11 September 2014 | The Pug-nundrum | №2

The pug is not exactly a noble beast.
Yes, their lineage is beyond reproach: pugs hail from the Middle Kingdom, bred especially to sit on the lap of Chinese Emperors. It was a pug, Pompey, who saved William the Silent, Prince of Orange (not to be confused with his descendant, William III – the William of Orange who would accept the throne of England in the 1688 Glorious Revolution). The legend says Pompey thwarted the attempt of Spanish assassins to do away with his master by first barking and the jumping on William’s face. Point to Team Pug for loyalty (though whether Pompey was indeed a pug is apparently a contentious issue; the statue of Pompey lacks the characteristic flat face of pugs, leading skeptics to believe Pompey was in fact a kooikerhondje). Regardless, the pug is the official dog of the most noble House of Orange. And Josephine Bonaparte had one. Then Queen Victoria became the breed’s evangelist and pug popularity was forever assured.
But pugs have problems. Their legs are short; they can’t run and any sort of excessive exercise is liable to send them over the Styx. Pugs are prone to obesity. Because of their squashed faces, their eyes and noses are messed up: pugs are prone to sinus infections, have trouble breathing and are constantly sustaining eye injuries. Anyone who has spent an hour with a pug leaves wondering how anyone can sleep with their loud wheezing. Remember, pugs were bred to sit on the laps of Emperors.
And hence the conundrum. Pugs are adorable (yes, indisputable fact). But they’re not really good for anything.
So why get a pug? Answer: unquestionable, unconditional love. For life.
We’re lonely. Social media makes us more active than ever across distances and time, but at the same time adds more space and makes our relationships with one another more tailored. When you get a text message (because, really, calls are increasingly delegated to ’emergency’ only status), your response is not a conversation. Social voyeurism is rampant: people spend more time taking pictures of themselves having fun than actually having fun. At the end of the day, what we want is a spark of something genuine. The utterly happy sloppy pug’s smile.
Maybe we can learn something from the pug. We are too exigent. We have too many dream-like ideals of what we want in any friendship or relationship. Books, tv, movies – they weave tales of the exceptions that we take into our accepted reality as the norm. This idea that our forever-after is out there waiting for us has made us too demanding, and indecisive. Enter the pug: that doppy smile is always there. What am I trying to say? I’m saying embrace the moment for being a moment. Meet that stranger on a the train, have a discussion you will never forget, and don’t exchange contact information. Hug your friends often. Don’t forgive flaws – accept them. We are all quirky, unique and worth discovering. En bref, smile at the world and the world smiles back.
Have you been able to contain a smile when a pug’s two neurons make a connection and it beams in your direction?
So, in review, consider the pug. Advantages: great for small spaces, instagram opportunities galore, loyal, will love you forever. Disadvantages: not really clever, heavy breathing may cause insomnia, health costs. But…that smile.

keywords: social media, loneliness, pugs, unconditional love, real