Thursday 17 October 2019

A pug's life: The club dedicated to all things pug

They may be small in stature but they're gigantic in personality. Members of a burgeoning Dublin club are dedicated to all things pug.

Dublin Pug Club
Dublin Pug Club
Dublin Pug Club members
Emily Scanlan and Anthony Hopkins
Matthew Nevin with Suile and wife Katriona
Denver Breslin

Tanya Sweeney

They've already become the dog of choice for Gerard Butler, Paris Hilton, Jonathan Ross and Kelly Brook ... and pugs are growing in popularity here, too. With their easygoing, charming temperaments and oh-so-adorable faces, it's little wonder that they've become catnip for Irish dog lovers.

And if you go down to Dublin's Phoenix Park or Herbert Park on the third Sunday of every month, you're likely to find up to 40 of them – along with their owners – convening as part of the Dublin Pug Club.

Formed four years ago by sisters Emily and Ciara Scanlan and a handful of their friends, the Dublin Pug Club is a chance for the pooches to socialise ... and for their owners to bond, too. Best of all, the club is open to other dogs, as well as those who simply want to come along and have a gander.

Dublin Pug Club

After the resounding success of the capital's two chapters, a Cork and Belfast Pug Club are also gaining traction. Being a pug owner most certainly has its advantages, but as these Dublin Pug Club members attest, there's more to owning a pug than meets the eye ...

Emily Scanlan, lives in Stoneybatter with Anthony Hopkins, a pug/Jack Russell mix.

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Emily Scanlan and Anthony Hopkins

"Pugs are the cutest dogs in the world, hands down. They literally love everyone. I rent a room on Airbnb and people come into the house and Anthony doesn't make strange. He totally rules the roost. Because he's a mix, he's a little bit livelier than the other pure-bred pugs, who tend to be quite relaxed and occasionally lethargic.

I don't regret getting a dog from a breeder because I got Anthony out of it, but I'd never use one again. Pugs are already pretty overbred in Ireland, so it's probably best to get one through the Irish Pug Club.

Many of the pure-bred pugs, because it's such a small breeding pool, end up with some health problems: cleft palates, allergies, breathing problems ... they're not a cheap dog to have, I can tell you. There's a lot of work involved in having them.

But on the flipside pugs seem to breed a bit of obsession in their owners. I don't know one that isn't completely besotted.

The reason I started the club is because I just had a thought – 'imagine how cute they'd all look together'. It's all very informal: we whack up the events on our Facebook page and share the information on food, health, things like that.

Some people have gone a bit LA on the diet thing, and are feeding their dogs a raw food diet. But for the most part it's very casual and I've made so many friends out of it, just by walking up to someone with a pug and telling them to come along."

Maria Fuller lives in Clonskeagh with her husband Christer and is the owner of Duke, now 4 ½.

Dublin Pug Club members

"Because I have arthritis, I can't walk very fast, and I reviewed a lot of dogs to see which one might suit my lifestyle. Pugs don't need a lot of walking and are pretty easygoing around the house.

I got Duke through a breeder I found on DoneDeal.ie, which you really shouldn't do. But the one we found had a great set-up in Mullingar. There was a big play area, and the dogs were kept in great conditions. We also had to make a couple of visits to see if we'd be good owners for Duke, so we struck pretty lucky.

We keep Duke on a low-fat diet to keep his weight down, and aside from the odd vet's bill, taking him to the groomers every few months and having to put cream on his wrinkles, there's no more work involved than with any other dog.

By going out with Duke I got to know all my neighbours on the estate. My husband also loves taking the dog out for walks as Duke tends to gravitate to nice-looking women.

I went to the Dublin Pug Club because I wanted to see how Duke would react to the other pugs. When they all get together, they're awful bottom sniffers, but it's great to meet people with a similar interest.

We all seem to treat the dogs like our children. We bought a kennel for Duke and put it out the back garden, and he hasn't slept in it once. Instead, he has the run of the house, and if we're not up on time, he jumps up on our bed and straight onto our heads first thing in the morning."

Matthew Nevin, who lives in Terenure, is the owner of Suile-Eile, who is three-quarter pug and a quarter Lhasa Apso.

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Matthew Nevin with Suile and wife Katriona

"My wife Katriona and I were living in London a few years ago when we started looking at pugs. The pedigrees were so expensive so we got Suile-Eile. She is a white pug and her hair grows a couple of inches. When it grows she looks like a Gremlin. Pugs tend to shed a lot, but the great thing is that because of the (breed) mix, she doesn't shed.

We have a five-month-old baby, Milo. When he was born we were told that we'd have to let Suile know that she's below the baby's position in our 'pack'. Luckily, she doesn't go near him or his toys, and we didn't even have to train her to do that.

She's a great guard dog in fact – last week, our car got broken into and we heard her barking all the way through it.

When we lived in London and took Suile for walks, people would literally stop you because she looked like a little teddy bear on the leash.

Even more recently a friend took her out for a walk and was like, 'seriously, how do you get to bring her anywhere?'

Ciara [Emily's sister, previous page] and I run Martcade in Rathmines, and we had a conversation about starting the Pug Club. We put up the Facebook page and then it got a bit out of hand ... next thing we knew we had 1500 'likes'.

I think the need to care for pugs stems from their appearance: they just look like they need to be taken care of. The thing is, a pug will show you nothing but pure love."

Denver Breslin lives in Blanchardstown with his partner Eddie, their pug Agnes, and their terrier, Vera.

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Denver Breslin

"Because the club doesn't discriminate against other dogs, we are able to bring both of our dogs to the park. Even among the pugs, you can see that they're all so very different. It's funny to see how diverse their personalities are.

Before we got Agnes, we met a few pugs and spent a lot of time around them. We did some research and saw that pugs work well in small confined areas like apartments, mainly because they were bred by the Chinese originally for apartment living.

The club grew to the point where we had upwards of 40 dogs, and people coming down from Cavan for the club. I was taking a group shot of us once, and all these people were just there without dogs, just to have a look at them.

If I'm home before my partner, he sends me a text: 'how are the babies?' I'm the disciplinarian and they run rings around Eddie. You can see them taking the mickey out of him.

Agnes can be a very attention-seeking dog, but she's not so bad now that Vera is there. But before that, she literally wouldn't leave us alone from the second we walked in the door until we went to bed. But with any dog, not just pugs, you have to invest the time in them. It's true what they say ... it's just like having a child around."

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