Pug o’ My Heart

-- by Anne


This story is written in the first person voice of Tipper Henderson, an original character in my own fanfic version of the MSW universe, but the canonical characters are MCA/Universal’s, and are only borrowed for play, not for profit. For the significance attached to this particular story, please see the author’s notes at the end.


Three years ago

I never have been one to believe in love at first sight – never, that is, until I met Jasmine. But I have to admit that from the first moment I saw those wide, dark brown eyes peeking anxiously from the arms of her owner, I loved that dog – a reaction to a client’s new pet that I’d never had before, nor since.

       “This is Jasmine,” Esther Norman said proudly as she introduced her new companion to us at the front desk. “She’s my new dog.”

       As my veterinary technician and receptionist cooed over the dog, I reflected that although I was glad that Mrs. Norman had decided to get another pet, I found her choice of breed surprising. She and her late husband Harvey had spent their lives raising championship-quality Newfoundland retrievers. After Harvey’s death Esther scaled back the kennel until she was left with only a few choice dogs that she kept as companions. I had euthanized the last of these, Toby, a male who had lived to the unheard-of age of fifteen, just three months previously. We all suspected that Esther would not go without a dog for long, and sure enough, on Monday she had called with the news that she was getting a new canine companion, and to make an appointment for the dog’s first vet visit. Given her lifelong affinity for the Newfoundland breed we assumed the new arrival would be another Newfy – which is why I found it difficult to hide my shock when the dog turned out to be …

       “A pug?”

       Esther beamed at me. “Yes, Dr. Henderson,” she said proudly. “Isn’t she beautiful?”

       I’m not sure that “beautiful” is the word I would have picked. “Cute” maybe, but “beautiful” was a stretch. With her short, smooth coat, spindly little legs, curly pig’s-tail and short, squished-in face, Jasmine was the polar opposite of the huge, shaggy Newfoundlands I was used to seeing in Esther’s company. She was built like a miniature linebacker – broad through the shoulders and chest, narrow at the hips and waist. And whenever she sniffed at something, she did so with an audible snort through a small, flat nose designed more for aesthetics than practicality. To make matters worse, Jasmine didn’t even fit the definition of “beautiful” as strictly applied to the pug breed: her head was too rounded, and there was too much black on her face and legs and in her coat to call her truly fawn-colored as most pugs were. This dog wouldn’t even win the Miss Congeniality prize in the show ring, not even if the show was sponsored by the Cabot Cove volunteer fire department’s ladies’ auxiliary and she was the only dog entered.

       And yet I was smitten with her.

       In the exam room Esther explained Jasmine’s origins while I gave the pug a thorough physical examination.

       “Someone left her on a snow bank at the end of Maude West’s driveway in New Hampshire, poor little dear,” she said, her cultured accent betraying her South African roots. “You remember me talking about my friend Maude, don’t you?”

       “Oh yes,” I said as I peered down Jasmine’s ear canals with an otoscope. Although I had never met the redoubtable Maude, Esther spoke of her frequently and with warm fondness. Maude was also a breeder of Newfoundlands and a long time close friend of the Normans; she had taken in Esther’s breeding dogs once Esther decided to get out of the business.

       “No doubt whoever dumped her off there figured that Maude would take her in, since she has a kennel. But to just abandon her outside in this weather? She would have frozen if Maude hadn’t come down to check the postbox.”

       “It does seem very heartless,” I agreed, lifting Jasmine’s lips to get a look at her teeth. Her adult teeth had only recently come in, allowing me to peg her age at around six months.

       “Not to mention cowardly,” Esther, never one to mince words, added. “Well, a little pug would have a hard time managing as part of a pack of Newfoundlands, so Maude couldn’t keep her. But she knew I’d lost Toby, and thought of me.”

       “Quite a change for you, though, isn’t it?”

       “Well …” Esther shrugged. “I’m no spring chicken, Dr. Henderson. Honestly, I don’t know if I’d be able to handle another Newfoundland at my age. I think the reason old Toby and I got on so well is that we both became slower and creakier at the same time.”

