About the pug (I apologize in advance for this)

So you’re probably wondering about the pug.

I know.

Usually I have something to say about this animal who’s always peeing, farting or pooping on something. Usually I have a weekly update in the form of his latest shenanigans involving quests for missing cats, hitchhiking treks to oil sites, porcupine fights, poop eating, a mysteriously broken curly tail or his latest attempt at becoming a cow dog.

Usually I have a complaint about his incessant snoring.

Usually I’m trying to sell the damn thing.

Usually I’m “lovingly” annoyed.

But yesterday Husband and I were outside wandering around talking about all the projects we need to get done, throwing sticks for the dogs and contemplating the meaning of life and the man turned to me and said “Hey, you know, the pug hasn’t really had any adventures lately.”

My mind played through the list of “Pug pain-in-the-ass scenarios” and, not counting the days he sits in my office and farts incessantly while I’m trying to work, I could come up with nothing recent.

Really.

So I said, “Well, you know, he’s four now. And when a dog hits four he’s full grown.”

(And by full grown I mean one of the finer pug-like specimens in the tri-state area measuring 2.5 feet high and weighing-in at 48 pounds of pure agility, athleticism and muscle).

“Yeah,” said Husband. “I guess that’s true.”

“Yeah,” said me. “Maybe the guy’s finally grown up. Maybe he doesn’t have the energy for it all any more. I mean, it takes him like a good 45 minutes to be convinced to wake up in the morning. Maybe he’s seen all he needs to see of this countryside, smelled all he could smell, chased all he could chase and ran his miles. Maybe he’s accepted he’s a pug and put his wandering, cow chasing, raccoon terrorizing, porcupine slaying days to rest. Maybe we won’t have to go out looking for him so much anymore. Maybe we can stop trying to give him away. Maybe we can stop wondering…. “

Satisfied with my theory, I turned around to look at the newly-appointed noble creature we successfully raised through the hard times and on into the good…

And he was humping the cat…

Winter Walking.


4 PM. Still in town. Hurry, pack up your briefcase. It will be dark soon. Get in the car, turn on the radio and follow the trucks home.

25

45

55

65

Get to the corner. Take a right. Speed up a bit. Notice the sky turning pink. Turn up that song.

Turn left at the white fence. Follow the pavement

Slow down a bit. Check on that  tree. Smile. Still looks mysterious and beautiful tonight.

Careful on the curve. Watch for ice. Hum along now. It’s not dark yet.

Turn left on the pink road, notice it’s plowed.


Over the cattle guard. Stop at the mailbox.

Bills and catalogs and no real letters.

There’s never real letters.

Glance in the rearview. Almost home. One more cattle guard, one more hill, one more turn. Open the door.

Kick off town boots. Strip off work pants. Toss earrings in the drawer. Find wool cap and camera.

Where are the damn dogs?

It’s getting dark.  Chase it down.

It’s getting dark. Watch it coming. Watch it turn from white to blue.

It’s getting dark. Climb. Climb. Climb.

Crunch. Crunch. Click.

Crunch. Crunch. Breathe.

Dogs pace. 100 steps to my one.

Wish I had fur today.

Wish I had four legs. Wish I could roll in the snow like that.

Wish my ears flopped.

Crunch. Crunch. Whew.

Make it to the top. Breathe. Notice the hay.


Remember how we used to pretend they were Frosted Mini-Wheats and we were shrunken people in a cereal bowl.

Sigh.

Follow the fence line. Time to cross. Don’t rip your pants girl. Easy now.


Walk in the fields, follow the horse trail. Notice the elk tracks. Think they must like Frosted Mini Wheats too.

Crunch. Crunch.

It’s so quiet.

Crunch. Crunch. Except for that wind.

Pull up scarf.

Pull down wool cap.

Lean into the weather. Walk on now. Keep walking. Hit the prairie trail. Follow it through the fence. Stop.

Hands on hips.

Look to the north.

Look at those buttes. Love them in white.

Love them against that pink sky.

Love this place.

Love this wind.

Love this damn cold and these damn dogs.

Love this snow.

Wish I had four legs. Wish I had paws.

Wish I had fur.

Wish I could stay out here all night.

Uncontrollable urges.

I had two Thanksgivings.

Which means I had approximately seven helpings of turkey, five helpings of mashed potatoes, ten spoonfuls of broccoli salad, three turkey shaped sugar cookies, a half of a turkey shaped cheese ball, a slice of pumpkin pie, another slice of pumpkin pie, a pint of cookie salad, four days of leftovers and no hope of fitting into my skinny jeans for the rest of my life.

But this story isn’t about me and my uncontrollable urges.

It’s about the pug and his.

Because besides making a few dozen ridiculous and unnecessary choices involving doughnut cake and thirds of everything, I also made the ridiculous and unnecessary choice to bring Chug the damn pug to Thanksgiving at my in-laws’.

I had good intentions. I mean, my nieces like him. And so does my Mother-in-Law. She thinks he’s hilarious.

Also, I knew if I left the little shit at the ranch for the weekend the dog would hitchhike his ass up to the nearest oil site on the hunt for a lonely oil field worker who would let him in his camper, feed him the other half of his steak before inviting the little weasel to snuggle down on the couch with him for the night.

So I loaded him up in the backseat of the pickup between the wine bottles and my bag full of stretchy pants and off we went to hug and visit and play ping pong and Barbies and board games and drink wine and wait patiently for the meal I could smell wafting from the house before we even pulled into the drive.

And all was going well. It was. The pug was behaving himself, sniffing the butts of the other family dogs, making friends, cleaning up crumbs from the kitchen floor, sneaking up on laps, licking faces…

and winking on command.

