The Pack

autumnwalkkestrel 028It is a bit of sight when we take our dogs for a walk. When my husband and I walk them together, usually one of us has 3 of the dogs and the other takes 2. During our rambles on Sunday, we both took turns with all 5 so we could trade off using the camera. (Hard to have a steady hand when several excited dogs spot a deer leaping across the fields.)

autumnwalkkestrel 013It was perfect walking weather for our pups. Gus and Chico can hike for as long as we’ll take them in most weather (provided Chico is properly attired in the cold, that is!) but the pugs, with their squashed faces, don’t do hot or humid so well. However, a crisp autumn day? So good! They can go for miles if we pace ourselves properly.

autumnwalkkestrel 033They were so happy! These pictures feel a bit deceptive in one way, though: usually the leashes are an unholy tangled mess of mythic proportions. We’re talking Gordian knot or  maybe Cerberus harness inspired.

autumnwalkkestrel 007Good stuff.

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Old Pugs

At my request, my husband snapped some shots of our pugs while we worked in the yard today. I love photographer Pete Thorne’s project “Old Faithful” (http://petapixel.com/2014/10/21/old-faithful-studio-portraits-really-old-dogs/) and figured we should celebrate our aging pups, too. I am pleased with the results:

pugs 031 pugs 041 pugs 103This is Abe (or as we often call him, “Abraham Stinkin”). Isn’t he very Winston Churchill looking? We’ve had this sweet old man for 8 years. We suspect he’s at least 12, maybe older, hard to say with a rescue like him. On bright days like today, he enjoys sunning himself like a little turtle. In fine weather, he will often turn his head and ignore me when I call him to come back in the house.

pugs 083pugs 105pugs 081Here is Zooey (or Zoe, my husband and I disagree on how to spell her name!). We’ve had her for 9 years and we think she’s about 12 years old. She had a large cancerous tumor removed in May,  and we are trying to make sure to enjoy every moment we’ve got with this dear lady.

pugs 045pugs 089Chico and Apple, also enjoying the lovely day. And of course, Gus:

pugs 104Gus is a lover. He absolutely cannot restrain himself, kisses must be given out generously:

pugs 058pugs 060This one cracks me up, something about Chico’s stare suggests quite a narrative, no?

pugs 065Maybe he’ll share the tale of the day Apple faced down her nemesis, the lawnmower:

pugs 113(Seriously, she hates the lawnmower. It wasn’t even on, and she just stood there, glaring at it, clearly plotting how to take it down for good!)

Dog Park!!!

One of the things I find myself enjoying most when I visit proper urban areas are the dog parks. Columbus just doesn’t seem to have many. So when I travel, I am one of the weird ‘petophiles’ you see hanging around outside the fence at dog parks, watching other people’s puppies romp. I miss my pups when I’m on the road ! Plus, I just love dogs, all dogs. I love watching all of the various city pooches playing together. So imagine my joy when I learned that a new park  that just opened near me included a dog park. Thrilled doesn’t even cover it.

dogpark 009

Abe, Gus, and Chico running with a new friend in the big dog dog park.

Walnut Woods Metro Park is opening piece by piece. Tall Pines? That was the first area of the park to open. The Buckeye Area is the second stage of the park. A lovely 2 mile paved bicycle path winds through it, weaving through groves of crabapple and other trees (this was also part of the tree farm) and then down along Walnut Creek for a stretch. A third part is scheduled to open in October. But best of all, the Buckeye Area features a 4 acre dog park.

Actually, 2 dog parks.  There is an area for smaller dogs (maybe 1  acre) and then a separate area (maybe 3 acres) for larger dogs. Both times that we have taken our dogs, we were the only small dogs and a lone dog watched from the big dog area. After checking with that dog’s owner, we brought our dogs into the big dog area.  It’s sort of magical to me how immediately the dogs all decide to run around together, no issues with varying sizes. Just romping!

dogpark 004

Splash pond in big dog area.

The dog parks are quite well planned.  Both are pleasingly spacious, have good fences, and include thoughtful details for the people bringing the dogs, like benches and picnic shelters for shade. The big dog area also includes a little splash pond for the dogs. Mine mostly weren’t too interested about going in the water, except for Abe. The first time he ventured in was hilarious. He was following his new friend, a boxer/shepherd mix who ran straight into the water. About 2 feet from the shore, Abe stopped and sort of just stood there, processing and not sure exactly what to do next. Eventually, he backed up, only to splash back through the shallow part a few more times.

dogpark 002

Happy pups!

The dogs all seem to flat-out LOVE visiting the dog park. It is a pure joy to watch them tearing around and having fun. Chico in particular seems to really love the wide open spaces, running at top speed all around like a wild thing, looking for all the world like a miniature greyhound. The fact that the dogs are all well-behaved, sleepy lap nuggets when we get home? Gravy.