       I stole a glance at Esther as I placed my stethoscope on the pug’s chest to listen to her heart. What she had said about not being a spring chicken was true enough: she was nearly eighty now, and though she seemed as spry as ever, I could understand her concern about having to care for another big dog. Male Newfies could easily reach nearly two hundred pounds full-grown, which was much more than five-foot-three Esther had ever weighed in her entire life.

       “I suppose my only worry,” Esther continued as I moved on to check Jasmine’s abdomen, “is what would become of her if something ever happened to me.”

       “Would Earl take her?” I asked. Earl was Harvey Norman’s grown son from a previous marriage. Esther had no children of her own; since Harvey’s death Earl was the only family she had left.

       Esther sniffed derisively. “Not hardly,” she said. “Nor would I want him to have her. The boy has no heart for animals. The Newfies knew it; they always did. They wouldn’t go near him when he came to visit.”

       I finished Jasmine’s physical and scribbled some notes on her chart, thinking about Esther’s dilemma at the same time. As I did the pug walked across the exam table toward me and began licking my face. My heart melted.

       “Well,” I said to Esther with a smile as Jasmine continued to scrub my cheek with her rough tongue, “if you ever need a new home for her, I would take her in a second.”


The present day

       It was a somber group that had gathered in the conference room at the offices of Perriman, Perriman, and Fitch, Attorneys at Law. Three days had passed since Esther Norman’s murder, and now this select group – which included me, for reasons I could not yet fathom – had been summoned to hear the reading of her Last Will and Testament.

       Seated in an uncomfortable wooden chair, wearing uncomfortable nylons and uncomfortable black low-heeled shoes, I only half-listened in a daze as Peter Perriman, the senior partner of the firm, read through the legalese preliminaries of the will. Esther’s sudden death had been a shock that I had not yet fully accepted. Over the years she had gone from being merely one of my favorite clients to a true friend as I saw her and her pug Jasmine through annual rituals of dog ownership: heartworm testing in the spring, vaccinations in the fall, and nail trims and ear cleanings in between. I felt her loss acutely – from the moment I’d heard that she had been killed in her home with a single blow from a fireplace poker, I felt as if part of me had died along with her.

       As Peter droned on, I looked about the room at the others who had been assembled. The only other people I knew were Jessica and Seth, who were apparently among Esther’s beneficiaries; they sat next to me, looking far more attentive than I was. Jessica in particular was focused on Peter’s every word; it was no secret that she had already begun to informally investigate Esther’s murder, and it was clear that she hoped to glean some clue or insight from her will, and the reactions of the others to it. Seth was also paying close attention; I think he fancied himself as Jessica’s assistant.

       The others were essentially strangers, although some I knew by reputation. The woman with iron-grey hair and a sweater with an embroidered Newfoundland retriever on the front had to be Maude West, Esther’s friend from New Hampshire. There was also a thin, wiry man who I guessed had to be Earl Norman, Esther’s stepson. For a man who lived in southern California he was very pale, as if he never ventured out into the legendary Californian sun. The others had been introduced as Horace Yardley, an American Kennel Club judge who had been associated with Esther and her dogs for years; Matilda Boers, a childhood friend who grew up with her in Johannesburg, South Africa, and Marcy Bateman, a local woman who had cleaned house and in general looked after Esther in her later years.

       Eventually Peter finished his lengthy preamble and moved on to the behests, at which point some of the people in the room sat forward in their chairs with renewed interest.

       “To Mr. Horace Yardley: ‘A gentleman inside the show ring and out, your credentials in the world of dog breeding and showing are above reproach, but it is your enduring friendship, which outlasted my active involvement in the workings of the AKC, is what I remember most. For this I give you a sum of five thousand dollars, to use as you see fit.’” Horace beamed with pleasure at this news.

       “To Miss Marcella Bateman: ‘Dear Marcy, thank you for your patient service on my behalf. To you I give a sum of two thousand dollars, to use as you see fit.’” Marcy smiled, but somewhat tightly; I got the impression that she had been hoping for more than what she received.

