The war on pugs

Breaking news – with only ten days to go to the opening night of The Circle – I have cut my toe. It’s a miniscule cut, not worth mentioning really, but it is my toe, and I am fond of it, in a distant kind of way.

Yesterday, because the toe was stinging, I decided on medical intervention. In my house, that means getting down on my hands and knees and rifling blindly through a jam-packed cabinet – what my mother would have called a “glory hole” – where I keep a large supply of time-expired medicines. Having rejected various potions that came to hand – poison ivy soap, for instance, the latest miracle cure for colds, nail polish remover, painkillers, contact lens solution… Ah, there it was! I emerged at last, panting and triumphant, with a dusty brown bottle clutched in my hand. Alcohol! I unscrewed the top and upended the bottle over my toe. Unfortunately, the little brown bottle contained sticky, pink cough syrup. “Disappointed” is the word that best describes my feelings as I glumly swabbed the goop from foot, floor and shoe. I never did find the alcohol.

Once again, it is Juno the Dog’s fault (the cut). We were returning from Thanksgiving Dinner on Sunday night, when things went wrong. I admit, I wasn’t at my brightest and best. Those of you who attended the dinner will remember me as the silent, slumped figure, moodily cutting up turkey at the end of the table, speaking little and muttering madly to myself from time to time and maybe even sticking straws in my hair.

I was not myself. We had just had a rehearsal from hell. It isn’t that the play isn’t going well. It’s just that rehearsing takes a lot of energy. And with little more than a week until the Preview on October 20, we had made the fatal error of partying late and loud on Saturday night.

My intentions were good. I wanted the cast to bond. I wanted love and brotherhood to reign, so I suggested a potluck dinner after the Saturday rehearsal. It had been an intense rehearsal, but as far as I could see everyone sailed into the party in good heart. We ate, we drank, we talked. And then….

Then came Sunday and – guess what? – another rehearsal. Loud groans all round, with faces expressing a rich range of emotions, all the way from rage to nausea – though, come to think of it, I am not sure that nausea is an emotion. Or maybe it is. Anyway, I could see at a glance that I wasn’t alone in my suffering. Oh well, even the darkest rehearsal comes to an end, and – if you are lucky – you get to go home and quietly commune with the dog.

Not this time. It was Thanksgiving Sunday, and I had family waiting in the reeds ready to leap out and urge me to count my blessings. Actually, the horror had started even earlier, in the morning when I went to church, and the rector – taking his text from the lilies of the field that toil not, neither do they spin – exhorted us all not to worry. He added that worry would not add one cubit to my stature. (I suspected as much.) Still, a woman who produces a play is by definition a worried woman. What can I do?

Back to my toe. On Sunday night, I arrived home at about 9 and got out of the car with some difficulty. You see, Juno – though she has made some modest progress with “Come” and “Sit” and “Down” – passionately disapproves of “Stay.” She doesn’t see why she should. Life, liberty and the pursuit of pugs. That is her motto.

Yes, I said “pugs” – a particularly obnoxious life form, in Juno’s opinion. She and I part ways on the issue. I like dogs, all dogs, and until Sunday I would have said that Juno agreed. She is a sweet dog, and she loves, adores and worships canines of all sizes and shapes, from Bernese Jack, King of the Park, all the way down to tiny Noisette, who is the size of a small rabbit. Half of Noisette’s body fits neatly into Juno’s mouth, and we have never had even the smallest accident.

But Juno does not like the four pugs who live on our street. I can understand her point of view. The first time we met them, when we were still filled with the milk of human kindness with regard to pugs, we approached in a spirit of unwary cheer. Not so the pugs. The pugs roared with rage, and one of them jumped as high as he could and sank his teeth into Juno’s lip. Since then, neighbourly feelings have been pushed to the limit. The pugs parade past our front window twice daily, hurling insults as they go. Juno hasn’t talked about it much but, as the events of Sunday night demonstrate, she has been brooding.

As I said, decanting Juno from a car in an orderly way is challenging. She looks on a request to “Stay!” as tantamount to abandonment. The door opens, and 90 pounds of frantic dog scrambles across my lap en route to freedom and a better life. A struggle ensues, and Juno and I generally roll out of the car simultaneously, with me on the end of the straining leash and not necessarily on my feet. People standing at the bus stop have been known to laugh. As for my sister, she always says the same thing: “You really should train that dog, Janet.” I gnash my teeth.

On this particular night, as my niece piloted the car to a smooth stop in front of my house, I had the bad luck to be holding a bag full of empty glass containers as well as the end of the leash. Even worse: just as we exploded from the car, along came the man with four pugs. Juno bounded into action, roaring. The leash was jerked out of my hand, and I crashed to the pavement with glass bowls cascading in all directions, knees and hands painfully scraping the asphalt. “Oh joy!” I cried, or words to the effect.

The next few moments are lost in confusion. I seem to have lain motionless for quite a long time, listening to four pugs and one Mastiff-Labrador loudly expressing mutual disapproval. You’ll know just how hard the day had been when I tell you that lying down in the road actually felt like a relief. While my niece took appropriate action re dogs, I just stayed where I was and mulled things over.

Gravel embedded in hands and knees. It took me back to when I was three or four and my mother tried to murder me. I had a tricycle, you see, and we lived in a house with a steep driveway. Mother used to hold the back of the tricycle seat as I went down the hill; then she would release me on my own recognizance. We were living in the Land of Hope and Glory at the time, and I used to insist on wearing a party dress when I went out to play. I also insisted on wearing my holster and cap gun. Do you remember those? Perhaps mother felt there was trouble brewing with her youngest child, and she had better nip me in the bud, because on this particular day, she simply released the tricycle at the top of the drive, and I took flight. When they picked me up at the bottom of the hill, I had gravel in my knees, hands and even in my face. Mother always claimed it was an accident, and the less said of that the better. Suffice it to say: Sunday night took me back.

Happily, mine was the only blood shed that night. We separated the combatants, and Juno and I retreated into the house – with me limping and Juno cock-a-hoop at her recent victory in the war to take back our streets from pugs.

Meanwhile, rehearsals continue. Half the tickets have sold – a record at this time. If you would like to come and see what this suffering cast is doing to Somerset Maugham, call 613-842-4913 for reservations. Alternatively, drop by Books on Beechwood or buy online at www.lindenpro.ca.

Now Juno and I are going for a walk. We just can’t resist trouble!