. I'm extremely interested and would like someone to get in contact with me right away. My name is Kira and my number is *******. I believe this may be my ex boyfriends dog and would take him. If you give me a call I can explain how I am familiar with bruiser."

It ended with a signature and her number again, along with the photo on the right. 

"That could be him," I said. "I'm gonna call her."

I didn't take long to determine identity. "He has a funny-looking paw and he limps when he walks," said Kira.

"Yup," I nodded "This is definitely him."

Kira went on to tell me a somewhat different story about Bruiser's travels. She had, she said, lived with Bruiser's owner, Jeff, in a apartment in Missouri near the college they both attended. 

"I was Bruiser's primary caretaker," she said. "We broke up, I moved out and I asked him if I could have Bruiser, and he told me no, I could not." Kira later found out that Bruiser had been given away to a stranger and was very upset. "I've been looking for him ever since."

A Happy Reunion
Anger again. Rather than place Bruiser with the one person in the whole scenario who actually cared about him, Jeff had dumped Bruiser on his mother, who dumped him on a neighbor. It reminded me of things I saw working at a domestic violence shelter - abusers like to use pets to punish their victims. I wondered if this had been the situation for Kira and Bruiser. Thank God, I thought, that the neighbor was a decent person who was familiar with rescue. No telling where Bruiser might have ended up.

Kira's story had the ring of truth. "Bruiser's yours", I told her. I explained to Kira how we had gotten Bruiser and what I had been told. I explained how we had cared for Bruiser's medical needs, and how she could continue what we'd started. "He's microchipped, too", I said. "Register the chip in your name and you'll be Bruiser's legal owner." No one would ever be able to take Bruiser away from her again.

Bruiser & Kira
The day Kira came to adopt Bruiser, Kristen took a couple of pictures for me. I had really wanted to be there, but other dogs called. The reunion was a happy one to say the least! It made me think about karma and the way the things we do travel. Good comes back our way, kindness returns. People who go the other way are so often their own punishment. Bruiser took a circuitous route only to end up in the place he was always meant to be.

The little pug had spent most of his life with shallow people who abandoned him. People with no regard at all for what he needed or deserved, especially in the twilight of his years. But somehow life (karma?) brought him  back where he belonged. 

What goes around, comes around.

It made me feel pretty good to have been a miniscule part of that. But I knew that it was not my doing...not by a longshot! Pugs have a way of reaching into the lives of the good people and leaving lasting impressions there.

It was Bruiser's own generous nature and loving heart that brought him home.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Funny-Lookin' Pug, or How a Hound Dog Ends Up In Pug Rescue

I got the call from a fellow rescuer  who desperately needed help getting dogs out of an animal control in rural Missouri. This facility, located in a tiny town called Kennett, was having a hard time of it. All shelters in rural areas are murderously full. In my experience, most of the animal controls in these towns exist to enforce quantity limits, kill animals as cheaply as possible, and decrease the general surplus. A few make feeble attempts at adoption. Fewer still have staff who could care less one way or the other.

This particular animal control is the rare gem that is operated by a woman who truly cares about animals. Bea, a fellow rescuer who frequents the area, let us know that the AC manager there was under pressure from the town's sheriff and mayor to kill unclaimed dogs in six days. Worse yet, while the majority of shelters have switched to lethal injection, this one still used gas, a method causing slow asphyxiation and great suffering. Horrified, several of us in St Louis and southern Illinois stepped up and offered to take as many as we were able. I accepted four - two for me, and two for a neighboring rescue.

The two dogs I chose for IL-MO were described to me as a rat terrier type female about 20#, and a 10# chocolate female, both very sweet and great with other dogs. The two my neighbor rescue accepted were another rat terrier and a beagle mix of similar stature. No pugs here but this was a "special circumstance". I felt obligated to lend a hand. The dogs were all young, I reasoned, and sooner or later I'd be able to place them.

The weekend rolled around, and I met my friend, Faith, in St Louis for the pick-up. The rat terrier x I got turned out to be more of a red heeler x, much larger than I had been told. I admit, I did a bit of griping to poor Faith, who was just transporting, about how Bea did not know her breeds and I could never be sure what to expect when she was the sender. But the little chocolate girl was just as described - about 10# gorgeous with green eyes. This was an absolutely PERFECT little dog anyone would love to have. Awesome!

But  I had to look at the other two. The rat terrier was just as described - small, friendly, adoptable. But the last crate appeared be empty. Where, I wondered, was the beagle mix?

