We have decided to become foster carers for pugs in need. After that, things moved pretty quickly. We picked out a cute-looking little guy from the charity’s website and made our claim. To our surprise, we got him…and then he got sick and wasn’t ready to be around other dogs, so they offered us a pair of old pugs.

Our momentum could not be stopped at that point.

“Sure!” we said.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” I now say, “please join me in welcoming Johnny Cash and June Carter.” That’s a fun thing to do.

The JCs are an old, pair-bonded couple. June is around 15 pounds. She’s tiny. Johnny is about 20 pounds heavier and must have a fair bit of bulldog in him. They’d been with us less than 24 hours and everyone in the house was already developing a wild-eyed stare and a voice quiver. When we volunteered to foster for Pug Rescue Austin, I think we’d imagined a little playmate for John Henry. These two will not be racing around the yard with our little sprinter.

Older pugs come with issues. We know that from our own Miss Jordan. And having 4 pugs at the same time might be over-ambitious. The settling in period is challenging for us all.

After the first 12 hours, we’d done our fair share of cleaning up surprises on the floor and trying to get the new arrivals to answer to their names. We suddenly realized how lucky we’d got with our two.

Johnny had stolen a tortilla off my plate on his very first day and seems extremely interested in the contents of the trash. We now eat at the table at all times, which might not be a bad thing. 

They sleep well together in the crate provided by PRA. And June barks when she needs to be out at 6am. However, sometimes she really needs to be out and doesn’t quite make it to the back door. We are now very motived to break all kinds of records making sure June’s first poop of the day is on grass.

Because we were newbies, the first breakfast was pandemonium. June didn’t eat at all while Johnny ate like he’d never seen food before. And when Jordan offered to help him out – when, to be fair, he showed no signs of needing any help – she was rebuffed in the strongest fashion. Poor baby; brave boy.

And then, completed unconnected to anything, I managed to knock over a full cup of coffee with the strainer still on top. As it fell in slo-mo, I imagined having to explain to the nice people at PRA how I’d scalded their two newest old darlings. As it happened, no one was hurt except our kitchen mat, which took the full force of my clumsiness, and who we now consider the first casualty of the grand experiment we are undertaking.

Before we took on our first fosters, people made regular cracks about “foster failing” – meaning that you start off as foster parents but end up adopting. As of that first morning, we felt more like we were going to completely fail. Looking after the JCs might be completely beyond us.

So, as the new two are pale and the old two are dark, I’m going to use a cheap narrative trick and decide they are mirror images of each other. Where our small old lady is feisty and energetic, Little JC is quiet and timid. And poopy. So very poopy. Where our big guy is spry and energetic, Big JC is slow and much much heavier. And, up to that point, less afraid of Jordan.

We moved to the office for the day. Things took a while to settle down. Our kids took the beds as if they’ve done this before. Big JC followed Little JC around the room until she settled under my prize uncomfortable chair from my collection of uncomfortable chairs (to kind of quote Ani DiFranco). Big JC couldn’t get under there, so he lay beside her. At least for a while, before the pacing began again. 

Slowly…eventually…they all settle. I could concentrate on work. Is this…going to be OK?

At one point later in the morning, Big JC and JH engage in some jousting. JH is used to being the biggest little pug in his immediate environment. Big JC outweighs him by 30% or so. John Henry is soon struggling. What happens next surprises me and, in a weird way, delights me. Jordan climbs out of her bed and stands between the two boys. She stares at Big JC. He retreats into a corner like in a cartoon. And he stays there while Jordan – half as big but infinitely feistier – hold her ground.

I had believed that she didn’t care for JH. That she tolerated him. But here she was: standing up for him. No one messes with that airhead but me, she was saying. I heard it. And so did Johnny Cash.

Shouting “Johnny Cash” whenever we want to attract his attention soon loses its novelty. I switch to referring to them as Big JC and Little JC. When talking to them, I mainly say “Hey you” or “Hey bay-bee” like a barroom romancer. 

Big JC is a mighty little barrel of a boy. He uses his relative mass to assert himself. Sure, he might be devoted to Little JC. He might be lost without her. But if a hand is offered for the patting of a head, he will steamroller her out of the way to get to it. This happens every time anyone pays any attention to Little JC.

The only way to pay her any attention is to pick her up and put her on my lap. Which I do. And then she doesn’t want to get down again. So she stays there as I take meetings, type emails, all the other sexy things a Senior Editorial Services and Accessibility Manager does in the course of his or her day.

And, yes. Of course. At that point she gains a little part of my heart. But the pooping needs to continue to happen outside or this relationship is not built to last.

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