Andrew, 14, has autism. And he adores pugs. When he was little, he didn’t have a lot of friends and so he made up imaginary ones — and for whatever reason, they were all pugs!
Unfortunately, Andrew hasn’t been able to have a pug of his own; his family has always lived in places where dogs weren’t allowed. But he has cultivated a pug collection nonetheless: backpacks, T-shirts and all kinds of puggy things.
This year, as Andrew was about to turn 14, his sister had a great idea about how they could celebrate: a pug-themed birthday party!
“I was speaking to a neighbor a few weeks ago and the subject came up about my brother always getting excited when he bumps into her while she is walking her dog, Ziggy,” McKenna Little, Andrew’s sister, told The Dodo. “At the time, I was thinking about what I should do for his birthday since it was two weeks away, and I thought, ‘I’m going to have a pug party!’ I was just planning on seeing if one of my friends had one and could show up to a little BBQ that my mom and I were going to have at the park on the day of his birthday.”
Little took to social media, asking friends if anyone had a pug they could bring to the party as a surprise. This was going to be Andrew’s very first birthday party; she wanted to make it special!
“He has always been too scared to have one in fear of nobody showing up,” Little said. “He’s a very sentimental person and it would break his heart.”
Little’s friends shared the post, but with just three days to go before the party, no one with a pug had RSVP’d. But then, a miracle!
Pug Nation Rescue of Los Angeles heard about Andrew’s party and wanted to help. The group shared the party event on its Facebook page, and Within a few hours, over 50 people and their pugs had RSVP’d for Andrew’s special day!
“I was in such shock,” Little said. “I was at work sitting at my desk and tears were just flowing down my face because I was amazed by the amount of compassion these pug owners shared. People from all over the world were asking me for my mailing information to mail him gifts and birthday cards as well as his email to send him a happy birthday message. It was so heartwarming.”
In total, 15 pugs were at the park when Andrew and his family showed up for the party. And that wasn’t all. Over the course of the afternoon, more than 80 different pugs and their owners came by to wish Andrew a happy birthday!
“He kept asking ‘Is that a pug?!’ to each dog because he just couldn’t believe his eyes. As if he didn’t believe it was real life. I was so emotional. Everyone there was crying.”
Andrew sat in the grass for most of the party, just watching all the pugs run around and reaching out to pet them. He was joyous, and enjoyed meeting each one.
“A lot of people stood around Andrew with their pugs while he played with them,” Little said. “It was very similar to a ‘pug meetup,’ which is a very common event for pug owners. Except this time there was food and a very happy birthday boy!”
Andrew and his family were very grateful to all the owners and pugs who showed. Andrew doesn’t always feel accepted by kids his age, but this year on his birthday he was postively submerged in pug love.
“He told me it was the best birthday he has ever had and that he wants to do this every year,” Little said.