Then I heard a soft scratching noise from within. There, crammed so far back into the corner I had to lean down and peer through the cage door to see her, was the fourth dog. She was curled into a ball, her head buried against the crate wall.  No beagle in this dog - she was a hound mix, much larger than expected, and very thin. I pulled her from the kennel. She left a trail of urine. When I sat her on the asphalt she dropped to the ground and bared her teeth.This was not a threat, but a "submissive grin". No matter which way I moved, she refused to meet my eyes. She actually crawled along the ground. She did exactly the same in my front yard, crawling through the grass, head down, like a dog who'd been beaten. She was, I realized, as terrified an animal as I had ever seen in my 18 years of rescue.

With Kevin's help, all four dogs were brought into the house. The heeler bounced happily through the living room, the rattie made her self at home, the little chocolate girl hopped up on the sofa and laid down. I scanned the house and yard - the hound was missing.

Closet doors were frantically opened, linens pushed aside, the backyard paced from end to end - no hound. Sure she had jumped or climbed the fence, I headed to the front door to begin searching the neighborhood. And caught a shimmer of eyes behind a 120-gallon glass tank on a six foot stand by the front window.

There she was, squeezed into an impossibly small space. Watching my every move. I spoke to her softly. "Hi, baby. Is that girl alright there?" Thump, thump, thump. She actually made eye contact for the first time, but made no move to leave her safe spot. "Just leave her there," I said. "Let her come out when she's ready." It took hours, and when she finally did emerge, she went straight to another hiding place - my bedroom closet. I placed a bed on the floor for her, stroked her head, and spoke in a soft, reassuring tone for a long time. The tail thumped, but it was out of fear, not trust.

The rescue she was slated for was a good one, but the dogs there were kept in kennels. For most rescued dogs, that was fine. But most dogs were not this severely traumatized.

The next day, I met Lisa with the two rescues I was not keeping: The rat terrier and the perfect little chocolate girl. "They'll love her", I said.

Two weeks later, Nellie (for Nervous) has been spayed and treated for heartworms. While
she has made progress, she is afraid to make eye contact with men and will not come in the house if she can see Kevin standing in the kitchen, although he does his best to befriend her. She has had puppies. I picture the man who abused her saying he would use Nellie to "breed me some huntin' dogs". Keeping her in a pen. Hitting her. Only time will tell if the damage caused by his cruelty and ignorance can be undone.

In the interim, this hound can take baby steps at my house, where she'll be safe and get the one-on-one she needs. Not a pug. But sometimes a coonhound needs a good pug rescue, too.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Say "Hello" To Pookie

Last week was a killer...we picked up seven pugs. Four were puppymill survivors who are positively thrilled to be here, even the blind girl. The other three were all owner surrenders 10 years old and up. 

It started with a phone call from my friend, Leslie, who rescues in rural Missouri (ever tried turning back the ocean with a bucket?).

"I have three more pugs coming in", she said. I had already agreed to take two. "Can you help with all five?" I assured her all pugs were welcome. "Four of them are breeders. This last one is killing me. She's an 11-and-a-half year-old owner surrender. She just looks so confused."

My heart sank. Rescuing puppymill survivors is so rewarding. Breeder pugs have had it so bad, they're usually deliriously happy to be at my crazy rescue house. Between the company of other pugs, the pet door, the big, fenced yard, food, treats, chewys and toys - they must think they've hit nirvana after spending 24/7 in cages. But elderly owner surrenders are not so easily fooled.
They know they've been discarded.

Going from a puppymill to my house is a step up. But going from a home to a rescue house - that's a whole 'nother story. Better than a shelter? Yes, it is. But my house is a mutant cross between a real home and a shelter. It's not a quiet place with a few humans and one or two dogs. There's practically a turnstile at the front door where new furry faces suddenly pop in, and curly pug tails mysteriously exit for good.

Saturday morning, the four mill pugs took off with the anticipated excitement at their new found freedom. The little old lady went to my nice, quiet bedroom. 

She was in pretty sad condition, which told me her owners had not paid a whole lot of attention to her to begin with. The little black pug looked scruffy for a pug with a home  - her coat was rough and actually matted at the neck, something you rarely see in pugs. She had terrible dandruff, dental disease to rival an 8y/o mill dog and breath that peeled the paint off the walls. Overweight with tiny paws, her tail pointed due south. Her whole demeanor seemed to ask, "What am I doing here? Where is my home? Where's my hoo-muns?"

I called Leslie to see if I could get Pookie some answers.

