Arts, Dining & Entertainment, Featured

Pug people gather in Rutland for the ultimate puppy party

By Brooke Geery

Green Mountain Pug Rescue (GMPR) held its annual pug social on the athletic fields of the Rutland Rec Center on Saturday, Sept. 11. The 18th annual meet-up saw nearly 300 people and 50 pups turn out from all over New England and beyond. There was even one pug, Lily, that traveled 586 miles with her people from Sterling, Virginia, to be there.

By Brooke Geery
Posing pugs can be a challenge, funny faces are a specialty of the breed often in costume.

GMPR president Kelly Mazzella, of Milton, is a long-time pug lover and relatively new member of the eight-person board, which was founded in 2002. She said that after many years of holding the party at the Sherburne Library in Killington, and a year off due to the pandemic, the decision was made to move to Rutland for more space.

“It’s a good turnout,” Mazzella said with a smile. “I wasn’t sure what it would be like. The Rutland Community Center was happy to let us borrow their field. They’ve been so supportive!”

The new, larger space enabled attendees to spread out and enjoy the mix of activities offered, she said.

On one end, the smell of burgers wafted from the grill at the “pug cafe” concessions tent, and on the other, a “crap raffle” sign up encouraged everyone to properly clean up after their pups with a raffle entry for every stinky deposit. There was also a silent auction, a 50/50 raffle, several vendors selling pug-themed items and clothing, and a kids’ tent with activities for the youngest human pups. Races and costume contests were held all day, including one to honor first responders on the anniversary of 9/11. Another special event in 2021 was a reunion of six of the 22 pugs GMPR helped rescue all the way from China this year.

By Brooke Geery
Pug man and an actual pug share a nuzzle at the park.

The GMPR board is based throughout Vermont with several members calling the Rutland region home. The volunteers provide temporary support for the rescue dogs in their own homes while they find adopters. Events such as this exist to provide financial support for their efforts, and this year’s social raised around $10,000.


“This is our biggest fundraiser of the year,” Mazzella said, “but it’s a social so it’s a great way for us to all reunite, and it’s a great place for pug people alike to hang out. It’s kind of like a reunion, and we have a lot of new people here today because it’s our first time in Rutland.”

Not every pug GMPR has ever rescued shows up, but many come back year after year. “One pug we rescued 15 years ago is still coming back!” Mazzella said.

Allie Forsythe and Michael Audi came from Malta, New York, with their pug, Sushi. Forsythe said the couple had attended one pug social about five years ago, but this was Sushi’s first event. Audi, who was wearing a shirt that read “I never dreamed I’d grow up to be a super sexy pug dad — but here I am, killing it,” said he was having a great time, too. “We kept saying we wanted to come back and we finally did!”

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