And then, four minutes before the meal was set to be served, that lovable, crowd-working dog lifted his leg and pissed on the floor smack dab in the middle of the living room and right before my eyes, sending me screaming and chasing the one-eyed monster out of the room and barreling through the kitchen before sliding to a stop in the dining room where I scooped him up and snapped out of my blind rage only to find we had landed ourselves in the midst of a crowd of relatives who had just received news of my cousin’s engagement.

I’m pretty sure my swearing, screaming and all the fur flying was just the atmosphere they were looking for in that moment.

And now the pug’s for giveaway.

Again.

Pug: For Giveaway

When I’m out and about in the world–working, shopping, grabbing a drink with friends–there’s  a common question people from all corners of my life make sure they stop to ask me. It isn’t “how ’bout that weather,” or “how’s the new house coming along?” (the answer is “slow” in case you’re wondering). No, it’s not even “why’s your hair weird?” or “where’s your husband?”

It’s “How’s the pug?”

Followed by “Any more run-ins with porcupines?”

And then “Does he still think he’s a cat?”

“Has he peed in your husband’s boot lately?”

“Is he still wandering around the countryside?”

And finally “Oh that dog, he makes me laugh.”

The damn pug. Everyone just loves him.

These days, as his behavior has moved further away from domestic lap dog and closer to wild hound I’m trying to figure out, despite all of the reasons I shouldn’t, why I don’t send that damn dog packing.

Because as I run through the answers to the questions it’s pretty evident that’s exactly what I should do.

I should just let him run away like the wild wind he thinks he is, tell him that the next time he hits the road, curly tail in the air, nose to the ground sniffing out which oil rig or neighbor has steaks on the grill, I should just leave him there to fend for himself.

Yeah.
I should.

I had this discussion with myself yesterday when a friend I work with in town popped in my office to tell me she had received a phone call.

About the pug.

See I hadn’t seen him ever since I pried him off of the couch a few days earlier and shoved him out the door to find a spot to poop.

Well apparently he likes a little privacy to do his business away from the house…like far away.

And apparently it takes him a while…or maybe he just gets distracted by things like butterflies, wandering coyotes, the herd of cattle up the road and, well, life in general.

Each time he goes missing I imagine him sitting shotgun in a big rig finally fulfilling his dream of traveling the country by highway, front paws up on the edge of the open window as he leans into the wind, letting it blow through is floppy ears sending the drool trailing off with the dust of the 18-wheels. I think of him looking over at the truck driver with the white beard, bald head and Harley Davidson t-shirt, and saying something like “Hey, thanks for picking me up man. I’ve been trying to get out of here for years. Life on the road…now this is livin'”

In my imagination the pug’s voice sounds like one that would come out of the lungs of a middle-aged biker who’s been smoking cigars and Marlboro Reds his entire life.

Anyway…it’d been a few days since I’d seen the damn dog,  but I wasn’t concerned. Aside from the one recent episode where my momma was on her way home from a trip to the city and spotted a black dot out in the middle of our neighbor’s pasture nearly four miles away from home, the dog has generally been making his regular rounds. When I decide it might be time to get him back on his diet, I’ll get in the pickup and start my searching ritual: up to the oil site south of the house, then the one across the road. If he’s not there, I’ll check mom and dad’s. If he’s still MIA,  he’s usually at the rig near the highway.

It’s getting ridiculous, but each time I arrive to load his fat ass into the pickup I have to spend a good ten to fifteen minutes talking to the guys about how awesome he is, how bad-ass he looks with one eye, how much fun they had with him and how they fed him T-bones and let him sleep in their campers with them that night.

No wonder the little bastard won’t stay home.

How can I compete with T-bones?


Anyway…back to yesterday. The pug was missing and I was starting to get a little concerned because he wasn’t in any of his usual locations. And the lab was home.

When the lab is home and the pug is not, that’s when things get hairy. The pug, left to his own devices, has the potential to go rogue and stay that way until someone comes looking for him. And he never calls to tell us how late he’ll be out.

But I decided I had reached an all-time low when I got a phone call about the bandit AT WORK!

This electrician who had been working on a site on the highway tracked me down to let me know that  the little shithead had been hanging around the site for days (shithead might have been my word and not his) and I suddenly felt like a mother who’s kid had been sent to the principal’s office.

And I would have never thought to check there. The pug would have been missing forever, because Lord knows he wouldn’t have made his way home until he was certain there were no more steak dinners coming out of those campers.

So on my way home from work I got to make a pit stop to pick up the pug who pretended like he didn’t hear me when I called his name across the muddy field.

But when our eyes finally met he did do me the service of at least acting happy to see me. Like he suddenly remembered he had a previous life away from this construction site. A life that maybe wasn’t so bad after all…I mean, I do occasionally let him sleep on my favorite blanket and feed him leftover dinner scraps. Come on buddy, what more do you want from me?

But I guess I’ll keep him…

tied up in the yard with a “For Giveaway” sign tied around his neck.

You love him?  Come get him!

Shit.

Search: Delinquent Pug Therapy/Rehabilitation Program

Yesterday I awoke at 6 am from my usual spot nestled underneath a stack of pillows to the sounds of cursing, heavy sighing, a constant stream of “Whhhyyy?! Whhhyyy?” and other sounds of disbelief coming from the entryway of our little house, about thirty feet away from where I was dreaming about falling out of airplanes.

“Are you ok?” I whimpered, poking my head out from under the covers, holding my breath for a reply from my dearly beloved. “What is going on?”

To which dearly beloved replied with a stream of curse word combinations that I am quite sure had never been used together up until that morning.

“#@$%$, #$#@@!, #$#@! Whhhyy?! WWhhhyy? %*#&@!”

