Short Stories

Where’s Pug?

Where’s Pug?     by Kathy Briant

Charity was walking down the street looking for her dog.

“Pug, Pug, come on girl.”

She would be at this all day, asking everyone she met if they had seen her dog.  The dog was not a Pug.  It was a non-descript, smallish, brownish dog that she had shaved, leaving the gangly, straggly tail, the bat ears and a top notch. The body was smooth in the center with a slightly mad look because of the out-of-control hair on both ends.  It was not the brightest thing that ever lived, but it had a certain sense of its own importance which gave it a proud, self-centered sort of walk – a prance even.  It was out to see what it could see, and hadn’t a care in the world.  Maybe it was because it didn’t look guilty that most took no note.  Pug didn’t behave like she was on the lam.

Fortunately, Charity worked only half-days on Friday, so she had changed to her sensible shoes and with her work clothes still on, was on the hunt. It would be an interesting fact that everyone Charity spoke to that day had seen the dog at some point though most did not admit it.  Mr. Dennis, the hardware store owner had been out on a smoke break when he saw Pug, the light amusing gaiety of her step, the wacky haircut and he thought on the silliness of women who trimmed their dogs like that.  No dignity to it.  He had a black lab, a solid citizen, with a dignity and a sense of dog that this one never had.  No, he didn’t like Pug.

“Have you seen my dog Mr. Dennis?” Charity asked, the red leash in her hands, hands sliding up and down the strap, anxious, worried.

“No, sorry I haven’t,” he lied, thinking this morning’s sighting wouldn’t do her any good anyway.  The dog would be far away by now.

Ed, the mechanic at the gas station had actually given the little thing a drink of water.  No one thought much about a dog loose in a small town.  As long as it didn’t go into the prairie where a coyote would get it, wandering around was perfectly ok in Ed’s mind.  So he put out down a hubcap of water, thinking and rightly so, that on a warm day like today, a dog could use a little drink.  He kept a little daschund in the garage, a friend of Pug’s so he felt neighbourly towards the little dog when she came to visit. A little slurp, a little smell of his dog, and she was off again.  To Ed she always looked as though she had places to go and didn’t want to interrupt her itinerary too much, so he didn’t expect her visit to last very long. And it didn’t.

“Ahh, no.”

He knew better than to say the dog had been around.  His little fella had been accused more than once of being too amorous around hers and Charity just plain didn’t approve of that.  She’d give him a lecture if he’d had a visit.

“No, can’t say I have.” said Gretta from the dress shop.

She had taken her scissors out and evened the tail a little, since it was developing straggly bits which was something Pug let her do, since she was feeding Pug snacks from her left- over lunch.  She didn’t want Charity to trace the missing hair.  Better to answer in the negative, much better.

Alice was watering her garden when Charity came by.  Pug was resting in the shadow of one of her trees unbeknownst to either of them. She was tucked away in the shade, enjoying a nap.

“What, what are you asking?” Alice shouted over the water.  “Your dog?  No.  I haven’t seen her. Did she get away again?”

She was the only one to tell the truth, though 10 minutes later when rested, Pug arose from her little nap, Alice watching her suddenly appear from behind the tree and trot down the street thought “Well, I’ll be damned.” The watering finished, she went into the house to make a cup of tea, not giving it another thought.

Jimmy, a local kid, chased her, but wouldn’t admit it.  Cassie, a friendly twelve-year-old had tied a pink bow around her for a few minutes, but knowing how adults don’t like kids to treat dogs like toys, said no.  Arnold, who was ten, had thrown stones, watched one hit, making a mark on the smooth light skin next to the ribs, thought oops, and so of course had shaken his head no.

And so it went through the town.  One fellow almost said something, but he was going to say the damned thing ran right in front of me and I almost ran it over, but then reason prevailed and he thought that dog’s so stupid someone will run over it and she’ll find it, dead on the street, remember what I said and be coming back to accuse me, so he shook his head.

