Briggs, Cricket and Sharky are big-eyed, wriggly and all about love. Meeting the three pugs, it’s easy to see the breed’s famous joie de vivre. The fact that these dogs are this cheery and affectionate after all they’ve been through is a tribute to the big hearts both of the dogs and of the volunteers of Pug Rescue of Austin.
The network of volunteers helps pugs from across the state. The medical coordinator for the group, and one of its founders, is Signe Corbin, a technician at Westlake Animal Hospital. Most of the group’s rescue pugs come through this practice, where they get a thorough vet exam. In the hospital’s “Pug Room,” which has pug-themed decorations, she introduces us to the three ebullient dogs.
Briggs, who’s up for adoption and has his own blog on the group’s website, looks nothing like the emaciated dog who came to Pug Rescue of Austin in early August. He’s been treated for lice, fleas, ticks, scabies, heartworm, skin tumors, an eye infection and severe anemia.
Cricket — “the sweetest, most loving little thing,” Corbin says — came to the group last spring and has been adopted. She is blind, and she continues to recover from skin problems and an ear infection that were left untreated for a couple of years by a previous owner.
Sharky is the artistic one of the group. He donated artwork (created with Corbin’s help) for auction as part of the recent Puppy Mill Awareness Day. Sharky was rescued from a breeding situation. He was born with dislocated elbows in his front legs, but today, after surgeries, he gets around fine, albeit with his own scooting gait. He also loves to stand on his hind legs, especially when treats are involved.
They’re just three of the hundreds of pugs and pug mixes the group has helped since it was formed as an offshoot of Dallas Fort Worth Pug Rescue. It received 501(c)(3) status in 2009.
In its first year, the Austin group rescued about 80 dogs. By last year, that had grown to 147, and this year the number is already at 140, with the busiest time of year just arriving, Corbin says.
The rescued dogs have a variety of stories, Corbin and San Antonio-based volunteer Alecia Zalot say. Some are strays from shelters; some are dumped by breeders. Divorce, deployment, moves and other life changes lead owners to surrender their dogs.
Some owners, enraptured by the breed’s famous cuteness, get a pug only to discover they can’t handle the money and time caring for the dog requires, Zalot and Corbin say.
Pugs have a list of special medical needs, Corbin says. Their dental care can be complicated and costly. Most need airway surgery. Pugs often have allergies and skin issues, and those big, sweet eyes they’re known for are prone to injury.
“Weight is a huge issue with them,” she says, making it especially important that you have time to help your pug get exercise. But, Corbin and Zalot say, if you can deal with a pug’s special needs, you get a loyal, loving and entertaining companion in return.
“They’re just the best dogs,” Zalot says. “They have amazing personalities.”
“It is rare to find a pug that doesn’t like children, doesn’t like other dogs and doesn’t like cats,” Corbin says.
Pugs’ loving personalities shine through even when they’ve endured terrible circumstances, Corbin and Zalot say.
“Nothing warms your heart more than taking in a dog who needs you, who has been through so much but is so still willing to love and be loyal,” Zalot says.
Corbin echoes those thoughts: “The most ill dogs of all are probably the ones that are the most thankful” just to have food, to be clean and to be loved.
The group dreams of having its own facility someday to give refuge to its rescued pugs. But even without a physical headquarters, the Austin Pug Rescue’s dedicated volunteers are always at the ready to help. Corbin and Zalot say what they get in return is immeasurable.
“I feel like the lucky one, and I think that’s how most volunteers feel,” Zalot says. “I wish everyone knew.”
Pug Rescue of Austin
Volunteering: Needs include fosters, adoption application screeners, dog transporters and adoption event coordinators. The group has 350 volunteers in its database, about 100 of whom are regularly active. Pug Rescue of Austin plans lots of get-togethers and other chances to socialize, some coordinated with the Austin Pug Club. “We’re always doing fun things,” volunteer Alecia Zalot says.
Adoption: Apply online to adopt. The process includes a background check, references check and a home visit. Approved adopters can have a dog stay with them a few days before making a decision. Meet pugs and pug mixes up for adoption at the group’s events, including adoption days the first and third Sunday of every month at Petco, 9828 Great Hills Trail. The group is almost always able to place its pugs, Corbin says, whether it takes a couple of days or a couple of years.
Wish list: As the group helps more and more pugs, some with expensive medical needs, cash is always needed. Crates, leashes, harnesses, collars, bedding, blankets, food, treats, toys, Furminators and other dog supplies are also welcome.
At Barkitecture: On Saturday, Pug Rescue of Austin will be one of the rescue groups benefiting from Barkitecture. Starting at noon at Triangle Park, see stylish doghouses created by Austin architects, designers and builders. www.austinbarkitecture.com.
Online: www.austinpugrescue.com and www.facebook.com/PugRescueofAustin
This is part of an occasional series profiling Central Texas shelters and rescue groups. If you have a group to suggest, email email@example.com. For more of our pet coverage, go to statesman.com/pets.