Have a bad case of pug love? Then Saturday's PUGfest at Memorial Coliseum should only add to the infatuation.
The fest returns to Fort Wayne after last year's first-ever PUGfest went smoothly and drew sizeable crowds, said Annie Faircloth, vice president of the Kentuckiana Pug Rescue.
“We were amazed at the response we got,” Faircloth said. “It seemed to be a no-brainer to continue there.”
The rescue began in 2000 in Indiana and Kentucky, earned nonprofit status in 2001, and last year it expanded to Wisconsin. The organization takes in pugs that are unwanted, abandoned, neglected or abused and cares for them regardless of age or medical condition, according to KPR's website, www.kentuckianapugs.com.
“It's our goal, truly, truly, truly, that no pug get left behind,” she said.
About half of the pugs received are due to the struggling economy and its burden on families. Divorce is a big reason, as well.
“I don't know any rescue or shelter that isn't filled to the brim right now,” Faircloth added.
The rescue also takes in pugs from overcrowded shelters that euthanize unadopted dogs and pugs with medical needs that can't be met by a shelter.
Once treated, KPR seeks to place animals with foster families or, ideally, a permanent adoptive family. It adopts out 200 to 300 pugs each year and currently has about 120 to 130 pugs in foster care.
The organization is 100 percent volunteer-operated and relies on four annual events — PUGfest included — to support its work, which costs about $150,000 yearly. Event income is supplemented by animal adoption fees and donations.
Jessica Henry, director of the Allen County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), said events such as PUGfest help match pet-lovers with venues for adoption.
“Every opportunity to get our adoptable animals into the community is something we want to take advantage of as an adoption shelter,” Henry said. “People that love a specific breed are going to be dedicated pet owners and pet parents to adopt from us as well.”
In April, KPR attended the Northern Indiana Pet Expo, which was organized by the Allen County SPCA. KPR returned the invitation for its event.
“This is a big thing for us,” Faircloth said of the inclusion of other adoption organizations. “We really wanted to give other rescues a venue to find their pets a forever home.”
As of Tuesday, the Allen County SPCA had 24 dogs available for adoption, as well as 50 to 70 cats.
Though no pugs were among that group as of midweek, Henry said, the shelter does have a pug/beagle mix, a puggle, available for adoption.
“We're hoping that people will love our animals as much as the animals featured at the PUGfest,” she said.
“Featured” may be an understatement. They're at the center of nearly everything at the fest.
The schedule will include multiple events each hour, including a pug parade, costume contest, races and pug/owner look-alike contest.
There will also be on-site free dog ID microchipping as part of KPR's community service outreach program.
KPR's traveling pug store, the PUGzone, will offer a wide variety of items bearing pugs' mugs.
“If it's pug, I got it,” Faircloth said.
Even with their popularity, Faircloth, who owns nine pugs, said the dogs can be misunderstood.
“A lot of people will tell you they're stupid,” Faircloth said. “They're not stupid. They're stubborn. It's their way or the highway.”
Shirts that KPR sold in 2011 bore the phrase “Rescue. Rehome. Rejoice.”
It a sentiment Faircloth believes perfectly encapsulates the organization's mission.
“Our goal it to find them a great forever home.”