"She was dropped off with one of my fosters," she said. "It was an older lady who said she was putting her husband in a nursing home, moving to Florida and she couldn't take the dog."  I felt my eyes narrow to pointed daggers. In our world, "can't" translates to "don't want to".

After my usual silent curse involving limitless pain and a state-run nursing home, I bathed the little pug, brushed her badly neglected coat, and resolved to help her the best I could. After all, there was no way to get Pookie back her home and family. After a lifetime of unconditional love and devotion, she had become inconvenient. I knew I could do better than that for her. The question was this: Could I convince Pookie?

On my bedroom floor, Pookie staked out a little bed with a blue blanket in it for her own. If another pug got in that bed, she would occupy a different one until that pug moved. Then she'd quietly pad on over to her bed of choice. The bed she preferred was against the nightstand where she could observe everything around her with the safety of  solid wood behind her. That night I brushed all the undercoat out and gave pookie a nice massage, which she seemed to enjoy. She sat on the bed with me for awhile, then wanted back into her little viewing post on the floor. Before I turned off the light, I saw that 10y/o Burl had joined her. Perhaps a bit of a winter romance, I thought with a smile. Burl had been dumped, too. But his owners hadn't bothered with a rescue or shelter. At least Pookie's had done that much.

Sunday I stayed home just to work with little Miss Pookie. We chopped up a very fine senior mix of "weight maintenance" canned food, Osteo-Biflex (crumbled), metacam and sardines which seemed to suit Pookie's palette just fine. Pookie held her designated outpost most of the day while I talked baby-talk to her and scratched her bony head at every opportunity. When we closed the bedroom door for a household chore, Pookie cried loudly. Clearly, we were NOT to mistake her reticence for a Garboesque need to be alone. She wanted to know what was going on in this crazy zoo of a house! Like all pugs, she wanted company more than she feared the fracas.

Pookie In Her Foster Home

Monday morning, as I prepared puggie breakfasts, I swerved around and, to my astonishment, there at my feet was little Miss Pookie. All on her own, she had made her way out of the bedroom, down the hallway and into the kitchen to see what all the She may as well have announced to the whole world that the pity party was officially over. No mistake - Pookie had joined the pack.

My roommate called me later that day. "Pookie keeps going over and looking down the hallway," he said. "She's looking for you."  

Yup, Pookie was definitely going to make it. At that moment, I resolved to keep the resilient little old ladypug with me, unless or until a permanent retirement home came along. When I came home from work that afternoon, the first thing I did was look for her. I greeted her with a singsong salutation.

"How's my pretty Pookie!" The tail that hung straight down came up for just a few seconds in acknowledgement. Soon, I knew, Pookie would be asking to be lifted onto my bed with the other pugs.

Nothing, I thought, can keep a good pug down. 

ADDENDUM: Pookie came around more and more, and surprised us all by being a very vocal ladypug! In my experience, about a third of pugs howl. Pookie is one of those. Pookie communicates in a gurgling, sing-song "roo-roooooooooooooh". We have discovered that she disdains having her crease cleaned and can get downright ornery about it.

A couple of weeks ago, I got an application from Jessica and Josh, a young couple who had fallen in love with our Pookie. They came to my house to meet her one day and, to my astonishment, Pookie howled at them the same way she howls when I come home from work! It was a joyous sound that told me the feeling was mutual. Pookie was unabashedly smitten! Jess and Josh are in the moving process but, as soon as they get settled, there is a place in their new home for little Pookie. This young couple has also expressed a desire to assist in rehoming elderly and "special" pugs. So while Pookie can look forward to a cushy retirement, I believe we, too, can look forward to a new pug angel in the IMR heavens.

NOTE: We have several senior pugs needing sponsors and forever homes. Please take a look at our Buddy Page and consider being a buddy, or making a contribution towards their care. Thank you!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Fred At The Bridge

Fred In Later Years
I recently received an email from my friend, Jan F, with some sad news in it. Her pug, Fred, who had been adopted from IMR, passed away. When I got the news, I felt that physical twinge that you get in deep inside when something hurts your heart. To my surprise, I cried a little...I say "surprise" because I have not seen either Jan or Fred for about 14 years.

Fred was a very special pug. Of the hundreds of dogs I've known across the 17 years I've been rescuing, there are some who stand out more than others - some who have left their mark on my life in many different ways. Fred was one of those.

