He was unlike my other two pugs at the time. Whereas Jelly was a bossy bitch and Maximus a laid back lover, Bubba was a furry ball of anxiety, easily spooked by cyclists and skateboards, wary of strangers, parking entrances, and animatronic Christmas decorations. He was, quite simply, a goof.
And yet, despite his adorable stiff-legged gait and furrowed brow that seemed to hint at some perpetual deep-seeded worries, he was never the one people were drawn to when they met the pack. It was either Jelly or Maximus or, later, Lulu who would get all the attention while Bubba would warily hang back, hesitant to commit, his tail doing a slow noncommittal wag as he surveyed the situation.
It wouldn’t be uncommon for him to seek out the relative remote security of the laundry hamper, his toy box, the tiniest dog bed in the house.
He was in many ways a wallflower, the highschool equivalent of an outcast nerd – always self-conscious, always awkward. But always happy.
And then, Akemi joined the family. She’d never had much experience with dogs back in Japan but in short time, she and Bubba hit it off. And over the next seven years, they developed a bond that would rival any relationship, human or otherwise.
She doted on him and he grew infatuated with her. In time, they became inseparable. I’d come home from work to find him sitting on her lap while she surfed the net, or parked comfortably beside her while she watched t.v. He would sit by her feet whenever she cooked and nothing would make him happier than to join her on their extended walks, just the two of them, strolling for blocks on end.
When my television series, Dark Matter, was picked up, I granted Bubba a certain immortality by naming THREE’s big-ass gun after him. Larger than life, unwieldy, sometimes comical – it was the perfect tribute.
In his later years, he lost his hearing and his ability to hop up to claim his favorite spot perched atop the living room couch, but he never slowed down – unless he sensed a walk was coming to an end in which case he’d draw out that final block for all he was worth.
Nothing made Akemi prouder than to have passersby mistake him for a puppy. At the time, it seemed he would live forever. Or, at least, close to.
When he developed a growth near his ear, we had it checked out and then, erring on the side of caution, had it surgically removed. The tumor, it turned out, was cancerous. Months later, when Bubba developed a cough, we had x-rays taken. They came back all clear. We ran further tests. He was diagnosed with bronchitis and given antibiotics.
But even though the cough seemed to get better, it never really left. And then, suddenly, a couple of months ago, it worsened. To the point that we brought him in again. This time, x-rays showed abnormalities in his lungs. What at first was suspected to be an enlarged heart turned out to be lung cancer.
In his last months, perhaps sensing his time was limited, Bubba grew even more attached to Akemi, following her around the apartment, crying when he would lose sight of her. He was at his happiest, as always, seated on her lap or right beside her, the feel of her reassuring hand on him.
We tried various treatments to save him, from acupuncture and astragalus to Palladia and Prednisone. None of them had any effect. X-rays taken two weeks later showed his situation had worsened. But we never gave up hope. And, I like to think that neither did Bubba. Until yesterday.
His coughing worsened and his breathing grew more labored. He stopped eating and could barely support himself. I was at work when I received the text from Akemi. It was time.
I drove back home, picked them up, and traveled to the 24 hour emergency clinic (twice actually because I realized I’d forgotten my wallet the first time). There, late last night, we said goodbye to our goofy, needy, happy, wonderful boy.
I hope that somehow, somewhere out there, that old pug gang of mine has been reunited