Life experience · Ms. Jordan Underfoot · The Reverend John Henry

The Ballad of Jordan Underfoot

Getting a dog will almost certainly completely restructure your life. Once you’re all settled into its new rhythm, the thing to do is to get another dog, right? Because who wants consistency? That, apparently, was our logic as we decided to make one fluff monster into two.

We set our sights on the Austin Pug Rescue list of available pugs, pug crosses, and generally weird-looking little gremlins. Getting a pug is like getting a tattoo. You get one, just to see if it’s working for you, and then you want a new one all the time…

We signed up to The Process – pay the fee, have them call our references, open ourselves up to a home visit, then pick from the menu of available mutts. And this is what we found: there are a lot of old pugs. Pugs 10 years and older make up the majority of the pugs on the site. And nothing looks as old as an old pug. An old pug is older than Yoda.

We narrowed our search down to three. One is a bouncy three-year-old; one a blind two-year-old; and one an older eight-year-old.

I didn’t really want anything bouncy; a blind dog felt like it would need more looking after than we had to offer; and what do we know about looking after an old dog?

Well, we decided to find out.

Ms. Jordan is tiny, blacker than a deep hole, with a distinguished halo of gray around her muzzle. From a distance, she looks like a magically shrunken Doberman – sleek black fur and long, thin legs, her tiny curly tail nearly invisible against her back. Her head is round and she has an occasional tendency to bare her teeth at unfamiliar dogs…we think she might have a bit of Chihuahua in her. Which, sadly, makes her a “chug”.

We took her for a two-week trial run. Really, does anyone give up a pug after having pug hugs for two weeks? Do we live in a society where such a thing is possible? I don’t even want to think about it.

We are not expert dog owners – pretty much everything I know about dogs comes from our year with the sainted John Henry. And he’s a young, man dog. Jordan, being an older lady, presents subtle differences. She perhaps does not love to eat (or live to eat) like The Rev. She is shorter, so she can’t access some of the higher levels that JH can reach. She doesn’t understand the link between “SIT” and snacks. And, because she’s 56 in human years (I know this has no basis in science, but we are in a post-science age), I figure if she doesn’t want to sit when she gets a snack, then that’s a decision we have to respect. When I get to 56, I’ll snack however I damn well please, too.

Old lady dogs also “go to the bathroom” differently from young gentlemen dogs…and she has a preference for peeing on piles of leaves. Which could be a problem in the summer months when there’s not a leaf on the ground. But, one step at a time. The more immediate problem is me having to scoop the poop out of a pile of wet leaves in the dark – a pile that’s as appealing to Texas spiders as it is to old lady dogs.

We thought Jordan had a hip problem. She occasionally hops and lifts her back left leg. So, we took her to the vet, who adored her immediately and assured us she did not have a hip problem. She does have a knee problem that apparently a lot of small dogs have. If she was younger, we’d be looking at an operation, but instead we’re treating it with pills and diet. She doesn’t seem to be inconvenienced with her knee, though. She hops quickly up steps with both back legs pushing together, and on the sofa she does sometimes lose control and use our bodies as crash mats as she rushes in for a hug, because she can’t slam on the brakes in time. But she keeps up with her new younger sibling just fine.

Oh, and then there’s the breath. Her breath is…full of character. Again, the vet promised there was nothing wrong with her teeth but we should have them cleaned sooner rather than later. Weirdly, although the smell is intense, we’re kind of getting used to it. New guests to the apartment should, however, be aware and beware of Jordan’s first kisses.

So, we now are a two-pug family. One more step in my wife’s stated ambition to own all the pugs. No more pugs until we get a house with a yard, I’ve demanded, because walking two dogs is a skill; more than two is madness. We’ll see if that battle is one I win, or even choose to fight at all. If we see an available younger midnight-black pug, I don’t think my resolution would stand very strong at all.

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