2015-12-11 / Community

From pugs grows the love bug

By Ben Meiklejohn
Staff Writer

KENNEBUNKPORT – When Stephanie Salvas first saw the Pug dog her sister got six years ago, she fell in love instantly. Within a year, she contacted a Pug rescue group because she just had to get one of her own. Salvas, a 2000 Biddeford High School graduate, said it wasn’t long before her parents got a Pug, too. Salvas and her parents, Denis and Roxanne Salvas, live in Biddeford, but own a pet store together in Kennebunkport – Digs Divits and Dogs at 2 Ocean Ave.

“Pugs aren’t in the top 10 (of dog breeds), but I’m shocked, because so many people come in that have them and so many people just seem to love their look,” Salvas said. “They seem to be a favorite breed – whether it’s because of ‘Men In Black’ (the movie) or just their look.”

Salvas said she became inspired to use her family’s store to help rescue Pugs after meeting Lori Sirois, who made the home visit before Salvas adopted her Pug. Sirois, of Portland, is a volunteer for Pug Rescue of New England.

Sirois said the “Pug bug” took her by surprise 11 years ago.

“Up until about 11 years ago, I wasn’t even dog-crazy. I didn’t even know what a Pug was,” Sirois said. “I saw one walking down the street and asked questions and have been hooked ever since.”

Sirois, who owns three Pugs, said, “They’re like potato chips – you can’t have just one.”

Sirois started an Instagram account, named Pugdashians, where she posts pictures of her Pugs. Pugdashians now has nearly 11,000 followers.

“They’re big on Instagram. Wherever I pose them, they just stay there,” Sirois said. “People take pictures and love to see them. That’s where I got the name because they’re like the paparazzi.”

Sirois started to make calendars with pictures of her Pugdashians to give to family and friends. That’s when Salvas realized that she could raise money for Pug rescue groups by selling the calendars in her store.

This year, Digs Divits and Dogs is selling the 2016 Pugs calendar with all proceeds going to Pug Rescue of New England. The 2015 calendar funds were donated to Green Mountain Pug Rescue in Vermont.

To raise additional funds for the Pug rescue groups, Salvas said Sirois will bring the Pugdashians to the store 10:30 a.m. to noon Saturday, Dec. 12 and set up a table out front and sit with them. Sirois said her three Pugs pose for pictures well because they are trained and registered therapy dogs.

Passersby want to take pictures of the Pugdashians, and in return, Sirois asks for donations. Last Saturday, during Christmas Prelude in Kennebunkport, Sirois collected $150 in donations for Pug Rescue of New England in just a few hours.

Sirois said she and Salvas helped raise $2,000 last year for Pug rescue groups.

Although her three Pugs have retired from therapy work, Sirois said they were a hit when she brought them to Maine Medical Center and Long Creek Youth Development Center.

Salvas said Pugs have a personality that charms people.

“They’re personality plus, they act like big dogs. They’re big dog personalities in a little dog body,” Salvas said. “All they want to do is be around you. They’re little clowns, they want to make you laugh. They’re such people dogs. I think they are just a breed, that when you see them, everyone has to smile.”

Sirois said there are currently 12 Pugs in the area living in foster homes waiting to be adopted. Sirois said Pugs are rescued from a variety of situations – elderly people who die or have to go into nursing homes, people who can’t afford them, couples getting divorced or newly married couples who start having children. Sirois said Pug Rescue of New England also takes Pugs from animal shelters and places them in foster homes to free up room in shelters. One Pug was rescued earlier this year after being found on the loose in Scarborough without a collar or tag and was never claimed.

“One of my puppies, I call her a foster failure,” Sirois said. “I couldn’t let her go, I fell in love.”

Sirois said the number of Pugs in foster care can fluctuate. Although there are only 12 up for adoption right now, that could change at any time.

“We could have 20 Pugs come in tomorrow,” she said.

Salvas said there are other ways people can help Pug rescue efforts, even if they can’t adopt one. They could foster a Pug or volunteer to make house visits to the homes of people seeking to adopt. Salvas said all money from adoption fees goes to pay medical costs for the dogs in their care. The people who help operate the rescues are all volunteers and don’t get paid for their help, she added.

Next year’s Pugs calendars can be purchased at Salvas’ store for $15, or two for $25, or online at www.pugrescueofnewengland.org for $18 or two for $32.

“They make me laugh, they’re funny little clowns,” Sirois said. “They’re just the love of my life.”

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