UGH A PUG
Carmella Rosella was unhappy. Her mother and father had just moved from a tiny house near the ocean. Carmella Rosella loved the ocean. She loved her small yard. She loved to see the red and yellow flowers shoot open in the early morning sun. She sighed with wonder when the sun sank, like a burning orange ball, into the ocean and flowers swayed in the afternoon breeze. It seemed to Carmella Rosella as if nature was saying “Goodbye, see you tomorrow.”
Now, Carmella Rosella lived in a stucco house, with a cement driveway, near a black paved street. Very little grass was in sight.
“Oh well,” she thought, “maybe the people here will be different. Maybe they’ll be red and yellow and shades of cream and brown.” Besides, she thought, her parents had both told her she might have a dog. “Carmella,” said her mother, “I haven’t discussed this with your father, but I think you may have a dog.” Carmella’s father had told her the very same night, as he stroked her dark curly hair and pulled her bed comforter around her, “look Carmella, I think you can have a dog. We’ll look for one. But it must be sort of smallish. We cannot have a dog the size of a mountain lion in this home.”
That night Carmella Rosella dreamt of dogs. She dreamt of all kinds and sizes. First, there were large, hairy dogs, whose steps seemed liquid, like moving pencils. They were too formal she thought. Then there were wide chested beasts with short dark hair. They looked as if they could pull tractors on a farm. Suddenly, a small dog with a round, black wrinkled face and bulgy brown eyes popped up. He made some sort of a noise. Was it a snort? Then he ran away: curly tail tucked into his body like a pig, legs flying. “Wait, wait,” Carmella Rosella cried out. Then she woke up.
In the morning, Carmella Rosella went straight to her bookcase and looked at it very carefully. Her eyes scanned all the books until she saw it: top shelf, third book on right. She pulled it off the shelf carefully. It was old, brown and dusty, the family photo album. Her mother said “you don’t see sepia photographs very often. This is a pretty special album.” Carmella Rosella turned the pages carefully until she came to the middle of the album. A group picture showed a slight woman squinting into the sun. The woman wore a long white muslim dress and stood besides two boys in knickers and white shirts. In front of her was a little girl in a white dress with a wide sash around her waist. The little girl looked about four years old. She was trying to put something round on top of the laundry in a large wicker basket in front of her. The little girl was Carmella’s great grandmother. She was trying to put a Pug dog into the laundry basket. She lived in a big rambling house in a place called Hull, near the ocean.
That’s it, Carmella Rosella thought. My great grandmother had one, a Pug. “They called him King,” her mother chimed in, looking at the picture. “Pugs used to be quite popular. Kings and dukes and duchesses owned them, traveled with them.” In my mother’s childhood,” her mother continued, “some fashion magazines used to show big fat Pugs sprawling on the black and white tiled floors of marbled palaces.”
Carmella Rosella squinted at the next picture. Inside of her great grandmother’s house sat two fat pugs on a silk settee. The boy pug had his head cocked. Worry was in his eyes. He seemed to say “silk or not, what’s that man with the black box want from me”? The lady pug by his side looked a little less worried. She was shorter, wider, had the look “I can face this life. Just give me a boy pug by my side.”
“So that’s what you want Carmella, is it”? Her mother smiled at her and the pictures in the album. “Chinese Pugs, they used to call them. They’ve gone completely out of fashion. But your great grandmother was dotty over them. I don’t know Carmella, people nowadays don’t want fuss, muss. They don’t want little pig like animals who make snorting noises. Life is so careful these days.” “You know that’s one of the reasons we moved here. We wanted vitality. We didn’t want to be separate, tidy, bordered. We were tired of pretty neighborhoods where the neighbors didn’t speak to each other.”
Carmella Rosella nodded, watching her mother’s brown eyes very closely. She knew her mother just might, just might say yes to a pug. She also knew her mother and father had moved to this town to be with people of all races, colors and backgrounds. They belonged to a new religion, “a new Faith,”: they called it. “Gotta put your money where your mouth is,” her father said one day, looking out at the backyard, staring at the one and only tree.
“What can I do?” Carmella Rosella wondered. “I want people to be friendly too. Could a dog help?” Then she remembered everyone always said “ugh, a Pug,” when dogs were mentioned, particularly that breed. But something of her great grandmother’s spirit stirred within her, and she said to her mother, “Please, may we look for a pug today”?
Her mother looked at her thinking, “Six years old, and she already has a glass head.” Need, love curiosity and just plain wanting was written all over Carmella’s face: bumpy small nose, 3 freckles at its tip, determined chin, hazel green eyes. Why she’s looks just like her great grandmother her mother thought, just like the picture in the album.
“Why not,” her mother said to Carmella. “The pound is not far from here. Maybe we can find a dog there.”
The pound was a three block walk away. It was a neat, squatty white stucco building. The reception area had a painted red cement floor and a kind lady behind a grate who smiled at them. “A pug”? “Only a Pug”? she said to Carmella Rosella taking her hand. “Well, it just so happens we have one in the back room. He’s a feisty guy though. His owners gave him away because he tried to eat all of their furniture and run up walls and over tables. They said he was untrainable.” “Oh dear,” Carmella mother sighed. But Carmella Rosella would have none of it. Ears sealed to “untrainable,” she marched quickly towards the back room.
