A Pug at the Heartstrings

At the 10th annual Pugtacular celebration, some people will do anything for a pug

"My biological clock was ticking," agrees local artist Susan Newman. "For a pug."

"We wanted a boy and girl," says Newman, indicating the pugs cradled in her arms and those of her sculptor-husband, Mark Newman, "and that's what we got."


In the center ring, a half-dozen pugs line up for the "Most Wrinkled" contest. Five-month-old Bruno Llewellyn, a one-eyed rescue from Sacramento, is easily the most crumpled and creased critter in the house, but, as Wilson the Pug teaches, one must not attach oneself to awards. Wrinkles shift, skin sags, the illusion of smoothness is achieved at just the wrong moment, and Bruno loses to a Muppet-like character with a curly tail. The pugs seem indifferent, eager to resume their places on their humans' laps. The "Lap Dog" contest is next. Sheeran's 3-year-old Pablo – whose show name, Champion Doc of the Bay, seems far less suitable than his nickname, 30-Second Snugglebunny – flops around her lap like a boneless rag doll, happy to lie in whatever position he is placed, so long as it pleases her. But six-month-old Emma, the first canine companion of young Maddie Biatek, is stupendously victorious in her lethargy.

According to the Tao, reminds Wilson, stillness is the standard of activity.

Surprisingly, the pug races are valiantly run.

Mostly.

"I think Pete got scared," admits Half Moon Bay's 13-year-old Cady McClure. "He just sat there. He wouldn't leave my sister's side. But pugs are loyal. Even when they're scared, they won't leave your side. That's one of the things I love about him."

The fleet-footed victor is 2-year-old Keiko, though you might never guess it from the cow suit I find him lounging in after the races. Dressed in a tasteful athletic jersey, seven-month-old Milesis far less conspicuous by comparison, but it's clear from his routine of rolling over, playing dead, dancing on his hind legs, and executing consecutive high-fives that he is more than willing to do anything for his young, doting San Francisco parents, Mattand Johanna Shell.

"Weekends belong to him," says Matt. "We go where he wants. He wanted to come to Antioch."

"Getting Jasmine was the best thing we ever did," says Angie Anavisca, indicating the little pug with pink polish on her nails curled up in Anavisca's husband's arms. "We had a Rottweiler and husky and felt bad because we never spent enough time with them; now we do things for her and because of her. It's weird. We just got back from Pugtoberfest."

When asked about the sudden change in the family dynamics, and the willingness to drive all the way from Sparks, Nev., to Antioch so Jasmine could hang out with other pugs, Rolando Anaviscasmiles and says simply, "She loves us so much that we love her, too."

I look into Wilson's eyes one final time and recall Lao-tzu's words: That which offers no resistance can enter where there is no space.


Partial proceeds fromThe Tao of Pug benefit Pug Rescue -- Bay to the Borders.

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