Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Pompey Chronicles, Part III: For the Love of Pompey

The is the third and penultimate installment in my series of essays on Pompey, our most-beloved pug.

The Scamp was born on May 12, 1999, and we picked him up on a sunny Saturday afternoon eight weeks later at a dog show in Newburgh, New York, where his breeder was showing.  My life changed forever that day, because that is when I fell irretrievably and irrevocably in love with our delightful and most-beloved pug, Pompey.  For that is the name he came home with at the insistence of my mother, who came up with it.

Boy with Pompey at the Dog Show on
the day we picked him up from the breeder, July 1999

Boy and I had come to the dog show prepared with a collar for Pompey, but when we met the breeder and showed her the collar (a very smart one, I might add, that we had carefully selected at a carriage-trade shop in the City), she burst out laughing and said, "Well, he might grow into it someday!"  For, as we found, he was still quite tiny, just a wee, wobbly, bobbly pug puppy, still no larger than an average sized kitten.  We learned that his brothers had further eclipsed him in size and were expected to grow into full Alpha-male standard size (that is, if a pug could ever be considered an Alpha dog), but that our little Pompey was destined never to exceed the size of an adolescent.  In other words, we were the proud owners of the runt of the litter.

Pompey's first day at Darlington

And true to prediction, Pompey weighs only 14 pounds at full maturity, right at the absolute bottom of the breed standard of 14 to 18 pounds (for both dogs and bitches), and about the same as a medium sized male cat.  Most of the pugs I see on the street weigh rather a lot more than the breed standard (along with the rest of America), so relative to many of the pugs we come across when out for a walk, Pompey is quite small.  We have kept him in good shape and carefully regulate his food intake (I find it is easier to control his diet than mine), so he has a nice figure, retaining a good tuck.  To this day, as he approaches his eleventh birthday, we are often asked if he is a puppy.

Pompey visiting Sister Darling

Since bringing Pompey home with us we have learned the following about pugs:
  • They have insatiable appetites and will eat anything and everything, and then they'll want to eat some more;
  • They want to be with you at all times, and will follow you from room to room;
  • They are impossibly cute;
  • Their most favored place during the day is in your lap, whenever possible.  When they can't sit on your lap, they will often sit on your feet;
  • They will sleep in your bed with you; there is no argument here;
  • They are pathetic watchdogs, they're more likely to lick a stranger than bark at him;
  • They are impossibly cute;
  • Stairs can be an issue; they don't always have the confidence to navigate a full flight of stairs;
  • They scream; either when they are supremely unhappy, such as when you briefly leave them behind in the car when you are out doing errands, or when they are prevented from greeting someone they are determined to see, such as the UPS man dropping off a package, or a neighbor stopping by, and they're trapped in another room or upstairs (see "stairs can be an issue", above).  Such screaming can be blood-curdling, and so unnerving to the unitiated listener that I've had to reassure strangers that it is a characteristic of the breed, and not--contrary to what it may sound--the deranged shrieking of an enraged duck I am holding captive for unfathomable reasons;
  • They are impossibly cute;
  • They are wonderful companions under most circumstances, but particularly when one is feeling blue or sick--they will stay in bed with you or at your side for the duration of when you are down for the count;
  • They are extremely sociable, and love meeting new people;
  • They don't like getting wet, they hate rain, they find snow perplexing, and they'd rather do anything than go for a swim;
  • They are professional snugglers;
  • They can't play ball--their snub-nosed mouths are too small to be able to pick up a ball, even a tennis ball; they much prefer soft, plushy toys that they can get a purchase on;
  • They are impossibly cute;
  • They love playing catch with squeaky plushy toys, but quickly lose interest;
  • They are stubborn;
  • They can't run around in fields when out for a country walk because their legs are too short;
  • They can be highly amusing;
  • They love to eat banana, cheese, strawberries, blueberries, clementine sections, most vegetable trimmings, and pretty much any other kind of treat, including an Altoid every now and then;
  • They sometimes scoot around like a flying Mighty Mouse when they are really having fun; and
  • They are impossibly cute.
"Here I come to save the day!"

Did I tell you that Pompey is actually a remarkably good-quality pug?  It's true, and through no fault of mine, even though I was the one who found him.  As I wrote in a previous installment of the "Pompey Chronicles," I began my search with the Pug Club of Greater New York, and fortunately I was directed to a breeder that I later learned was considered at the time to be one of the top breeders of pugs in America, with dozens and dozens of champions to their credit, including several best-of-breed winners at Westminster.  I had no idea; I just thought I was buying a pug puppy.

Pug on a rug

It started to dawn on me several months after we brought Pompey home that he was actually a very nice looking example of the breed's standard, despite his diminutive size.  At first I thought it was perhaps pride of owership (doesn't every parent consider their child to be "gifted" these days?), but Boy and I started to suspect that Pompey was really quite good, particularly for a "pet-quality" pug, and in fact better than almost every other pug we had come across when out and about.

