This unique rescue group for Pugs keep curly tails wagging, while aiming to change the way people look at this group of animals.
With their jaunty tails and perpetual smiles, pugs are one of the jolliest-looking canine breeds. Despite their whimsical looks, however, they run into the same troubles as a lot of other dogs. Many are bred in puppy mills, and some end up being abused, neglected or abandoned.
But they have a heroine. For the past three years, Drea Peters has been saving and re-homing unwanted pugs through her non-profit organization, Curly Tail Pug Rescue (curlytailpugrescue.org). Ironically, Drea did not start out as a pug fan, although she has always loved dogs. “I have volunteered and been involved with animals and rescues since I was a child,” she says. “To me, a dog always meant mixes and mutts picked from the shelter. I never knew what a pug was until I was given one as a gift at the age of 27.”
Drea’s true journey as a pug rescuer began while she was volunteering with another breed-specific rescue group. She found out that even purebreds are not immune from problems like homelessness, neglect and abuse. “I also learned in great detail about the horrid conditions at puppy mills and their correlation to pet store puppies, about congenital defects and issues with the various types of breeding, and so on. But I also learned about the intensity with which people love certain breeds and the lengths they will go to support them.”
In the summer of 2008, Drea began caring for an unwanted pug puppy that had been born with spina bifida, leaving her hind legs paralyzed. Drea christened the pup Sophia and plunged headlong into raising funds for her medical care. She ignored vets who advised that euthanasia was the only viable option.
Saving Sophia was both grueling and gratifying, and Drea’s work subsequently blossomed into Curly Tail Pug Rescue. As the rescue’s main inspiration, Sophia also became its mascot. The little dog’s story is a symbol of everything Drea aims to accomplish. “Her fiery soul, will to live, unconditional love and heart to fight – her whole story from start to present embodies the organization’s goals and overall spirit of our volunteers,” she explains.
Heart and soul
Puppy mill rescues are a big part of Curly Tail’s work, but the organization also takes in sick or unwanted pugs saved from just about any situation. The dogs are fostered by loving volunteers, rehabilitated with whatever care is necessary, and placed into permanent homes. The organization works primarily with people in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, but it also accepts dogs from across the country. Local adoptions ensure that placements can be easily monitored.
Although most of Curly Tail Rescue’s pugs find new adoptive families, some carry a bit too much baggage to be easily placed. Since no dog is ever euthanized unless it has no quality of life, these special cases go into permanent foster care.
Along with Drea, the group’s volunteers are the heart and soul of Curly Tail Pug Rescue. No one receives a salary; the rescue is funded entirely by donations, and payment is the satisfaction that comes from transforming the lives of both needy pugs and adoptive animal parents. All donations go to pay for dog food, supplies, the sometimes extensive veterinary care needed to rehab the pugs – and to education.
The group’s R.E.A.C.H program is at the core of its efforts. The acronym stands for Rescue, Education, Activism, Change and Hope. “We rescue pugs in need and strive to educate the public about the pet population control problem and its simple solutions,” Drea says. In fact, she sees Curly Tail Pug Rescue as part of a much bigger effort. “The goal is to bring awareness of the sources of animal abuse, irresponsible breeding and neglect. We act as animal advocates to effect change regarding domestic animal population control. We pledge our unwavering commitment to help end puppy mills, and we work together in harmony to bring hope where there once was none.”
Flannery’s rise to stardom
Drea has many heartwarming success stories to share, but the one about a little pug named Flannery is perhaps the best. His mother, Clementine, was rescued from a puppy mill. Drea had no idea that the long-suffering dog was pregnant. Clementine gave birth to a litter while in the rescue’s care, but only one puppy had the strength to survive.
Named Flannery, the pup had his own health problems and required medical care and 24-hour monitoring during the first eight weeks of his life. Drea and other volunteers made sure the plucky youngster had the attention he required. Flannery pulled through, and the group soon got a request to adopt him.
The application came from California, much further afield than Drea would normally allow one of her rescues to go, but she quickly agreed when she found out who it was from – actor and dog lover Robin Williams! Pugs are popular on the big screen in movies like Milo and Otis and the Men in Black series, but in this case, Flannery lets his guardian do all the acting. The pup whose mom barely survived, and whose own survival once hung by a thread, is now a pampered celebrity pet in San Francisco.
Many other pugs also have happy endings thanks to Curly Tail, including mascot Sophia, who is now three years old and thriving. After surgery and extensive veterinary care, she wheels around happily with a cart to support her hind legs, and serves as an inspiration that there is always hope, even in the bleakest situations.
As much as the organization loves pugs, its aims encompass more than just helping a single breed. “We see ourselves as part of a kindness revolution that transforms the way people relate to animals, nature and each other,” Drea says. “In the spirit of giving, we hope to make change and create a ripple effect that goes beyond what even we can see in our day-to-day rescue lives.”