       “To Mrs. Matilda Boers: ‘If you have come all the way from South Africa to be here, it is only fair that I give you what I promised all those years ago: the diamond necklace that belonged to my grandmother. You will find it in the top drawer of my wardrobe, in its velvet box. I shall miss you, and all the letters we exchanged over the decades.’”

       “To Mr. Earl Norman: ‘We never really got along, you and I. But out of loyalty to your father, I give you his set of golf clubs, and a sum of one thousand dollars to use as you see fit.”

       There was a collective gasp from some of the others; for Earl, Esther’s presumptive heir, to receive less money than even her housekeeper received, was a direct slap in the face. It spoke volumes about the relationship Esther had with her stepson. If Earl was aware of the insult he didn’t show it; his face was a picture of serenity.

I caught Jessica’s eye. “Why isn’t Earl upset?” I whispered to her.

       “Perhaps he knows he will inherit the rest of Esther’s estate,” Jessica whispered back. “Someone has to.”

Well, that would make sense, I thought.

       Peter forged ahead, anxious to move on from the touchy subject of Earl’s paltry inheritance. “To Mrs. Jessica Fletcher: ‘Jessica, you and Frank were ever true friends to Harvey and me, and I regret that I do not have nearly enough wealth in my name to repay you for all your kindness over the years. I hope, then, that you will accept instead the small collection of antique reference books that Harvey left to me. At last appraisal they were determined to be of some significant value; please accept them as a token of my gratitude and enduring friendship, and in your wisdom do with them whatever you wish.’”

       I could see that Jessica was deeply moved by the gift; she lowered her head and was fighting back tears.

       Next Peter moved on to Seth, who had been Esther’s physician for much of her adult life: “To Dr. Seth Hazlitt: ‘In fond gratitude for your excellent care, and recognition of the passion for fishing you shared with my late husband, please accept his bamboo fly rod, and use it in good health.’”

       Seth made an approving grunt, which I guessed meant he was pleased with Esther’s gift. Next Peter moved on to me:

       “Finally, to Dr. Angela Henderson: ‘Tipper, you were more than merely my veterinarian, you were also my friend. For this reason I have one final request to ask of you – that you remember your words the day I brought Jasmine in for her first visit, and provide her with a loving home if she outlives me. It is my sincere hope that this request will prove to be a gift to both of you for the remainder of Jasmine’s days.’” Peter looked up from the will and fixed me with a stare. “I assume that Jasmine is Mrs. Norman’s dog?”

       I swallowed hard, stunned by the bequest. “Yes,” I said.

       Seth punched me lightly on the arm. “Rash words coming back to haunt you, Tipper?” he said.

       “So it would seem,” I said. “When I offered to take the dog in a pinch, I never dreamed she would take me seriously!”

       “Not only did she take you seriously, she’s calling your bet,” Seth said with unmistakable glee in his voice.

       Before I could come up with a snappy retort Peter spoke up, anxious to move the proceedings along.

       “Where is the dog now?” he asked.

       I shrugged. “At her house, being looked after by her stepson, I suppose.” Earl Norman nodded, indicating that this was so.

       The lawyer smiled thinly, pleased to have this bit of business, at least, taken care of easily. “You may take custody of the animal immediately,” he said. He scanned the will again and said to me, “I must regretfully inform you, Dr. Henderson, that Mrs. Norman did not leave you any additional behest to provide for the care and feeding of her pet.”

       “That’s okay,” I said weakly. “I’m sure she doesn’t eat much.”

Earl opened his mouth as though about to say something, but Peter silenced him with a look. I was surprised – could it be that Earl actually wanted the dog? If so, it was an abrupt departure from Esther’s description of him, which painted him to be not much of an animal lover.

“Moving right along,” Peter said, “we come to the final part of Mrs. Norman’s will, which involves the disbursement of the rest of her estate.”

Everything that had been distributed so far represented only little bits and pieces of Ester’s estate. The fate of the rest of it – and despite what she had said in Jessica’s bequest, it was considerable – remained a mystery, at least until this moment. There was absolute silence in the room as everyone held their breath.

