The Pug Lady and Johnny Carson

pugsI love pugs. I do. And when I see one on the street I will always stop to pet the pug and chat with the owner, because Pug People are usually a bit crazy.

Case in point. I was at the mall yesterday with my kids: one who was spending his allowance at GameStop, the other who was spending hers at Victoria’s Secret (that’s another blog). I was just the appendage with the car keys.

We were walking through the mall when I spotted an older woman with a pug on a leash at the entrance to Macy’s. Now I’ve seen plenty of  service dogs in the mall with their trainers, and plenty of purse dogs being smuggled about, but I’ve never seen anyone get away with walking a pug in the mall!

I had to go talk to this woman (let’s call her Doris).

Doris was about 80, and the pug looked every bit as old. It was resting on its haunches while its owner chatted up another older couple.

“Excuse me. May I say hello to your pug?” I said. “I have a pug.”

Those are the four magic words: “I have a pug.” Say that to a pug owner and be prepared to be chatted up like you’ve been best friends for 20 years.

“This is Precious,” said Doris as I bent down to pet her pug (all 25 pounds of her).

As I was petting Precious I noticed something odd. She had a harness that said “Service Dog.”

I looked up at Doris and said, “She’s wearing a service dog harness,”  knowing full well what was coming next.

“Oh yes. It’s the only way I can get her into the mall,” she said with a wink. And then without missing a beat she reached into her small clutch and pulled out an old faded picture of  her siblings and their pugs, and pointed to each one, telling me their names as if they were her grandchildren.

She then carefully tucked the treasured pug picture back into her clutch and pulled out another faded photo. This one of herself and her husband dressed int heir finest at a formal dinner.

“This is my husband. He was friends with him.”  The “him” in the photo? Johnny Carson!  THE Johnny Carson having dinner with Doris and her husband. “They worked together,” she said as she slipped the photo back into her purse. And then the topic went right back to pugs.

I stood there and shared pug stories with Doris and the older couple (also pug people of course) for a few minutes more while my kids rolled their eyes with embarrassment.

We finally said our goodbyes, and as I walked off with my kids I thought to myself, who puts a service dog harness on a pug and carries around pictures of pugs and Johnny Carson in their purse? Pug People, that’s who.



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13 thoughts on “The Pug Lady and Johnny Carson

  1. Reply
    Jim - March 21, 2011

    While I get the lightheartedness of your post, who puts a service dog harness on a pug? Inconsiderate people abusing a right granted to the disabled as a sorry excuse to drag their pet to the mall. What you should have done is turn her in.

    If I sound harsh, it’s because I intend it that way. As a service dog user myself I can tell you that the disabled are facing increasing access issues because of people who think it’s cute to slap on a service dog harness and parade their ets around in public. People use service dogs because they HAVE to, not because we think it’s cool. They pull our wheelchairs, pick up items we drop, and call for help should we fall.

    Using a false service dog vest is no better than pretending to be in a wheelchair to get a cool parking spot. Of course the person pretending to be in a wheelchair can get up and walk away. The truly disabled service dog user is left to deal with the distrust created by those that abuse the right granted to those who need it. Trust me, I’d gladly give up my parking permit and dog for the ability not to need both.

    1. Reply
      kellyjo - March 21, 2011


      While I agree with your sentiment, it never crossed my mind to turn in an 80-year old woman because she had a service dog collar/harness on her dog. I would think that responsibility would fall on the mall security staff. It didn’t look like a legitimate service dog harness, so I’m not sure how she was getting away with it anyway.

      Thanks for your perspective.

  2. Reply
    Jim - March 21, 2011

    That’s the issue, as a business they are legally barred from inquiring much more than simply asking if it was a service dog. My point is that you became aware that she was committing a fraud because she bragged about it to you and not only did nothing, but came across in your blog as almost celebrating it. Her age shouldn’t be a consideration. The gloating of how she was circumventing the law (and committing an actual crime to boot) gets people who use legitimate service dogs incensed. Her age just means she knew better, which was obvious by the way she told you what she was doing. People who become aware of this activity should report it, it’s the ony way to weed it out. Pugs CAN be “Service Dog’s” but in this case, the person was not only breaking the law, she was bragging about it.

    FYI It is a violation of Federal, and in most cases State, law to falsley claim a dog to be a “service dog.”

    I accept that you may not be aware of the rules and regulations of Service Dogs in the ADA, but celebrating it isn’t something I could let go of without saying something.

  3. Reply
    Chocula - March 21, 2011

    I think it’s ridiculous that small children – who destroy everything in their path – are allowed in stores but a friendly dog like me, on a leash, is not permitted. Thankfully I can still go with dad to Home Depot. Kudos to the pug lady! It’s not about cheating on the rights of the handicapped. It’s about keeping your family with you instead of locking us up at home or in the car all alone. This issue is not even close to the same as handycap parking. Your car is not lonely if it’s further from the store. I hate it when daddy goes shopping without me. Try to think about this from the point of view of dogs. Our Humane parents do.


