The Ballad of Ms. Jeanie Underfoot

To understand Miss Jeanie, the newest member of our crew, we must first discuss Phoenix.

Over the Xmas and NY period, we – my estimable wife and I – wondered if we were ready to take on another pug…which is how we came to spend the two-week holiday period with Phoenix.

A small black dog sitting to attention.

Phoenix’s foster folk were going away for the holidays and needed a sub-foster. We took this as an opportunity to test-adopt the little guy. Test adoption is a thing – and you should really do it if you can before committing. The dog you’re sure you’re in love with based on the picture/first impression/meet-and-greet might not be a great fit for you or your home. Or you and your home might not be a great fit for the dog. Best to be sure before either side has committed in their hearts.

Phoenix, his foster-lady told us, was the most energetic dog she’d ever fostered – out of more than 30 dogs. She didn’t tell us this, of course, until after we’d taken him on.

The two weeks we spent with Phoenix were a lot of fun. As we were just temp fosters, we didn’t feel under too much pressure. He was the kind of guy who tended to pee a little when he got too excited. Which he did three times in the first day with us. We are that exciting. So, we protected everyone by putting him in diapers/nappies/belly bands when he was indoors. And we could all relax.

Pugs, by and large, are lazy and affectionate…and if Phoenix couldn’t be ever considered lazy, he was certainly what is usually defined in adoption literature as a love bug. I think I will spend every first moment of every day from here on in waiting for an excited puppy to greet me by leaping on my chest, nibbling my nose, and throwing his tongue into my ear or cleaning my eyeballs. It’s not my choice of how to wake up, but it most definitely works.

John Henry, the alpha pug of our hearts, if not of the pack, was at first very wary of him, but eventually learned to play the Phoenix way – with lots of sprinting, a fair bit of ankle biting, and never ever resting at all.

Jordan, the actual alpha, but in the body of a tired old lady dog, tried in the typical Jordan way to assert her dominance. However, Phoenix was not interested in standing around to have his ears nipped. He presumed that this grumpy old lady really wanted to play a game, so he leapt, yelped, and play-nipped back at her. Jordan spent much of her time with Phoenix just plain furious. Mostly, she retired early to the bed, glowering at a distance.

As a family, we immediately knew he was more work than we had time to give him. We agreed as one mind that Phoenix was not the puppy we were looking for. Except when it got late and he finally curled up on the sofa, his head on someone’s lap. Or when I was working, he’d sprint in, bound onto my lap, put his paws on my shoulders, lick my face, and run off again. Ready for more adventures.

We each, despite logic, changed our mind about adopting him 2 or 3 times a day. Except Jordan. And Jordan’s silent vote counted as much as anyone’s.

But, it seems, we never had a majority of pro-Phoenix votes all at the same. time. So, January 2, we drove back to his primary fosters. He leapt out of the car, tail wagging like it might fly free, and gave them the Phoenix Face Wash. He disappeared with them, with no looking back. And we knew we made the right choice.

Mostly.

So, Miss Jeanie came next. She was not available when we asked – she was recovering from her ordeal and then she would need to recuperate from being spayed. But she was awesome, so we were prepared to wait.

Jeanie was a stray – when she was found, she was skin and bones. We were told she is four years old but we’re not sure if that’s accurate. She has a puppy’s heart and a puppy’s twinkle. After she was rescued, her carers found something odd in her basket. A tiny puppy. Then another…another and another. Somehow this tiny, xylophone of a frame had successfully held four puppies. She is indeed a tiny titan.

A small fawn pug tilting her head questioningly.

We took her for a trial visit while she was waiting for her surgery. She was perfect: Cuddly, bouncy, and fun. John Henry took to her immediately. Jordan did not. She tried to put Jeanie in her place, but you have to be quick to do that. And Jordan had not been interested in being quick for quite some time.

By the time we had to give her back, we knew that we wanted her to be part of the family.

After her op, we agreed to take her as soon as possible. She could convalesce with us. Now that Jordan was no longer with us, Jeanie was free to lie wherever she wanted. Spend as much time resting and healing as she needed.

It turned out, she needed almost no time at all.

No jumping on the furniture, we were told – she mustn’t run, she mustn’t over-stretch herself at all. Honestly, we told her. But she wasn’t interested. John Henry wanted to chase her; she wanted to be chased. We could only watch and hope she knew what she was doing.

A small fawn pug almost invisible in front of a stone wall.

Jeanie settled in to the rhythm of our house immediately. She understood when we would walk (after dinner, when I put on my walking cap), when we would feed her (between 4 or 5, or when she stood and shouted at me until I cracked), and where she could sleep (anywhere she liked). And every morning, I am woken up in what feels very much like the Phoenix Way: a tiny dog standing on my chest, a tiny tongue flicking at my eyeballs and my nose – and, if I’m not quick enough to respond, a tiny paw punching me in the face. It’s awesome.

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