My husband called her Puggy. My daughter called her Blanca. I don’t know what she was named by the people in whose home she was born.
My daughter came upon Puggy (for my husband was the last to have her so his name shall apply) in Florida while she was on vacation. The small white puppy was living with her litter mates in a closet at the time. My daughter has a soft spot for any creature in trouble, so she arranged to bring Puggy to New York with her. She traveled with the dog in coach and from what I heard the journey was uneventful.
Blanca was the dog’s name at first because, from tail to ear, this dog was as white as a lab mouse. She had some brown around the ear tips and a brown nose, but otherwise her coloration was pure white.
My daughter was the first to notice that something was amiss with this alabaster puppy. “She can’t hear,” my daughter announced one day. We tested the theory by making loud noises, calling the dog’s name when she wasn’t looking and devising any number of rudimentary tests. Strike one against Puggy — she was deaf.
Puggy also could not understand that she was expected to eliminate outside the house and not on the dining room floor. As time passed, it became increasingly clear that this dog had significant house-training issues. Strike two against Puggy.
When Puggy was about six months old, almost as soon as she’d gone through what is the dog equivalent of human adolescence, she had her first tantrum. In her case, throwing a tantrum meant ferociously attacking whichever human was closest to her. These tantrums became increasingly frequent and unpredictable. Anything could set the dog off — a wrong look, a sudden action, a move toward a piece of food she had set her sights on. Strike three against Puggy.
In most cases, three strikes would be enough to seal a dog’s fate. However, my family has a flaw when it comes to animals. We simply can’t give up on them.
My daughter got married and was expecting a child. We all had a conference, and much as everyone felt that Puggy should not be abandoned, it was also understood that such a dog could not reside in a house with a child. So my husband and I took this deaf, untrained, frenzied animal into our home.
In the beginning, my husband decided the dog should live in the basement, which was spacious and heated. But Puggy craved company, despite her antisocial behavior and she complained bitterly at her separation. In short order the separation ended because this poor, benighted animal ate a role of paper towels. After a near death experience and a $1,000 trip to the emergency room, we learned about another Puggy peculiarity: she had bizarre cravings and would eat just about anything. Strike four against Puggy.
Stricken with guilt over the little white dog’s illness and smarting from the large vet bill, my husband decided to take her upstairs with us. Now the game really began.
Puggy not only would eat anything, including linoleum and paper towels, but she loved her own excrement. When she set her sight on something to eat, whether it be excrement or dog food, she would go into a guarding routine. She would stand a distance from the object of her desire and dare anyone to approach. It would be impossible, for example, to go down the hall if she had set her sights on something near a doorway that approached the hall.
I knew we needed help, so I called the North Shore Animal League and asked them to send a professional trainer. The trainer’s assessment was grim.
Puggy was intrinsically flawed, perhaps brain damaged. The way she rooted about the floor with her nose was a classic sign. Her deafness was another clue. We were told that Puggy would probably never be house broken and the violence would probably never go away, though there were things we could do to mitigate it.
I bought a citronella collar to set off if the dog was on the attack. I fed her in an isolated area so that if she started guarding, it would not be anywhere near where we would normally walk. I baby-proofed the house, so that nothing toxic, as far as I could tell, was in her reach.
It’s amazing the things you can love. With all her troubling behavior, we cared for this dog. My husband especially became attached. The dog would sit at his feet so that if he stirred she would know and could follow him. She was devoted to him, but would bite him in a flash if she thought he was challenging her in any way. The two of them would take long walks, which Puggy relished — but never did she eliminate outside. She always saved that for the house; at least she had a favorite spot and we were able to put linoleum down for easier and more sanitary cleanups.
Much as we were attached to the dog, the lifestyle imposed by Puggy’s deviant personality was wearing on us. The constant cleaning up, thwarted attacks, vigilance took their toll. I think, however, we would have gone on for years like that — if Puggy had not had a fifth and final strike against her.
At first she lost her appetite. Then she became lethargic. After a couple of days we took her to the vet. Puggy didn’t look good at all. The vet said she was in bad shape. Puggy went down hill fast.
By evening she was in the hospital. They didn’t know what to do for her because they didn’t know what was causing her severe crisis; in a short while, less than a day from when we took her in, she was no longer conscious of her surroundings. I warned the staff about her biting, but I needn’t have. Puggy wasn’t going to bite anyone ever again.
They called me into the treatment area as she was expiring so I could make my final goodbyes. It may be hard to believe, but the death of that unfortunate animal broke my heart. Nobody could figure out what killed her. The best guess was that it was a lethal reaction to a toxin she ingested or some violent virus she picked up somewhere.
As her trainer said, after I emailed her, Puggy was born behind the eight ball. The dog negotiated the world the best she knew how, through the disorienting fog of her deafness and damaged brain. If I have a consolation about this animal’s life, it is that maybe love couldn’t save her, but while she was alive love did give her the pleasure of many happy days and the comfort of knowing she belonged to a family.