The Aspen Princess: In pug we trusted (and still do) |

The Aspen Princess: In pug we trusted (and still do)

Alison Berkley Margo
The Aspen Princess

“I am getting a pug,” I told Ryan. “I don’t care what you say.”

Naturally, Ryan was adamantly opposed to me getting a toy breed. He was, after all, the proud owner of George, a sweet, well-trained, 107-pound German shepherd that looked like he could tear me limb from limb if he felt like it.

“You are not getting a pug,” Ryan would reply.

Until one day, after months of fertility doctors and acupuncture and energy workers and enough Clomid to drive me half insane, we found out I was pregnant. The impossible was possible; I could get pregnant after 40.

Around nine weeks, during an ultrasound, I found out the pregnancy was not viable. The doctors suggested I have surgery to remove it, as if it were a mole on my chin and not my heart, my dream and my future. There was a piece of me that died right along with that almost-baby.

After spending god knows how long in a deep depression, I woke up one day and told Ryan I was getting my pug. It was like an epiphany: A pug would be the only path out of the darkness.

I had wanted one of these ridiculous-looking dogs for as long as I could remember. They are known as the clowns of the dog world, which couldn’t be more appropriate. After all, I’d always been a clown myself, always the funny one. That worked out well for me, especially in high school because I was liked by everyone. The popular girls weren’t threatened by me, the nerds felt comfortable around me, the smart kids admired my wit and I kept the jocks entertained out on the field.

Anyway, they say your dog is a representation of you, and that couldn’t be more true of the pug. They are short, fat and irresistibly cute.

So when I saw the pug, I knew it was my breed.

Whenever I ran into someone who had one, I would ask them about it.

“They have tons of health problems and they can’t really breathe,” one guy told me outside of Cafe Ink. “But other than that, they’re great.”

But when I woke up that morning in late summer 2012 and actually wanted to get out of bed for once, I didn’t care about any of that. I’d already taken risks and lost. As my body and my mind swirled in confusion with hormones run a muck, logic was not one of my top priorities.

So I began to do my research. I called every AKC-certified breeder in the state of Colorado and tried not to cringe when I learned my little fat, flat-faced baby would cost upward of $1,200.

“There’s a breeder in Kansas who just had a litter of fawn puppies,” a breeder from Montrose told me.

So I reached out to the woman from Dust Storm Pugs and told her my whole sob story. I was not beyond using it to my advantage. I wanted one of those dogs.

She immediately responded to tell me she had one puppy available. “She likes to stick her tongue out,” she wrote. “She’s cute as can be and very sweet.”

Her name was Angel.

That weekend, we hopped in the car and made the 10-hour drive to Garden City, Kansas.

“Should we book a hotel?” Ryan asked.

“Dude, it’s the middle of nowhere. I’m sure we’ll have no problem getting a room,” I said.

The drive was hell. It rained, well, cats and dogs as soon as we hit the high plains, a blinding deluge pelting our windshield for hours on end. I was happy to have Ryan in the driver’s seat in more ways than one.

When we finally got to Garden City, which is apparently known for its meat-packaging industry, the air was thick with something between urine and skunk. I gagged just walking from the car to the bathroom in the gas station. How could anyone live with this smell? It burned the inside of my nostrils. I forced myself to mouth-breathe. I hoped I hadn’t made a huge mistake.

Despite the smell of death lingering in the air, the first hotel we tried was booked, and so was the second. Apparently there was some kind of baseball tournament going on. Finally, we got the only room left, a royal suite at the Hilton. Luckily, in this part of Kansas the most expensive hotel room is still under 200 bucks.

The breeder lived in Cimarron, about 20 minutes outside of this strange city. Ryan got pulled over for speeding on a road so straight that it almost seemed to catapult upward, like it was the route to the moon.

At this point we were for sure on some kind of quest.

The breeder’s house was odd and smelled like dog pee.

“Angel is dead!” a little red-headed girl announced upon our arrival, like something out of a horror movie.

Her mother laughed. “Oh, stop that. It’s just that we love her so much, the girls don’t want to let her go.” She gently scolded her daughter and told her to get the dog.

I was given a contract so elaborate you would have thought I was adopting a child. I confessed I’d be renaming the dog after my grandmother.

“Don’t tell me: You’re going to call her Gertrude,” the husband said.

Gertie seemed to know she was ours from the start. She slept the whole way home and hardly complained. She slipped into our lives like she had been here all along.

And ever since she arrived, she has glued herself to my side like it is her job.

There are times I have wondered if Gertie is the reason all my dreams have come true. There are people who say that “dog” is god spelled backward, but they have it wrong.

God is spelled P-U-G.

The Princess celebrated her 47th birthday yesterday. Can you believe it? Email your love to

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