One of the few concessions I have refused to make to my new homeland is using the word “Fall” when what I clearly mean is “autumn”. Fall is and will always be a verb…except, I suppose, when it comes to Lucifer. But other than that very strict theological exception…fall is a verb.

And so it was that autumn came suddenly to Austin this year. One day, it was hot and unpleasant, the next I was eating my lunch on the back patio and suddenly my food, drink, and I were bombarded as cold winds blew every leaf off our trees at exactly the same time. 

It was an oddly magical, cinematic moment (except for the leaves I pulled out of my tea cup) as the yellows, oranges, reds, and dull browns of autumn fluttered around us and made a carpet on the concrete – and as far as my eyes could see. Which is not as far as you might think…and yes, now I’ve remembered I need to make an appointment with my ophthalmologist. The downside of this sudden rain of leaves is that they invariably get walked into the house, which is not only an annoyance but something of a stressor.

You see, as a dog owner, I must always be aware of possible poop-on-carpet incidents; as a fearful European, I am always at least subconsciously looking for creepy little bugs skittling across the floors or lying half-dead at the edges of a room. A dead leaf can, somewhat miraculously, manage to look like pug poop and a dead bug at the same time.

One of the most likely ways for me to meet my inevitable demise is through the shock of picking up yet another leaf only for it to spring into life and run toward the door.

A new season also brings interesting new behaviors within our pug pack. Now the JCs have been with us for a while, things are settling down and routines are finally beginning to take shape. JH and Jordan, for instance, now seem content to delegate out the energetic part of guarding the back yard. If someone has the temerity to walk past our fence – or, even worse, skateboard or scooter past – then it had been up to now traditional for all the dogs to pile forth and confront the interlopers with a wall of high-pitched barky disapproval.

More recently, though, I’ve noticed that JH and Jordan hang back in the middle of the yard, giving out reasonable barks at the potential intruder, but they allow Big JC to hurtle toward the fence by himself, from where he does his best to carry the team’s noise all on his own, barking like a slightly disgruntled, high-pitched, grumpy old man.

June, needless to say, is in the meantime standing on the patio, barking at thin air in entirely the opposite direction. Which is the most on-brand thing June can possibly do.

As winter heads toward us in Austin’s typical two-steps-forward, one-step-back approach (two cold days followed by a weirdly balmy day), I’ll note further changes in their behavior. Pugs do not like the cold, so we dress them up more than usual (for their benefit and not because they look super-cute, obviously) and they don’t hang around so long outside once they’ve done the needful. They’re not bright dogs, as I hope I’ve made clear, but they know how to be comfortable. They’re the gold medallists at that.

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