FORT WAYNE – Words of wisdom from Vikki Smith of Indianapolis, via her husband Dennis: Pugs are like potato chips. You cant have just one.
Indeed, Saturdays PUGfest at Memorial Coliseum proved that point many times over, as waggly tailed pugs arrived all morning, not just singly or in pairs but in packs.
Herds is what we call them, said Annie Faircloth, vice president of Kentuckiana Pug Rescue, the events sponsor and beneficiary.
Faircloth should know. A longtime foster parent for unwanted members of the breed, she has a herd of 12 pugs living with her at her home in Speedway.
Its like a circus when somebody comes to the door, she said. We say its getting pug mugged.
The Smiths, also pug rescuers, have 11 pugs, plus a pug imposter that turned out to be a Pekingese when her fur grew back.
Hes a failed rescue, said Dennis of Timmy, the pug sitting quietly wrinkled at his feet. We took him in and couldnt let him go.
Amy Carpenter, Kentuckiana president, has five pugs, if you count her mixed pug Chip, whos part Boston terrier.
Technically, hes a bug, the Indianapolis resident said of Chips breed.
There are all kinds of ugs – chugs (chihuahua and pug), brugs, (Brussels griffon and pug), jugs (Jack Russell terrier and pug). All kinds, Carpenter said.
Despite pug-lovers ability to be lighthearted about the genetics of their dogs, so-called designer dog mixes have contributed to a pug population problem, Faircloth said.
The mixes were popular a couple of years ago, when some mixed puppies could sell for $500 and up, she said. But the bottom has dropped out of the market, leaving breeders with unwanted dogs that end up in need of rescue.
Kentuckiana last year worked with about 120 unwanted pugs and pug mixes, placing them in a network of foster homes in Kentucky, Indiana and Wisconsin, she said.
Carpenter said the breed is good-natured, bred only to be a companion to people, so not many pugs are surrendered because of behavior problems.
We get a lot of them because of divorces. Or they (the animals owners) have a baby and decide they cant have a dog and a baby, she said.
Because theyre not that active for a dog, a lot of elderly people have them, and elderly people die or go into nursing homes. So we get some that way, Faircloth added.
The recession also has led to rescues – 10 years ago, the group worked with only about 20 pugs a year, she said.
Economic constraints is a lot of the problem right now. People cant afford to take care of them. We get a lot that are sick, but people cant afford to take them to the vet, so they give them up.
So what do pugs and their people do at a pugfest? Saturdays events included a pug parade, pug races, a costume pageant and contests for best kisser, curliest tail, best trick and longest tongue.
There were pet vendors and a raffle for prizes that included dog beds, grooming tools and kitchen appliances.
This is how we pay our vet bills, said Faircloth, who added that the group spent more than $120,000 on vets last year.
Organizers expected more than 200 people and their pugs but said they were unsure how many would attend because this was their first event in Fort Wayne. They said they chose the area to attract more volunteers from this part of the state.
Theyre just lovable dogs. All they want to do is be with their people, Carpenter said. I suppose they dont appeal to everyone because of their smushed-in faces. But we love em.