Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Pug Epic: Part I

The door slammed shut behind us. "Wendell," I barked, "make yourself comfortable. I must retrieve something." I entered my study and stood on my back paws. There it was -- just as I'd left it. After entering the proper combination, I gingerly took a brown leather cylinder from the safe and went into the living room. Sprawling out beside Wendell on our large dog pillow, I carefully opened the leather pouch and pulled out an ancient scroll. "This document contains the lost history of the pug breed," I said. "It is the only known copy in existence. Wendell, you must promise you will not chew on it." Wendell nodded. I studied his face, and he seemed as sincere as a puppy could be about such matters. 

"All right, then," I said, "let the story begin."

The exact year is uncertain, somewhere around 4000 B.C. The first stirrings of civilization began to appear in China's Yellow River basin, though the waterway was known by a different name at that time. It did not become the Yellow River until the ancient pugs formally claimed it as their territory years later. Having mastered advanced agricultural techniques, our pug forebears no longer had to struggle and beg for their daily kibble. They were now free to focus on building cities and creating primitive works of art. 

As canines poured into these cities, trade flourished. Though technological advances came relatively slowly in these early years, the pug cities continued to grow, asserting their dominance over the less advanced human villages of the region. But frequent flooding of the Yellow River led to periods of fitful dog-paddling, impeding the pugs' progress.

In roughly 2200 B.C., the pugs began construction on a series of levees and dams. This large-scale project was funded primarily through trade in exotic herbs and spices. For example, the much smaller, much less civilized feline population of the region nearly went broke buying up pug-grown catnip. The ingenuity of these early pug merchants and engineers paid off in 1600 B.C., when the canines finally tamed the river. Now, they were free to focus on building their empire. 

For the next 2,000 years, the pugs ruthlessly expanded, swallowing up towns as if they were Milkbones. They forged alliances with canine tribes, such as the mighty Pekingese and Shih Tzu warriors, and they enslaved human resistors, putting them to work on massive public works projects such as the Golden Belly Button, one of the original Eight Wonders of the Ancient World. But the pugs were generally well received by their human underlings, raising the standard of living in newly conquered lands and providing a good-natured brand of leadership. 

By 400 A.D., the pug empire stretched 3,000 miles from the East China Sea to the Himalayas, encompassing most of modern-day China. Barking was the official language of the empire, and a strong emphasis was placed on education. Nearly 90 percent of the population knew how to sit and speak, and many could roll over as well. The pugs' power was unrivaled. But they were just getting started. 

To be continued ...

Friday, March 27, 2009

Trip to Genghis Grill

I recently dined at the newly opened Genghis Grill in my fair suburb. When I first went to the Genghis Grill in Addison several years ago, near my old North Dallas apartment, it was billed as a Mongolian barbecue restaurant. Now, it's apparently called Mongolian stir fry. But the concept is the same: You build your own bowl, piling on any of several raw meats, vegetables, seasonings and sauces, and then the mix is thrown on a big circular metal grill, beaten and mixed with wooden sticks, and cooked until it is done. It's an ingenious business model, because if your meal does not turn out well, you have only yourself to blame for choosing the wrong ingredients.

As I chowed down on my halaal meat-veggie-starch combo, Wendell pointed to a large picture on the wall of several heavily armed warriors on horseback. "Who is that?" Wendell asked. "A group of actors," I answered, pausing briefly before diving back into my bowl. "Oh," my little brother replied. 

"Are the actors supposed to be anyone in particular?" Wendell asked. "Yes," I replied, licking my lips. My bowl was now empty, so I was more inclined to converse. "Genghis Khan and his troops. He was a great conqueror, a leader of men."

"Like you, Mugsy?" Wendell asked.

"Somewhat like me," I said to the young pug. His curiosity and reverence for his Big Brother pleased me. "For nearly 800 years, his exploits have been the stuff of legend. But the humans do not know the full story. They do not realize that he owed everything to the esteemed pug dog."

"Really, Mugsy?" Wendell said, his eyes wide with wonder. "Will you tell me the story?"

"Yes, my brother," I answered, giving my bowl one last lick. "Listen closely to what you are about to hear, for it is our heritage. And our destiny." 

To be continued ...

Monday, March 23, 2009

Quiz of essential knowledge

I have created a quiz to see how much the congregants know about Pug Life Ministries. Can you answer all 20 questions correctly, or are you in need of remedial re-education? Facebook users can find out by clicking here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The clock is running out

This is a reminder that time is running out to enter the annual Pug Life Ministries NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Bracket Challenge "Take On the Ayatollah" Contest. Brackets must be filled out and entered in the Pug Life Ministries group by the tip-off of the first game Thursday morning. Congregants will be competing for cash, prizes and the promise of 72 pristine sticks of rawhide in the afterlife. Do not delay, my flock!