Peter took a breath. “’The rest of my earthly possessions – my property, my home, and everything contained within that has not already been given away – shall be the property of the New England Newfoundland Rescue Association administered by my dear friend Maude West. It is my hope that she will liquidate what she can and use the proceeds to continue her work with homeless Newfies, for the betterment of this magnificent breed that we both love so much.’”

Now Earl did explode, jumping to his feet. “Wait a second!” he said. “You mean to tell me everything she owns is going to a bunch of big smelly dogs?”

“Well, there’s the upset,” I murmured so that only Jessica and Seth could hear.

“They are not just a bunch of big smelly dogs!” Maude snapped back. “In case you hadn’t noticed, they were her life for the past forty-odd years – hers and your fathers!”

“Mr. Norman, will you please sit down!” Peter thundered – he could be very forceful when the need was upon him. “These are the legally binding wishes of your stepmother. If you wish to challenge the will you may discuss it with me in private.”

“You can be damn sure of that!” Earl said, and stormed out of the room.

His departure more or less marked the end of the proceedings as the rest of us stood.

“Well,” Seth said mischievously, “when are you going to get your new dog?”

I groaned. “Not until Earl’s had a chance to cool down, at least,” I said. “And I need to make some preparations first – dog dishes, a leash, a bed, plastic poop bags … ugh, my cats are going to kill me!”

Jessica put a comforting hand on my arm. “Don’t worry,” she said. “I’m sure they’ll adjust.”


I endured a round of teasing at the clinic the next day, thanks to the flawless collective memory of my staff. The story of my rash promise to Esther had made the rounds several times over, and was even being enthusiastically repeated to the clients. I was relieved when the end of the day came and I could leave the office, pick up my new dog, and go home to lie in the bed I had made.

I arrived at Esther’s house on the outskirts of town just in time to nearly bump into Matilda Boers as she came storming out the front door, closely followed by Earl Norman.

“We’ll just see what Sheriff Metzger has to say about this!” she was saying as she headed for her rental car.

“Matilda, I swear, I have no idea what happened to that necklace,” Earl said helplessly. “For all we know, someone broke in here years ago and took it, and Esther had no idea it was gone!”

“I don’t believe you.”

Earl threw his hands up in the air in a gesture of defeat. “Fine!” he said. “Believe what you want. But if the Sheriff can find any proof that I took it, I’ll be shocked.”

Matilda peeled out of the driveway with a spray of gravel, headed back to her hotel, leaving me standing there with Earl.

“Earl?” I said.

Earl didn’t seem to be aware that I was there; he continued to stare after the departing Matilda, his hands clenching and unclenching in rage.

“Uh, Earl?”

Finally he turned and saw me, and seemed to relax. “Oh, Dr. Henderson, hello.”

I gave him a conciliatory smile. “Sorry if I came at a bad time,” I said.

He took a deep breath and let it out again. “It’s okay,” he said. “That crazy old woman thinks I stole the diamond necklace Esther left her. I didn’t even know that necklace existed until yesterday!”

“Of course,” I said. “Erm, I’m here to pick up Jasmine.”

“Jasmine? Oh, you mean the dog.”

I nodded, still smiling encouragingly. It had been a long day that was only getting longer; all I wanted to do was grab the dog and get out of there.

“Um, look, about the dog …” Earl began.

I groaned inwardly. Oh, no, here we go, I thought.

“I’m not really sure I want to give her up,” he said. “I mean, she’s my last connection to my stepmother. You understand, don’t you?”
       It was a situation I had seen more than once with pets that had been orphaned by their owners’ deaths: a relative, usually one who hadn’t paid much attention to the deceased in life, now felt motivated by guilt to care for the pet who had been left behind. Guilt was not a good reason to take on the responsibility of caring for an animal.

“I do understand, Mr. Norman,” I said in my best grief counselor’s voice. “But really, I think it would be best if I took her, as Esther wished. I mean, you don’t know this dog at all. I do – I’ve taken care of her for three years.”

Earl seemed to be searching for a counter-argument, but couldn’t come up with one. “Okay, fine,” he said. “She’s in here somewhere.”