Pug in a pot

This was confirmed shortly thereafter when we attended a party at the National Arts Club here in New York that was thrown to celebrate the publication of a book called Pugs in Public, by Kendall Farr, and where more than sixty pugs had been invited to attend the party, including our Pompey.  As we walked through the chaos of pugs and owners in the main room at the club a voice boomed out across the throng "Bring that pug to me right now!" clearly referring to our little Pompey.  The command came from an imperious-looking older woman who was seated in a chair, banging her cane on the floor, demanding our attention.  We did as we were told and walked over to her.  She picked up Pompey and examined him like a trainer looking over a horse for the first time.  After a bit she looked up at us and said, "This is the best pug here today, and the only one with true championship potential!  I'd recognize him anywhere, he's from Such-and-Such kennel, isn't he?"  We were astonished that she knew the breeder just by looking at Pompey, and asked her name.  I was even more surprised to learn that she was, in fact, the very secretary of the Pug Club of New York with whom I had spoken when I first initiated my search!

Pompey's first birthday
Sombreros and pinatas, anyone?

Once Pompey joined our household he quickly established himself as a member of our family, and in many ways he completed it (as pets often do for childless couples).  Boy owns his own business and most days takes Pompey with him to the office, where he has become the firm's mascot, something that would have been impossible at the Investment Bank where I work.  I usually get home after they do, and there is no greater pleasure for me than when I open the door to our city apartment after a long day and Pompey runs up to greet me, demanding to be picked up and kissed.  He and I both enjoy sitting together on the sofa, snuggled up while watching television or reading, and I'm sure that bedtime would be lonely indeed if it didn't include our little bundle of puginess to share it with.  I particularly enjoy hanging out with him during weekends at Darlington.  He is very affectionate and loving, remarkably even-tempered and good-natured, and an all-around wonderful companion.  I miss him when we go away on a trip and have to send him to a boarding kennel, and I look forward to reuniting with him when we return.  In short, I adore him.

Another pug party held at the National Arts Club

I have found that one of the pleasures of owning a dog is experiencing them at every stage of their lives, from puppyhood through adolescence, maturity, and then finally old age. We have enjoyed the first three stages of Pompey's life and we are now just beginning the fourth and final stage.  Pugs live on average twelve to seventeen years, so we can expect at least several more years of his company, and I hope many more.  But there is no denying that he is starting to slow down just a tiny bit.  Not much, really, but I can see signs developing.  There is a greater tendency to hesitate at a stair, a wish to go back inside sooner from a walk, and not quite as much bounce in his trot.  To the casual observer these signs would be imperceptible, but I can see them.  And it is with a certain poignancy that I do so, as they are a reminder that I have fewer days of his company to look forward to than I have to look back upon.  Knowing this is all the more reason for me to cherish him as I do.  I know that I will be bereft when I no longer have the joy of his company, my most-beloved Pompey.  I do so love him.

Pompey in my arms

But for now I look forward to years more of his company, and I plan on making the most of it, never taking it for granted.  To that end we've decided to bring Pompey with us to the beach house we've rented for two weeks this summer, because we can't bear to be parted from him for that long.  Besides, he's never been to the beach before, and we want to see what he makes of it.

Pompey in maturity, taken this morning

But we're not the only ones who find our little Pompey adorable, or photogenic.  Over the years he has appeared in quite a few magazines and books, mostly in stories shot at Darlington House.  I plan on featuring a number of those images in my next and final installment of this series.

Next week: Pompey, the Published Pug

All photos by Reggie Darling or Boy Fenwick, except Pompey visiting Sister Darling which was taken by Sister Darling


  1. Awwww! What a great life Pompey has, he is just as lucky as you and Boy are, it's easy to see how much you adore him! I truly enjoy reading your chronicles, and so laughed at your long list of "learnings"...
    Thank you for sharing such personal and proud feelings with the rest of us.

    Northern Light

  2. Three cheers for great dogs! Clearly Pompey is a stellar pup who brings much happiness to you all.

  3. What would we do without them? I for one do not know. If others-don't, fine-they are really missing out. Even those with children(none either-except for Zetta, Remus(cat) and Moses rip) say the same if they find a dog that they understand and likewise. Pompey Rules! love this entry.

  4. Pompey IS impossibly cute! I do love hearing about and seeing him in all of his adorable stages. He does indeed appear to be quite special! On a rug, or in a pot, your pet is a perfect, precious pug! How lucky he is to have such a loving and lovely home!