Well, 6 am is pretty damn early and as I stretched out and rolled over underneath the covers I took a quick inventory of the situation, trying to decide if it would be worth sacrificing the last half-hour I was allowed in blissful sleep to get my butt out of bed and check on the poor man I promised to have and hold until death due us part.

Surely he wasn’t dying.  But after husband got it together enough to utter the answer to the sounds of misery coming from his body as he attempted to lace up his boots for a work day, I decided that perhaps the best choice for the planet would be to pull those pillows back over my head…maybe just until I heard his pickup door slam and pull out of the drive.

Maybe forever.

Because I might need a while to figure out the question I am going to pose for you today. I have been contemplating it for a good full day and haven’t come up with the answer yet.

I am not sure I ever will.

But if I can find an answer, a solution, a good therapist, or even a decent excuse, it might mean that the pug will be allowed to live to see another day.

And so I ask you, what turns a (relatively) good dog bad?

What switch flips in the mind of a perfectly innocent animal that converts a lazy, grunting, face-licking pet into an all out delinquent?

What traumatizing experience knocks the already crooked halo off of the dog’s head to make way for the devil horns that have sprouted between his floppy ears?

I can’t pin-point the event that turned my lovable clown dog into a deviant werwolf, but I think yesterday morning made it official: he’s acting out.

I should have seen this coming, I should have sent him to the rehabilitation center before it came to this, but I thought I could handle it. I thought I could keep him from running away to the oil location behind our house. Or if I couldn’t keep him home, at least I could understand that a dog follows his nose, and you can’t blame him if his nose smelled beef jerky and Gatorade.  But I could have saved myself dozens of trips to retrieve him if only I would have called the pet therapist when he first packed his bag and ditched us.

But no. I had a solution. More food, comfortable kennel lockdown and long walks at night.

I love my dog. Surly he would behave and stick around on this program.

But I’m beginning to think he doesn’t love us in the same way…

 

Oh, I know we all have our quirks. We all make mistakes. And although I have not quite forgiven his runaway antics, I have full intentions of reconciliation after he has decided to discontinue the reckless and disrespectful behavior he has recently displayed.

But it hasn’t happened yet.

And neither has his affinity for digging in the garbage when my back is turned, shitting on my floor at 4 am after his one meek attempt at waking us has failed, consuming and digesting my pens and the heel of my favorite black pumps, and jumping  on the forbidden couch and hiding under husband’s favorite blanket as soon as he leaves the room.

The pug. He’s slippery and slimy and knows exactly how to use that look (you know, the one that Puss N Boots gives on Shrek?) to his advantage. Only the pug’s look is even more pathetic, because, well, he only has one eye.

But I am working on forgiving him because he’s part of the family.  He’s pretty much good for nothing, but I admit, he makes us laugh.

But nobody was laughing yesterday morning when he committed the most heinous, disrespectful, criminal act of his short (and I fear,  nearly complete) life.

Nobody was laughing when husband got showered and dressed for the day, combed his hair, filled up his coffee thermos, pulled on his nice new socks and stepped right into a sopping wet puddle that had somehow formed on the inside of his work boot.

“WWWHHHATTT THEE HELLLL?!!!” (I think that’s the part that woke me up from my terrifying skydiving dream…right before I hit the ground…)

And after much pacing and more cursing and arm waving, husband assessed the situation and the stale odor that had wafted its way up to his nostrils.

He came to only one conclusion.

Nope, no one was laughing...except this guy...

And now again, for my question: What would posses a pug to piss in the boot of the one man on the planet who could destroy him, make his life miserable, keep him off the couch indefinitely and ensure that he spends the rest of his days in that dreadful Santa suit and trapper hat?

Are you ready for a long and tortured future in this outfit pug? I don't think you are...

And most importantly, how can a wife, a wife who had the brilliant idea of bringing a pug puppy home to the family in the first place, the same wife who has been similarly tortured by her pet throughout the years, find a way to adequately channel her anger while stifling her hysterical laughter at the despair and contempt laced with curse words flying out of her husband’s mouth?

I mean, I will eventually have to come out from under those pillows and deal with the situation…

But you have to admit, that $#!t’s funny…

Anyone know of any pug rehabilitation centers?

A life (couple days) without dogs…

Some days I’m not sure why I bother. Some days I wonder why the things that are supposed to be simple, things that other human people seem to manage properly without much sweat or confusion, don’t come the same kind of easy for me. Some days I wonder how most put-together people go through most put-together days without worry or lost sleep, without poop on the floor, panicked hollers in the night, slow drives down a country road at dusk with binoculars, worried phone calls to neighbors or a wrestling match on the kitchen floor with your husband and that stupid black dog with a smooshy face and one eyeball that at one time three years ago you decided was a good idea.

No. Simple has never been a word in a vocabulary dominated by the words “where the hell are the dogs?”

Some days.

Today was one of them.

Today is the day that I ask myself what my life would be like without the two stinky fur balls who have taken over my yard, my kitchen, my couch and my life. Today is the day I ask myself who I would be without them, what I would do with the extra time I would be gifted by not having to pick off their ticks, pluck porcupine quills from their noses, rescue them from the cows and drive over to my mom and pop’s to pick them up after their daily jaunts to visit their girlfriends.

Today is the day I contemplate this scenario because, well, I was nearly granted it.

A dog-free life.

Can you imagine?!

Maybe I should start from the beginning. See, its been on my radar for a while, the idea that these dogs of mine need to lead a much more civilized life. And by civilized I mean locked up behind bars in order to keep them from going wherever they have been going to snack on something rotten enough to cause gas emulsions that force husband and I out of our own home.

