The puzzling appearance of Tina the Pug

UPDATE:  12/4/15 

Dear Readers – especially those of you who arrived here via a search engine in search of “pug service dogs”:

This has been a popular post throughout the years.  (Weird, but true.)

I would like to sincerely offer my apology for this post.  When I wrote it eight years ago, I thought I was merely describing an amusing situation I encountered at the grocery store while shopping with my 4-year old.  I had never seen a pug who was a service dog and due to the circumstances, assumed that Tina the Pug’s owner brought her with him because he loved her dearly, not because she was an actual service dog.  I had no idea that pugs could be service dogs.  I thought she was a fake.  I admit it.  I did.  I had never met a pug who was a service dog.  (And, I’d like to note that I have never met one since.)

Listen.  I’m not the only one who is curious about the plethora of service animals.  Here’s a whole article in The New Yorker:  Pets Allowed:  Why are so many animals now in places where they shouldn’t be? 

But I said it first, way back in 2007 and ever since, very upset pug owners have written to me and left unhappy comments and read this blog post and become furious with my ignorance.  I’ve been the recipient of a lot of venom from hostile pug owners.

So, I’d like to say, I am sorry.  I’m sorry I didn’t understand that Tina the Pug was a real service dog.  I’m sorry I expected service dogs to wear official vests.  I’m sorry that I made light of the fact that I encountered a pug wearing a pink shirt who was actually a service dog.  I really am terribly sorry.

And not just because I received the following message to my personal Facebook page.  (I took the liberty of including it here in its entirety without censoring it, though I omitted the author’s name for obvious reasons.)  I am deeply sorry for the loss of Tina the Pug and I send my sympathy to her owner, even though he hates my guts for posting this silly blog post so many years ago.  I meant no disrespect in the first place.  I like dogs!  I like service dogs!

So, once and for all, I apologize for my post and for my lack of knowledge about pugs as service dogs.  I know better now.  (If you’re curious, you can read government rules about service dogs here.)

Nov 20th, 11:59pm

I just want you to know that you are an absolute CUNT for accusing me of having a fake service dog that was a pug. You’re a total incompetent bitch and my physical therapist made my female pug a service dog because she saved my life during a staph infection. Your comments are vile. This was in Washington State in 2006/2007. Her name was Tina. She wore lots of pink clothing. Pugs can’t wear a vest. So they give us an ID tag with her picture on it. She was allowed to go everywhere with me. She died 7 weeks ago of cancer. And I am dumbfounded by your ignorance. This was in Lakewood/Tacoma. If this isn’t you please forgive me. After her death I decided to google her and she showed up on your blog or FB. Whomever it was needs to know they are evil.

Still, this was a pretty mean message to send a stranger on the Internet, don’t you think?

And now, for the original post from May 16, 2007: 

My 4-year old daughter and I dropped off the boys at the YMCA for P.E. this morning and then drove to the grocery store.  I had a page of coupons from the Sunday paper and an intention to shop quickly so my little girl couldn’t ask for too much junk food.  I added to my grocery cart the following extraneous items:  yogurt fruit snacks, Sponge Bob crackers, a handful of yogurt pretzels from the bulk food bins, a candy bar.  Ridiculous, I know.

We’re standing in line, then.  By some miracle, she’s sitting in the cart rather than wandering like a free-range chicken.  And then a man walks by with a dog on a leash.  Seeing a service dog is not unusual at this store–I’ve seen a service dog tethered to a wheelchair on a semi-regular basis.  But today?  Today, the dog walking by on the leash is a Pug.  A Pug in a pink shirt, as a matter of fact.

My daughter leaned over and said to me, “Can I pet the dog?” and I hemmed and hawed and the man heard her and so I said, “Can she pet your dog?” and he said, “SURE!” and picked up that bug-eyed Pug so she could reach it.  Then he said, “Her name’s Tina.”

That man stood too close to me with his Pug.  My daughter petted Tina’s back and asked about the harness.  The man answered eagerly and I thought, okay, enough, put down the Pug!

While I unloaded my items onto the conveyor belt, I could hear the man talking to a woman in the adjacent line.  I couldn’t hear her, but I could hear him explaining about Tina and how she doesn’t usually wear her vest that indicates she’s a service dog.  He went on to explain that Tina loves to go places, and that her favorite destination is IKEA.

Okay, first of all, a PUG?  As a service dog?  Seriously?

Secondly, everyone and their five-year old knows that service dogs are not pets (they don’t wear pink shirts, I’m guessing) and no one is allowed to pet them.  Unlike Tina.

Yet, if Tina hadn’t strolled through the store in her pink shirt, I’d have nothing to blog about today.  So, thanks, Tina!  Who knew pugs could be service dogs?!

* * *

January 10, 2010

Nearly three years later, I still get comments on this post and some of them are vicious!  Apparently, Pug owners are a feisty bunch and they do not appreciate my comments about Pug service dogs.  Relax, Pug Service Dog Owners!  I’m not personally insulting you, nor am I saying that your particular Pug (who is adorable, I’m sure) isn’t a valid, Real Service Dog.

