The sun rises slowly over the flatness that is Long Island, light breaking through the trees. Birds sing softly as they awaken from their nightly slumber. Inside the house, the only sound is that of the snoring of pugs. Anthony and Dexter curl by the foot of the bed. Alexis and Max huddle against Jodi. Butkus presses against my side and Cosmo sleeps between my head and the wall, his chin resting on his own pillow. The peace is rudely broken not by an alarm but by the sudden lurching of Cosmo’s vomiting. All mental cobwebs are instantly cleared as we rocket from the bed to avoid the onslaught of pug regurgitation. This is life with a Mega E Pug. This is the start of a normal day in the life of the Average American Grumble.
Yes, a group of pugs is called a grumble. I didn’t make that up, but it’s freaking adorable. Particularly because pugs are generally the least “grumbly” breed of dog (although we have had exceptions). Goofy and mischievous, the pug is a source of smiles and amusement. And, like peanuts, we can’t have just one. Or even three. We’re insane, so right now we have six. And one of them is projectile vomiting because he was born with Megaesophagus. Mega E, according to PetMD, “is a generalized enlargement of the esophagus with a decreased to absent motility.” In other words, food goes to the wrong place, often the lungs, and Cosmo has to “regurge” or – worse – he aspirates and pneumonia is a real possibility. These days, poor Cos has been struggling. Lots of coughing and sleepless nights. Today, he’s kicking the day off with energy and a real sense of purpose. We unbend from our pretzel shapes, ignore the popping joints and start our day. Yes – all six sleep in the bed with us. I’m not crazy, you’re crazy.
It’s almost 6:30 anyway, so five of them go into the yard to do to their thing. I carry Butkus, because he’s mostly blind and deaf and it would be half past Christmas before he actually found his way to the back door. Alexis has to be nudged because our First Pug is getting up there in age. One eye is blind with cataract and the other is nearly caught up. Max, Anthony and Dexter, though, are excited to bound outside on a chilly morning. Cosmo stops and get his first pill of the day, the one we hope will ease his constant hacking. A half pill every 8 hours, wrapped in roast beef, a pill pocket or cream cheese. On a good day, he’ll suck it down. On a bad one, he takes some coaxing. On an awful day, he doesn’t want it at all. He’s feeling pretty good, so he takes it and runs outside to join his siblings. Since he’s our most medically challenged pug, he comes back in quickly and gets another medication for his Mega E which needs to settle for 20 minutes before he eats. From there it’s a mad rush as Jodi makes their home-cooked breakfast and I run around putting belly bands on four of them. Yeah, we have markers. And when pug marks, it’s a free for all. Clearly, we don’t ever have guests…
At mealtime, our house sounds like a kennel with all the barking and whining. I keep expecting the ASPCA or the town to show up. Food and meds are done and everyone gets their own bowl. Cosmo has a special elevated bowl with soaked food. Anthony gets chicken because his IBS can’t handle much else. Dex gets beef because he’s allergic to poultry. Butkus had a prescription food for his UTI and crystals, but he’s a picky eater, so we wound up drenching it in chicken broth. Thankfully, he’s better now and just has chicken. Alexis and Max are letting us off easy, but you risk royal displeasure if you don’t give Alexis her food in the pink bowl. Finally, we have the peaceful relative silence of pugs eating. Five minutes to get dressed; Butkus gets his drops for dry eye, Cosmo gets wiped down and we hope he doesn’t throw up his food – it’s a crap shoot.
The peace is suddenly shattered. Dexter launches at Butkus for no apparent reason. Dexter is a tank with a strong jaw, so Jodi grabs him while I dive for Butkus, who is yelping in surprise and terror. We got lucky; no blood today. Dexter looks up at us with his most innocent look and vigorous wagging of his curly tail. It’s hard to stay mad as this handsome bully.
We set up the iPad cameras and then separate them for the day. Dexter, who loves to pick a fight just a bit too much, goes in his crate. Alexis, Max and Anthony head to the back of the house to sit in the sun. Cosmo and Butkus get the living room where they snuggle on a good day. If Butkus is feeling bold, he claims the dog bed for himself. Treats all around and Jodi and I leave for work for the day.
Well, Jodi does. I shoot back at lunch to give Cosmo his 8 hour dose and let them out – thankfully I work only 10 minutes away. Butkus sleeps the sleep of the deaf until he catches my scent. Then he wanders trying to find me. If I’m feeling like a scoundrel (most of the time), I dodge him and let him search. Then I put my hand in front of his nose and watch him freak out. He gently bites and licks my hand, stamps his feet and rams his face into my legs. They all go out and have a little fun while I have a light lunch. Then, they all put away again and off I go.
Back home again at 6:30. Cos gets another medication, I let them all out, do my thing with Butkus and then do a little snuggling. Butkus, Max and Cos lay on the couch next to me. Alexis and Dexter hit a dog bed and Anthony finds whatever remaining sunlight he can. An hour later, there’s some quick corralling and then I run out to get Jodi at the train station. Then it’s back home for din-din. This is a little easier since most of the meds are dispensed in the morning. But still, they get their special meals. All but Cosmo, who gets his meds and a lite snack to keep the vomiting to a minimum overnight. After that, things calm down as we and the pugs settle in for a night of TV. If we’re lucky, Dexter won’t pick a fight with anyone.
Weekends are less hectic but still filled with activity. More playtime for pugs, a little less time home alone, unless Jodi and I have plans we can’t take any of them to. Jodi likes to sleep in, but I prefer to get up early and hit the gym. I skootch out of bed as quietly as I can, but Butkus won’t have it, so he comes with me to go out and then have a pre-brekkie snack (I spoil him). Before I go, I make sure Alexis and Anthony go out. This avoids a mid-workout text from Jodi along the lines of “are you still here?” I come home with coffee so she can tackle their breakfast routine with a smile. A happy wife is a happy life. Other than that, things proceed normally. After TV time and whatnot, everyone is ready for bed. We wriggle back into our pretzel shapes and finally, blissfully, fall asleep.
Until Cosmo’s vomiting starts the day for us again.