Pug hadn’t been the least concerned about the honking monster.  She thought it was just a lack of manners, which she would not encourage by acknowledging all that shouting.  No one shouted at Pug.  She saw the vehicle later, parked and she peed right behind where the tires would have to back up in order to drive away.  And he never knew, but the kids complained of a urine smell in the back seat for a few days.  The smell was strong since he had squealed tires when he left and sprayed his undercarriage.  That was more vengeance than Pug could have wished for in her wildest dreams.  He was a jerk. Even people thought so.

Then Pug actually went home for a while, but found no one to let her in. After barking at the door for a while, she started to chase a squirrel which ran out of the yard and down the street, so soon she was off again.

Charity was quite discouraged. She went to the bank to flirt with one of the tellers

that she had a crush on.  He sang in the church choir as she did, and being 35 she was always interested in any men that were interested in her, but he had only glimpsed the dog going by a few hours earlier and thought not to mention it, just in case Charity wanted him to help her look.  He was off in a short while, but had a fishing trip planned with a buddy and at that time was not interested in anything but a sunny riverbank and fish.  Charity was ok, but not today.

Old lady Anderson was creeping down the walk, her thick support stockings sagging, wearing her black shoes that were not so good to walk in, with a brown handbag that didn’t match hanging from her arm, when Pug streamed past after the squirrel.  She spun a little, toddled, did not fall, but did frighten herself.  She hated sudden noises and sudden movements and hated that little dog with a vengeance. It startled her all the time so she’d be damned if she’d help the owner find her.  “Let a big dog chew her up.” she thought.

Angela had a beautiful white Persian cat who loved to sun itself on the front porch, and Pug had a thing about beautiful white cats, so Angela wasn’t about to tell Charity that she put the hose to Pug who ran around the garden, getting muddier and muddier, until it penetrated that dull brain that she wouldn’t be getting to the cat and that she was wet.  At that point, long past the time for any other dog to wise up, Pug gave up and ran, filthy and wet down the street.  Angela, knowing the upkeep on her white Persian, wouldn’t think of taking the blame for the inevitable muddy front door and bath that would need to follow.  She saw Pug rolling in dog excrement on the boulevard, trying to get off some of the mud and water.   She sighed and for the millionth time, was so glad she was a cat person.   Of course she hadn’t seen Pug, sorry.

And then, as was inevitable, Charity spotted Pug.  At least she thought it was Pug, a very dirty looking Pug, but Pug nonetheless.

She called.  “Pug, Pug.  Here girl.  Come on.”  Pug stopped dead in the street and looked around.  Finally she narrowed in on the voice.  She wagged her tail, but just then saw another squirrel up ahead, near the lake, so she took off again.  The squirrel swerved and bobbed and finally leapt up a tree, which grew just on the edge of the lake.  Pug was going at such a speed at that point that she couldn’t stop and plunged into the lake.  It was actually quite pleasant once she was over the shock at finding herself in water.  Some ancient, primal urge overtook her and whatever ancestor in her genetic past that was a water dog, kicked into gear and she began to swim out to the center of the lake.

At the shore, Charity, quite winded after the chase, began to call.

“Pug, Pug, come back.  Come back.”  But the dog, what with the splashing and her ears full of water and weighted down by the wet hair that wouldn’t hold up an ear, did not hear.  She impressed herself with the swimming.  She never supposed she could do this, but it was obvious she had quite a talent.  She was proud and excited.  But then she got tired.  She got so tired.  Every time she stopped though, she sank.  Then she would fight her way up and start to paddle again.  Luckily, there was a diving dock in the middle of the lake, and she could climb ladders. And so she did. After shaking off some water, she plopped down, rolled over on her back, and fell fast asleep.  She was used to at least three naps a day and she was down two yet.

So now Charity knew where her dog was.  She called and called, but the little head did not perk up.  She was sleeping, and when Pug slept, she slept like the dead.  You could pull her tail, hold up her head and drop it and she would continue to sleep.  Sometimes the little tongue fell out. On her back, feet up, tummy exposed, those big floppy hairy ears fell open and she looked dead.  Charity wondered if dogs could get sunburn on their tummies or inside their ears.  She had never had to wonder about that.  It was bothersome.