    My husband and I are new to the dog world and now madly in love with our little Havanese, Parker. Our children are grown and out in the world and now Parker is our only child. We studied breeds and researched breeders. Finally we flew up to Saskatchawan, Canada to bring him home. He's just a year old and we are absolutely smitten and can't imagine life without him. I find myself, like you, heading straight home after work just to see him waiting in the window and running to the door to greet me. He melts away the strains of the day.

    We brought Parker to Nantucket last summer, and although he doesn't like to swim either, he loved running in the sand, playing frisbee and digging. We were happy we brought him and he'll be coming along again this year. I hope you all have a fabulous time together.
    I hope you'll keep us updated on him from time to time.

  5. Pug in a pot! I adore him! I just dont understand why that ridiculous Akita who hangs around here will not do something decorative like that...

  6. What a delightful and poignant post as I am currently experiencing the realities of a pet's old age. Your words have helped quell my grief as I realize what a gift it has been to share all of his stages, all of those hours, purrs and head rubs. As I sit awaiting a call which will determine his future, this post has been a great comfort.


  7. Impossibly cute, indeed. The boys are dying for a pug - I can't decided if showing them this is a good idea or not. Maybe it will help wear Mr. B down.

  8. Great post, Reggie, and very touching. Pompey is indeed a beauty.

    I sometimes babysit a friend's pug and they are indeed the best cuddlers...the downside is they also SNORE! They can eat themselves to death if you don't watch out and they are sneaky at it! Pugs are also very photogenic, have you ever seen a bad picture of one?

    Like you, I often think of the time when my Westie, Lucy, will not be around and it makes me very, very sad. She's only five but I adore her too and can't think of my life without her. Only those of us who have loved and been loved by a pet can understand the relationship and why we think of them as members of the family. What would we do without them, indeed.

  9. Oh, I love him! So much! He reminds me of Eloise's Weenie, skiddling around Darlington.

    Coincidentally we share a birthday! I also have an insatiable appetite and will eat anything and everything, and then I'll want to eat some more and I'm impossibly cute......OK, maybe the last part is a stretch.

  10. When a dog enters our hearts, they remain forever. A delightful story and a most handsome pugness. You might enjoy the recent post by LE STYLE ET LA MATIÈRE. It's about dogs in art. And you might also enjoy Soodie Beasley's new cartoon blog about Scout, the antique detecting, Westie. Some of the best posts I have read have been about people who love their dogs. I think dogs bring out the very best in us, as it did with you on this post.

  11. Loved your tribute to Pompey. As a former pet owner of cats(I think we now call them companion pets)- I fully appreciate all that you have written about your dear little pug.
    In my lifetime I owned several felines, all crazy and delicious in their own way. It is now over five years since I had to put down the last one. They truly are our friends and family. Here's to articulating and celebrating our four legged friends.
    Best wishes,

  12. Okay. The pictures are cute enough to even melt my hard cold little heart, and make me use the word adorable.

  13. My favorite post so far.

    Love to Pompey and his loving family.

  14. Reggie Darling, Another amazing coincidence. I used to rent an apartment on Greenwich Street in the West Village from Kendall and her husband back in my NYC days. I knew she was a stylist but had no idea she was also a pug expert...such a small world! xx

  15. Hi Reggie!
    I am a new reader to your blog and enjoy it thoroughly, particularly as I am a fellow new yorker. What a lovely expression of your dog--I feel like I would know him if I saw him on the street with you! I grew up with labs and they truly become part of one's family. I have been wanting a pug for years (much better for the city) but I've held off as I feel its not fair to leave them alone all day. How perfect that Boy can bring him in to work! Thank you for such a lovely post and letting all of us frustrated dog owners live vicarioulsly through you.

  16. Thank you to everyone who commented here. I have enjoyed working on the Pompey Chronicles, and your responses have been heartfelt, and encouraging. Thank you for sharing your stories, too.

  17. Mrs. M: Perhaps we shall run into each other there, for that is where we've rented our house. Do email me, and we can compare dates!

    BH: Thanks, Pug in a pot is one of my favorites of the little fella.

    MT: You have my sympathy.

    Mrs B: Don't hesitate one minute: get a pug immediately, you won't regret it! But get it from a reputable breeder. We had great luck finding ours through the Pug Club here in NY, and I suggest that you contact your local pug club as a starter. Reggie

  18. awwwww.....
    my little girl's aging too.
    yours is a doll baby.

    aren't we lucky to have such special little people in our lives?

  19. Love Pug in a Pot, too adorable!

  20. I think your runt was a real find. You are however, both the lucky ones.

  21. Dear Reggie, I, too, am enraptured with the love of pugs. We lost our dear Miss Fern two years ago, then filled our hearts with Miss Ivy, followed by the most delightful Miss Myrtle. We adopted our girls from a pug rescue group. They were all former "breeders" who now live the life of Riley.


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