So when I received a call last week from a voice on the other end of the line telling me that two overly-friendly dogs had wandered three miles up the hill to an oil drilling site I did not hesitate to believe my ears. One whistle out the door revealed there were no dogs in site, so I pulled on my muck boots over the skinny jeans I wore to work and squished a beanie on my puffy town hair and drove my pissed off ass up to that site to retrieve them.

Now, a girl in skinny jeans and oversized boots with a Bozo-esque hairstyle in giant (but glamorous) sunglasses pulling onto a rig site is not a glimpse into womanhood these hard-hat wearing men see every day…nor was it a pretty glimpse. And if the outfit didn’t label me crazy, questioning these men in the middle of their work day about the whereabouts of a wandering one-eyed pug a giant brown lab sealed the deal.

Especially since not one of them knew what the hell I was talking about.

Shit.

It wasn’t until I made my way back down the hill that I realized I should have probably checked mom and pops’ place for the dogs before subjecting myself to a situation in which I could be labeled “crazy lady” in bar room conversations. Hindsight was a clear 20/20 as I pulled into their drive to find that sure as shit they were there. And judging by the relocation of pops’ work boot collection on the front lawn, they had been there all day.

Flash forward to yesterday when I came home to discover the dogs were again missing in action.

“Typical hooligan behavior, low life, vagabond rascals, curse word, curse word, curse word,” I muttered to myself as I got back in my car and drove down the pink road to mom and pops’ to retrieve their wandering, misbehaving, rebel-dog asses. But when I pulled into the drive something seemed fishy. All of pops’ boots were in place, his two dogs were laying lazily out in the sun and my dogs? Well, they didn’t come running out of the trees to greet me.

I stopped cursing and then I said “What the hell?” (Ok, I stopped cursing for a second.)

Gone.

The dogs were gone.

Shit.

I headed back home slowly, windows open, whistling into the wind, hollering their names, squinting into the hills and the trees, waiting for them to come flying out of wherever that smelly dead thing they like so much is lying.

Nothing.

I parked in our driveway to find Husband home and soon my string of cursing blended in harmony with his.

But we weren’t worried yet. We were just pissed. There was still time for them to climb out of whatever stinky hole they had found themselves in on purpose and make an appearance.

So we had supper, whistled for them a bit more, called my pops to check the status, wandered around the yard and then went to bed.

I asked husband if I should worry. He told me it would be a waste to worry about two dogs who have stupidly escaped a life of luxury to roll around in cow shit, munch on rotting rabbits, dig giant holes, and chase innocent deer over miles of rolling landscape.

Husband told me that we could worry tomorrow if they don’t show up.

So we went to bed pissed.

And I woke up worried.

Because when I opened the door to the morning air there were no dogs waiting on my stoop. Just three hungry cats meowing for food when they should be mousing.

So I drove to work slowly with the windows open, whistling into the frosty air and stopping into mom and pops’ place just to be sure they didn’t shack up with their girlfriends’ last night.

Nope.

No dogs.

I said a little prayer for the wanderers and went to work.

And when I got home the results were the same. No dogs and a pissed husband who hadn’t started worrying yet, but decided it might be time to go looking for them.

We got in the pickup and chose a direction, the first guess being a place where a pair of mis-fit dogs might wander in search of the affection and table scraps they have so unfortunately been denied in the home we’ve created for them.

So we headed to the drilling rig site a half mile from our house, a place I was fooled into thinking they were smart enough to avoid (But this time I wore a less ridiculous outfit, and brought a man with me.) When we pulled onto the site husband rolled down the window and asked one of the men if they have happened to see a couple canines roaming around.

I held my breath, certain I was going to get the same look I got last week when I asked the same question about the same damn dogs.

But I was pleasantly surprised when the man smiled and said something like “Oh, that round little black thing and a lab? Yeah? They’re around here somewhere. They’ve been here for a couple days. We’ve been feeding them. They should be over there….”

He pointed in the direction of three men working the platform of a giant piece of drilling equipment and our eyes followed the tip of his finger and settled angrily on the two banes of our existence who were staring up at the workers, tails wagging, ears perked, waiting for one of them to drop a piece of jerky or something.

Husband called out their names.

Nothing.

He moved closer, yelling a little louder.

Their stares were affixed.

He stormed toward them whistling.

The lab turned his head in acknowledgement.

Husband screamed their names.

The pug didn’t move.

He stomped his feet and clapped his hands.

The lab turned his head back toward the anticipated jerky….

And so you understand now, I hope, why I have been daydreaming about a simpler existence. An existence where I am not responsible for Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dumb and their appetite for adventure and tasty treats, but one where I am a proud owner of the more appealing and lower maintenance goldfish,  small monkey or circus elephant.

But in my self-assessment about why and how I get myself into these situations when I am certain dog ownership isn’t as much of a debacle for regular human people as it is for me, I have come up with a solution that I am certain no regular human person would come up with.

Doggie prison.

And I’m open for business if anyone needs a rehab facility for their canines. There’s two overly friendly dogs waiting there to hand them their matching orange jumpsuits.

Instigator…Idiot…Pug…

If I were a pug with one eye I would tread lightly in this world, understanding that my life is hanging on the fact that my remaining eye, well, remains.

If I were a pug I would have put pen to paper in my journal to detail each gory detail about how, exactly, I lost said eye. I would have made a special note on how it is best to stay in the yard for the love of safety and even though some creatures look fluffy and cuddly and similarly built, looks can be deceiving…and unbearably poky.

I would have written that down for sure. Then I would have underlined it and placed it right next to a sketch of the spiky animal who caused such misery in the first place.

