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Friendly, flat-faced dogs gather in style

Photo: Chelsea Thomas At the 18th Annual PugFest Juanita Lopez, a Snellville resident, and her 11-years-old pug Mozart watch competitors in the "Curliest Tail" contest. This was their third year attending the event, which Lopez loves supporting because it raises money for rescued pugs.

Photo: Chelsea Thomas At the 18th Annual PugFest Juanita Lopez, a Snellville resident, and her 11-years-old pug Mozart watch competitors in the "Curliest Tail" contest. This was their third year attending the event, which Lopez loves supporting because it raises money for rescued pugs.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Curly tails were wagging Saturday at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds for the 18th Annual PugFest, hosted by Southeast Pug Rescue and Adoption.

With wrinkly faces and compact, square bodies, hundreds of pugs maneuvered through the crowds with their owners.

"(Pugfest) started out at a SERPA member's house in her pasture. We had maybe 40 dogs and 20 people. Now it has grown to be huge," said Brenda Megel, Suwanee resident and president of SERPA for more than 20 years.

The event hosts many contests, including awards for the farthest-traveled dog, the longest tongue and the most wrinkles. The 2011 "Best Kisser" was a pug named Ollie. Gus was the 2011 "Oldest Pug" at 15 years old. Then, the 2011 "Best Trick" award went to Bunny, who sang and talked in high howls into a microphone.

Pug owners come from far and wide to support SERPA's cause, which seeks to help pugs and pug mixes in need by providing foster homes and an adoption agency. Visitors came from as far as Pennsylvania and Missouri.

"I think it's a great fundraiser for all the pugs that need rescuing," said Ellen Tomy, a previous pug owner and vendor selling her book "A Dog's Life Diet." "It's also a fun way to get to know people and meet other people with pugs."

Although pugs are not allowed to be adopted or sold at PugFest, pugs in SERPA's foster homes are exhibited in a corral. Megel hopes many adoptions result from visitors seeing these available dogs at the event. The tough economy has pushed foster homes to their limit with more dogs being surrendered than ever before.

"We have got a lot of surrendered dogs due to financial difficulties. We have even had two elderly pugs given up because the family went homeless. That was really sad," Megel said.

Raising money for these foster homes is the main goal of PugFest, but the event is also meant as a celebration for pugs and their owners. The most popular crowd pleasers are the two costume contests.

"Pugs are like little clowns. They are very social and love their people," Megel said. "Basically all they want to do is make you happy. They are the perfect little companions."