LATROBE, Pa. - For more than 25 years, rescuing pugs has been a labor of love for Guardian Angels Pug Rescue, founded in 1987 by Latrobe resident Patti Levay.
It was one of the first pug-specific rescues in the country and is run completely by volunteers and on donations. The group frequently rescues pugs from shelters where they may be euthanized.
Volunteer Bruce Parrish, who covers the Burgettstown-Weirton area for Guardian Angels, fosters rescue pugs in his Weirton home and travels across the Tri-State Area to pick up pugs in need.
A LITTLE BUDDY — Herald-Star Copy editor Paul Giannamore, left, petted one of Guardian Angels Pug Rescue’s rescue pugs as volunteer Bruce Parrish talked about the group’s activities. — Summer Wallace-Minger
"We'll go to shelters where there's a high risk of a pug being euthanized," said Parrish. "We will go anywhere to get a pug in danger. Our long-term goal is to have them adopted."
Some of the pugs at the shelter are rescued from puppy mills.
"We have a small pug, she was a puppy mill dog," said Parrish. "When we got her, she was skin and bones and she wouldn't go outside - she didn't know what grass was. I held her and she just shook. A lot of our pugs were in similar conditions."
A late-comer to the "pug life," Parrish said he fell in love with the breed when his daughter received the family's first pug, Daisy, in 2001. The family agreed to foster Sissy in 2002.
"We just couldn't let her go," Parrish said.
The family currently has three pugs and continues to foster one or two at a time.
"They're great dogs with children and they get along great with other dogs and people," he said. "We just love the breed. They're not aggressive, they're very loving dogs. You will never find an aggressive pug. They are good-natured dogs."
Those wanting to adopt a pug through the rescue are asked to go through an application and interview process to ensure the dogs are going to a safe home.
"We want the dogs to go to a home where we feel they will be well cared for," said Parrish. "We will place dogs anywhere - we have someone coming in from New Jersey to look at a pug, and someone in Arizona took one of them. We will place them anywhere we can find a good, loving home for them."
The adoption fee for each dog varies, depending on the dog's age and medical needs. Adoption fees are lower for older pugs or pugs with special medical needs in the need of a stable, loving home. All dogs have up-to-date vaccinations and are treated for heart worms, worms and fleas. Adoption fees support the shelter and the dogs' needs.
"One pug we got had an eye infection, and it cost $1,200 to save the dog's eye," said Parrish. "People always want a younger dog, but the senior dogs are much better for families, they are much more calmer than a new puppy. If you take them for a walk, they're not pulling you, they're relaxed, walking alongside you and they're much more of a lap dog as well."
The organization is in need of volunteers to help with a variety of tasks at the shelter itself. Many of these duties fall to Levay, Parrish said.
"You have to appreciate the work she does," he said. "She does dog grooming and runs the shelter, too."
Volunteers also are needed to pickup and transport pugs from shelters and private homes to the rescue and to provide foster homes for pugs until adoption. Anywhere between four and 10 pugs can be boarded at the shelter, but many dogs are boarded in foster homes to ensure appropriate space, socialization and quality of life for the pugs.
"We have 17 pugs who need to be adopted, and it's a small shelter," said Parrish. "We do have people who have foster dogs staying with them until we find a good home."
The group also is in need of donations to defray the expenses of operating the shelter and the pugs' medical care. The shelter also needs donations of dog food; grooming supplies; accessories; blankets, carpets and towels; toys; and cleaning supplies.
For information on Guardian Angels Pug Rescue, including information on adopting a rescue pug, making a donation to the organization or becoming a volunteer, visit the website at www.guardianangelspugrescue.org, visit the Facebook page by searching "Guardian Angels Pug Rescue" or contact Levay at email@example.com or (724) 537-3466.
(Wallace-Minger can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)