Before you could see them, you could hear it: that wet, phlegmy sound of air sucked into fatty passages made too tight through centuries of inbreeding. Of all the dog breeds, pugs are, bar none, the most grotesque, with their weird, punched-in ewok-looking faces and their constant breathing difficulty (which also, incidentally, makes them an excellent candidate for most worthless animal in existence. I mean, if you can't even draw a breath correctly, what business have you living? Riddle me that).
But with a little help from sadly misguided human intervention, plenty of them do go right on living, and at Pugs in the Park at City Park this weekend, they gathered.
And they've been around for a surprisingly long time. The earliest reference to pugs as a breed comes from about the fifth century B.C.E. in China, although it's hard to be sure of more than that; Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China, destroyed all records and art related to pugs during his reign in the second century B.C.E. -- the only downside being that he only destroyed the records and art.
Jason Blodgett clutches the leashes of two of nature's most loathsome creatures.
Opal's impressive trick is that she can look in two different directions at the same time.
Today, the pug remains a favorite of people who for some reason enjoy listening to their pet hawk loogies in perpetuity. "They always make you feel good," explained Jason Blodgett, an owner of two pugs, Opal and Eddie. "There's not one day they don't make you laugh." Blodgett also said the noise doesn't bother him: "As a matter of fact, if there's not a pug snorting next to me, I can't sleep," he intimated. Pug owner Jill Howard, also in attendance, had similar feelings about the mucousy sucking of her pug, Sidekick: "It's comforting," she said. "At least I know he's breathing."
Jill Howard with Sidekick, who remains tenuously alive.
At least you know he's breathing in the most obnoxious way possible, Jill. With most dogs, you can just assume that. Just saying.
As for Matt James, owner of pugs Charlie and Lilly, he's not bothered by the snorting. "I like that they're cuddly, lovey dogs, and I'm a cuddly person." James, incidentally, got into pugs by way of living with the pug of his ex-girlfriend. "I didn't have any feeling toward them one way or another before that, but I ended up liking the dog more than I liked her."
Like everyone else, Lilly is often startled by the sound of her own breathing.
The caricature artist could have saved time by just using the same pug illustration over and over again.
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And the love affair thrives, if Pugs in the Park was any evidence, for dozens and dozens of weirdos who not only tolerate them, but are enamored enough with them to dress them up like prisoners and ballerinas. All right, that part was pretty funny. And maybe even a little bit cute.
But not that cute.