Pugs are cute.
The breed is awe-inspiringly helpless—saucer-eyed and slack-jawed in a way that always seems jolly or afraid. They are probably the only living creature that looks exactly like a Margaret Keane portrait, and we find it impossible not to like them.
Each year for the past 16 years, the Oregon Humane Society has held a block-long parade of pugs as a fundraiser, as it will do again May 22—a tradition begun not by OHS but by the pug's many fervent fans, whose ardor is legend. Your own pocketbook is likely also defenseless against a 100-strong army of the adorable.
Viewed another way, though, a parade of pugs is an unspeakable cruelty.
The big eyes and almost noseless face of the pug come from generations of selective breeding for qualities we find endearing. But as it turns out, those traits also make it very, very difficult to function as a dog. There's at least one leading veterinary professor, a German named Dr. Gerhard Oechtering, who argues that all short-nosed dogs should be forcibly bred with long-nosed dogs to destroy their inferior genetics.
Driven by demand for adorably wrinkled dogs with humanlike features, breeders flattened pugs' faces until their sockets were too shallow for their big, round eyes—and until their palates were adorably compacted into their nasal passages, which they would otherwise use to breathe.
From a pug's very first year, it may have to fight for every breath. That lovable snuffle? The poor dog is drowning in plain air, a lifelong snore that infects every breath. Some pugs are so hard up for oxygen they just fall over and faint sometimes.
Meanwhile, their spines and hips are so weirded up that many of them lose the use of their rear legs late in life. Most can't give birth naturally, so they have to do it like Caesar's mom did—under the knife.
Many pugs are born deaf. And their vision may be fleeting. When a pug sneezes or experiences a sudden impact, there's also a chance their eyes will pop out of their sockets. Not to mention chronic dry-eye from exposure to the air, and irritating rashes amid the face wrinkles.
The same exact qualities that make you love them also causes them to suffer—they're like Kurt Cobain or something.
But one cannot blame the pugs for their misfortune. They are adorable. And even though they have trouble recovering from exercise—which makes even a short march a bit like a suntan contest among the Irish—we will smile warmly when we see them pass by. After all, this year they'll be dressed up as Star Wars characters.
GO: The Pug Crawl is at Portland Brewing Company Taproom, 2730 NW 31st Ave., oregonhumane.org/pugcrawl, on Sunday, May 22. Noon-4 pm; parade starts at 2 pm. $10, kids under 10 free.