Dug has arrived.
And it’s been a long time coming. (According to Ian.)
Not long after we started fostering dogs, maybe eight or ten dogs in, my youngest son began calling all our foster dogs, “Dug.”
When I asked him why, he said. “I can’t remember all the names, so they can all just be ‘Dug.’”
Dug is the dog from the movie Up. If you haven’t seen that movie – you’ve missed out. Dug is the ADD dog the main characters encounter on their journey. Dug is searching for the bird Kevin, but is easily distracted. You’ve probably heard people say, “Squirrel!” followed by a quick head turn to indicate how easily they’re distracted. They’re referencing Dug.
With each litter we’ve fostered, Ian has campaigned to name all the puppies Dug. (Dug 1, Dug 2, Dug 3, etc.)
So, when I told him we had the chance to name our next foster puppy, he insisted we name him Dug.
I agreed and he immediately tracked down his older brother and sister to tell them we were finally getting Dug!
Dug arrived Saturday morning and it seems he really did get here just in time. He is not what you would term a postcard-pretty puppy. His head is several sizes too large for his body, but this is because it’s actually his body that is several sizes too small for his age.
Dug is a four-month-old plotthound/lab mix. He only weighs 11 pounds. All of his bones protrude. I’ve seen plenty of skinny dogs, but this is my first truly skinny puppy. I’m used to plump puppies with fat pink bellies to rub and shiny coats. Dug’s eyes are watery and his coat is dull and flecked with dandruff.
We are pumping him full of probiotics, coconut oil, grain-free food, vitamins, and even a supplement for skin and coat. Dug is doing his part, wolfing down everything I set in front of him.
Dug is shy and hesitant and spends most of his time sleeping. I’ve never seen such a calm, quiet puppy. He doesn’t make a sound. I’m guessing he is exhausted. When I put a crate in his pen and covered it with a towel, he took up residence, preferring the safe little cave to the larger play area in the pen.
This past week another puppy we once fostered has been on my mind. This is because I spent three days in New York City with Ian where he was honored with a National Scholastic Gold Medal for an essay he wrote about that puppy named Hadley.
Hadley remains the most traumatized dog we’ve ever fostered. Ian’s story about Hadley was one of the 1500 art and writing awards chosen from 330,000 entries for this honor.
It was exciting to be in the city—to see the Empire State Building lit up gold the night before in honor of the gold medal winners, meet other high school students from across the country, and to hear Amy Schumer, Paul Chan, Ellie Kemper, Michelle Obama, and Allison Williams speak to the winners at the award ceremony at Carnegie Hall.
I was bursting with pride in my kid, but each time we talked about his essay, I couldn’t help but think of Hadley. Her story wasn’t all that different from thousands of dogs in our country. What set her apart was that despite all the odds against her, she was given a chance.
Hadley was six months old when she came to our house. I would imagine that if Dug spent another two months in a shelter, (if he was granted that time), he would be as completely shut-down as Hadley was.
Although, looking at him now, I’m not sure he could have survived two more months. His body has obviously been ravaged by worms. He is shy and unsure, so completely different from the puppies I normally encounter. His shrunken body supported by oversize paws and carrying an overgrown head, make him seem like an old man.
But Dug has his moments. He wags his tail when I talk to him. When anyone approaches the pen, he backs away at first, but soon enough he creeps forward to be petted. When Gala visits, he clamors for the side of the pen happy for her company. He’s still too weak and unhealthy to play with her, she would certainly overwhelm him but she is settling down lately, so I’m hopeful that the two will be able to play together in another week. Gracie, being Gracie, snarls at Dug when she passes by. Dug just watches her, but never snarls back.
This is not the puppy I imagined. But I’m pretty sure in a week, he’ll look and act different. He’s young and likely, resilient. Once he figures out he’s in a safe place, I’m hopeful his real puppy-self will emerge. I’m so grateful he made it out. So grateful we have the opportunity to teach him about love and trust and care and safety.
I think Gala is finally getting that message, too. She has settled down. And when I say settled down, in terms of Gala, that means she actually lies down and relaxes.
She more or less sticks to dog toys, instead of shoes or cords. She leaves what is on the counter, on the counter. She doesn’t try to slip out any open doors. She ignores Gracie when Gracie growls at her. She sticks her nose in the cat’s face, but no longer pushes the cat with her nose in an effort to get the cat to run so she can chase her.
Everyone has noticed. “What happened to Gala?” asks Ian. “Did you run her a lot today?”
With the heat, we haven’t been running very far or very fast. No, I think what has happened is Gala is no longer so stressed. She’ll never be a low-key dog, that’s just not her personality. It may have taken a little over two months, but I think what has finally happened is that Gala has come to the conclusion that she is safe here.
Let’s hope Dug comes to that conclusion much faster. After all, he has youth on his side.