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“We normally process and adopt out 45 to 50 dogs a year — this year we have taken in and processed 87 dogs,” says Barbara McNair, president of Pug Rescue of San Diego County.

“Most of them need some type of medical attention. Many need to be neutered or spayed, some of them need more serious surgeries, and many need dental work.” McNair says medical expenses for 45 pugs averages $36,000 per year.

On Saturday, November 8, Pug Rescue of San Diego County will host a “Pug K Walk-A-Thon Fundraiser” at Tidelands Park in Coronado. “Pugs are short, so we’re only going to have a 1K walk for them,” says McNair.

The organization attributes the sharp increase in relinquishments to the current state of the economy. According to Pug Rescue’s secretary, Jacki Milazzo, some people have had to give up their pugs due to the housing crisis.

“I have had several people who were renters, and the owners lost their homes, so people who were renting were told they could no longer stay there,” says Milazzo. “When we get dogs, we don’t hassle these people about why they have to relinquish.”

As stated on the online pug community forum pugvillage.com, “One of the least-considered aspects of owning a pug is the actual cost of caring for one.” Veterinary costs for the first year are estimated to be up to $1000, with an average annual cost of about $450 (pugs live an average of 16 to 18 years). These numbers do not include food, bedding, or toys.

“We’re just getting by,” says Milazzo. “Every surgery that has to be done, we’re watching our pennies.” She adds, “Dr. Martin at the Cuyamaca Animal Hospital in Santee gives us a tremendous break. We’ve never lost a pug with her in five years.”

In 2006, four puppies were found in a high school football field. Milazzo recalls, “These four pups, they all had demodex mange — they lost their fur, they were very itchy. They looked like little Yodas. Two passed, and Dr. Martin took the two that were still alive. She made an emergency room out of her bathroom at home with heat lamps and put them on IVs and had little tiny sweaters on them to keep them warm.”

Dr. Martin said she couldn’t keep the pups as she already had two pugs, so she was given the privilege of selecting the puppies’ new owners. Milazzo says, “When they were five months old and healthy…when that day came, she went home and cried to her husband, ‘I can’t do it, I can’t do it,’ and she’s since adopted them.”

Because of their short muzzles, pugs require anaesthesia for even routine veterinary visits such as teeth cleaning. A common medical issue for the breed is retinitis pigmentosa.

“A big name for something that’s really quite simple,” says McNair. “Pugs, their eyes are protruding, and those little eyelids rub onto the actual eyeball. If their eyes stick out, it causes more pressure to be exerted on the eyeball from the lid. If left unchecked or untreated it can result in blindness or lessoning of vision, but it can be treated with eyedrops, and they’re not expensive. We’ve had a number of dogs come in blind because people were either not willing to spend five or six dollars on the medication or not wanting to take the time to put it in.”

One of McNair’s pugs, named Gumdrop, is deaf and blind. “She gets around the house perfectly — you wouldn’t even know it. She goes to the door like the other dogs. [Blindness] is truly not a problem for the dog. They adapt fine. It’s just a problem for the people.”

Although Pug Rescue does not press for details on a person’s reason for relinquishing a pug, they require full disclosure of the dog’s health and behavioral history. “Even if your pug bites,” states pugbutts.com, the organization’s website, “we will take him/her. A shelter will most likely euthanize a biting dog.”

— Barbarella

Pug K Walk-A-Thon Fundraiser
Saturday, November 8
10 a.m.
Tidelands Park
Cost: $35 for first pug; $10 each additional
Info: 619-685-3580 or www.pugsandiego.com

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