It was almost sixteen years ago, but I still remember the first time I took this little man into my arms. He was three months old and he spread his arms across my chest like a little helicopter as I held him against my heart. The breeder had named him Mei Ling’s Little Wonton but he was all mine the moment I put his little snorting face against my cheek. I was so in love, newly into my thirties and I wanted a baby. It came in the form of a pug puppy. I renamed him Lord Sciante (for the final time, pronounced SHAHN-tay, named after Red Hot Chili Peppers’ guitarist John Frusciante) and bought him pillows and beds and a fleece overcoat and matching booties. I took him on walks and running through the snow and brought him on runs to the local McDonald’s, where he’d sit in the backseat of my car and bark through the window, knowing food was coming. I was bad, letting him have cheeseburger patties and chicken nuggets. When he devoured and threw up an Egg McMuffin, I stopped the table food, with the exception of fruit and carrots, which he absolutely loved. He came to have a lot of nicknames–Sir Snortsalot, Fawn Bastard, Sciante Shatner, SciantaWoo, Wooberosa, Beautiful Bean Footage (Jess gave him that one)–and several residences. He lived in my two places in Pennsylvania, moved with me to two different rentals in Las Vegas, and settled here with me in Tampa, his final home. He traveled across the country with me several times, took a trip to Chicago to see Aunt Dorothy and down to Miami when I went to meet up with my friend Wendy. He loved pedicures and was upset by Pink and Missy Elliot. When he went deaf around twelve, I felt bad that he could no longer hear music, which he absolutely loved. Lady Gaga used to calm him while I was driving to the vet. He liked to dance, too. Jess used to perch him on her lap and bob him up and down while singing Hungry Like The Wolf because, well, he was. One time when I boarded him in Vegas his caregiver fed him two bags of food over the course of ten days. He came back so round on his little stubby legs I started calling him “Sciantoman” (Sciante + ottoman). He could barely walk and was moaning and farting all over the house. It took two weeks to get him back to normal size, and I marveled over why those results couldn’t work with humans.
I had a scare when he was three and a half years old. It was February 2004 and he wasn’t acting like himself. He wasn’t eating or going to the bathroom and was quite lethargic. I took him to the doctor, they could find nothing definitively wrong, so they apparently made up something and gave me some medicine and said he should improve in a couple of days. He did, was okay for one day, then fell right back into the slump. I had a Wawa employee party in the Poconos that weekend, Lisa and I were riding up with the McCarthy brothers (I had a mad wicked crush on Terence), and I smuggled Sciante inside the lodge in my Mickey Mouse duffel bag, the weight of him breaking one of the straps. I just couldn’t leave my baby overnight, and I really wanted to go to this party. Sciante was sick enough to not be barking or doing much of anything, and I seriously thought he was going to die. Of what, I didn’t know. After we came back home I put him on his favorite chair and a half and rubbed his face, speaking directly into it. “Don’t you leave me, Sciant. Tell mommy what’s wrong.” I took him to another vet the following day and finally there was a diagnosis. And not really a good one. Sciante had swallowed a peach pit and it was blocking his intestines. Because it had gone undetected, it also traveled, and tore his insides up pretty good. I had two choices: euthanize him or give him over for emergency surgery, which might not work, but there was a chance it would. I called my mother crying. I had absolutely no money and not enough credit. The doctors would not perform the surgery unless I paid in full. Mom gave me her credit card number, they charged the amount (somewhere in the range of three hundred, which I now know was a bargain and if performed today–if the cases dealing with animal surgery on Judge Judy are any indication–would be ten times that much) and told us to come back tomorrow. Lisa was with me through all of this, and I considered her Mommy #2 when it came to Sciante, she loved him so much. So we went home and waited for the phone call.
It came around seven pm. They said he pulled through, the next few hours would be crucial, and they’d call again tomorrow. When they did, they said we might want to come and basically say goodbye to him. He hadn’t made much progress. I was devastated. While we sat in the waiting room, which was taking such a long time I feared they were trying to find the perfect way to tell me he hadn’t made it, a doctor came out to inform the receptionist to take messages for him, he was leaving the hospital to go perform a home euthanasia on Sweetiepie Dickinson. “Oh God, Dr. Death,” I said to Lisa, praying he wouldn’t stop and talk to me on his way out. He didn’t, and soon Lisa and I were led into a back room where Sciante was brought out on a gurney looking like Frankenpug. He had this huge needle sticking out of his neck and such a Sorrowful Jones look on his face. Lisa and I both kissed him and rubbed him and used our happy dog voices, encouraging him to get well soon and there would be lots of treats and new toys waiting for him at home. The next phone call we got, later on that afternoon, was a lot more positive. Miraculously he had bounced back and I was told I could come pick him up the following morning.
“Seeing you really made a difference for him,” the doctor said. “Usually pets perk up from seeing their owners, but his recovery I’ve never seen before. He must really want to be home with you guys.” The feeling never went away. Up to the time he died at almost sixteen, when he could only identify Lisa or I with his sniffer, the tail would turn up and wag weakly whenever we touched him. His final moments were obviously excruciating for me. I hugged and held him in the doctor’s office, kissed the folds on his neck and told him how much I loved and would miss him. I told him to have fun playing with Jessica. I dared a peek at his face when he passed. His eyes were open and his little tongue was sticking out just a bit, like he was in heaven licking a cup of yoghund, his favorite ice cream. Lisa took me for some ice cream on the way home, and I called my mom and cried and choked my way through both the conversation and the cone. When I got home I immediately cleared the house of his beds and packed up his remaining food and treats. I tried to focus on the positive aspects of no longer being a dog mommy, like having to maintain a schedule that revolved around his needs and the money spent on food and boarding and doctors, especially in the later months. Three weeks later, I’m still adjusting to life without him, but have only teared up majorly while writing this blog. I know he had a good life. A great, long life filled with adventure and love. The one thing I never did for him was take him to a beach, which I always wanted to do. I always wanted to see him jumping through the surf and barking at the waves. In my mind I see him doing this, and it’ll have to be enough.
I have some pug clothes, night shirts that I’ll leave in some hotel on the road. I have pug footies that Jess gave me that I will always keep, along with two purses shaped like pugs that I have never used but will name Sciante and carry around with me on occasion. I am grateful for the love and comfort he offered, especially when my dad, brother Drew and niece Jessica died and I cried into his warm fur. When certain men broke my heart and I allowed him to snuggle beside me in bed, his snoring body sprawled across the top of my head like my pillow was his. I cherish the laughter, the stories, even the ones that involve tracking poop and used feminine products all over my house before I knew enough to keep the trash can above doggie level. Goodbye my sweet pug-a-lug, you brought such joy to my life. I will love and miss you forever.