Now I know if I were the pug I wouldn’t have opposable thumbs, but I would find a way. I would talk to someone. I would ask them to remind me every night before I kenneled up or snuggled on the blanket on the couch to tell me the story about how I approached a porcupine for a cordial discussion about politics only to come away with one of those needles he wears as fur poking out of the middle of my eyeball…

My favorite eyeball…

Yes, if I were the pug this traumatic event would be burned into my brain, because what followed was misery, three trips to the vet, stitches, drugs and several desperate attempts to jump out of the cone that was placed over my head to protect me from myself.

If I were the pug I would have not forgotten.

But alas, I am not the pug. I am a me, a woman who puts rolls in the oven to rise at 9 am only to discover that at 7 pm after the oven is adequately pre-heated and ready for the evening casserole, that the rolls I had completely forgotten about are done, saran wrap and all. Surprise!

No, I am not the pug. I am me, a woman who forgets things in her oven, but who will never, under any circumstances, forget how an injury occurred. I’m on my tenth or twelfth diary folks.

But the pug?

Well, the pug is the pug and the pug just happens to:

a. have a short memory
b. have balls of steel (those balls, of course, being metaphorical, because well…)
c. be an idiot
d. all of the above

And after yesterday’s events I believe I have enough information to answer the above multiple-choice question correctly.
Because as I held the stocky, determined, incredibly strong for his size, pathetic pug on the floor of my kitchen while husband worked to remove what I have documented as the third round of porcupine quills the animal has endured in his short lifespan, I grabbed my pencil and circled:
d. all of the above.



Now I admit there should have been signals that this animal’s intelligence is questionable. I admit I should have figured this was bound to happen again after witnessing how much gusto he put into chasing that raccoon off the deck…twice. And the rabbit that showed up, umm, not living, to my doorstep? Well, I’m pretty sure he didn’t commit suicide. 

So you see, I could blame last night’s incident on the lack of an eye, like maybe the pirate pug couldn’t properly assess the situation he was getting himself into. Like maybe he was blindsided… But as Pops pointed out, the fact that quills were poking out of his squishy nose right below the good eye, indicates, well he at least saw it coming. The quills inside his mouth finish the story.

The story that ends with the pug being labeled not only “idiot” but “instigator.”

Instigator.

Terminator.

Eliminator.

Dumbass.

Because even now as I type this I hear that shithead barking ferociously at some poor creature up in a tree or down in a coulee somewhere…

Yup, now he’s running around in circles down below the corrals, the lab on his tail, following the scent of some threatening vermin.

I just got in from screaming at him to come back, but he must have lost his hearing in that last porcupine fight. I swear to Martha, if I find myself pulling quills from that snorty snout again tonight he’s up for grabs.

Adoption.

A pug orphan.

Because even after a half-hour, four-way fight between me, husband, the pug and those damn porcupine quills, a fight the pug was sure was going to be the death of him; a fight that found him whimpering, bleeding, shaking, and begging us to unhand him; a fight that ended with a gallant victory by a strong man with pliers and a stunned and feeling-much-better-already-thank-you-very- much black lap dog curled up on the foot of the couch sighing deep, grateful, breaths of relief, it is quite clear that the third time is not going to be a charm.

When the pug gets in from his latest life-threatening chase, I’ll let you know what I think about the forth. And then I’ll give you the number of the mile marker where you can pick him up if you would like to take on the task of saving his life…day after day…

Cause I tell you, it would be my luck that this is the only dog in the history of the universe that has the potential to live forever… Despite the tiny brain, big balls, and all the odds.

Now, where did I put his safety goggles?

“Where the deer and the mis-guided pug with an identity crises play…”

If I had to estimate the miles I have trudged around the hills of this ranch since moving back a year and a half ago I will go out on a limb and shout out loud with my hands in the air (because I talk with my hands) “Hundreds!”

I know this is probably not accurate. I know it’s likely exaggerated a bit, but it sounds good. It sounds like a number I am content with considering that whenever I have a moment to spare to clear my head, find my breath, get my blood pumping or look for inspiration, I find myself bundling up, grabbing my camera and climbing to the top of the nearest butte, crouching down in the creek beds, or trudging in the fields above our house searching for the horses.

It’s a ritual that can’t be beat. One that never fails to put me right with the world actually.

Have you ever finished a giant meal full of more carbohydrates than a woman should consume in a week while watching the latest episode of “The Biggest Loser?”

No?

Me neither.

But if I were to engage in such unhealthy behavior that left me with a feeling that resembles a mix of “no self-control” and a very present tinge of “self loathing”, a walk in those hills with the wind blowing through my hair and flushing my cheeks would clean the ick right out of me. Not to mention put a very necessary dent in the calories consumed and a much-needed burn in my calf muscles.

And all of the huffing and puffing in the prairie wind also happens to be a nice quick fix for writer’s block as well as those unavoidable gloomy moods where you are certain the universe planted that slipper in the middle of the floor just to trip you.

The universe or your husband.

And if I were ever to have a fight with said husband over said slipper that starts with a joke only one of us thinks is funny and ends with none of us laughing, I am comforted knowing that the cure lies in the entryway where at least one-pair of boots is waiting for me to save them from the depressing depths of the closet and get them out into a world full of dirt and sunshine and cool breezes and snow and maybe an adventure…

And you know who else is waiting out there for me to overdose on carbs, get stuck on the last line of a new song, pick a fight with the hubby, or, you know, avoid the laundry?

Yup, you guessed it.

