As a kid, I found nothing more frustrating than being held in place – physically and spiritually. Being the youngest of five kids, I had some experience with being physically held in place – pinned down and given the “tummy treatment” by torturous older brothers. And being the youngest of five, I also had ample experience with being held in place spiritually – fancy talk for being told “no”. As a kid, you always have to ask for permission. And for the things I was asking for permission, the answer was often a (very reasonable) “no”. Like sledding down the streets after a huge snowfall!

As an adult, my frustration has shifted from being held in place, to being pulled in every direction at once. Having one kid pulling my glasses off while another pulls me by the jacket to Second Cup for a chocolate chip cookie, while being late to pick up a third. And the dogs… Having one hyper French Bulldog pull one leash while the paralyzed Puggle insists on sniffing a lamp post. And the spiritual being pulled in one direction which no one really wants to hear about.

The other night, I opened the front door to take the dogs for a walk. At the exact moment a cat happened to be walking. Barnie the Frenchie takes off like a bat out of hell, ripping the leash from my hands. And I take off after him. Dragging Pudge the Paralyzed Puggle through the snow like a sack of potatoes. I eventually have to ditch her in the back alley and run into someone’s back yard to nab Barnie. By the time I come back, she has scuttled forward about 10 feet. Only after pooping and then dragging the leash through her doody. Needless to say the walk home was a quiet one. Although I did make a video recounting the experience which I have yet to publish for fear it makes me look a tad unhinged. lol.

But for all the (sometimes soul-crushing) frustration, there is something curious about Pudge’s influence on the world. She brings out kindness and joy in people with whom she crosses paths. I have never seen anyone have a negative reaction when looking at her. People sometimes have a sympathetic reaction, which is really more projection than genuine pity. But the vast majority of people who see her are just rejoiced. Refreshed. Rejuvenated.

“That’s so nice that she hasn’t given up”, they say.

“Look how happy she is”, they say.

“It’s like she doesn’t even know she paralyzed”, they say.

It’s like they see their own hope in her eyes. It’s like she reminds them that there is happiness after hardship. It’s like Pudge the Paralyzed Puggle motivates them to go out and do something good for someone else. It’s the best of human projection. Most important, and without exception, she makes people smile, if only for a moment of their day.

And while I have gotten mighty fed up cleaning up poop and pee all over the house, all day, every day, there is a bright side: I appreciate my wife’s ability to put up with what would drive any normal person insane. I no longer have a phobia of getting dog poop on my bare hands. And my kids are learning that one person’s intolerable filth is just a Tuesday morning at the Viva Frei residence.

Peace out!