Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Jonty leaves us

Multum in Parvo. That's the motto for the pug dog breed. A lot of dog in a small space. Jonty certainly lived up to that. For over twelve years he was a huge part of our family and as a Newtown identity. In his early years he was a major figure in the show world too. Now he is gone, and I have to write his story and cry some more.

In February 1994 we farewelled Previous Pug, Bennie. For months afterwards I cried, and declared I would never have another dog. A year went by. Michael understood from my frequent poring over pug puppy ads in the paper that I really did want another dog. One morning in February 1995 I got up to find the newspaper folded and an ad circled. Pug puppy, 6 months. Call the number. Really? Can't hurt to call. I called, and spoke with Athol, who asked very bluntly "What do you want him for?" I was a bit taken aback, and responded that I wanted a dog for the family, a pet, to replace Bennie. Athol said we could come and have a look, but that no promises were being made, we would have to be approved as suitable owners. He might even have to come and look at our house to see if it was suitable. We quaked in our boots as we got in the car and drove to Coogee to view and be viewed.

As we pulled up and got out of the car, Athol was leaning over the balcony. He looked down at us, and said "Are you the bastards come to take my dog?" We got to know and love Athol later, but this came as a bit of a surprise. "Yes, maybe," we said. Inside, we were introduced to Kelly, the mother, and saw a very cute little puppy. "Ooooh, how sweet!" we exclaimed. Then down the hall came lumbering a gawky gangly adolescent boofy bloke pug. This, we were informed, was Boofhead, and he was the one for sale. The cute little girl pug was Elsa, his sister, and she was not for sale.

We must have met with Athol's approval. He wanted to be sure that we were not interested in showing Boofhead, nor were we interested in breeding. We just wanted him for Our Pug. Apparently he had been sold before as a show dog, and had been returned for being unsuitable. Too big, too much nose. We didn't care, we scooped him up and took him home. You can't just "go and look" at a puppy.

Can you have a dog called Boofhead? While it definitely suited him - all his life he was a boofy bloke - we couldn't imagine calling him that forever. This was the time of the South African cricket team's first visit after the boycott. Jonty Rhodes was everywhere, and he was cute. Jonty the Pug was named for him.

He settled right in. We all adored him.

Some months later we went to a Pug Picnic. Yes, they have Pug Picnics. You can find out more at the Sydneypugs website. There were lots of pug people there, including Athol. Also in attendance was Electra, the doyenne of the show pug world. Jonty was about a year or more old by then. He had grown into his legs and was no longer gawky. He always had a presence about him. We were standing talking with Athol when we heard Electra say "Who is that pug? He's magnificent!"

Athol's ears pricked up. Afterwards, he asked us whether he could show Jonty. Thus began Jonty's double life, as a time-share dog. On the weekends Athol and Paddy would whisk him away to be taken to shows. He often came home covered with glory. We agreed that Athol and Paddy could keep the trophies, we could keep the ribbons. There were lots of those, and yesterday I got them out to iron them and photograph them. Jonty loved going to the shows. Whenever Athol and Paddy arrived at the door he would rush to their car and leap in without a backward glance at us. He loved being in the show ring, and would pose naturally, without any need for adjusting. He felt he deserved to be the centre of attention. In rapid quick time he became a champion.

He also became an occasional stud dog, and produced more champions for Athol and Paddy. Is it any wonder he got excited when Athol and Paddy came to take him for dirty weekends?

The time span for showing is short. There isn't any point in continuing to show a champion, you have to allow the young ones to take their turns. So Jonty settled into being home pug.

He had many loves. His dinner bowl, the heater, his toys and Portia's. He loved going for walks, sticks and balls, digging in sand, wading at the beach. He was Michael's chief Nap Assistant in the afternoons. He slept with us until he was about nine, and his soothing snores and warm little body were a great comfort. He loved to do the Pug Scuttle, doing mad circuits of the house from up on the bed, down and under the dining room table and chairs, into the kitchen, and back again. Around and around, ears flattened and tail unfurled behind him, until he was exhausted. He was indifferent to most other dogs, except for Grace, a white furry big dog whom he just adored.