There he was, sleeping, curled up in a small ball of beige fur. Carmella Rosella put her finger through the grating of his cage. He opened one brown eye, lifted his head, cocked it sideways as if to say “well, it’s about time. I’ve been waiting for a little girl like you.” For Carmella Rosella it was love at first sight.
So Carmella Rosella and her mother, paid the lady, made sure the little pug was clean and had all of his shots, and they left the building. The pug was only 8 months old. “I’d better carry him, dear. He doesn’t know us and might run away,” said her mother.
When they got to her house, Carmella Rosella ran ahead and unlocked the back door. The pug jumped out of her mother’s arms and raced around the house, like a whizzing car on a race track. Up on the sofa, down on the floor, under the coffee table, into the bedroom. Around, over, and under the big bed. Finally, he ran into Carmella’s bedroom and hid beneath her blue comforter. Only a small nose with a touch of black ear could be seen. Carmella Rosella threw back her head and laughed, enchanted. Her mother said, “I’m going to call your father and warn him we have a wind tunnel in the house.”
Carmella Rosella named the dog The Pug and set about training him. The Pug challenged her at every turn. At night he dragged all the pillows off the couch and began arranging them around him. Seven pillows, all navy blue, arranged around a small black and white squiggling pug. Squealing, he approached each pillow, clamping his teeth down on a corner, like chewing on a good cigar. “Good grief,” her father said, “he looks like Winston Churchill.” Privately, he said to Carmella’s mother, “maybe we were too hasty. Do you think this dog will work out”? Carmella’s mother wondered also. But at night, when they looked into Carmella’s bedroom, all doubts faded. There lay The Pug and Carmella, side by side. The Pug snored contentedly, black nostrils whiffing in and out; and Carmella Rosella lay on her back, one arm across The Pug’s back, a half smile on her lips. “Well,” said her father, “some day that dog has to grow up. Hopefully we’ll have some furniture left.”
Then came the day of the Big Parade. Carmella’s mother and father were pretty excited. This was a day for all of the people from different cultures to learn about one another. First was the parade, and then a picnic with games and Chinese food and knishes and pizza and Thai and Vietnamese food. It was to be a day of sharing.
“The Pug stays home,” her father told Carmella. But Carmella Rosella had other plans. She went into her bedroom and pulled a tiny red T shirt from a chest of drawers. On the T shirt were big white letters which said “One Planet, One People Please …” Slowly Carmella Rosella pushed the T shirt over The Pug’s worried eyes, past his snub nose and wrinkled face. She pushed his right front leg into the right sleeve of the T shirt and then pushed his left front leg into the left sleeve. The Pug looked mortified. The red T shirt with white letters covered his entire body. He became very quiet. His tail uncurled. “C’mon” Carmella Rosella said, “We’re going to a parade.” “Well, her mother said to her husband as they both looked at the dog and Carmella, “A parade is an anything goes event. Why not.”
So Carmella, The Pug, her mother and father joined hundreds of people under a large cement bridge, actually under a freeway overpass. The parade would be one mile and end up at the park. The Pug stood next to the tuba player and didn’t move. Finally the parade started up. The mayor and his wife were in a long black car. They started the parade with a large banner which said “Our Town Is Beautiful. People of All Colors Live Here.” Next came a fat lady on a horse and then a high school marching band, some drum majorettes, some clowns. Her mother and father were on a large float which held a giant blue globe. Children, dressed in different native costumes, from around the world, stood by the globe. But before the float of the globe and the children marched Carmella Rosella and The Pug.
Carmella Rosella had on a blue sweatshirt which also said in big white letters, “One Planet, One People, Please …” And The Pug was transformed.
He was the only dog in the parade. His tail curled up. Carefully, like a well trained Leipzig, he placed one foot down on the pavement. Then up it went. Down went the other foot. His knees curled in precision. He looked straight ahead, neither right, nor left. His black velvet ears sat up in attention. He marched to the tuba noise, “oom, pah, pah, oom, pah, pah,” Feet down on the ooms, up on the pahs, he marched as if hearing distant notes from years gone by. A roar went up from the crowd. A small child yelled, “loookkk, look at the dog.” The Pug marched a block and a half, did a parade turn left at the reviewing stand, and came to an abrupt halt. The tuba continued its “oom, pah, pah,” but The Pug just waited. The people in the reviewing stand stood up and cheered, and the Pug moved on, float with blue globe and children behind him.
The Pug had grown up. He was marching for world unity, and he knew it.
Carmella’s mother and father knew The Pug was theirs for keeps. And Carmella Rosella knew from that day on she would always have a pug. Sometimes maybe she’d go to distant lands to share this Faith of her parents, and of hers. Sometimes the pug she would own would have to stay with friends. But she knew she’d always come back and have a pug. And she knew also that other people would love them. Pugs would become popular again. Just as being with different types of people would be a way of life, people would never say “ugh a Pug” again. And she would remember the parade day for a very long time, the day The Pug showed people animals can help bring people together, even funny looking ones with pushed in noses.
The Pug looked up at Carmella, no longer ashamed of his red T shirt. Carmella Rosella knelt down and flung her arms around him. His muzzle grazed her closed eyelids in a kiss, and he snorted in her ear as if to say “Look, it’s all in a day’s work. When’s the next parade”? And The Pug and Carmella Rosella headed towards the picnic.