Aspen Princess: Are two really better than one? We’ll find out after puglimage |

Aspen Princess: Are two really better than one? We’ll find out after puglimage

Alison Berkley Margo
The Aspen Princess

I’m packing my bags to head off on a puglimage.

Yes, you read that right: Puglimage: a long journey, both physically and spiritually, to go get my new pug babies.

Yes, you read that right: babies, plural.

“Why in the world do they need to have two pugs?” my father-in-law grumbled in the background during a phone conversation the other day. Like most men his age, he feels he has earned the right to an unadulterated opinion and a bottle of scotch with his name on it, often transported here on their road trips from Minnesota in a plastic bottle that was originally used for something else, the word “scotch” scrawled across what’s left of the label that’s been peeled off in permanent marker. He will pretend to hate the pugs, and so the pugs will most likely want to reside in his lap. Like most humans with a huge and tender heart, animals and babies are drawn to Grampy.

Speaking of road trips, my in-laws are pros. They would rather spend 17 hours in the car driving to Colorado than fly here to visit us, even though the route takes them through states like Iowa and Nebraska that take forever to get through and seem to occupy a whole lot of nothing. They can tell you where to eat in Kearney, Nebraska, and which Costco in a 1,000-mile radius has the best inventory of lamb chops.

This time I’ll be making the trip. I’m hopping on a plane in Aspen on Monday to fly to Minneapolis and then drive back, stopping in Cordyon, Iowa, to collect my new pug babies on the way.

I know, I know: I’m supposed to rescue a shelter dog and am a horrible person for wanting a purebred and then writing about it. What’s confusing to me is how people who care so much about animals often have so little empathy for people.

Losing Gertie was by far the worst thing that’s happened to me in my adult life, at least since losing my first pregnancy in 2014. I have never been more grief stricken. In yoga, we talk about the mind-body connection all the time, and never was it more evident than when I could physically feel my heart breaking inside my chest, not to mention the river of tears, a tangible manifestation of my pain.

Gertie was a rescue dog because she rescued me. I loved her with every single ounce of my being and not a day goes by that I don’t feel her absence in every single cell of my body. If nothing else, her death has made me a little more spiritual. Her presence in my life, however brief, was equally as profound. I would often love her in the moment, twirling her velvet soft ears in my fingers as she sat in my lap, very much aware that I had better appreciate every minute with her. I think a part of me knew our time together was limited, but it was also infinite. She may have been a short, fat little dog with saucer-sized eyeballs that pointed in opposite directions and a tongue that always stuck out, but the irony in that ridiculous looking little loaf of fur was that within her existed something divine. She knew stuff. Ours was a bond that formed over time and space that goes way beyond what we can experience in the physical realm.

No, I didn’t eat pot gummy bears for breakfast, I am totally serious!

I know there will never be another Gertie, but I do love pugs. I can have another pug. Or two.

Yes, I looked into pug rescue, but quickly learned it’s an oxymoron. I looked into every state across three time zones to learn all kinds of information about how wonderful pugs are and how none are available at this time and please add your name to the two-year waitlist.

Before you yell at me, let me finish my story. I am rescuing one pug, sort of.

“I have one little girl who won’t fall pregnant,” Beth the breeder wrote early on in our Facebook message thread. Beth lives in Iowa, has worked with show pugs for over 20 years, loves quilting and posting recipes for things like German Pecan Pie bars and Cheesy Chicken Crescent Rolls. I have been in touch with her for over three months, since the puppies were 1 week old. “Her name is Tula, and we want to find a home for her.”

Bingo! I had always planned to call my next pug Tallulah, so I took it as a sign. Still, I had planned to get a black male puppy, just so I wouldn’t compare it to Gertie, but Tula is a fawn female.

“What do you think about getting two?” I asked Ryan late one night. “Tula and a black puppy?”

“No,” Ryan said without hesitation. Then in the next breath he said, “Yes. I love pugs.”

Plans for the puglimage began immediately. I would fly into Minneapolis and then drive back with my mother-in-law. Meanwhile, Grampy will fly to Aspen and take care of Levi while I’m gone.

Several months later, my own mother jumped into the ring. “Do you want me to come with you?” she asked, still thinking of me as her baby even though I’m pushing 50, always wanting to be there for me for the big stuff.

“Thanks, Mom, but really, that’s not necessary,” I told her.

Yes, I will be stuck in the car for two days with two moms and two dogs; the journey of three bitches and a puppy. In the end, I will have traveled over 2,200 miles for Tallulah Belle Margo and Ernest Hemingway Margo (“Tula” and “Ernie” for short), to bring my new babies home.

Like so many great love stories, this one has a similar ending.

And then there were two.

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