Years ago, our family dog was a standard poodle named Scarlett. When she was 9, our housekeeper, Pearl, said, “Scarlett seems to be gaining a little weight. You don’t think she’s pregnant, do you?”
Of course not, we said. She’s infertile; never even been in heat. But she surprised us all by having a tryst with a chow and giving birth to six puppies, two of whom survived, in December 1999. We gave one away and one of the housekeepers from the Inn took the other.
Shortly after that, Scarlett was hit by a car and died two weeks later. The day after she died, the housekeeper brought the puppy back, saying he was too much for her. And he spent the next 15 years by my side.
He was a fat little thing when he was born—so much so that one of Garnie’s friends said he looked like a little pudgeball. So we called him Pudge, though he grew to be a tall, thin dog. I called him a Poo-Chow: He had a poodle body and brain, but his tongue and tail were all chow.
Pudge was an old soul. Never acted like a puppy; never tore up a pair of shoes. People would bring him toys and he’d look at them like, what are these? You don’t think I’m a dog, do you? People would bring him dog biscuits and he’d just look at them sadly, hoping they’d soon figure out all he really wanted was bacon.
Pudge barely tolerated other dogs—he preferred to think he was the only one—but he loved adults. When we lived at the Inn, he’d go on hikes with guests or sit outside their door if he sensed they needed companionship. Then, when we moved into the community, he became my dog. When Steve and I would come home, he’d barely acknowledge Steve before running full-speed to greet me. I’ve had dogs all my life but never had the kind of connection that I did with Pudge.
People always said that, if they saw Pudge, they knew I was nearby. When I worked at the Inn, he’d go with me and stay on the back porch until I was ready to go, enjoying many scraps from the dishwashers while he waited. Pudge also enjoyed letting himself out for a walk around the neighborhood. Visitors would call to tell me they’d “found” my dog—I’d tell them he was fine and sure enough he’d walk himself home. Garnie would say, “Mom, there are leash laws at Serenbe!” But I’d say, “This is Pudge. These were his woods before they were anyone else’s.”
Late last week, Pudge let me know it was time for him to go. He was old, had a heart condition and his back legs couldn’t hold him anymore. So I put on some music, pulled out my mother’s star-shaped candlestick holders and lit some candles to help my faithful little star transition from this world to the next.
Continuing a Nygren family tradition, he died on a rainy day. Rain always plays a part in the most significant moments in our life, including the day Steve and I got married (outside), the birth of our first child and the day we found the farm that is now Serenbe. Pudge will always be a part of Serenbe, where he had an amazing life with someone who absolutely adored him.