Fishing With Pugs

Okay, so this time we didn’t really fish.  But we were out on the water with the pugs!  (I just couldn’t resist referencing John Lurie’s sublime show, “Fishing With John”.  If you haven’t seen it, you really should.  Amazing.)  Check it out:

We got life jackets for the pugs.  They are so top heavy that they are considered at extra risk of drowning, so PFDs are highly recommended.  Gus (pictured above) probably actually needs one a little more snug than the one we got him.  But doesn’t he look like a good little sailor?!?

All five dogs went out on the kayak (not all at once, though!) and seemed, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, to enjoy it.  What would I have done differently?  We really should have taken them on a decent-to-long walk before trying out the kayak.  It would have been helpful if we’d drained off some of their energy first.  (Rookie mistake!)  Also?  Taking all 5 at once was a bit hectic.  Some of them share a life jacket, so switching one dog out and putting it onto another dog got a little crazy, especially since we were sharing the lake that day with a hyper Cub Scout troop.  It’s a bit of a drive to Lake Hargus and we were just so excited to see how the pups would react to being on the kayak, that we underestimated how stressful and hectic juggling all 5 dogs while doing something totally new with them would be.  But still.  It was pretty awesome.

Meet Apple, the Hermaphroditic Pug

It occurred to me that although Apple has appeared in a few pictures in here, I hadn’t yet done a “Meet Apple” post.  Quite remiss on my part, because Apple is a total charmer.

She was the fifth pup we added to our pack.  Honestly, we weren’t planning to have 5 dogs!  But when you have 2 pugs, a pug-cairn terrier mix, and a chihuahua, you do get a bit of a reputation. 🙂  We became known as “the Pug People”.    A friend-of-a-friend asked if maybe the Pug People might have room for one more, or might know of someone who did.  They were clever, and included this picture of Apple in an email to the friend:

Still a puppy!  I immediately forwarded the pic to my husband, and he, too, was instantly smitten.

Apple had apparently originally been purchased by a family as a bit of a consolation prize for their eldest daughter who didn’t take the news of her mom and dad’s divorce too well.  Dad remarried, the new wife got pregnant, and they supposedly decided that a baby and a pug puppy were too much to deal with.   So the daughter had to give up her pug.  How tragic is that?   I felt so bad for the girl.

So we set up a meeting.  The girl and her dad brought Apple over to see how she got on with our dogs and to see how the daughter felt about placing her with us.  (I don’t actually think she would have really been allowed to say no, frankly, but they at least tried to let her feel like she had some say in things.)  Apple and the rest of the pack got on famously and the daughter said she thought Apple would be happy with us.  Did I mention how sad this all was?  Really heartbreaking.

Then it got a little odd.  When my husband was asking about Apple’s vet record and when she’d been fixed and such, the dad got kind of cagey, eventually saying that she hadn’t been fixed because she didn’t need to be fixed…and that we’d see.  Huh.  He seemed anxious to bundle his daughter off and be on his way, so we didn’t really press or make a huge deal out of it.

When we took Apple to our vet the next day, we were startled to find out that Apple is a hermaphrodite.    Yup, both parts.  Although not super common, it’s apparently not that rare, either.  It is apparently rare, in such cases, for either part to be fully reproductively functional, though.  We opted to get her fixed just so she wouldn’t be going into heat or develop a pregnancy that she couldn’t deliver or something.  The vet both neutered and spayed her.  We do refer to her using the feminine pronoun because she mostly presents as female, if you get my meaning.  Except every now and then when she’s really excited and her male organ appears out of her female one.  (Hope that’s not TMI, but I figure people might have questions -I did!)

Now this may be me being too cynical and reading too hard between the lines, but supposedly, according to the friend-of-the-friend, the family that gave up Apple was quite religious.  I suspect that the real reason they gave her up was because she’s a hermaphrodite.  Which is really sad.  It’s a naturally occurring thing.  There are hermaphrodites.  That isn’t a religious issue.  And her being one in no way impacts her ability to be a wonderful pet.  Okay, so breeding wouldn’t be an option, but they weren’t planning to breed her.

Apple is a total sweetheart, and really took to my husband.  If he’s in the room, she has eyes only for him.  And the other pups all love her, except for Chico.  She always tries to cuddle him first, and he usually won’t let her.  So then she’ll cuddle someone else, not a big deal.

I still find the idea of making your daughter give up her beloved pet because somehow that pet’s dual genderedness didn’t align with your religious beliefs profoundly sad.  I’m not super religious, but I can’t help but think of the phrase “God don’t make mistakes.”  And of Shakespeare’s assertion that “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,/ than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”   To us, Apple is at once extra special and yet no different than our other pups.