Instagram and pugs are not worthless, it turns out
29 January 12:47pmCaitlin Knudsen • Milwaukee
I want to tell you about the magical world of the Internet. I often ponder its utility when I read about viral challenges that ultimately yield the next Darwin Award or when celebrities tweet inane things or when people use the Internet to spread revenge porn. I wonder if we’ve created a monster. It’s hard not to look around and see how we live in an episode of “Black Mirror” when you see people making millions of dollars a year posting video clips doing stupid things we saw our classmates do for free in high school.
A recent experience made me believe our technological advances weren’t all for naught. I had an experience that I would consider joyful and evidence the Internet isn’t a terrible cesspool/failed social experiment; we went to a meetup with followers we met through our pug’s Instagram account and it was easily my favorite part of the holiday season. To provide context, we will have to go back two years to when Rosiethebug was first created. We will have to go back to my childhood.
When I was a child, one of my favorite movies was Milo and Otis. The pug in that movie was so adventurous, good-natured, mischievous, comical...I was in love. I begged my parents for a pug, but coming from a family of outdoorspeople and hunters, there would be no toy breed in our house. My family is all about utility and a sleek hunting breed is far more purposeful than a pug. As a teenager and into my 20’s, I would half joke about the future pug I would one day own, eliciting chuckles from my father. Then, in 2016 my boyfriend and I found a pug available at 8 weeks of age and we decided to go for it.
I was financially stable and well overdue for a furry friend in my home. I found out the year prior to this that I was pretty allergic to my cat of seven years (I was waking up wheezing in the middle of the night and had an itchy throat constantly) and had resigned myself to my parents adopting her, sobbing for three days straight at the loss. My allergist had somewhat gleefully announced that I wasn’t allergic to dogs, so I could safely adopt one and be sure I could still breathe at home! Yipee! But, I was in nursing school and a dog would have to wait until I had more time to give.
November 2016, we brought Rosie home with us. She fell asleep in my lap on the way home and proceeded to shit all over our kitchen the first week. Puppies are really adorable, but a ridiculous amount of work. Also, carpet is the worst idea ever when you have a puppy because it will get destroyed. My life changed drastically when we got Rosie. I didn’t go out late anymore. I didn’t sleep in and still haven’t two-plus years later. All of my social plans revolved around whether I needed to be home for Rosie or not. Sometimes I chose to be home for Rosie even when I didn’t have to because she’s far better company than most humans. She’s the love of my life (sorry Joe).
I’ve always been protective of her, maybe too much so. I get pretty anxious when she’s around other dogs because I don’t want her to get hurt. I fully acknowledge the disadvantage her brachycephalic head shape puts her at were she to get in a fight. Don’t get me wrong, she’s plucky. We often call her “Bulldozer Jane”. But, she’s also a lithe 16 pounds and snort breathes through life. She could never be part of a covert operation because you can always hear when she’s coming. I knew I was going to be that obnoxious pet parent and didn’t want to inundate my followers on Instagram with 5,000 photos of Rosie. So, Rosiethebug was born. It was really just a way to log photos we took of her as she grew up. Now, nearing 700 followers, her account has taken off (compared to my measly 170 followers). More people want to see pictures of cute dogs than read my free verse. Go figure.
Through Instagram we’ve found a dozen or so accounts belonging to Milwaukee area pug owners. One of them created a group message and we started planning to meet up one weekend, weather permitting, so the pugs could socialize. Around this time, we adopted a second pug. We were totally open to other breeds, but Finn popped up on a rescue page and we applied right away. I remember our vet saying at one point that pugs are like chips for pug owners: you can’t have just one and she was right. I’m glad we adopted Finn because I think he and Rosie just get each other sometimes. They are soul sisters. This is also why I was excited about the prospect of a pug meetup.
I love pugs so much sometimes it hurts. I grew up in a house with dogs, cats, gerbils, lizards, and guinea pigs. I’ve been around lots of dogs in my life and I believe they are angels. Pugs are like my special guardian angels. I’ve never met more loving and loyal dogs in my life. Being around 10 other pugs is like a dream for me. For years prior to pug ownership, I would tell people heaven to me would be me: buried in a pile of squirming, snorting pugs.
So off we went one Sunday in December to Warnimont Park down in Cudahy. We went into the small dog area and one by one, the pugs arrived. Our Instagram friends range from our Finn at 8 months to a fabulous 12-year-old diva named Marge. They are all different sizes from peanut-sized to thicc. They have all different colorations from fawn to black to silver to brindle to apricot. They have different pitched barks and different running speeds. Just like humans, they are beautifully unique. Yet, one of my favorite things about these meetups is observing how much they are all such pugs, this breed I love.
At one point, a couple bigger dogs entered the holding area and I watched a handful of the pugs all run up the fence and loudly bark at the big dogs. So. Ferocious. Pugs are notorious for thinking they are bigger than they are. Small dog, big attitude. They are all super friendly and I love saying “hi” to each of them whenever we all meet up. They were bred to be companion dogs and perhaps this is the draw for a lot of people: we live in a sometimes lonely world.
As I’ve gotten older, I notice less time spent with friends, more time spent alone or on a computer. These aren’t inherently “bad” things, but anecdotally, I hear a lot of people I do interact with talk about how lonely they feel at times and how they have a want for connection. Perhaps it would be beneficial to spend less time on social media, less time thinking about how we want connection, and more time actively seeking it out. I’m not always the best at this, but meeting other people through the context of a pug meetup felt like a more natural way to do it. Plus, it was essentially heaven for me.
Part of the reason I love pugs (and dogs) so much is because they make it impossible for you to be lonely. Pugs are velcro-like, following everywhere you go and wanting to be part of your life. If I sit down anywhere in my apartment, there’s a good chance one if not both of them will be on my lap within 30 seconds. They are not lone wolf types, generally speaking. They may just be the perfect antidote to my Millennial isolation.