I followed him inside and looked around for Jasmine. I had expected her to come running to the door to see who was there, and it surprised me when she failed to make an appearance. Some searching revealed her cowering behind a chair in the living room, refusing to come out.

The sight of her hiding like this worried me – Jasmine had always been outgoing, especially with me. Now she seemed traumatized.

C’mere, Jasmine,” I said, cajoling her in a high, happy voice. “C’mere and see me!”

Jasmine looked at me with her big brown eyes but didn’t budge from her hiding place.

I reached my hand toward her for her to sniff. “Hey, Jas, it’s me, Dr. Tipper,” I said. “Want to come out and play?”

Cautiously she came out, her normally curled-up tail tucked between her legs.

“Good girl!” I said. “Good Jasmine!” I picked her up and settled her in my arms. Finally I could go home. And the sooner the better – Earl was watching me with a brooding look on his face, and it was creeping me out.

“Well, I guess that’s it,” I said to him as I stood and made a hasty retreat for the door with Jasmine. “Thanks, Earl. Sorry about your stepmom.”


Once we were home the cats’ reception of Jasmine was pretty much what I expected: Shakespeare bolted upstairs and hid under my bed, and Dante hissed at her, baring his fangs, before retreating to the top of the refrigerator.

“Don’t mind them,” I told Jasmine as I kicked the front door shut behind us. “They’ll get over it.”

I set her down in the kitchen, where she promptly squatted and urinated a big puddle on the linoleum floor.

“Oh, no no no!!” I protested, scooping her up and carrying her back outside. I set her down on the front lawn. “In this household, dogs get to use the Great Outdoors for their facilities,” I said as she sniffed around looking for the perfect spot to complete her ‘business.’ “Don’t listen to the cats when they boast about having indoor plumbing – I didn’t buy all those doo-doo baggies for nothing.”

Just as I was about to take her back inside, I saw Jessica coming up the walk.
       “Hello, Tipper,” she said brightly. “How is Jasmine fitting in?”

I sighed and brushed aside a stray strand of hair from my face. “Uh, about as well as could be expected, I guess, considering we’ve only been home for about five minutes. Come on in.”

“Five minutes?” she said as I held the door open for her and the pug. “Oh my goodness, I thought you would have been home well before now.”

“So did I. But I was delayed over at Esther’s – I walked right into a spat between Earl and Esther’s friend Matilda.”

“Yes, I know – I was over at the Sheriff’s office when she came in to report that Earl had stolen the diamond necklace Esther left her.”

I collapsed on my battered old living room sofa and gestured to Jessica to help herself to an armchair. Jasmine jumped up next to me, turned around three times, and settled herself against me with a sigh. “What did Mort have to say about that?”

“He said he’d look into it, but he wasn’t very hopeful,” said Jessica. “There are just too many things that could have happened to it. It could have been stolen, or Esther could have misplaced it. Or she could have given it away but failed to change her will to reflect that. I’m not even sure it’s possible to prove that a crime was committed.”

“Except that Esther was murdered,” I pointed out. “Maybe she was killed for the necklace!”

“Maybe,” Jessica agreed. “If so, then finding the necklace could provide a major clue as to the identity of her killer.”

“Any progress on that?” I asked hopefully.

Jessica sighed and shook her head. “Just a lot of loose ends, I’m afraid, Tipper.”

“Maude West had a powerful motive, if she was willing to kill for her Newfoundland Rescue organization,” I said as I scratched Jasmine behind her little black, velvety ears. “I mean, Maude doesn’t strike me as a murderer, but there it is.”

“The Sheriff checked into her alibi, and it’s solid,” said Jessica. “She was in New York at a dog show … as was Horace Yardley.”

“Hmm. What about Matilda? She seems awfully keen to get her hands on that diamond necklace.”

“Well, the airline records confirm that she left Johannesburg bound for Boston the day after Esther’s death – and based on their flight schedule, there wasn’t time for her to kill Esther here, go home, and turn around to come back for the funeral.”


“No motive,” said Jessica. “She would have been better off if she could have continued working for Esther.”

Jasmine grew restless beside me, and jumped off the couch. She trotted into the kitchen, her nails clicking on the linoleum, and then I heard her slurping noisily from her new doggie water dish.