My P.ICs, my M.V.Ps…

My D.O.G.s

Yup. They never miss a chance to escort me on old cow trails, rocky hilltops and slushy creek beds. Because they too think slushy creek beds are the best. And it doesn’t much matter if they are a few miles over the hill visiting their girlfriends at mom and pop’s, or rolling in poop below the barn, or catching a really good nap in a sunny spot by the garage, as soon as they hear the door knob turn they are at the door wagging their butts at the idea that we are going somewhere.

In rain, or snow, or, well, you know, a blinding blizzard, my loyal companions are ready for me to go anywhere…at anytime.

Oh, to have that much trust mixed in with an even greater amount of passion for things like sniffing and running and munching on dead things. What a life!

And I love it. I do. They are my constant, fluffy, four-legged, slobbery, poop sniffing, leg lifting, floppy eared, droopy faced, smooshy faced, out-of-place companions.

But let us take a moment to note that nowhere in my description of my furry friends is there an adjective that is synonymous with the following terms: regal, photogenic, award-winning, gorgeous, nobel, handsome, agile, graceful, rustic, poetic, inspiring or the quality some living things posses that make those witnessing them actually slow the object’s motion down in their imaginations in order to fully absorb the grandeur of their presence…you know, like when the hot chick enters the library and lets her hair down in your favorite tween movie.

No, my pups have never been anyone’s love interest, nor will they be appearing in any major motion pictures anytime soon.

Unless there is a sequel to “Homeward Bound.” If they make that I’ll be putting together some audition tapes of my cats following the dogs following the horses following the cows in the home pasture.

Now that’s a sight for the big screen.

A comical sight, but this is my life. 

And a comedy is the only category these hounds fit into really. Which, in turn, makes it challenging to really focus on the contemplative, inspiring, whimsical, natural, meditative, stunning and magical photographs I am shooting to capture on these jaunts out on the countryside when Tweedle Dee and his BFF Tweedle Dumb are high tailing it for the nearest stock dam…

Or, you know, doing things like this…

Dog in the stock tank

Needless to say I spend a majority of my time on these walks shouting at the dogs to get the hell out of the frame and a few extra editing moments at the computer weeding out the unwanted dog tail, snout, foot and always present butt that might have snuck its way into one of my beloved sunset/landscape/horse/babbling creek/rainbow/wildflower photos.

Case in point:

Without dogs:

With dogs:

Without dog:

With dog:

Without dog:

With dog:

Without dog:

With dog:

Without dog:

With dog:

Somehow a photograph of a North Dakota sunset says something a bit different with a profile of a flat nosed pug and a droopy faced lab silhouetted in the forefront.

But what, exactly, does it say?

“Home, home on the range, where the deer, the mis-guided pug with an identity crises and a prematurely aging labrador play …”

And as much as I’ve tried to make the lab look nobel and stoic sitting strong against the backdrop of the rolling prairie, the orders aren’t rushing in for a 20X30 framed and matted photograph of a 105 pound chocolate hunting dog with drool flinging off of his droopy lips due to the relentless wind of the day…no matter how big his heart

For some reason nobody is in desperate need of that work of art to hang over their fireplaces to complete the warm and sexy look of their home.

It’s the same reason that this shot here:

is just a bit more appealing than, say, this shot:

No, we’re just not ready to appreciate and celebrate the spirit that these types of life-loving creatures can bring to a beautiful landscape.

Take a look at this shot for instance. Here we have a handsome group of long horn steers, a symbol of the rugged west, a story waiting to be told of cowboys and wide open range and a lifestyle that is adventurous and brave.

Now throw a pug in the mix and, well, that beautiful poem is instantly replaced with that childhood song “one of these things is not like the other/one of these things just doesn’t belong…”

Now that’s what I call contemplative.

Ah, yes. There are a hundred pictures like this. Hundreds of photos of the hundreds of miles these to yahoos have spent running the trails in front of me, sniffing in the brush, licking my face when I lean in close to the ground to get a close shot of a flower, or coming to my rescue when I lay down in the grass to look up.

And I am aware that when I crop out the wandering tail, the meandering paw and the occasional out of control floppy ear, this landscape looks the way it was meant…authentic, natural and pure…

But sometimes I like to keep in a squishy nose or a blur in the grass to remind me that , well, sometimes when you’re looking for inspiration, relaxation, and escape from the stresses of the world, the best medicine is to remember your sense of humor…

And that life is nothing without good company. And  I would walk a million miles in those hills with these two clowns.

Forever…

and ever…

Amen.

Amen.

Ever had one of those days?

Ever had one of those days that starts with good intentions, a comfortable pair of jeans, a groovy hat, a cup of coffee to go and a list. You  load up the car and drive on up and out of the farmstead, with the one-eyed pug in the seat next to you shivering at the idea that he might, indeed, be going to the vet today and you’re feeling pretty happy with yourself and the day off that you have mapped out in front of you: A little grocery shopping, a stop at the thrift-store because husband finally cleaned out his closet, downsizing his collection of high school wrestling tees and wiping out any trace of  polo shirt and dorky belts. And as you zip down the gravel road, Cosmo Radio on the XM, you smiled at the thought of a cleaner closet and the light and accomplished  feeling of checking “rabies vaccination for the pug” and “shots for mom’s new and beautiful stray rescue cat” off of the list, a scent  a little funky, a little narly, enters your nostrils.

You look at the pug who looks back at you with the best “innocent” look he can give with one eyeball  and open the window a crack to let out the stench. Shame on the pug, no matter the talk we have about manners, he always seems to let one rip at the most inappropriate and confined times.

yeah...I make him wear that when we go out in public...

But to your dismay, when you open the window, the smell only seems to get worse, filling the car with a stench that is a little less pug fart and a little more cat shit.

Shit.

The cat shit.

