I Wanted a “Perfect” Pug. Instead, I Adopted Quirky, Lovable Sampson!


I grew up in an immaculate home without pets — no fur, no slobber, no questionable smells. Only aromas of fresh laundry and Clorox filled the air. To date, my mom’s idea of a pet is the petite desert turtle, which she lovingly named Princess, who appears in her backyard from time to time. When I graduated college, I knew my own family tree would include furry children.

I was on a mission to become a pet parent. Step one: Adopt a dog.

I was ready to adopt, but first I had to accept that I was a Pug person. (Photo courtesy Virginia Nelson)
I was ready to adopt. Little did I know I would become a Pug person. (Photo courtesy Virginia Nelson)

The decision was easy — who wouldn’t want a sweet, tail-wagging companion in life? And determining breed, size, activity level, and personality would ensure a happy human-canine coexistence. I started with process of elimination. Backtrack to my sophomore year in college when my brother asked me to puppy sit his Weimaraner, Red. Red was 80 pounds of pure muscle and energy, and he came with a dog crate the size of my apartment kitchen, as well as a penchant for using my bedroom as a toilet. After this quick trip down memory lane, I realized large-breed sporting dogs were out of the running for me.

Luckily, for dog-choosing purposes and many others, I met my husband-to-be that same year. Brock grew up with Pugs and raved about the breed. Knowing he would be the secondary caretaker of my furry child, I followed his suggestion and did a Google search on Pugs. First-page results proved the breed fit my personality — they are undiscerning epicureans, huge fans of sleeping, and weirdly lovable.

My future husband, Brock, was already a Pug person. (Photo courtesy Virginia Nelson)
My future husband, Brock, was already a Pug person. (Photo courtesy Virginia Nelson)

I embraced the idea of a perfectly flat-faced, curly-tailed, and fawn-furred Pug. My search led me to the Arizona Pug Adoption & Rescue Network. Looking through the list of adoptable Pugs, I saw they came in all shapes and sizes. Some were one-eyed, some were pudgy, and many wore diapers. I wondered if this rescue just had a big heart for special needs dogs or if the breed itself was prone to health issues beyond my financial capabilities. Regardless, I was committed to caring and loving my future Pug baby no matter what.

Scrolling down the long list of Puglets, a little fawn guy named Charlie caught my eye. He was 2 years old, with perfect markings. In the Pug world, markings are a big deal. The black Pug mask, made famous by the Men in Black dog, is what gives the breed that quirky, clown-like expression. Their seemingly constant state of confusion, which makes Pugs so endearing, is attributed to those large, deep forehead wrinkles. Charlie was perfection, according to the American Kennel Club, as well as my idea of what a Pug should look like.

This is not the Pug I had in mind. (Photo courtesy Virginia Nelson)
This is not the Pug I had in mind. (Photo courtesy Virginia Nelson)

I filled out my application with the rescue and was approved to adopt, but it first wanted me to meet Charlie at an adoption event to make sure we’d be a good fit for each other. I arrived at the event with Brock, feeling nervous and slightly apprehensive, but mostly hopeful. I was about to bring home a little furry being, a life who depended on me for food, shelter, and love. No biggie, right?

Something happened before the adoption event, and Charlie had gone home with another family, only I didn’t find out until I was at the event ready to meet and take him home.

But, like most things in life, it all worked out. Within the walls of the wire playpen, the available Pugs romped around in a grumble of five to six fawn Pugs — snorting, running in circles, and tripping over one another as they are wont to do. Off to the side was Sampson, a little black Pug with the saddest eyes. The adoption attendant picked him up and handed him to Brock. He just melted in his arms. Without hesitation, he said, “I like this one.” And he was ours.

Sampson in his younger years. (Photo courtesy Virginia Nelson)
Sampson in his younger years. (Photo courtesy Virginia Nelson)

In an ironic twist, Sampson chose me as his favorite. Brock never ceases to remind Sampson who saved him from the Pug pen, but Pugs excel at selective listening. Since he came into my life, I have a shadow everywhere I turn. Though Brock is responsible for feeding him every morning, Sampson never neglects to give me a big Pug kiss before breakfast, and the pitter patter of his feet follow my every move.

At first sight, Sampson was the opposite of the Pug I had imagined adopting. He wasn’t the typical fawn-coat, black-mask, perfect-markings kind of Pug. Nope, he’s a full-black-coated Pug with a tongue too big to fit in his mouth (you’ll likely find him letting it all hang out Gene Simmons-style). I can’t imagine life with a perfect Pug now, one without Sampson’s little quirks and excessive acts of loyalty. Even his Puggy aromas take over the house and make it feel like home!

Did you ever adopt a dog who was different than the one you had in mind? Let us know in the comments!

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About the author: Virginia Nelson is a freelance writer physically located in Phoenix, Arizona, but living in a Pug state of mind. She dreams of someday owning an acreage where a grumble of Puglets can roam free. Until then, her Pugs, Sampson and Tyrell, rule the household with the help of her husband, Brock. Virginia is also a digital content marketer, world-class napper, and has earned the elite title of crazy Pug lady among friends and family. Get your fill of all things pug by following her on Twitter.

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