Thursday, January 7, 2010

Stella the Pug

Stella tolerates having her ears rubbed. Meaty, velvety bits, they have a comforting scent. Her body is both solid and soft. It curls against mine and she breathes out a sigh of relief. She is in her right place and doing her job.

When I was pregnant, Stella would wedge her sturdy body against my aching back. Her warmth and the slight vibrations of her snoring soothed the pain, and she bore my weight without complaint. She knew I was pregnant before I did, and two days before I went into labor, she started acting very oddly. Although she didn’t seem to particularly like E, from the day he came home, she has exhibited a protective attitude towards him. She seemed to understand from the start that he was something very precious and very fragile. Now, also without complaint, she joins him in his bed every afternoon for his nap, her head resting next to his on the pillow.

Stella has excellent taste in gourmet cheese and a massive sense of entitlement. Her fondest dream is to catch a squirrel. She spends most of her time dozing on the back of the sofa, its cushions now grossly misshapen by her weight. At one time, Stella was accustomed to visiting restaurants, accompanying her humans to work every day, and air travel (in the cabin, not the belly, of the plane, thank you very much). She had a little carseat that boosted her up enough to see out the window and was given biscuits during her regular visits to the local wine shop. All of these things as befitting a pug.

But then things changed. We decided that if one pug was wonderful, two would surely be even more so. One hot July day, we brought home an 8 week old male pug we named Hercules. Hercules was small and cute, as all pug puppies are, but he lacked Stella’s shrewdness. We once attempted to take him to a creperie in our neighborhood. Sitting on the patio, he barked, shrilly and maniacally, at every passer-by. Of which there were dozens. Stella sat patiently waiting for her bite of gorgonzola crepe, bearing the indignity of her new brother’s behavior as the price she must pay for the finer things in life. Our future visits to the creperie were pug-less. A year later, her human brother was born, and visits to the creperie ceased entirely.

These days, as I watch Stella and E together, my heart breaks a little. This dog who has been my rock for almost seven years is now E’s dog too. As E has grown older, Stella has accepted that he is one of her humans, and thus she has a job to do. She must listen patiently as he reads her stories, tolerate him petting her ears, and sleep next to him. It brings me great joy to see the bond between them grow, but one day, the inevitable will happen. My mind shies away from the reality that she will not always be with me, and I am even more reluctant to consider that as the bond between E and Stella grows, so does the loss he will one day experience. As an adult, I chose to get a dog, knowing that the relationship would end in loss. My son made no such choice. Yet, I encourage this bond.

I have great faith in animals, dogs in particular. What you get from a dog who is close to you is unlike any other relationship in the world. A dog can sense what you need and will do its best to give it to you, without judgment or reservation. A dog will comfort you, protect you, give its life for you if need be. As much as I dread the day I lose Stella and I dread the day E loses her even more, living with a dog is a constant practice of living in the moment. For now, she is lying next to him as he sleeps, in her right place and doing her job. That is enough.

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