The rescue group’s volunteers said she was from a puppy mill.
My wife and I were in our mid-20s living in a little two-story apartment with a yard in the back.
We had seen the ad for a pug.
My impression was Halo didn’t get much interest, if any at all.
But the volunteers seemed hopeful with us.
We finished the paperwork and got the call.
They told us our new dog would take patience.
She was tiny and sweet. But mostly she was scared.
We named her Mabel and brought her to meet our other dog, a pug-French bulldog named Mo, who was immediately exasperated with this new roommate being carefully nursed to health.
The athlete’s foot cream for the gross ears.
The wide leeway for errors in potty location judgment.
The endless belly rubs and, “Who’s a good girl, Mabel?”
To any observer it was apparent Mabel had no use for me, and we reasoned all that awful mistreatment had a lasting effect. She would cower or flee, so we tried different bonding drills.
The one deemed Mandatory Cuddle Time consisted of me feeding her a spoonful of peanut butter and speaking in soft, tranquil tones. She would play along, gobble the goods, then run off and snort.
She was a pug, after all.
At dog training, too, a waiver was granted. During exercises in the grassy yard, Mabel was permitted to walk on her leash however she wanted, wherever she wanted.
“Do what you want, Mabel. Who’s a good girl?”
So she did what she wanted.
Mabel followed us from St. Louis to my editor jobs in Iowa and Delaware and Central Illinois. She went on vacations, was there when our three babies came home from hospitals, and witnessed birthdays and bath times and first steps and movie nights with microwave popcorn flying off the pull-out couch.
Ten years became 12 and the little pug’s face became grayer and grayer until almost a snowy white.
Her eyesight went early on, and a vet counseled us to leave a light on at night so she could get around.
Her hearing was snuffed out next, taking with it her reflexive barking that erupted whenever that “Daily Double” sound effect played on “Jeopardy!”
It was in this period that Mabel became an adept tripping hazard in the kitchen, home to the most traveled corridor in our house.
She knew precisely where to sit to be noticed and then refused to budge.
When Mo died last year, we worried about Mabel and her silent and sightless world. It was hard to think how frightening it must have been in there. Then came a new puppy, Ziggy, and she quickly found a partner in her dog bed.
The decline was more noticeable in year 13 — and accelerated this month, day after day.
We’re still getting used to the absence.
For such a little creature that could not see or hear, Mabel was an enormous presence.
She loved others despite being so unloved in the early chapters of her life.
She was persistent until the end.
She really did what she wanted.
Get to know Illinois: 15 state symbols
Snack food — Popcorn
Amphibian — Eastern tiger salamander
Reptile — Painted turtle
Flower — Violet
Tree — White Oak
Bird — Cardinal
Insect — Monarch butterfly
Fish — Bluegill
Mineral — Fluorite
Animal — White-tailed deer
Dance — Square dance
Prairie grass — Big Bluestem
Fruit — Gold Rush Apple
Chris Coates is the Central Illinois editor. Follow him on Twitter at ByChrisCoates.