Pug in the Oven

I don't expect to be seeing my parents for a long time. Specifically, my father and my stepmother. They now have a newborn in their nest. Which is really great for them. They just bought a new house in a quiet neighborhood. The perfect place to raise a family with a big yard and even a swimming pool. Thing is, I am not sure how I might feel if my 55 year-old father who can now eat off the senior menu at IHOP and my something-that-rhymes-with-slorty-snive year-old stepmother had really actually just had a child. They didn't. They did, however, adopt. A pug. Named "Stubby."

Stubby, much like Pinocchio, had been a reality in the works for quite some time. Since my father, Big Pops, married Jake five years ago, I have always known them to be desirous of a pug. In fact, they have been playing Pug Parents for years. It's like their shtick. Maybe some parents go skiing or spank each other with spatulas in the kitchen to keep things lively and fresh. My parents talked to their stuffed pug. They consulted Stubby the stuffed pug, often, sometimes on matters of consequence and sometimes just because they knew they were being impossibly queer. If one was coming home late from work, long after the other might be in bed, the other might sit Stuffed Stubby on a perch in the parlor, his nose in Pugs for Dummies, turned to the topic "Snoring." Upon one visit, my husband and I were sitting comfortably on the couch when I went to grab a blanket and moved Stuffed Stubby to a table. "Uh, Kendra?" said Jake, "Um, [Stuffed] Stubby doesn't like to be held by just one ear." She was only half-kidding. Gift-giving was generally easy. Pug paraphernalia was always appreciated and revered in their household. Still, try to explain to your friends that you are gifting your parents with an antique pug painting for their anniversary. Friends will inevitably ask, "Oh, so your parents are into pugs? How many do they have?" Explaining that they have none living, but a very special stuffed one is just one big pandora's box of an answer you don't quite want to crack open. But you can't choose your parents and sometimes you cannot choose their pets, either.


Jake brought two slovenly cats to the relationship. Big Pops brought three children, although my sister and I were both in college at the time that they wed, and my brother - who was still in grade school - would only stay with them twice a week. The cats were too high-maintenance, my father complained. One always failed to groom itself and was a recluse. The other whined, and sometimes puked in places that my father would invariably step in on the worst days of his life. After four years of cohabitation with the cats, they were both evacuated. One was put to sleep shortly after its evacuation. The other now has two dads. My father spoke in a hush the week of the evacuation. He felt guilty, he felt bad. He knew, deep down, though, that the gates had opened. They were opened and the red carpet was unfurling. This was the threshhold to a pug. I told him that he was like a father waiting for the stork. "Pug in the oven," I called it.

Big Pops turned 55 last week and Jake took a trip to Amish country. Upon her return, my brother discerned her souvenir and squealed, "Puggy!" Jake whispered, "This is a surprise." My father, ascertaining that Jake had bought him yet another Stuffed Stubby was overcome by the wee little Stubby who had become a real dog. In his lap!

The day after Big Pop's 55th, my husband and I stopped by their new house on our way back to Boston. We met Stubby. He was, admittedly, adorable. He had his first meal in his new house below my husband's caring gaze. He made noises that reminded me of my father clearing his throat. He melted my heart.

That was, until I realized that he was, like any newborn, stealing my show, as well. He has so captivated my parents that they are lovesick over their new pug. I cannot get my father to talk like a normal human being on the phone anymore. He is too preoccupied with giving me the play-by-play of Stubby, "He's 4 lbs! He's going crazy! This little guy...only 4lbs!..look at him running around! He's going nuts! He's just so cute! Did I tell ya that Jake took him to the vet and that he was 4 lbs?!?"

When we left the house, Jake walked us out to our car with Stubby in tow. She helped him to wave good-bye. "The pug is out of the oven," she said.