“Well, that leaves Earl,” I said. “But I have to admit, Earl sets me on edge, probably because it’s so obvious that he doesn’t like animals. Which makes what he said to me this afternoon really strange …” I trailed off, thinking about my earlier encounter with Esther’s stepson.

Jessica leaned forward in her chair, looking at me with piercing blue eyes. “What was strange?” she asked.

“He wanted to keep Jasmine,” I told her. “I couldn’t understand why, when he isn’t a dog person.”

“Interesting,” Jessica said thoughtfully. Suddenly she raised her head and sniffed. “What do I smell?”

Ohhhhhh no,” I said, leaping up from the couch and making a dash for the kitchen. “JASMINE!”

She had left a huge pile of steaming poo right in the middle of the kitchen floor, and seemed very proud of herself for having done so. I looked up and exchanged a look with Dante, still on top of the fridge. Dante wrinkled his nose and looked disgusted.

Jessica came to the kitchen door and looked in. “What did she … oh, dear.”

“’Oh dear’ is right,” I grumbled as I grabbed a handful of paper towels and a plastic garbage bag. “Sorry, Jessica. She’s still learning the ropes here.” I slid on a rubber glove and scooped up the mess with the paper towels. But as I was about to drop it into the garbage bag, I paused.”

“The aroma isn’t improving with age, Tipper,” Jessica said. “What’s the matter?”

“I don’t know,” I said, “but this doesn’t feel quite right.”

“Is Jasmine sick?”

“I don’t think so … can you open the door for me, Jessica?”

Holding a handkerchief to her nose, Jessica came around and opened the back door, since my hands were full of Jasmine’s mess. I set the paper towels down on the lawn, reached for my garden hose, and turned on the water.

“What are you doing?” Jessica asked, coming closer – but not too close.

“It felt like there was some sort of chunky stuff in there,” I said as I washed the poo away with the hose. “I want to see what it is.”

Jessica watched with a mix of fascination and horror. “I have no idea how you can do this sort of thing for a living.”

“Don’t think of it as poo,” I said. “Think of it as a diagnostic tool.” The last of the poo dissipated into the grass, leaving behind … “Jessica – are those diamonds?”

She leaned in closer. “Yes,” she said. “Fairly big ones too.”

I gathered the diamonds up on the remains of the paper towels and carried them inside to rinse more thoroughly in the kitchen sink. “Incredible,” I said. “There has to be thirty of them here!”

“They’re probably from Esther’s necklace,” said Jessica as she turned them over with a pencil.

I looked at her with wide eyes. “Do you think Jasmine found it and ate it?”

“No-o, I don’t think so – these have all been removed from their settings,” Jessica replied. “No, I think someone took the diamonds from the necklace, and fed them to Jasmine to hide them.”

“Earl!” I exclaimed. “Jasmine was acting very afraid of him when I went to pick her up. He probably figured he could hide them inside of her until the heat was off, then recover them later when she, ah, relieved herself of them. And that’s probably why he wanted to keep her.”

Jessica wasted no time calling Mort Metzger, who pulled up in front of my house a mere five minutes later, lights blazing on his cruiser. One look at the diamonds and he was off again, this time to collect Earl Norman for questioning.

Ultimately, Earl confessed when confronted with the evidence Jasmine had provided us – both to taking Esther’s necklace and to killing his stepmother, in hopes of inheriting her estate.

As for Jasmine, she became my constant companion, the apple of my eye, always jokingly referred to as “the pug that laid the diamond eggs.”

Esther, I think, would have been pleased.


The End



Author’s Notes: This story is dedicated to the memory of my pug Arwen, who died unexpectedly on November 25th, 2007 of peracute toxic hemorrhagic gastroenteritis. She was only seven years old. Jasmine the Pug’s origin story is based loosely on Arwen’s - my way of setting her amid the constellations, as it were. Arwen and I were of one heart, if not always of one mind, and her passing has left an empty place in my soul.

I should note that the lady who gave Arwen to me did so for very different reasons than those presented in the story, and is still alive and well today.