I grew up with dogs, but I did not learn to enjoy them then. That was the province of my mom and my brother. I had other things to keep me busy such as school, work, and volunteering. And so, my life went. It was not that I hated dogs, but they were not a priority. Change happened. I married at 36, problems arose directly thereafter. Driving home one afternoon, frustrated, I found Tugg, a newborn puppy, on a street corner in Draper, Utah, where a breeder was selling a litter of eight energetic bulldogs. Tugg was one of the cutest. His paws were bigger than his legs and he tripped over himself constantly. I liked him immediately.
An idea formed in my mind, that if my wife and I could learn to bond over Tugg, maybe we could start to fix our marriage. Our counselor thought it was genius—my wife, not so much. It’s ironic, that the last thing she asked from me before leaving was to keep Tugg. Maybe it was because she knew I wanted him. In that moment, something stirred deep within me. I told her no, directly and impolitely. I realized that Tugg was more than just a bartering chip—he was family. With Tugg I found a courage and strength of character I never knew or imagined. Despite my incivility, I am still proud of myself for that moment. It was the first time in our marriage that I stood up for myself. Tugg gave me that.
Immediately thereafter, I moved with Tugg to Minnesota. The winters are cold, the summers great. The football and basketball teams have high hopes and low achievement. I took a job with a mining company working on national mining issues. It was fun, challenging, and lonely. I found myself as a single guy with a busy career and minimal ways to care for a dog. Fortunately, I located a dog day care near my office. I would take Tugg with me to work in the morning and pick him up late. He loved riding in the car.
We would spend our evenings and weekends just hanging out. He would get angry at every barbeque grill we saw. Vacuums and running water hoses were his nemesis—something he felt must be confronted at all costs. It was a strange neurosis; something I learned to love about him early on.
As a puppy, teaching Tugg to go on a walk was a challenge. I would take him outside and we would stare at the sidewalk. Thirty minutes later I would take him inside defeated. I tried everything, pulling on his leash, and coaxing with treats. Even puppy training did not work. A new approach was warranted. I learned not to force him but to walk with him. I would stand next to him, take two steps, and he would go with me. Progress! Soon, two steps turned into four, four into a block, and over time, long walks in the neighborhood. Something we enjoyed together very much. It was not so much the exercise as the time and the company.
It is not that you cannot teach bulldogs new things—they just must want to do it, and on their terms not yours. Their benign stubbornness I suppose is what makes them so endearing. Tugg was more than just stubborn, he was kind, caring, never a burden, and his greatest joy was tugging on a rope with you holding it. His name suited him. And yes—he always won.
Above all else Tugg was my friend. He was there in my darkest days and in the midnight hours. He was there when I fell, when I was lonely, and when I needed something to pick me up. For that I will always be grateful.
Tugg died today. He was 11. He will be laid to rest in a garden under a lilac tree.