Unlike Bennie who was a TV addict, Jonty showed no interest whatever in television.

He had lots of dislikes as well. He hated most of our neighbours, especially Alex and Mrs Alex, for no reason whatever. He would try to bite them and really couldn't be let out without a lead. He had no road sense at all. On one memorable occasion he was out walking with Michael and a woman with a pram approached. A tender little baby foot was poking out from the pram, and just as the woman was saying the usual "what a cute little dog!" Jonty tried to take a bite of the baby's foot.

The bags of leaves swept up by the streetsweepers were mortal enemies and had to be attacked and savaged.

He loathed all Border Collies, and could spot them a mile away. This hatred stemmed from an incident in King Street where he was attacked by one. The Border Collies didn't even have to be real. There was a big stuffed one in a shop window we passed regularly on our walks. Jonty would hurl himself at the barred windows behind which Rachel sat in her smug provocative way. He would bark and carry on while we laughed at him. Others observing this behaviour found it as hilarous as we did. I reported in detail on his run-ins with Rachel in this post.

You've seen other photos of him in other posts so you know what a part he played in our lives. But no pug lives forever. A couple of years ago he began losing power over his back legs. That resulted in a spinal laminectomy, which was quite successful. In the last months, however, he started losing the legs again. He also lost a lot of weight. There were other problems. Between Christmas and New Year we took him to the vet a couple of times. It was clear he had three issues, maybe cancer. We put him on cortisone to see if it helped, but it didn't. He had a couple of really bad nights and mornings, so on 2nd January we took the hard decision. This is one of the hardest things in the world to do - to say goodbye to your beloved Pug. I've put a gallery of some of his photos here. He'll be in our hearts forever.


  1. So sorry your handsome boy is no longer with you, however I hope he remains a part of your life, and once the sadness has eased a bit you can look back and smile. I cried when I read your post - it made me appreciate my pup all the more.

  2. I'm sorry. It is really hard when our pets leave us. He sounds such a character.

  3. George6:07 PM

    Sorry for your loss :(

  4. JulieB8:27 PM

    A fitting tribute to a fine dog. He leaves a big hole.

  5. Katie, what a wonderful tribute to the lovely Jonty. We are thinking of you.

    Kass, Michael, Elvis and Sunny

  6. Hi Katie and Michael. I feel honoured to have met Jonty in person, and what a presence he was!! He leaves a wonderful legacy in his achievements and the dignity and spirit he displayed. My love and heartfelt condolences to you both.

    Lots of love, Rona, LouLou and Puck. xxxooo

  7. This post is a beautiful eulogy to a feisty little dog and a valued companion. Vale Jonty.

  8. I'm so sorry to hear about Jonty. I'll always have fond memories of his accurate timing when it came to dinner!!

  9. Sorry to hear of Jonty's demise. We are facing the same decision with our blind and confused mini dachshund, Schatzi. I have been avoiding it so far...

  10. heather2:00 PM

    After such a wonderful valediction I don't know what to say. It sounds like you were all lucky to have each other and as I think I've said to one of your previous posts, I wouldn't mind an epitaph like this myself! Hope you are feeling better and thanks for chatting the other day - it helped.

  11. Anonymous10:13 PM

    I only had the pleasure of knowing and living with Jont's for a couple of weeks while his mum, dad and nan were holidaying in Hawaii, but in those few weeks i was as Katie says.."PUGGED" Jonty's big brown eyes staring up at me with his head cocked to the side would melt my heart everytime he looked at me, he was a sweet old man, even if he could snore the roof of the house, ha ha, i will miss him and his cheeky little face, love ya Jont's XX Lisa

  12. So sorry about Jonty. My pug has just been diagnosed with cancer and i get comfort from stories such as yours. Peace.