All I’m saying is that I seriously doubt that Tina the Pug was a service dog.  I am familiar with service dogs and I know that no one is allowed to pet a service dog while it is working.  And furthermore, if the dog isn’t working, it shouldn’t be in a grocery store.  I’m not saying Pugs can’t be service dogs.  I’m not saying your service dog didn’t save your life and discover the cure for cancer.  Far be it from me!

So, simmer down.

UPDATE AGAIN (February 26, 2014):

People continue to visit this post through Internet searches pretty frequently.  And today I heard the guys on the radio talking about service animals.  I can’t find the specific story they were talking about, but it was similar to this:  “Fake service dogs a growing problem . . .”

16 thoughts on “The puzzling appearance of Tina the Pug

  1. A Pug. I’ve never in my life seen a tiny dog like a pug as a service dog. Hmmmmm, sounds suspicious to me too! lol.


  2. Of course I’m with you… seriously doubting she was a service dog as I’ve never ever in my life seen a Pug service dog – never seen one allowed to wear a pink shirt and ummm, did he even have a medical bracelet on or anything to make you think he needed one?


    So the fact that he lied about it… I would have called him on it. LOL. But that’s just me. 😉


  3. Hah! I wonder what services Tina provides? I have a little dog I am gonna babysit, maybe he can do services! Did the pink shirt say anything like “Service Pug”? I could make a dog shirt…


  4. Not that you asked, of course, but my husband does all our shopping (with our 4-year old and 8-month old in tow). His rule is that the 4-year old can pick any one item to add to the cart. It keeps her busy through the trip, deciding, and she knows the rule, so there’s no extra begging.

    Always there with unsolicited advice, lol.


  5. Real service dogs are rolling their eyes and cringing right now.

    Recently we saw a woman at one of Denver’s most upscale malls pushing a small white dog in a stroller. Her baby, I guess.


  6. Bubbles! Bring unspillable bubbles for the child! Oh, wait. That was a trick for my three-year-old. Yours will see right through the ruse. Thank heaven for Tina.


  7. Well, if you make a trip on over here to Venice Beach, CA, you’ll see dogs in strollers, in purses and in BABY BJORN’S and other ‘baby wrap’ contraptions. It’s quite wacky. There are lots of Pug’s here too, but no ‘service’ Pugs.

    And, on the 4-yr-old putting extra items in the cart: whenever my son (also 4) declares that we need something and then I ok it and it goes into the cart, he has such a look of accomplishment on his little face. Thanks for sharing.


  8. i agree…
    i just went to the mall the other day…dogs everywere..what is going on in the foodcourt..dont you think its a health issue foodstore with dogs come on


  9. Actually, I have a friend who lives in NYC and she has a dachshund named Lucy, who is her service dog. Melissa uses a wheelchair/scooter but Lucy is her service dog in that she alerts Melissa when her blood sugar is too low or she’s going to have a seizure. So, really, small dogs can be service dogs. PS – Everyone pets Lucy “The Dachshund Diva”, she expects (demands) it, but she still takes her service dog job quite seriously.


  10. I am sorry to say but I am very upset by this blog that I came across. My sister is 10 years old with Asperger’s Syndrome (high functioning autism) and she has a pug as a service dog. She has a red vest with matching color and leash that all say service dog. She is registered with SARA (the national registry which is not a requirement) and we have records from my sister’s specialist stating the dog is medically necessary. But it’s people like you that make our outings difficult because people think we are just trying to take our pet out as a service dog when our pug is actually a service dog. Thank you for allowing me to vent.


  11. Our much loved pug of 15 1/2 years was a therapy dog and brought smiles and laughter to the elderly in retirement homes for many years. She received invitations for special holidays and events at numerous homes in the County. Yes, there are therapy/service dogs and pugs are a natural… Unfortunately, she died several years ago and we miss her. A new pug puppy has taken her place; hopefully, she will also have the temperament to go through the program when she’s older.


  12. I just stumbled across this – I realize it’s an old post, but I had to respond.

    I have a service dog. A Pug service dog.

    I’m a brittle diabetic, and he alerts me when my glucose levels are in the extreme levels. He has prevented many hospital trips.

    As for the petting part – sure, sometimes you can pet a service dog. Your daughter did the right thing by asking first. My dog (same with most service dogs) is not to be petted when he is in harness, but it’s fine otherwise.

    The world of service and therapy animals has evolved – it’s no longer strictly for labrador seeing eye dogs. There are mini horses, monkeys and all sorts of dogs in service.


  13. Pugs are being used as hearing dogs with Paws with a Cause service dogs headquartered in southwestern Michigan. Although not a usual choice as a hearing dog they proved they are capable of learning the tasks and reliable enough. But they are required to always wear there capes. This guy has a pet dog he obviously passes off as a service dog and the store or someone with a service dog should report him to the cops.


  14. I have a pug that I trained as a service dog myself. It’s considered rude to ask to pet a service animal, but I usually do let people if they ask. And no, they do not have to wear a service dog uniform. As long as they perform a specific task they are considered service animals. Mine retrieves dropped objects and provides emotional support, as I have social anxiety disorder and lupus. The store owner may ask for a doctor’s letter declaring that the owner requires a service dog, but no more. No demonstration of services and no uniform is required.


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