Pugs are like potato chips. You can’t have just one.
So say the pug owners who gather every Saturday morning in the backyard of deedee and & edee owner Deb Dworman’s home to feast on the love emanating from these bobbled-eyed, barrel-chested dogs.
Anywhere from six to 15 pug owners and their dogs attend the pug play date, in Oak Park, where a dozen or more pugs frolic while their “parents” sip coffee under an American chestnut tree and discuss all things pug. Occasionally, they have to pause to break up a fight over a carrot, stop an over-amorous puppy, or pick up the occasional pug pile.
“Three-pug Sara” Marzullo, arrives with a pocket of doggy treats, and is mobbed at the gate with her darlings, Ralph, Rudy and Rocco.
Then there’s Snoopy and Harley, Blanch and Stanley, Sophie, Ned, Belvi, Olive, Teddy, Dozer and Chango, Helen and Rexie. Most of the pugs have the traditional fawn coloring, except Harley, Joannie and puppy PJ, who have black fur. Even Buddy, the “puggle,” drops in every so often.
The pugs, too, know one another and, to be sure, the pack greets each new arrival with the customary tail sniff before play commences.
The group started as a casual gathering in Mills Park, a short distance from Dworman’s Queen Anne home. But when the park district began renovations, the pug owners had no place to socialize.
“I thought, let’s move it to my backyard,” Dworman said. Now the group meets every week. They also hold rotating “pugluck” parties several times a year to socialize without the dogs.
Dworman, who was last year’s Forest Park Chamber of Commerce president, has a special place for pugs in her heart — and at her Madison Street shop.
For the past several years, Dworman’s pug-buddies have created displays for Forest Park’s Holiday Window walk. Last year, in “under the sea” a mermaid presided over her court of the cuddly creatures costumed as crabs, sharks and clams.
“Meet the talent behind the window display,” says pug-parent James, gesturing to the wiggling canines. James sometimes runs the playdate when Dworman’s out of town.
Dworman has tried to invite friends who own other breeds of dogs, but “it never works out,” she said. “They don’t get along, necessarily, and we had to tell them, you have to go.”
Sometimes even the pugs get a little pugnacious with each other.
When Dworman’s Stanley tried to sink his teeth into the wrinkled muzzle of another pug over a half-eaten mini-carrot on the grass, he was quickly put in “Pug time-out.”
“Food is a trigger,” Dworman explained.
“Stanley’s on Prozac,” confided James, tenderly holding the pudgy dog in his arms next to an equally plump Buddha lawn ornament. In a few minutes, the tussle was forgotten and Stanley was running happily with the pug-pack.
“I have a shirt that says, ‘Crazy Pug Lady,'” said Marzullo. Other owners wear pug-themed jewelry, jackets and shirts with sayings like, “Pugs not drugs!” and “Sex, Pugs and Rock and Roll.”
These dogs are not just pets; they’re part of the family. Bev, “pug mommy” of Dozer and Chango, said she drove 10 hours to pick up one of her pugs from Prairie Pug Rescue in Auburn, Kan.
“There are health issues with pugs, and their owners are very dedicated to them because of the love you get in return,” said Marzullo “There are no casual pug owners.”
If you are a pug owner and Dworman spots you walking your dog, she is likely to stop and invite you to the pug party.
This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Deb Dworman’s name.