A few days ago, Tuesday August 21st to be precise, our dear pug, Albert, succumbed to a fast-moving infection.
He was going on 12 or 13 (I can’t remember if he was born in late ’99 or late 2000), and had had diabetes for just about 5 years. Which was largely the ignorant fault of us, his human friends. We’d never had a pug before, and didn’t really realize that he was dangerously overweight. They’re stocky, muscular dogs, and he had always been large and big-framed for the breed. We did our best to care for him properly post-diagnosis, brought his weight down, researched healthy dog nutrition, and for a long time he did well and was stable on his low insulin dose. He had a couple of bouts with infections, which diabetic animals (and people too, I guess) are more prone to, but always snapped back.
He didn’t see well – probably only patterns of light and dark – due to an unrelated condition called pannis, which shows up more often in “push-faced” dogs with protruding eyes, in which the dark pigment in the iris leaks, spreading under the cornea, and can obscure the pupil’s opening so little light gets through. This condition got significant not long after his diabetes showed up. My profound regret now is that we never had the resources during his life to get at least one of his eyes repaired — but at $1500 per eye, minimum, it wasn’t possible.
But he was a confident, intelligent little guy, with a naturally dominant, cheerful personality, and took hold of life in good pug style, vision or no vision. My sister and I often said bemusedly that he ran the household — he certainly had a good deal of control over the timing of meals and snacks! — and now that he’s not here to give shape to our amoebic lives, I realize how much of our normal routine was keyed to him, and had been for years, going back to before his illnesses showed up.
It’s strange to prepare breakfast or dinner, or make myself a late afternoon snack (we call it “tea”, going back to our late dad’s 4:30 cuppa and pastry, the latter always shared, not healthily but lovingly, with Albert), without fixing anything for the short, 4-legged person on the floor who is issuing loud, musically inventive memos to hurry up with the eats. It’s strange to have no reason to go outside 4 times a day. It’s strange not to have anyone to hold on my lap while I finish my coffee with one hand, and distribute tiny bits of treat with the other. I don’t have to clean anyone’s nose wrinkles or check inside anyone’s velvety ears. Don’t have to pick up any poop or worry about how loud he’ll holler the next time we need to trim his nails. There are all these spaces – lacunae, as book collectors used to call them – that cause the rest of the daily doings to rattle around in an unmoored way.
All these things he did — the way he impinged, touched, affected our lives day to day — were essentially of him, and him alone. There’s no doubt we’ll be getting another canine friend in a month or two. Very likely a rescue pug. And that dog will make his or her place in every day in his or her completely unique way — outwardly similar, but the emanation of self in what they do will be all their own. Replacement doesn’t enter into it. Replacing Albert isn’t possible anyway.