Realizing that you are only a good ten miles into your thirty-five mile trip to the vet, you manage to hold your breath long enough to make it through the windy and weaving road of the badlands’ breaks and out the other side to an approach where you pull over, get out of the car in the 20 degree temperature, open the back hatch and assess the shit-uation that came from the beautiful wandering feline in the kennel in the back of your car.

Yup.

The cat shit.

Like, a lot.

Yeah...just because you're pretty doesn't mean your shit don't stink...

And the towel your loving mother provided to keep the new wandering, fluffy kitten comfortable on her way to get civilized was not nearly the protection the rest of the world needed from the explosion that came out of that cat’s ass on the way through the badlands.

Shit.

So, to make the best of a bad poop, you take that towel and throw it in the only stray grocery bag you have floating around your messy car and seal that thing up as tight as Jane Fonda’s abs in the seventies…and then hold your breath and plug the pug’s nose as you drive the rest of the twenty-five miles to the vet, only to realize when you get there that not only are you a half-hour late for an appointment you weren’t aware had a timeline, but they are not thrilled with you…and probably less thrilled with the shit covered cat-in-a-box sitting outside their door.

Flash forward to the next thirty miles where you reach the drop-off point for husband’s khakis and turtlenecks that never saw the light of day and mosey on over to the Wal-Mart on the other side of town. And as you are counting the amount of toilet paper rolls and frozen pizzas you will need to purchase to get you and your dearly-beloved through the rest of the month, you make the turn into the parking lot only to notice blue and red flashing lights in your rear-view mirror.

“Surely he can’t be pulling over such a law-abiding citizen like myself,” you think to yourself in a panic as you search your memory for any foul play that may have ensued on the five-minute drive across town.
Seatbelt? Check.
Blinker? Check.
Speed Limit? Check.
Complete stop at the red light? Ummmm….you must have blacked out while thinking about paper towels.

Still unsure of your offense, you pull into the parking lot and search frantically through your glovebox for the registration papers and insurance card you were certain you put in there last week, but now has somehow grown wings and flown away…maybe it escaped when you rolled down the window to let the shit-smell out.

“Tap, tap, tap,” goes the cop’s fingers on your window.

“Hello officer,” squeaks your voice from your throat.

“I pulled you over because your tags are expired,” he says politely.

“What!! Really?! Are you sure?” you say a little too passionately, a little too loudly, as you jump out of the car, paperwork in hand, to check the front license plate, only to look down and find that the yellow tags were indeed not affixed to your plates but, you know, right there on the registration card that you were just waving around in exasperation.

At a cop.

A cop who tells you to scrounge up your drivers license and that insurance card that flew out the window and get those tags on the car before he comes back from doing whatever cops do in their cars after they pull people over and humiliate them in front of their fellow Wal-Mart shoppers and he will settle with a warning.

Yes, you were warned, and just the right amount of annoyed…the perfect combination to help get you through a care-free shopping experience in the land of the inappropriately dressed with a list ten-feet long that includs everything from deodorant to light-bulbs to socks to the kitchen sink.

An hour and a half, one comment from a little lady that went something like “I wouldn’t want to be paying for your cart-load,”  a suggestion from an employee that I shouldn’t just leave my purse in the cart and go walking around the store all willy nilly like that, geesh, and a receipt long enough to wrap three times around the sun it was time for your next stop: the liquor store.

A magical place where you would make all of your husband’s dreams of stocking the top of the fridge with a variety of whiskey flavors come true. And while you were at it, your momma’s dream of a little Kahlua in her coffee. But as you explain to the nice lady who helped you carry out the three boxes of booze that, no, there was no party planned, but that you live in the middle of nowhere and it is going to be a long winter, you gasp as you open the back hatch of your car to find that the eggs that you intended to safely place on the top of your pile of goods had not so gently dropped from their perch and landed in a nice, cracky pile on the floor of your car.

You consider cracking open that bottle of Jack for the drive back to the vet to pick up the animals, but don’t think that a second run-in with that cop would be good for your record, so you opt instead for a giant bag of McDonalds and a diet coke and turn up the radio to sing along to Bruce Springsteen between cheeseburger bites as you drive down the road to face the vet you so rudely scorned with tardiness earlier that morning.

But when you arrive she has nothing but good things to say about the shitty cat and the pug who looks so bad-ass now without on of his eyes. Nothing but nice things to say to a woman who can’t get her crap together enough to get to an appointment on time or put her eggs in a safe place.

So you load up the pug and the shitty cat and drive on out toward home, thinking this day wasn’t so bad after all, thinking about frozen pizza for supper…

thinking…wait…what’s that smell…Chug?

Nope.

Shit.

The cat shit.

Again.

Ever have one of those days?

it's a damn good thing you're pretty cat...

No?

Me neither.

Meow.

How a pug breaks his tail (and other shenanigans)

There’s a saying here at the ranch I use when something kinda shitty goes down. I use it to let that shitty little experience roll off my back and out of my mind in order to move on with the rest of the day. I shrug my shoulders, tilt my head and roll my eyes up to the sky and say, “Ah well, sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the pug.”

Yeah, pug. Right? You may have heard it from me here before.

I think it’s fitting, I mean in the other scenario, you know, the one with the bug? Yeah. Well, the bug gets squashed. Splat. Guts everywhere. Dead.

I use a 45 pound pug because it turns out a little better. I mean, you might lose an eye and develop a limp, but the pug, the pug will not be squashed.

So I like it.

And I used it on Monday evening when the boys and I went out to move horses around. It’s the middle of June, but in North Dakota, if you aren’t fortunate enough to have an indoor arena where you can continue working on your horses during rain, snow, sleet or hail unfortunately the first month of nice weather is the month you need to ride the kinks out of the horses.

