A drooly Fulton Market party
10/06/2012 4:06 PM
I learned the true meaning of frustration this afternoon while attempting to photograph pugs. Dozens of pugs, running to and fro, like a wild modern dance troupe. But one who’s choreographer had gone AWOL.
The scene was a pug party hosted by Chicago Party Animals in the West Loop. Some 300 to 400 pugs are expected to show up today. Most arrived naked, but a few were dressed in Halloween costumes. Some wore chiffon dresses or jaunty jackets.
This is the second pug party of 2012—there’s one in the Spring and Fall every year. Ben Friedman is the founder of Pug Party, who spoke on behalf of the company’s President and CEO, Curly Joe Friedman.
Being a pug, Curly Joe was unable or unwilling to give me any direct answers, other than a grunt or two. Friedman started throwing pug parties back in 1994 when he was the manager of The Local Option, a bar in Lincoln Park.
“It started out as kind of a joke,” Friedman said. “Knuckles, my pug at that time, worked with me at the bar, and it was his birthday, so we decided to throw him a party.”
The first pug party drew half a dozen pug-celebrants. It became an annual event and started to grow, as pug owners learned of the party, largely through word of mouth. Friedman maintained a sizeable mailing list back then, since it was well before evite and social networking.
At the peak of its popularity, Pug Party drew as many as 500 dogs to one event. The parties still do quite well, which speaks to the popularity of the breed. The pug adapts well to apartment living, is an affable creature and clearly doesn’t mind dressing up in formal attire.
The pug ranked #26 in AKC registrations in 2011. That’s fallen off a bit from #24 in 2011, but in the West Loop, they’re as ubiquitous as hipsters in tight jeans and thick glasses. Today’s pug party was a messy, slobbery celebration of all things pug. I saw one owner with a T-shirt that read: “Keep Calm And Love A Pug.” Another owner had a campaign button with the message: “Pugs For Obama.”
Running Pug Party is a labor of love for the Friedmans (Ben and Curley Joe). They enjoy being around other pugs—well, who doesn’t? They donate part of the proceeds to Pug Rescue. When he’s not planning parties for pugs, Friedman is an accountant, known far and wide for his accuracy. “Benny to the penny” is his motto.
I say good luck to him counting the pugs scampering around at this afternoon’s party. It would be about as easy as herding cats.