The Pug

The Pug

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I’m hungry

This dog breed is a VIP of its own making

By Marian Buechert | Photographs by Deborah Samuel

First appeared on Modern Dog Magazine

The famous painter pauses when his subject breaks his pose, stretches, and yawns widely.

“Bill,” says the subject. “This is boring. B-O-R-I-N-G. I’m sick of being painted. I need a pee break and a snack.”

With a smile, the painter says, “But Trump, my boy, I need you. This is a portrait of a VIP and you must be in it.”

“Fiddle dee dee,” snorts the dog. “They’re all VIPs. The Countess of So-and-So, Lady What’s-Her-Name, the Eminent Mister Who-Cares—all them society folks want their pictures painted with me, Trump. I’m outta here.”

“Ah, but this VIP is different. He’s a Very Important Pug—you, in fact.”

Trump wrinkles his forehead and grins.

“Well, why didn’t you say so in the first place?!” he says, sitting back down.

William Hogarth, the brilliant eighteenth-century painter, knew it when he painted his self-portrait with his own VIP beside him.

And Pug owners from the Empress Josephine Bonaparte to Billy Joel have always known it: every Pug believes himself to be a Very Important Pug.

“Pugs know they are special and this shows in their attitude,” writes Liz Palika, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Pugs (Alpha, 2005).

Pug owners from the Empress Josephine Bonaparte to Billy Joel have always known it: every Pug believes himself to be a Very Important Pug.

“Pugs know they are special and this shows in their attitude,” writes Liz Palika, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Pugs (Alpha, 2005).

The Pug’s “I’m-the-centre-of-the-universe-and-it’s-a-great-place-so- why-not-join-me?” outlook on life is one of the keys to this breed’s enduring and still-rising popularity; in 2005, this largest member of the Toy Group was ranked twelfth in numbers registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC).

When William and Mary of Orange arrived in England in 1688 to become the new king and queen, they brought with them an entourage of Pugs, a breed that was already extremely popular in the royal couple’s native Holland. It didn’t take long for the appealing, snub-nosed dogs to become the dog du jour and by Hogarth’s time, no lady of any social standing felt complete without a Pug dog to hide in her voluminous skirts.

The Pug The PugIn the twentieth century, another pair of Pug-loving royals, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, owned no less than 12 of the breed during their lives together. The Windsors amassed a huge collection of porcelain Pug figurines and decorated their New York Waldorf Astoria hotel suite with needlepoint pillows of their adored dogs.

All this seems quite appropriate for a breed whose forehead wrinkles are meant to resemble the Chinese character for “prince.”

But wait a minute—is this the same dog that has snored, snuffled, wheezed, and farted his way into the heart of many a modern dog owner?

“They do make a variety of biological noises,” warns Palika. “You always know when a Pug is in the house, even if he’s sleeping.”

Hardly princely behavior.

On the other paw, when you’re a VIP, you take it for granted that everyone will love you in spite of, or maybe because of, your lack of social graces. And if you’re going to be vulgar, at least you can be consistent about it so everyone knows what to expect.

In his book, Why We Love the Dogs We Do, (Fireside, 2000) Dr. Stanley Coren puts the Pug in the category of “Consistent Dogs,” about which he writes: “The central personality characteristic of these dogs is their predictability…[their] behavior from day to day will be virtually the same regardless of the time or the situation.”

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