We have pretty good horses, but I tell you after about five and a half months out to pasture they certainly have some wobbles. And my sorrel is no exception. See, apparently when the going gets rough (and by rough I mean making him step away from the barnyard, away from the other horses or just simply out of his little bubble of comfort) the dweeb lays down.


Sometimes, when you put your foot in the saddle the horse spins around, works on a nice rendition of what most would describe as a hissy fit  and then tops it off by throwing himself to the ground. It’s a sight indeed and that kind of behavior can really hurt the horse as well as the rider. But after it’s done you would never even know the little scene occurred because the horse is plumb fine, head in line, lazy and calm as ever.

What the hell is it all about? We are not sure. It’s concerning. It means he’s confused or frustrated and we’re not communicating the right way, so we’re trying to figure it out.

And that’s what we were doing on Monday when I stepped on the dweeb only to step off again at my pop’s advice as the horse jumped and spun and exhibited all signs of a tantrum…

and I landed wrong on a dirt clump and exhibited all signs of a torn ankle.

And just like that, damn, I’m hobbled up for a bit.

Dweeb and dirt clump, hope you like being the windshield, because I am most definitely the pug.

Yes, I was the pug on Monday and continue to show signs of the pathetic but hearty creature as I limp around town and the barnyard like a 90-year-old lady, refusing to be left out of any kind of activity, ignoring it so it goes away.

I heard that works…

Anyway, last night I was out snapping photos, doing some chores and all around pretending my minor (but annoying) injury didn’t exist I discovered that the actual pug may have had an encounter with a windshield as well. As Captain Black Bean (yes that’s what husband calls him now that he’s missing an eye…it has something to do with a pirate…anyway) as Captain Black Bean went about his usual antics of tormenting Big Brown Dog for his stick, chasing the cats up trees and all around being a pain in the ass, husband noticed there was something a little off with our problem pet–and it wasn’t the lack of a right eye or the scrape of missing skin below it…nope. Nope.

It wasn’t the wood tick stuck in his ear or the fact that he looked like he ran into a wall (his face is supposed to look like that.)

Nope. It wasn’t his face at all.

It was his tail. 

It should be wagging shouldn’t it? I mean, these are his favorite activities. Come to think of it, isn’t his tail curly? Doesn’t it roll up on his back, exposing his little pug-butt for all the world to see?

What the hell? What happened to his tail?

Pug, not so happy about swimming

Before (but after an accidental swim)

After.

I kneeled down to take a closer look, tried touching the appendage to see if he was in pain.

Nope, not in pain. Annoyed? Yes. But not in pain.

I pulled on it a little, tried pushing it back in place like a curly-cue.

It flopped back down.

I tried making happy noises and scratching his ears.

No response from the tail.

I tried throwing a stick for big dog and watching the pug chase him, hock him and steal it away. It is his favorite activity, it makes his whole body bounce and wiggle and snort and move.

But this time the tail wasn’t following suit.

And it was quite clear then, upon his return with the stick, that the tail had indeed checked out, laying limp and lifeless along his butt and down his legs.

Ahh man! With each passing day at the ranch my cute and cuddly little pug looks more and more like a gremlin.

What kind of weird encounter with a near-death experience got him and his tail in such a predicament?

I was pondering that question as I popped a Tylenol PM in my mouth and hit the pillow, hoping for a sunrise that would bring a little less swelling in my ankle and a bit more curl to the pug’s tail when I was jarred awake by Big Brown Dog’s nose in my face and his arm-sized tail (which seems to be working fine thanks) slapping against the side of the bed.

He snorted.

I rolled over.

He whined.

I told him to get back.

The pug barked.

What the hell? The pug is up? He usually doesn’t wake until at least noon…

Figuring they must have had some bad chicken and it was a 1 am emergency I swung my legs over the bed, rubbed my eyes and limped towards the door, the dogs panting and wiggling at my heals.

I flung the door open into the moonlight and prepared to wait for them to do their business so I could let them back inside in order to avoid any shenanigans with the night creatures lurking in our coolies.

Well, it was all a blur from there. Because it turned out the night-mischief wasn’t only in our coolies, but also on our front deck. And the dogs, even locked in the comfort of this home, knew it. As soon as the wild air hit their noses a little black streak and a big brown blur flew out the door, around the corner of the deck and tore in after something.

There was growling, there was scratching, fur was flying, the deck was shaking, the house was trembling, something was barking and someone was screaming…

I peeked my head around the corner, afraid to look. Afraid to see the Boogy Man or that alien I’ve been waiting for getting ready to suck up our house and our brains and finally take us to outer space. I squeezed my eyes tight and opened them as they adjusted on two tiny human-like hands and a furry masked face looking into the eyes of the brown and black streak,  holding onto the edge of the deck for dear life as his pudgy bottom half dangled helplessly over the six-foot  drop to the ground–a drop the mischievous raccoon was not willing to leap into without a fight.

I gasped and from behind me leaped a wild-haired man with a gun in his hand. He was hollering as he pushed me aside and flew toward the action, stopping with his legs bent and spread apart, his eyes darting, his chest quickly rising and falling, his head moving from side to side, his gun in position, his arm-hair standing on end…

his bare ass glowing in the moonlight.

And just like that, at 1 am, the night was the windshield and we were all the pug.

I popped another Tylenol and limped back to bed, understanding now how, with circumstances like these, a pug might break his tail, a woman might twist a limb, a raccoon might stare death in the face while dangling helplessly by his claws…and how a good man might find himself up out of his bed at 1 am, standing atop a deck scouring the black landscape with nothing but a rifle in hand and his manhood, well, you know, dangling in the breeze.

(No photo available)