Monday, November 19, 2012

Mama in the Motherland

I was born under a waxing crescent moon to a single mother. I am from a small town known as Deal Island, close to Chance and Dames Quarters in Somerset County, Maryland. Cradled in the Chesapeake Bay, my hometown was frequented by pirates, most famously, Blackbeard. It has been said that I descended from a pirate known as “3-Legs McHagee” who, after becoming consumed in foraging for menhaden, was left behind by his ship. Oddly enough, my grandfather, an actor, played a character loosely based on 3-Legs in the movie, Pirates of the Caribbean
Grandfather as "Prison Dog" in Pirates of the Caribbean
Obviously I can’t prove it, but that’s the story. On the same pirate note, one of Blackbeard's ships was the Troubadour. It just so happens that my full name is Hugo Otis Troubadour, the Island Wonder Puppy, but my mom said the namesake was unintentional. Still. Legend goes that 3-Legs met and married a native girl, also abandoned by her lot. They made a life by the sea. He fished for menhaden & blue crab and she dug for oysters and razor clams. But, I digress…back to my story.

My mom was a small town girl and was likely wooed by some rich Baltimore city slicker who charmed her pants off (not that she was wearing any to begin with). Anyway, I don’t know him, but some said he was handsome.  There have been a few times when I thought I saw him—in a park,  on a Travelers Insurance commercial or passing on the street—our eyes meet briefly as if looking into a reflection, but I just kept walking and so did he.  

She became pregnant and her caretaker, the local drug dealer, made an untimely visit to prison, which left her out on the street.  She, ever brave and strong, had my siblings and me somewhere along Deal Island Road.  I guess if one is born in Deal Island, you are born on one side of Deal Island Road or the other.  Within a couple of months, I took to catching flies and digging for razor clams. Drinking from the stream was one of my favorite past times until a ornery little turtle bit the end of my nose—scared the bejesus out of me. I’m on guard every time I sip water, even out of my bowl.  And I don’t go near toilets.

We lived in the woods & wetlands for a few months and then my mom got the call. She went back to the drug dealer and we followed, as we tend to do.  Before we knew it, we were in the back of a pick-up truck headed for New Jersey to be sold, leaving my mother behind.  As she faded into the distance, I sighed and resigned myself to the bed of the truck. We stopped for fuel at Lucky’s and as my brothers and sisters milled about, I propped myself up on the wheel well as something caught my eye. It was a yellow bug—they always came out with the sunshine and I was obsessed with them. So, I hopped over the edge and chased after it into the woods. A month later, I was found behind Lucky’s, just a wee bit skinny for my own good. I discovered that the yellow bugs are immune to being caught and flies provide only small amounts of protein. I was also really thirsty, for obvious reasons.

Jamaica Pond in Jamaica Plain, MA
I spent the night in a bathroom of a nice woman’s house. The next day, her Aunt Becca opened the door and put me in her car.  We drove 8 hours to Boston and I slept the whole way.  I spent the next few days in her kitchen. On the third morning, I heard the front door open and peeped around the corner. There she was, a young woman with long brown hair and rosy cheeks, just smiling at me.  With head bowed and tail wagging, I bounded towards her. She sat down on the kitchen floor and I sat in her lap and just leaned into her, my new mom. I was home.

Me in training. This one is called "Circus".
We went for lots of walks around Jamaica Pond. She let me chase the ducks, but only sometimes. She never let me chase the white squirrel—said it was too risky—even though I have never caught a squirrel in my life. She taught me a lot of things about the difference between greeting people versus greeting dogs. She taught me how to sit, spin, hide, and how to tell between my right and left paws. She’s tried to help me work through my fear of reflective water bowls, but she understands the trauma of turtles and promised never to bring one into the house. She says that I have taught her a lot about life…about letting go, being present, savoring every treat, walking slower, running faster, dreaming loudly, and how to give more hugs. 

She has left me a couple of times claiming that it was too complicated to bring me along. And I missed her, but being the present canine I am, I just kept living and fully embracing all of those who cared for me. I spent a lot of time in Texas with my grandparents, running through bluebonnets and along the Buffalo Bayou, chasing rabbits, squirrels and herons and tiptoeing past mini mine fields of alligator gars and turtles.

My crate, which I hate.
And then, just one week ago, my grandparents put me in a crate, which was put on to a plane bound for Amsterdam.  Molly, a Bernese Mountain dog, was in the crate next to mine. We sniffed at each other through the side grates and sighed in simultaneous resignation to the present moment, which was in the cargo hold of a 737. It was her 9th flight. Her parents were in oil & gas, so she moved often, but still hated the sounds of jet engines. We talked about our families. She asked me why I was traveling to Amsterdam and I told her it was a life-long dream of mine to go on a cheese & raw herring tour. But in truth, I had no idea why I was going to Amsterdam. She said the pet hotel was a bit dark and the food sucked, but judging by her Hermes collar, I got the feeling she never spent a night in the woods in her life. I assumed the pet hotel would suit me just fine.

After a smooth landing, we were offloaded and carted to the hotel.  I spent the day there and due to some hiccup with my passport, I was informed that there would be no raw herring and cheese tour; maybe next time.

The following morning, I reluctantly entered my crate again and overheard that I was on a 12-hour flight to Cape Town, South Africa. My ears perked up and I thought; now I am on an adventure! My mom always said I was pretty perceptive and from what I could figure, I was flying over Libya, Chad, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia, Botswana and South Africa to be reunited with MY MOM.

I slept for most of the trip as I was next to an incredibly aloof Great Dane who insisted he was directly descended from wolves. I cocked my head politely—I didn’t have the heart (or the energy) to tell him that we were ALL descended from wolves. Sometimes you just have to let someone feel distinctive—no fur off my back. Feelings of entitlement is a pure bred thing, and that’s fine.  I also didn’t tell him I was descended from pirates as I thought he would assume I meant modern North African pirates and force an emergency landing. Prudence before pride, as my birth mother always told me.

We landed in Cape Town. It was dark and I was disoriented.  The guys in cargo were really sweet to me. One of them in particular, said “Hello Hugo” in his soothing, syrupy Xhosa accent. I couldn’t help but wag my tail at the sound of his voice. And then I heard a familiar voice. She said “Hey Buddy” and before I could see her, I knew she had come for me. As the crate slowly opened, I pushed my way out into the arms of my mama in the Motherland. And we both said, at the same time to each other: “Now I’m home."
My first pic in front of Table Mountain.


  1. Hugo,
    Your mom forgot to mention one detail about your epic life adventure, so I feel it is my duty to inform you. One the day you arrived into your mama's life, I was with her and witnessed the instant connection! I miss you guys and PS.. congrats on the pirate connection. That is pretty cool. Love, Jenna

  2. Hugo and I will NEVER forget your presence--how we walked straight to the pet store in JP and bought him a bed, treats a leash, collar and food. DONE. I was so nervous and you were there to calm us both, and of course...smell his puppy paws. We miss you too. I always had a feeling about the pirate connection--good to see that his story confirms it.

  3. What a wonderful story and homecoming of two special souls