She had to find someone with a boat and go get the dog.  Charity didn’t swim much and certainly couldn’t swim that far and even if she did, how would she bring back a dog and swim as well?  The boathouse was deserted with a lock on the doors. She walked along the dock, looking for a suitable boat of some kind moored there, and she saw it.  A small rowboat with a little outboard motor on the back bobbed against the dock.  She looked around for an owner, didn’t see anyone and thought;  Well, I’ll just be out there for a minute.  No one would mind. After all, I am on a mission of mercy, rescuing a poor little dog stranded out there on the swimming dock.  So she rationalized theft.

But the owner of the boat did not.  Allan Black, the owner, unfortunately showed up just as she was pulling out and began to scream at her.

“What the — do you think you are doing, lady?  You bring my boat back now!”

Charity eyed him and sensing the sort of man who would have no interest in rescuing a poor little dog, she pointed to the dog and kept on going.  He kept on shouting and she could actually still hear him when she got to the swimming dock. My how sound carries over water, she thought.  She tied up to the dock and climbed the little ladder, but unfortunately slipped and fell into the water.  His shouts turned into squeals of laughter and as she surfaced, sputtering and choking. She looked back to shore and could just make out the teller she was fond of, standing there as well, holding fishing gear, slapping his legs, doubled over with laughter.  She did have a rather puffy hairdo, or rather had a rather puffy hairdo, which was now draped over her wet skull like a bad wig.  She was a bit panicked and thrashed in the water a little before she settled and tread water.  They continued to howl with laughter and now the teller’s fishing friend had joined them.  She was miffed.

The dog she noticed continued to sleep on her back, legs in the air, ears fallen back onto the deck.  Charity got up the ladder, her skirt unfortunately plastered to her back, revealing her preference for old lady underwear and pantyhose. She was dripping and she suspected showing more than she wanted from the thin, see-through blouse she was wearing under her sweater.  Then she realized her skirt was up and corrected that as well with as much dignity as she could muster.

“Pug,” she snarled, “Pug damned you, wake up!”  The little dog stirred and opened sleepy eyes to look at her.  Delighted to see her at last, the little dog did a small dance and licked her wet legs.

“Ok, ok, down girl.”  Charity fastened the red leash which was miraculously still in her hand, to the dog and dropped her unceremoniously into the boat.  Trying to recoup whatever dignity she had left, she nervously descended the ladder and plopped herself awkwardly into the boat.  She pushed the wet hair back as best she could, knowing she looked like a drowned rat, pulled the sweater around her, started the engine and slowly made her way back to the dock.

The three were still laughing when she docked and even more so when they got a close look at the smeared mascara that was running down her face, the rat’s nest of wet hair and the stupid little crazy-looking dog, barking at them, so happy to see people.  They helped her out of the boat.  She took the leash off the dog and called her to her side, where the little dog obediently stood nearby.

“I am so sorry for taking your boat, but I had to rescue my little dog. She was stranded out there on the swimming dock and I had to get her.”  Charity said to the man.

“Charity,” said the teller.  “You’ve been looking all afternoon for that mutt?”

“Yes.”

“Well why didn’t you just wait for her to come home?  It’s a small town, girl, she can’t get lost, she’d find her way back.”

“I was worried about coyotes and the big mean dogs.” Charity was huffy now, which she couldn’t pull off, not with the way she looked.  They all still had big smiles on their faces even the teller Ed, who she expected would be at least a little sympathetic.  That ended the start up of any possible romance between Charity and the teller.  He thought she was hilarious now and ridiculous and she, well, she just plain couldn’t forgive him for laughing at her so heartily.

Charity learned her lesson, patched up the holes in the fence and put an end to Pug’s wandering days. Pug really didn’t notice, except that now she gave up her squirrel chase at the gate.  She couldn’t go any further.  She would hrumph to herself with satisfaction, having cleared them out of the yard yet again, saving the day for her owner and possibly saving the entire world.

To tell the truth, Charity thought a lot less of her dog after that episode and never quite forgave her for the loss of the teller.  And looking closely, she did wonder if a coyote had been chewing on her tail.