Category Archives: Squad Stories

Milo Day!

by Pug Squad Volunteer Jennifer Popovich

Sometimes you sit back and reflect on why you are here…how did yoMilo!u get here…what is your why…what rules your passion.

As I sit back and reflect on my Pug Squad Journey, it all comes back to this little man. A little pug named Milo.

I was involved in animal rescue before Milo. I was active in a local shelter and fostering special needs animals. A fellow volunteer, knowing that my pugs are my world, reached out to me to ask if I’d consider taking in a hospice foster. That is when my life changed.

Milo was a 10 year old pug with an inoperable tumor in his nasal cavity. That tumor tested positive for Mast Cell cancer. He was given a prognosis of only a few weeks to a few months to live. My heart sank. No animal should die alone and unloved in a shelter. But a pug? My world was shattered.

I immediately agreed. Soon after, this small, meek but full of life pug entered my home and my world. That is when I truly

 learned the goodness of the pug community.

The pug community is a community unlike any other. They rally around all pugs, being there to assist. People from all over the United States donated to this small Pittsburgh based rescue to donate to his care. A wonderful organization named Pug Squad reached out and offered him a mini grant.

Fueled by this outpouring of love, I was determined to make sure that Milo’s limited time was filled with life. I created a bucket list. I wanted to him to make it to Pugs Take Chicago. I wanted him to go to the first Pug Camp. Given his prognosis, I felt selfish to ask for much more.

Yet, the strangest thing happened: Milo thrived.

He survived a few weeks, then a few months, and now a few years. Sunday, March 28, 2021 is the fourth Milo Day. Milo is now 14 years old. He is full of life. His tumor, which is being treated holistically, is shrinking. He’s now just a little old

man pug having little old man pug issues, and I am blessed to still have him here to navigate these basic, normal senior problems. Four years ago I never would have dreamed that would have happened.

While Milo was thriving, I notice that something changed within me. I began to thrive too. I found my true purpose. After receiving the outpouring of love and generosity from Pug Squad, and the pug community as a whole, I decided to pay it forward. I dedicated myself to rescue, helping those with special needs like Milo. I became involved in Pug Squad and now count the other members of my family. I’ve been able to be involved in big things, such as helping to save over 130 pugs from the meat trade in China. I’ve made so many friends, both furry and human and helping fundraise for rescues at Pug Camp. My life has changed dramatically and for the better, all because of one little senior and special needs pug.

Happy 4th Milo Day, Buddy. Looking forward to hopefully many more. Thank you for starting me on this wild and wonderful adventure.

A Personal Pause

 Well, here we are into 2021 and I’m going to be flat out honest, I had a hard time with this blog post. I probably should be talking about Pug Rescue of Korea and a few of the grants we awarded recently. However, I kept hitting road blocks and since this isn’t a “BlogBot” behind the scenes, I needed to pause from the business and talk about something personal.

In the last blog in October, I reflected on the dumpster fire that was 2020. COVID-19 came crashing down. Cancelled events, quarantine, businesses shutting down and the absolutely abominable loss of life.  And then there were the Pug losses. Cosmo!, the Mega E Pup was the kickoff for us, then Bella, Danielle’s best friend and her reason for becoming involved in rescue. This was a huge blow to us all. We miss that Sassy girl.

We hoped to get through the rest of the year unscathed. Why not? We made it ten months into the year, what else could go wrong?

I have learned to never ask that question again.

On November 14th, Jodi and I had a sudden and engulfing electrical fire which spread faster than we could have thought possible. Jodi was able to save Butkus and Kirby, as well as me, but she suffered second degree burns in the process and our home was destroyed. Much worse, two of our treasured pugs, Max and Anthony, were lost in the fire. This is a loss so devastating, I still can’t process it. We had Max since he was a puppy and Anthony, much like Danielle’s Bella, was responsible for us jumping into the rescue world. Max was a Velcro pug who delighted in giving kisses and getting rubs. He was devoted to his mommy but loved his daddy, too. Anthony was well known as the Mayor of Pug Town. He would roam events with his funny saunter and give drive by ankle kisses. He would fall asleep sitting up because he hated missing out on anything. Losing our babies would be horrible in any event, but it wasn’t their time and they took a huge piece of our hearts when they died.


Ever fall into a hole so large and so deep that almost no light can penetrate the darkness? That was us for a time. However, there was a light. A bright one. It was the enormous group of people who rushed to our side whether in spirit or in person, to make sure we were okay. Even when we weren’t much fun, even when the tears flowed freely, they were there.

We never would have gotten though it without our Squad. Let me tell you a little about them.

Many of us didn’t know each other before we got involved in rescue. Most of us came together out of the ashes of Curly Tail Pug Rescue and didn’t have a crap-ton in common at that time. We formed Pug Squad and after a shakedown year and some streamlining, we wound up with a smaller group, but one more focused. And along the way we became true friends.

A few weeks after the fire, Jodi and I secured a rental where we can hang our figurative hats until our home was rebuilt. An empty, unfurnished house. I don’t know if you’ve had to rebuild from scratch, but having to rebuy every household item from the ground up gets old quickly. The weekend after we moved in, our Squad shows up with “a few things for the house.”

A few things, did I say?

Two truckloads of items. Tables, chairs, appliances, silverware, and flatware…almost everything you can think of. They organized a collection and hundreds of people contributed. And they didn’t let us do anything. They set it all up and had lunch delivered.

It was a huge thing. We were in tears.

