Which leads me to today's topic of discussion. We've been seeing a lot of pugs at the hospital lately, fortunately mostly for routine exams. For some reason, everyone seems to think that they are the most adorable little creatures to ever bless us with their presence—everyone, that is, except for me.
This is how everyone else apparently sees pugs.
I am a tiny and adorable creature, please love me.
This is how I see pugs.
Now before I get slammed by pug-lovers, which seem to number in the tens of billions, let me explain my rationale. All modern dog breeds are descended from gray wolves that were domesticated roughly 15,000 years ago. Since then, they have been selectively bred to exhibit an astounding variety of physical and temperamental traits.
The relationship of dogs and humans is one of mutual exchange and benefit. Dogs provide us with some form of specialized work or service that we are incapable of providing ourselves, and in return, we provide dogs with food and shelter, which, likewise, they are unable to provide themselves. The vast majority of modern dog breeds adhere to this time-honored symbiosis by protecting us, hunting with us, herding our sheep, getting rid of pests, or even fetching and carrying things for us.
And then there are the toy dogs. As their name implies, they are small. And, as their name also implies, they exist solely for our amusement. They have been refined and pruned over thousands of generations to look as un-wolfish and ridiculous as possible. The quest for their convenient lap-warming size has twisted their proportions, shrinking down their entire physical structure, except for their brains and, for some reason, their eyeballs.
Their poor, poor faces have been squashed beyond all recognition, collapsing their sinus cavity in on itself, and removing the natural buffer between what they stick their nose in (which is everything) and their already bulging eyes. I've seen pugs at our hospital with eyes that have become so dry that they thicken and scale up and become completely clouded over and useless. They're prone to life-threatening infections. One of our regular pugs had to have his eye completely removed because it was such a problem. And even if their eyes are healthy, they're always pointing in completely different directions and look utterly ridiculous.
Please sir, can I have a real face?
Because pugs are brachycephalic, they are prone to breathing difficulties. I don't think I've ever seen a pug that is not constantly making some kind of horrific snorting or sucking noise as it tries to breathe. Now, think back to the last time you laughed so hard you started snorting. Or if you've ever gotten any kind of liquid up your nose. It was kind of unpleasant, wasn't it? Pugs are cursed to doing that for their entire life. Every moment of every day they are struggling to breathe, even in their sleep. I've never met a pug that wasn't constantly choking on its own epiglottis. And because their mouths are too small for their tongues, they're forced to wander around with their cracked and lifeless tongue hanging out forever.
Pugs also have terrible, terrible skin issues. The folds around their faces and their paws are prone to chronic bacterial and fungal infections. They tend to drag their feet, so any time they take a step on pavement, they're making direct contact with the ground without the protection of their paw pads. We're currently treating a pug who drags his back foot so badly that he's developed a huge, thick scab covering an infected wound that goes halfway up to his tarsus and his toenail is completely gone. The area is so degraded that it's beginning to impact the metatarsal bone, and eventual amputation of the digit and perhaps the entire limb is a very real possibility.
People say they like pugs for their personality. I have yet to meet a pug with any sort of personality. They just wiggle. Constantly. They get up in your face and snort on you and wiggle. Then they do a lap around the room and come right back and snort and wiggle some more. They seem like they're constantly in a panic. Maybe because they can't breathe.
I feel sorry for pugs. They didn't ask to be the way they are. But I can't help feeling a little bit of resentment for pug owners. By buying pugs, they're just contributing to the breeding of more miserable, gross little pugs who have to suffer through 10 years of health problems, and also 10 years of pug owners.
Dear god, why me?
But hey, at least they keep us in business, right?
* By "drop-offs" I mean that they were dropped off by their owner in the morning instead of coming in at an appointed time. We generally perform exams on the drop-offs sometime during the day, and give them baths, pedicures, or anything else they might need done, and then their owners pick them back up again in the evening. It's an important distinction, since the only other animals we keep in the treatment area are those that are "hospitalized," which usually means they're there prior to or after surgery, or are sick enough that they need constant care and monitoring.