96: Pudgy

96: Pudgy

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grand and Great

Pudgy

In 1975, my grandparents brought home a new pup and I named him Pudgy. This came as no surprise since they always named their dogs Pudgy. In the course of their extremely long lifetimes, my grandparents must have had a dozen or more dogs named Pudgy.

At the time, Grandpa was ninety-two and Grandma was eighty-nine, and they had been married since she was thirteen. That seems shocking today, but it was quite ordinary in the small village on the Polish border where they were born, met and fell in love in the late 1800s. They emigrated to the United States and made a life together that lasted through the coming of the first automobiles, the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, four wars — and many Pudgys.

When anyone asked Grandpa why Pudgy was the only name he would ever give to his dog, he answered, “He’s the same dog, come back.”

Relatives told him that was crazy and that he should give new dogs new names, but he always stood firm. Rather than debate the issue, people simply accepted that “Pudgy” was Grandpa’s dog.

Each Pudgy was about the size of a fox terrier and white with black spots or patches. For the little kids in the family, like me, who lived in other states and traveled across the country to visit them in their big old brownstone in Chicago, using the same name for each dog did make it a lot easier to remember. And many of us believed it was the same dog, although I did wonder once why the Pudgy I saw when I visited them in 1949, 1950 and 1951 had shaggy, floppy ears and the Pudgy I played with over Easter vacation in 1952 had short, pointed ones. Since the Pudgy of 1952 was still black and white and about the same size, I simply assumed my grandfather was telling the truth when he told me that the dog had accidentally stuck his tail in a light socket and his ears had shot straight up and had never gone down again. It didn’t explain where all the shaggy hair on his ears had gone, but at seven, I simply decided the electricity must have burned it off.

Looking at an old family album with photos from the various decades, one could see the dog change a little in height and definitely in bone structure. He went from having a long, slim nose to a short, puglike one and then back to something in between. In some photos he had curly hair; in others, smooth. One decade he had small black spots on the white coat; and the next, large, pinto-pony-type patches. One time he had no tail at all. It didn’t matter: he was always Pudgy

This last Pudgy was a short-legged, potbellied pup, a mixture of too many breeds to try to put a finger on any dominant one. He was the first “Pudgy” that really looked as if the name belonged.

About two weeks after the pup arrived at the house, Grandpa decided it was time to take him on his first walk. Grandpa was a great walker, and even in his nineties, he did a good two miles several times a week. His favorite destination was the park, a great place to let his dog run after a nice long walk down the busy city streets. He could sit and talk with his friends while their dogs romped together. That day, when Grandpa didn’t come back at his usual time, Grandma simply thought he was spending more time at the park with his friends, showing off the new pup. Then she heard yapping at the front door. She opened it and there was the pup, leash dragging behind him. A panting boy ran up to the door. He’d been chasing the pup all the way to the house. Grandpa had been hit by a car!

The rescue unit that had come to his aid found no identification on him — only the pup, licking the unconscious man’s face. They had taken Grandpa to the general hospital. But when they’d tried to grab the pup, he’d run away. The boy followed him over a mile and a half back to the house. How could this pup, who had only lived in the house only two weeks and had never been out walking in the city, have made a beeline right back to the front porch? It amazed everyone.

Grandpa had been admitted to the hospital as a John Doe and did not regain consciousness for several days. Thanks to Pudgy, Grandma was able to go immediately to see Grandpa and ensure that he received the best care possible instead of being relegated to languish in the charity ward until relatives could be found and notified.

Within two months, Grandpa was back walking with Pudgy and sharing with his friends at the park the story of how his Pudgy brought help when it was needed the most. Of course, the story grew in heroic proportions every time it was told, but nobody seemed to mind. One thing was certain: nobody ever again contradicted Grandpa when he told them that Pudgy was, “The same dog, come back.”

~Joyce Laird
Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover’s Soul

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