Fred had been auctioned from a puppymill at the age of two years. Once we got him home, it was easy to see why he was culled. Fred was so timid, he would never have made a "breeder". He backed down at the slightest hint of reprimand from any other animal and was altogether terrified of people. Poor Fred had zero confidence. He was also simply gorgeous - there's just no other word. Glistening slick black coat, finely muscled torso, big jowls that gave him that miniature mastiff look - he was so handsome - a truly beautiful pug physically, not in the smarmy AKC conformation way, but in the way of all beautiful dogs. I was in love with Fred. I wanted his friendship and trust more than anything.

Fred was a tough one, even at a young two years of age. I still think it was because he was just naturally very sensitive. Fred had a humongous heart. Just a look - not even a word - would send him cowering. But love fixes a lot. Fred began to mend and, before too long, he was ready to go to a home with someone else who was willing to carry on the healing process.

When Jan's application came through, I almost turned her down because she had a clawed cat. Fortunately, a bevy of common friends intervened, insisting that she was an adopter to die for, I'd be crazy to pass her up. They were right. Best decision I ever made in rescue was awarding her Frederick. Jan actually flew in from Delaware to pick Fred up. Kevin and I met her at Lambert Field St Louis just outside the main terminal. I remember, Fred was a bit too tall for the transport bag and we had to get him to lay down in it so he could board. He was pretty scared, but I knew he'd be fine. Jan assured me that, once seated, she would open the bag so Fred could stick his head out and look around.

Saying goodbye to Fred was made easier because Jan and I have kept in touch as the years went by, emailing back and forth regularly. Jan is smart and witty. She became one of our most reliable supporters, and a true friend. I've always found her updates enjoyable, looking forward to her posts, and so Fred never really left my mind. It was like old friends you run into at the grocery store, chat awhile, and leave smiling until you run into one another again. Jan kept me aware of every change in Fred over the years, small or large. She told me when he did something funny, or something exceptionally brave, or about the day when they stumbled over a man with a garden hose who frightened Fred by inadvertently spraying them. She let me know when Fred started having back issues, and when he went for acupuncture. When Fred first got his wheels, Jan was so proud of the way he handled his disability. If Fred was courageous, Jan was responsible for that. He had all the love and support any dog could ever wish to have. Even as a wheelie-pug, Fred was not excluded from family functions and holidays. He was undoubtedly as secure and happy as any pug could be.

Fred's Feet
One day, about a year ago, Jan sent me a recent photo of Fred in his cart. I'll never forget how shocked I was to see that gray-muzzled old man! In my mind, Fred was still that muscled two year-old I first met all those years ago. I just could hardly believe THAT was Fred!

One day, Fred became suddenly, gravely ill. Tests indicated he had thrown a blood clot. Jan knew at that point that his impairments were too many and his suffering too great. She and his doctor sent him gently to the Rainbow Bridge. Jan never flinched in her responsibilities to Fred all throughout his life, and she did not do it when the time came to send him on his way. She is an awesome friend to animals - I'm profoundly grateful that Fred had her in his life.

Now that Fred is at the Bridge, waiting for his mom, I know he is that slick, strong young pug I still see when I think about him. He'll be there waiting for Jan when she arrives. But I hope he will stop by and say a quick "Hello" to me, too. I'd love to see that brave, beautiful boy again.

I think the best epilogue for this column is Jan's own:

"Fred would have been 16 on June 11th; he has been an incredibly important part of my family since 2000.  Fred was the steady rock, the constant; no matter who approached him, how young, how old, how enthusiastic... didn't matter.  I knew Fred was safe, bomb-proof, as it were.  Just a couple weeks ago he was sitting in the sun on the front sidewalk while I cleaned up the leaves/debris that had collected around the plants and banked up along the steps out front.  A two-year old approached him, fingers splayed heading right for his face.  While I certainly didn't want him to get hurt, but there was not a doubt in my mind that the little girl was safe and would have a positive experience meeting him.  That was Fred.  Reserved, observant, stubborn, concerned about following the rules, but unfailingly dependable, rock solid, kind, gentle, low key, no muss, no fuss, no bother.  Even while dying he ran steady and true, no bother, just quietly doing what he had to do.  I picture him much as he was the day we went to Rohobeth Beach.  It was dog days down there and for the first time, he could be off leash in a really public place.  I removed his leash, and like a shot, he was gone, running through the sand just as fast as his legs could carry him until he was just a little black spot on the beach, reveling in his utter freedom.  And then he turned around and ran back.  I can't think of another time I've witnessed such unbridled joy..." 
...and from an earlier post...
"The years has gone fast, and he has, unfailingly, been a very, very good boy.  I make sure I tell him that often because he deserves to know what joy he's given."
He knew, Jan...he knew.