Pug festival in Washington Township spotlights breed

| Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012, 8:58 p.m.

“Pugtoberfest” promises to bring together pugs and their pals for a day of contests, food and fun that's sure to delight dogs of all breeds, and their humans, too.

This is the third year for the fundraiser, held Saturday at Kunkle Park in Washington Township. While pugs are priority, pooches of all kinds are welcome at the event. Pugtoberfest proceeds benefit two rescue organizations: Southwest PA Pugs with Special Needs and Guardian Angel Pug Rescue.

“This is how we financially support our rescued pugs throughout the year,” says Lisa Ward of Southwest PA Pugs with Special Needs. “Both our rescues spend thousands on medical treatment. We do get smaller donations throughout the year, but this is where the majority of our funds to continue our rescue efforts come from.”

The efforts of the Leechburg-area rescue group and Guardian Angels Pug Rescue, its Latrobe counterpart, extend to surgeries and medical treatments for rescued pugs. The organizations help dogs like Ping, a 7-year-old female, not only find homes but have much-need surgeries. While Ping needed surgery to help with breathing issues, other dogs may need to be spayed or neutered, or receive treatment for injuries.

The event is much more than a fundraiser. It's a bit of a family reunion for the hundreds of pugs and their people that turn out.

Organizers are anticipating 500 pugs this year.

“The dogs seem to have a ball,” Ward says. “They are so excited, and sleep very well on the ride home afterwards. It's hysterical to see so many snorting pugs all in one place and they get along great. We haven't had any problems.”

Fellow organizer Patti Levay, who runs Guardian Angels Pug Rescue attributes that to the pug personality.

“Pugs just, as a rule, don't have a mean bone in their body,” she says.

Levay, who started the Pugtoberfest in PA event, says the event is going to be a great time for any and all dog lovers.

“You're going to have good fun,” she says. “You get to take your dog and have a blast.”

All dogs are welcome at the event, and at Pugtoberfest, they will be considered “pug wannabes.” Organizers require dogs be up to date on shots and on a leash. For the sake of keeping the pug party peaceful, they ask that aggressive dogs stay home.

Food vendors will be on hand and Chinese auctions will be held, but a clear favorite of the event is the contests that will run all day.

Just a few of those competitions are a pug-owner lookalike contest, cutest pug wannabe, curliest pug tail and longest pug tongue.

The costume contests have proved popular, according to Ward. They include categories for individuals and groups, the latter being open to all, as long as at least one pug is included.

While their dogs are “running, playing and kissing” Lavey says the owners will have plenty of time to bond, too.

“Pug lovers are a diehard breed. We would lay down our lives for our dogs,” “Most pug people are so friendly, it's amazing.”

Ward agrees.

“Some of us only get to see each other at this event. It's great to see everyone and all the pugs and get caught up,” she says.

“Personally, my favorite aspect of this event is seeing the pugs our rescue has adopted out again. It's great to see how far they've come, and to know what a good life they have now.”

Southwest PA Pug Rescue's site says pugs can have physical problems because of hereditary conditions. Their pug nose, the exaggerated feature that makes purebred pugs so sought after can cause breathing problems.

Julie Martin is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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