They snort and they snore, shed every day of their life, prefer lounging to running and love their people as much as they love food, which is quite a lot.

"Pugs are the perfect dog for people who don't really want a real dog - or to exercise," said Jennie Pak, the proud owner of two pugs and ringleader of the year-old Missoula Pug Club.

Smash-faced and bug-eyed, these cat-sized lap dogs gather every Sunday at Missoula's Bark Park on Jacobs Island.

When they find each other, the critical mass of pugs transforms into a hilarious pack of friendly, heavy-breathing chaos.

On any given Sunday, you'll find upward of 50 pugs playing, snoozing and begging for a nap at the park. Regulars include Napoleon and Lola. Polly and Kizzie. Buddha, Tshi, Little Bit, Chloe and Cecil Winston.

"My daughter and I were talking one day about how our dogs really should have some friends - and this is what happened," Pak said, laughing with obvious joy. "We have 52 members now, and we have done some fun things - we were in the University of Montana Homecoming Parade last fall."

While the pugs appear to enjoy the outing with like-sized creatures, it's their owners who have the most fun.

"It's a social hour for us," Pak said. "We don't talk about anything serious. You won't find any conversations about what Mel Gibson has said or what's happening with the oil spill."

***

Erik Farnham, proud owner of Cecil Winston, confessed he originally wanted a more manly beast, like a Siberian husky, but lost the battle with his wife.

"She wanted a pug, so we got the pug," Farnham said. "Now the pug sleeps in the bed with us. He's my best friend and I have become one of those people who will chase you down the sidewalk if you have a pug and say, ‘I have a pug, too.' "

Of course, Farnham's love for the breed has grown because of Cecil's unusual skills.

"Cecil's very sporty for a pug," he said. "He runs."

For anyone who needs a reprieve from the heaviness the world dishes out or an excuse to laugh, or who is intrigued by the asymmetrical wonderment of a pug's face, the pug club is the place to be.

Sundays at 1 p.m. at the Jacobs Island Bark Park is where you'll find them, or on the Mountain Pugs page on Facebook.

"There's just too much bad news in the world and pugs make you smile," said Janet Simms, owner of Kizzie and Polly. "They make you laugh and feel adored."

While on his way to the river with his two children and their innertubes, Jonathan Richter smiled at the unusual pack of canines wading in the shallow water.

A huge grin spread across his face when he learned about the weekly assembly.

Walking past, he agreed with his children's comments and announced to the world: "Pug Club is cool."

Reporter Betsy Cohen can be reached at 523-5253 or at bcohen@missoulian.com.

 

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