    PS: I am a Frenchie and therefore part pug.

    1. Reply
      kellyjo - March 22, 2011

      Chocula! Thank you for pooping, I mean commenting on my blog. ;^)

      My pug Lili loves going to Home Depot. The older folks there always stop to say hello, and they usually have treats in their Home Depot aprons.

      If you’d like to take Chocula to a nice dinner some time you can eat al fresco at Zeppo in Lake Oswego during the warmer months. They are very dog friendly.

  4. Reply
    Glenn - March 22, 2011

    You know…

    My old junior college speech teacher Mr. Clark rolls in his likely not yet grave when he even thinks one of his students may have used that term, a particularly overused and vile new piece of the English language… You know?

    But I digress… or is it regress? What day is it?

    It should be “because pugs are cute AND their owners are a little crazy” – maybe. Or not. I guess it depends on the taste of humor the context and the people involved.

    It really pisses me off when young people ignore the rules and common courtesy and park in a handicap spot. Really it does. It really pisses me off when people litter too.

    But – I’m also thinking an 80 year old lady also earned the right to bend a rule or two. No harm, no foul, and lots of smiles to WAY more than make up for the minor transgression.

    There are after all dictators to bomb, nuke plants to prevent from melting, globes to un-warm, pugs to pet, and 80 year old ladies to share an ever fleeting extra smile with in a complicated world.

    Always nice to read the chocolate.

    1. Reply
      kellyjo - March 22, 2011


      I only had a short exchange with this woman, so I don’t know her whole story. I got the feeling she had lost her husband and that dog was all she had left. It was very well behaved and wasn’t in anyone’s way or causing any problems. For all I know the woman was legitimately handicapped. I didn’t ask. I’d much rather see a well behaved dog on a leash in a mall than a yappy rat dog in a purse.

  5. Reply
    Ally - March 22, 2011

    Funny how we all can read the same thing and come away with something different.

    I felt your story wasn’t about “celebrating the breaking of the rules and regulations according to the ADA” but that it was about the weirdness or kookiness of the dog owners, particularly puggies.

    Talk about weird… last thing I thought of last night was- I wonder if KJ’s been ninja dating 😛 And here you are!

    1. Reply
      kellyjo - March 22, 2011


      It definitely was just about having this Twilight Zone experience in the middle of the mall. :^)

  6. Reply
    Jim - March 22, 2011

    Obviously the point hasn’t gotten through, and that is fine. As for the “no harm no foul” remark, you don’t think because of people like this woman, and now this blog, that others will say “hey, what a great idea” and do it themselves? Of course they do, which is how this has become a problem in the first place. Which is why we shouldn’t be celebrating people doing it.

    I get it, pugs are cute. That’s nice. But in the original post KJ went out of her way to point out that this was NOT a Service Dog, and later defended it saying she didn’t feel it her place to tell someone, even the woman, that that was wrong.

    Just curious, what other laws do I get to break when I turn 80? These things DO hconsequencesnces and people like myself DEAL with thconsequencesnses every single day. Your utter failure to at least acknowledge that point says all that needs to be said.

  7. Reply
    Karen - March 22, 2011

    I for one must agree with Jim here. People who are disabled have a hard enough time getting into places. The last thing they need is some idiot bragging about misusing a fake service dog, regardless of how old she is or cute the dog is. Sometimes it may be hard for us to understand it but thing like this directly affect the public trust of what a service dog is, which then causes confrontations with legitimate service dog owners who are just trying to go about their business.

    Jim, I don’t think KJ means to come of as flippant as she does over the issue, at least I hope not. I have witnesseded this with my sister and her service dog, who is a German Shepard. She is always confronted by store workers but they usually back off. One person at the mall told her he was sorry, but so many people try to pass off pets as service dogs that it has become a problem. That statement was reinforced by thJusticeie Department when they changed the definition of service dog March 15, 2011.

    Most dogs are pets. While they have some emotion, dont care if they are left home, until humans bring them everywhere wth them and conditon them as substitute children. Pets are just as happy to hang out at home and chew on their favorite bone or sleep. Certaily that is a better option than ascribing human emotions to your pet and breaking the law. Even if you accept that a pet has human emotions, do you drag your mother with you every place you go? When your mother did it to you did you like it? Get real guys. I love my dog like no other, but I would never consider tramppling someone else’s rights to bring her into a store.

    1. Reply
      kellyjo - March 22, 2011


      Yes, the blog was just meant to be a lighthearted look at a chance meeting in a mall.

  8. Reply
    Chocula - March 23, 2011

    Yah, Humans over-react a lot. The service dog “issue” is well known – that’s why the post office sign specifically says only “seeing eye” and “hearing ear” dogs are allowed, not other service dogs. No matter how bad the service dog “issue” gets, no one is going to deny those truly in need. We ARE substitute children so this “issue” is completely understandable and is not going away because of complaints on a blog. Now stop whining and tell me how cute I am! Ruff!


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