The Pug – Dog of Royals

Meet Lina, Oliver and the late Twyla – so much love in such little bodies…

Growing up in Germany, Pugs (Mops) were a very popular dog, especially with the rich and famous. Back then, I could not get my head around why they would choose a Pug, and most of them even two – dogs I found rather unattractive (to say it nicely). I was clearly completely oblivious and did not know much about dogs, or Pugs in particular.

Fast forward a few decades, I am now a proud mom of two Pugs, and I would never ever want a dog of a different breed – they are simply THE BEST. I did not choose to become a Pug mom; it was my husband’s choice. Growing up on a farm in the Outback of Australia, Bern always had a dog (many different kinds) from very early on. Just before we met, his first Pug, Maggie, passed away and he told me right away that he wanted to have another Pug – he already had the Pug bug. I went along with it since it was so important for him, but without much enthusiasm. Little did I know!

Six years into my life with Pugs, I could not imagine a life without them anymore. Their smart, playful, and big personalities are addictive, and they have given us tons of love, joy, and laughter over the years.

The Pack

Time to introduce you to Lina, Oliver, and the late Twyla.

We got Oliver from a breeder. We had a choice between him and his brother; I picked him because he immediately looked into my eyes when he saw me and that was that. He was six weeks old and fit into the palm of my hand. The first time he saw himself in a floor mirror, he barked and fought with his image. At the end of the first day in our house, he snuggled up next to that same image in the mirror and fell asleep. I think he missed his brother.

At that time we had another Pug, Twyla. She was the reason we got Oliver in the first place; we wanted her to have a companion. I could probably write pages about Twyla since she was my first Pug and we were practically joined at the hip. I never thought I could become so close to a dog!

Twyla and Oliver got along great, like big sister and little brother: playing with each other one moment, fighting the next, and then cuddling up afterwards.

Twyla had a BIG presence and she ran our house. It was very tragic when Twyla passed away a few years after Oliver’s coming and her death left a huge vacuum in our home. Oliver, who would usually eat his food in a split second, did not touch it and he was clearly as sad as the rest of us. That is why we decided to get another Pug friend for Oliver. This time, we decided to look for a Pug rescue. It had to be a young and very energetic dog to be a good companion for Oliver and we wanted a girl again. We found a wonderful dog rescue in Carson called Pug Nation which takes care of Pugs only. They take in Pugs from everywhere, even other shelters, and give them all the care they need. Going to the Station, as they call their facility, is quite the experience, having 20+ Pugs in all shapes running around. If you ever feel sad and down, go to Pug Nation and volunteer (which means playing with the Pugs), and you will leave with a smile on your face. That is what Pugs do: They give you a lot of love and attention, no matter how dire their own situation.

We found Lina the first time we went to the shelter. She was a tiny thing, just fur and bones with bare spots in her coat caused by an illness. She was rescued from the streets of Carson in a terrible state, and she looked like a street cat. When we met her, she was already being treated for an eye injury and an infection that damaged her fur. But here she was running around the shelter, bossy and full of life, playing with every dog that came her way. I knew instantly she would be the right girl for Oliver. She recovered over time and has developed into a beautiful Pug girl. She is full of life and it is clear why she was able to survive living on the streets. She is a very smart cookie and has a very well developed defense system. That girl knows how to take care of herself!

I start my day running with the Pugs. Yes, Pugs do not need to be chunky! They can be slender and muscular. It’s the humans who overfeed them and don’t give them enough exercise that lead to the pudgy Pugs you most often see on the street. Lina and Oliver LOVE to go running every day. They give me bad looks until I get the leashes and off we go. Oliver has grown into a 25 pound muscular big Pug and looks happy and content again.

Pugs come in three sizes: In Starbucks lingo, they come in tall, grande, and venti. Oliver is certainly a venti while Lina is a grande Pug, which does not prevent her from chasing Oliver around once in a while, when she feels like it.

So how come Pugs are dogs of the royals?

Like with many big personalities, the Pug’s background is a bit hazy and it is not clear when they were first bred or how and when Pugs were introduced to the Western world.

Pug historians have concluded that the Pug originated in China and was bred as a lapdog in the imperial city in Peking. Breeding and possession of the Pug was an imperial privilege. By law, the Pug was exclusive to the imperial family and their court officials within the bounderies of the imperial city. There are many stories about how the Pug made it out and into Europe; the most plausible one goes as follows:

Whoever brought the Pug to Europe had to have the utmost respect of the Emperor of China to even get into the imperial city. No Westerner could even dream of coming close, with the exception of the Jesuit missionaries. An educated guess is that the little imperial, Buddhist Pug made its way to Europe as a travel companion of a missionary in the 18th century – and became a Catholic on the way.

The 18th century is assumed, since this when Pugs appear in paintings and as little porcelain figures in Europe. When you visit some of the many castles in Europe, you will spot the Pug in many royal portraits! At that time, it was the most painted dog around.

You might not recognize the Pug on the paintings right away because back then the Pug was bred with longer legs and body. Only in recent times has it become fashionable to breed the Pug with a more compact body.

Many European countries have their own royal Pug stories. For example, the English painter and engraver William Hogarth enriched most of his work with a Pug. Francois Roubiliac, the most important sculptor in England in the 18th century, made Pugs out of terracotta. The German sculptor Johann Joachim Kaendler became head of design at the Meissner Porcelean factory and advanced the Pug as the favourite subject design at Meissen.   

The most famous Pug in France is probably Fortuné, Empress Josephine’s Pug. She hid little secret messages below Fortune’s collar and sent him to Napoleon.The story is told that Napoleon requested the Pug leave the bedchamber on their wedding night, to which Josephine had only one short comment: “No Pug, no Josephine!” Fortuné not only won the argument, but, out of jealousy, bit Napoleon on his leg that very night. Later on, Napoleon learned to love the Pug and made sure Josephine would never be without one.

Her Heighness Victoria of England moved the Pug into her royal residence in 1857 and the Pug stayed as the English royal dog for generations. Most famous are the Pugs of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, who were fed fresh-baked pastries and scented with Dior perfume.

Winston Churchill had a Pug, too, and he even wrote a little Pug poem for his daughter. Of course, there are so many other stories.

For the Love of Pugs

Find Yourself a Pug

My favorite two Pug statements come from Loriot, a beloved German writer, humorist, and Pug-lover who once said: “Life without a Pug is possible but pointless.” He also said that “There are dogs and then there are Pugs.”  Loriot had many Pugs and he also incorporated them into his work. Two German cities erected Loriot memorials in memory of the late comedian. The memorials are not decorated with his bust, but with sculptures of his beloved Pugs, just as he would have wanted it.

Living with Pugs and learning about their history, I understand now why so many people have been so crazy about Pugs for centuries. I’m a convert, thanks to my husband!  

It’s time for me to wrap up. Lina has taken possession of my shoe lace and wants to tell me something.

If you want to find out more about a life with Pugs, send me an email at kirmsehomes@gmail.com.

If you are already set on a Pug, visit Pug Nation, a wonderful organization run by wonderful people, at Pug Nation. They also have a fabulous Facebook page with touching Pug stories; search for “Pug Nation Rescue of Los Angeles.”

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