To help get you in the basketball spirit, here is a video of the amazing Tiki, the pug equivalent of Oklahoma star Blake Griffin.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Dora the Explorer's new look

I do not usually follow the trends in children's entertainment. First, such drivel offers no benefit to a pug with as highly developed an intellect as mine. It is better suited for young Wendell. And second, my appearance on the Barney TV show several years ago ended in an ugly fight in which I nearly severed the purple dinosaur's tail. The ensuing lawsuit set the ministry back years, and I vowed to steer clear of potential trouble spots. 

But I have taken an interest in the newly updated look of Dora the Explorer (above right). Many parents were outraged when a silhouette of the older, hipper character was introduced earlier this month. Though the update did away with the younger Dora's scandalous bare midriff, some soccer moms felt the new "tween" Dora was too sexy. "Dora the Streetwalker," they called her. Mattel and Nickelodeon finally unveiled the new Dora yesterday, and many parents were relieved to find that she was wearing a long shirt and leggings, not a short skirt as they'd earlier feared. Still, many parents preferred the old look. One woman on the local news last night even labeled the new Dora a hussy.

My flock, I care deeply about the children. If the puppies are our future leaders, then the human children are our future leaders' future assistants. So I take the problem of Dora's wardrobe quite seriously. I have instructed Pug Life Ministries' design division to create a compromise outfit for young Dora -- one that maintains her roughly 10-year-old age yet adds a needed touch of modesty. I suspect that Mattel, Nickelodeon and parents everywhere will be pleased with the result. 

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Hey, everybody! Wendell here. Big Brother Mugsy told me I could wish everybody a happy St. Patrick's Day. This is one of my favorite holidays -- I already added green food coloring to all the water bowls in the house, and I've got my green collar on. I don't think Mugsy understands why I get so into St. Patrick's Day. I tried to explain it to him. I said, "Dude, I'm a party animal! And besides, it's my heritage." And Mugsy said, "What do you mean, your heritage?" And I said, "Mugsy, I'm pretty sure I'm Black Irish."

Monday, March 16, 2009

NCAA Tournament contest

The NCAA Tournament tips off Thursday (the ministry does not formally recognize the silly 64 vs. 65 play-in game), and you know what that means: It is time to enter the annual Pug Life Ministries NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Bracket Challenge "Take On the Ayatollah" Contest.  Prizes include $10,000 cash, a $5,000 Best Buy gift card and a sacred relic from the ministry's online gift shop. There is no entry fee, and given the unpredictable nature of the tournament, basketball knowledge is strictly optional. It may, in fact, prove to be a hindrance. In past contests, successful strategies have included picking favorite uniform colors, choosing dog-friendly mascots and tossing darts. Do you have what it takes to beat the ayatollah? Probably not. But there's no harm in trying. 

Forget about Salman Rushdie ...

... let's go after the infidel AIG executives instead! 

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A chilling encounter with Bella

I stood motionless on the living-room floor, exhausted from my weekend in Oklahoma. The house was my grandparents', and the paws that I felt settle on my lower back were those of Bella the Chihuahua. Recently paroled, the one-time nun in Pug Life Ministries' Catholic wing had been trying to rebuild her life in Oklahoma City. But what happened next shocked me and all others in the room. She began thrusting toward me, as my aunt gasped in horror and my grandmother shrieked in laughter. It seemed that in addition to her frequent bouts with demonic possession, Bella suffers from gender-confusion issues. Again and again, she attempted to mount me. She once even sidled up to young Wendell, but having witnessed the earlier assaults and possessing superior speed, the suspicious Wendell was off in a flash. As Bella made her fourth such advance at me, my security apparatus pulled her away. "Should we lock her up in her cage?" they asked.

"No," I barked. "Bella knows not what she does. And besides, she lacks the necessary ... equipment to do any damage." God willing, I will cure Bella of her many ailments. The fate of the world may well depend on it.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Trip to Granbury

Greetings, my flock. It has been a busy week here at the ministry. I recently went to Granbury, Texas, to officiate a wedding. It was a lovely ceremony, and Granbury was more scenic than I imagined it would be. The town is a couple of hours away from the ayatollah compound, nestled in the rolling hills southwest of Fort Worth. Our hotel was on the shore of Lake Granbury, and the reception was at the neighboring convention center. In between the ceremony and the reception, I ventured to Granbury's old downtown.

Like many Texas county seats founded in the mid-1800s, Granbury has a historic downtown centered on its courthouse square. The area is well-preserved, with many antique shops and restaurants.

We spotted this wonderful old poster in one of the shops. I maintain that the key to good advertising is the presence of at least one canine.

My date and I shared a cup of ice cream in this little parlor off the square.

Among the other downtown attractions are the old opera house ...

... and the historic Nutt House Hotel. That statue in the foreground is of the Confederate general for whom the town is named.

Outside of the historic town center, we spotted this odd pairing. Wendell and I were debating whether this qualifies as a symbiotic relationship.

Back at the ayatollah compound, we were joined by some friends who attended the wedding with us. They brought their young son along, and Wendell seemed fascinated by the pint-sized human. He followed him around for the rest of the day and observed the child's odd rituals, such as banging on pots and pans with plastic utensils and lying down on my doggy pillow to be dragged around the room. "That looks like fun," I told the youngster. "I may have to try that sometime."