Pug Rescue of Northern California (and their Person, Steve)
Updated: Mar 23, 2022
The Tales of Pug People has the deepest respect for those who rescue, foster, adopt, fundraise for and volunteer to serve the most vulnerable animals, so we were thrilled to have a conversation with Steve Visperas, President of Pug Rescue of Northern California. Steve was lovely, as were the myriad of pugs walking around in the background of our Zoom interview; proof that this man and his partner, Jason, practice what they preach. You can find PRNC on Instagram at @PugRescueOfNorthernCalifornia and donate at www.pugpros.org/donate/
PP: Okay, Steve, before we get into the nitty-gritty of PRNC, let’s get your origin story. Have you always been a Pug Person?
Steve: I've always loved pugs and wanted one from the time I was a kid. But my parents loved Dobermans.
PP: That’s like the polar opposite of a pug!
Steve: Exactly. They were big animal lovers, but they thought pugs were ugly.
PP: Knife to the heart! We just don’t understand how anyone could think that.
Steve: I know. When we have our adoption fairs for PRNC, you’ll hear people walk up and say, “Oh my God, these dogs are so ugly,” and I just have to bite my tongue. I want to say, “look in the mirror”, but I don’t because I’m the President and I can’t. We do have some volunteers who say, “They’re not for everybody, but we think they’re gorgeous.” I just don’t think you could find a cuter dog than a pug.
PP: You know we agree with that about a thousand percent. So, did you get a pug right after you moved out of your childhood home?
Steve: Well, first, I bred Persian cats for a number of years--
PP: Hmm, there’s a theme here of anti-pugs.
Steve: Then in 1998, I met my partner Jason and he always wanted a pug too.
PP: A match made in Pug Heaven.
Steve: So, we got our first two pugs from a breeder, Malia and Keoni. I know this sounds crazy, but we didn’t even know about rescues back then.
PP: You waited a long time. Did pugs live up to the hype?
Steve: Oh, most definitely. We fell in love. Then we came across Pug Rescue of Sacramento—that’s the old name of PRNC, we changed it two and a half years ago—at an adoption event at a local Pet Food Express. And a woman had just surrendered her pug, Buddy, and it was so heartbreaking, he kept staring at the door, waiting for her to come back.
Steve: She didn’t want to, but he had terrible allergies and was on all this medication and wasn’t getting better. She spent thousands and thousands of dollars and finally the vet said it was probably because she lived out in a farm community with all the hay. So, we adopted Buddy and in six weeks, he was on no medication at all. We still have him! He’s 14. And we became friends with her, so she was able to get updates on him.
PP: Oh, what a wonderful ending to a sad story! So, that started your relationship with the rescue.
Steve: Yes, first we volunteered for two years. The president of PRNC and her husband were in their 70s and needed to retire, so I became vice-president at first, then took over as president. And I’ve not looked back, as they say.
PP: Gradually sucked in by pug love. Tell us about the rescue, do you have a shelter?
Steve: Some rescues have facilities, but we’re strictly foster home-based. People call us, either an owner surrender or a shelter, I’ll get all the details and we go pick up the pug. Then I call the fosters. I know which families like to foster which kind of pug, some love seniors, some love puppies, some do hospice. Like Michelle at the Pug Hotel, she takes our seniors, she’ll take pugs that are not adoptable and keep them until they pass on. We currently have about 25 foster homes.
PP: We adore Michelle and Pug Hotel. Steve, this sounds like a tremendous amount of work. But it isn’t your actual job, is it?
Steve: No, I work full-time. So, I do the rescue after work, during lunchtime, and on weekends.
PP: This is amazing. You are amazing. We want to cry. Do you keep any of the sweet babies yourself?
Steve: We foster two pugs for the rescue, then we have a hospice pug, Daisy, she has a severe collapsed trachea, and another pug we rescued and adopted, Leilani. She was found at only nine weeks old and she had rocks in her belly because she was eating them for food. Poor baby, she was a hot mess. The sad stories, we always fall for those.
PP: We’re falling for all of it. And then you do adoption events for all the pugs you’re not able to fit in your house?
Steve: Ha, yes. We’re rescuing at least 85 to 100 dogs a year and we do adoption fairs twice a month; those are huge events, as well as the fundraisers. We have a great relationship with Pet Food Express, they’re completely committed to rescue.
PP: We know the fundraisers are extremely important because this is a very expensive endeavor.
Steve: The vet bills alone...
Steve: We’ve had a couple of puppies with liver shunts and that’s a very long and costly process. All the testing, special foods and medicine, the surgery. We had one sweet pug, Dolly, that had the worst skin disease I’ve ever seen in an animal. When I first saw the pictures of her, I cried. We did a fundraiser for her on Facebook and almost didn’t put the photos up because they were so graphic. But she’s doing great now, she’s gorgeous!
PP: Oh, we love the success stories. You must have some amazing volunteers to get all this done.
Steve: Incredible. On April 9th, a volunteer is having a fundraiser at their house and they hired a band and food trucks and we get all the proceeds. And a few years ago, one of our volunteers passed away and left us a large amount of money in their will. Pug people are very generous.
PP: We loooovvvve Pug People, that’s why we started this project. We love talking to them, because Pug People are blissfully crazy.
Steve: Oh, yeah. We are definitely crazy. But pugs are the best dogs, so it makes sense. I love that they’re so devoted. Some dogs can be very independent, but pugs want your love and attention, and if you give it to them, they’re incredibly loyal.