Pud the dog
(first appeared in the October 2013 issue of The Bitchin’ Kitsch)
The fact that I called the dog Pud should have been a harbinger of things to come. While everyone else was lobbying to call him Steve Austin or Lee Majors or some combination of the two that paid homage to The Six Million Dollar Man, I was resolute in wanting to call him Pud. This was in the mistaken belief that Pud was slang for a whale’s penis, which, it turns out, it is not. Dork is slang for a whale’s penis. Where I got Pud I’ll never know but when he was wheeled in all mangled from being hit by a truck I got it into my head that somehow he reminded me of what I thought a whale’s penis might look like.
In the end it was my grant money funding the operation so it was my decision to make.
Pud it was.
Looking back it would have been much easier if we had replaced either both front legs or both back legs with bionic replacements instead of the front right leg and the back left leg but we didn’t get to make that particular call. The truck did.
And the truck decided to smash the front right leg and the back left leg beyond recognition.
Forget whatever image you have in your head of a robot scampering around at high-tech trade shows or the surfaces of other planets. Those are remotely controlled and they are all robot. What we were trying to do was much more advanced. We were trying to mesh technology with a living subject.
You can also forget the idea that the government would ever try to reassemble a damaged astronaut without first testing such technology on a few hundred Puds.
Doesn’t work that way.
As you can infer, I was sort of hoping that all future animals that received such operations would henceforth be called Puds (Pud II, Pud III, Pud IV, etc. …) but I’m led to believe that the vast majority of scientists don’t like the name Pud and think the original dog should have been called Steve Austin or Lee Majors or some combination of the two.
Everyone’s a critic.
Maybe it’s the fact that Pud didn’t exactly work out that left the name in such low regard.
You see, once we got the legs hooked up, Pud could never seem to get them to work together. We tinkered and poked and switched things in and out but whatever we did never really helped his coordination. The two original legs did their best to try and welcome the newcomers and create a team environment but the four parties could never quite get on the same page when it came to moving Pud forward. One of the robot legs would always lurch out in the wrong direction or freeze at an inopportune moment.
It became torturous to even watch poor Pud try and pace around his cage.
To his credit, Pud seemed oblivious to it all and showed no sign of embarrassment. He was always upbeat about his situation and, despite myself, I began to have a less clinical view of him as a subject (i.e. when nobody was looking I would repeatedly ask him “Who’s a good dog?” and rub his belly and then dodge his two powerful robot legs as they flailed around).
Eventually we learned all we could about the mistakes we made with Pud and it was time to put him down.
So I took him home with me. Talk all you want about your purebreds, there wasn’t a more expensive dog in my neighborhood.
Of course, there were a few adjustments I needed to make in my formerly-playboy-scientist lifestyle. Like scheduling walks for instance. If I have plans for after dinner I need to make sure I start his walk before noon. On the weekends I like to take him down to the park. I bring a Frisbee and give it a good hurl and then retreat beneath a tree with some shade where I can read for the remainder of the day. Sometimes Pud will get back to me with the Frisbee, other times I see it’s getting dark and go collect him en route.
Sitting there with all the other proud dog owners, occasionally someone will ask me “Which one’s yours?” to which I will proudly point to any other dog in the area as Pud lays on his side nearby trying to get back to his feet.
Does he make a mess when he tries to eat or drink?
Yes. Yes he does.
Does he end up covered in his own feces whenever he tries to go to the bathroom?
Of course he does.
Would I trade him for anything in the world?
Not for six million dollars.
Or even a penis the size of a whale’s.