Did I say we were friends? I was wrong. We’re family.

Jodi’s burns have healed so much better than we expected and while the loss still hurts, we’re moving forward. We’re rebuilding and rededicating ourselves in Max and Anthony’s memory. Honestly, I didn’t intend for this first blog post of the year to be this self-indulgent. However, I couldn’t write about anything else until I had a chance to brag about my people.

To all of you out there who contributed and offered your help, who reached out, who comforted, who sent remembrances, good wishes and prayers, we thank you.

Most of all, thank you my Squad: Danielle, Marianne, Nikki, Shawna, Jennifer, Renee and especially my VEEP Nadine, who checked on me every day for weeks as I went from place to place while Jodi had to deal with her burns. Separated and alone, on my father-in-law’s couch with the two dogs, Nade texted and called daily until I was solid enough to function again. Just know Jodi and I love you all. You are the finest people I have ever known.

The next blog will be more traditional. I promise. May this year bring us greater peace and the ability to help even more Pugs.

Dear Owen

Owen the Curmudgeon, the Also Prez of Pug Squad, and my best friend, left us on January 12th. I was going to write an essay on what he meant to me, but instead, I felt I would like to share a little something that helps me deal with this devastating loss.

Dear Owen,

Time goes by so quickly, doesn’t it? Just over two years ago, my entire life changed forever. You came through the door and we became instant best friends. The next 27 months were filled with fun, adventure, new friends and many, many pictures. I would wake you up just to take another photo. You’d rock every outfit like a pro.

Oh, the fun we’d have. Remember our first trip into Northport? You met a pig at the farmer’s market. Or the time we got ice cream at PetSmart? You were the best, crankiest elf to my Santa at the photoshoots.

It wasn’t always fun. You were cranky. A lot. You hated getting out of bed, being put outside to do your morning business or having your dry nose cleaned. Then, there was our bad patch. I don’t like to talk about that, but it happened. You were mad at me. For what felt like months. You would constantly snap at me if I picked you up, gave you a kiss or looked at you. I was crushed. I was worried. Even Mommy knew something was wrong. We took you to Dr. Johnson, we put you on medications and you still were mad at me. Then came Pug Camp.

Owen wins pajama contest

I don’t know what happened. Maybe the meds kicked in, maybe it was the clear, crisp mountain air, or maybe it was the fun and quality time we spent together, but you came back. The old you. My Owie boy. You had so much fun at the events. You reveled in the spotlight at your Pup Style book signing. You ran your little legs off in the Pug Olympics. Then came my proudest moment; the Pajama Contest. Wearing your bunny PJ’s with socks, you competed with the other seniors and padded across that stage like a champ…AND WON! You took home the prize and I almost cried. That was the best weekend in our lives, because my BFF came back to me. After that, you never left again.

Until you did.

I didn’t see it coming, Owie. I didn’t have time to prepare. One minute I’m cradling you as we walked through the house, looking into your eyes and telling you how much I loved you, making your egg sandwich for dinner and the next, you’re on the floor, gone. No goodbye, no final words. Your little heart just gave out.

You took something with you, a big chunk of my own heart. Letting you go was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I don’t even think I really have. I don’t want to let you go. You were always more than a pet, more than just another Pug. You were my cranky little curmudgeon, my little partner, my best friend.

I’ll miss you forever.

Love always,

Dadums

Dear Dadums,

I’m not really sentimental. So, this is kinda hard for me to write, but whatever. Yeah, time went by really fast. When the lady brought me to the house and we met, I was like “yeah, this is the guy.” I don’t wantcha to get too fulla yourself, but you were pretty okay.

Look, I know I was cranky and snappy. Especially that time I was always mad. I wasn’t really mad at you, Dadums. I was just really achy and I didn’t know how to tell you. I know it upset you and I’m sorry, but what do you want, I don’t do English well. Remember how I’d feel better when we went to bed at night? That’s because you always propped my chin up with your arm and hugged me all night. I wasn’t cranky then, was I?

You were right, though, the camp…that was a lotta fun. And, can I say this? I loved how proud of me you were. I really just wanted us to be pals and have fun and be happy. That weekend was so great and after that, I felt better. Even when I didn’t, I tried not to take it out on you.

You’re wrong about one thing, though, Dadums. We did say goodbye. You remember that night. You had one of your plays. I wasn’t feeling good all day. I just wanted to rest. But, I wanted to see you one last time. I waited for you. You came home, I was so happy. You picked me up and carried me to the kitchen and the whole time, I was looking at you. Remember? You said, over and over, “who lubs you? Dadums lubs you!” You kissed my face a lot. I grumbled, but only because I had a rep to keep up. You made me an egg sandwich just the way I like it. But I wasn’t really hungry. I wanted to lie down. But I knew you’d be worried, so I went to the bowl. I knew you’d feel okay and go do what you had to do. I didn’t want you to be sad. That was my goodbye to you. That was the only way I could tell you how much I loved you.

I know how much you hurt, Dadums. I wanted to stay, but I couldn’t. Don’t be mad, and don’t feel guilty. It was so fast, even I didn’t know it happened. Please don’t stay sad for too long. Just remember all our good times and never forget that you saved my life and made it the best years I ever had.

I’m not gonna say goodbye, because I’m always going to be looking out for you. Whenever you think of me, whenever you smile at me, I’m next to you. Trust me.

Love you, Dadums. And the lady, too.

Your pal forever,

Owen