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  • Writer's pictureShari Simpson

Coco & Priscilla (and their Person, Dina)

We fell madly in love with Dina Ruiz, formerly Dina Eastwood (she said we could mention that she used to be married to Clint Eastwood, so we’re mentioning it, like, right off the bat, because, duh), and her current pugs Priscilla and Coco (she’s had eight over the last ten years). What a delightful hooman in general, and the rampant Pug Personhood just puts her over the top. We hope you enjoy her as much as we did, and may you all find a pug eye booger on your hand today (read on and you’ll discover that’s a blessing.)

Dina: Sorry about this beautiful background (gestures toward mildly messy bedroom). Will that be in this?

PP: No, it’s a written interview, not to worry.

Dina: Thank God. Hey, so this is crazy, I was going through all my mom’s stuff—she was the greatest, she passed away three years ago—and I found this picture. That’s my great-grandma with a pug and she was born in 1890, so this has to be around 1895.

PP: Wowwww! Dina, Pug Personhood is in your DNA! That’s incredible!

Dina: I know!

Dina: Oh, hang on… (picks up a pug) This is Priscilla and she’s 17 and by far the neediest of all six dogs.

PP: Needy, but beautiful.

Dina: But look, her eyes are under her nose.

PP: They’re melting down her head from old age.

Dina: And that's Coco, she’s the first dog I ever had. I got her when I was 48, my very first dog. First pug, actually, pugs aren't dogs.

PP: We agree, but your first ever?! ‘Splain, please.

Dina: So, it’s the year 2000, my daughter Morgan is four years old, and it’s a heat wave in Los Angeles. We’re stuck on the 405, it’s a dead stop parking lot and we look to the left, where the door of a VW bus has just slid open for air… and there’s two pugs sitting there. Their tongues are out, their heads are tilted, and Morgan, enraptured, says, “I have to have dat punchface dog.”

PP: Punchface dog! OMP!

Dina: Yep, punchface. Morgan made a book for me about how she needed a pug. She never stopped asking.

PP: We officially adore your child. Do you still have the book?

Dina: Oh, yes.

PP: And you held out on this sweet child for all those years?

Dina: Well, I’m allergic to dogs and cats and so is her father. Her dad and I split when she was sixteen, and yes, I was married to Clint Eastwood—and we may have to soften this for the interview-- but when he left, she immediately said, “Now can we have a pug?”

PP: Mmmm. We didn’t soften it. Because we love it. Do you take allergy pills or shots?

Dina: No, I just deal. It has gotten better as I’ve gotten older.

PP: So, sweet Coco was the first.

Dina: First dog, first pug, and I thought she was lonely so I said we have to adopt Chica, who was twelve and at a local rescue, and Morgan and my husband Scott are like, “you’re crazy, we don’t need another dog”. Then she rested her chin in Scott’s hand and he almost started crying.

PP: Is that Chica in your wedding photo?

Dina: Yes! And she’s immortalized all over the house. There are more pictures of Chica than of us. She wasn’t a dog, she was a spirit.

PP: The pictures make that very clear. She practically floats off the page.

Dina: Even though she was the biggest pug ever. 31, 32 pounds. The vet was a pug expert and never put her on a diet because Chica was just cobby.

Dina: Chica lived to 17 and a half.

PP: Wow, you guys have a great track record with your pugs’ health.

Dina: We can afford the vet bills and that’s the only reason. I want to make that clear. We have no special skills, we’re just so freaking lucky we can afford it. I’m very aware of that.

PP: How old is your cat?

Dina: Oh, we have no idea, he just showed up.

PP: You know we absolutely adore your cat voice. Do you do voices for the pugs too?

Dina: All our pugs had voices. Have you ever seen Harley? She had a tongue out to here, a weird jaw, an arm that never healed, and she sat upright only and watched TV all day and ate raspberries. She had a southern accent. And she smoked. She was hardcore.

PP: Don’t mess with a tobacco and raspberries gal from the South.

Dina: And Mochi was a softball coach from Alabama. We had two southerners. We’ve had eight pugs total.

PP: An Alabama softball coach, lawd have mercy. You’re definitely our kind of Pug Person. So, it was Morgan who was the original punchface lover, but once you had the pugs, what did you start to love about the breed?

Dina: When we adopted the chihuahuas, it became very apparent, quickly, that pugs are not dogs. They shouldn’t be classified as canines. That’s why we do this thing where we say, “Where are the dogs? What about the pugs?” We call the dogs the Snouts.

PP: This is why we think people become Pug People. Pugs are so unique.

Dina: Yep. The absolute weirdness. Speaking of, am I dressed like Ethel Merman? I put on my pug t-shirt, then I thought I have to have something over it. I feel gross.

PP: You look mahvelous, dahling.

Dina: And look at my room in the background. It’s all piss pads and laundry. I’m burning a candle to cover the pee smell.

PP: We adore you. Was there a certain point when you realized that you were a Pug Person?

Dina: The second Coco was put in my arms. Absolutely obsessed. And then Chica, oh my God. And after Winnie and Tango, it was “oh my God, pugs.”

Dina: When we would foster other dogs, Morgan would be like “We’re a pug family, what are we doing?”

PP: Exactly! Do the non-Snouts sleep with you?

Dina: Oh, lord. Coco’s nickname is JoJo Jean and Scott calls her “Lip-Smackin’ Jo”. She smacks her lips constantly and we can’t sleep through it. They sleep in the room next door, in the puggy room. It’s actually Scott’s office.

PP: We respect that. Lip-smackin’ is known to cause insomnia.

Dina: Oh, I have some good trivia for you! Our old vet’s dad was the creator of “The Addams Family” and named the son Pugsley because they had pugs.

PP: Oooh, that is good trivia! We had no idea! Addams Family has always been a favorite of ours and now we understand why. Do you have a favorite story or memory about the pugs?

Dina: Having the two pugs in our wedding was incredible. The officiant brought his pug too, so there were three pugs in the ceremony.

PP: A true Pug Person has a Pug Person wed them. If Coco and Priscilla were celebrities, who would they be?

Dina: Priscilla would be… who’s someone who’s beautiful, but clueless? And old. Would people know who Phyllis Diller is?

PP: Oh, heck yeah!

Dina: And Coco doesn’t care about anything and wants to be left alone.

PP: Greta Garbo.

Dina: That’s it!

PP: Dina, this has been like a festival of fun and we kinda want to come live with you, even with the smell of pee. We only have one more question: what’s your True Pug Confession?

Dina: In our family, we say that if you have an eye booger on your hand, it’s good luck. Because with pugs, you always have an eye booger on your hand.

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