Where is pug hill? And why does Hope McNeill keep returning to this mound of dirt where pugs convene mostly on weekends to socialize, roam, play, mingle and cavort?
In Alison Pace’s new book appropriately titled, pug hill, we go on a ‘pug-malion’ adventure where the lead character Hope McNeill finds solace from her personal trials and triumphs on a canine occupied hill. Located in New York City’s Central Park, pug hill is the place where the city’s pug owners assemble their chosen breed in a show of camaraderie. The pugs don’t seem to mind as they show off their own unique snorts, sniffs, maneuvers and designer outfits.
Hope NcNeill is a busy young New Yorker who lives in a small apartment and is unable to expand her living quarters with one more stick of furniture, nevermind a dog! This doesn’t stop her from sharing in the unconditional love and friendship that the pugs provide when she visits pug hill on weekends. She finds disappointment one day when she breaks from her everyday routine and goes to the hill during the week, only to find it pug-less. McNeill brings friends and meets strangers at her private sanctuary in Central Park, where personal and mutual revelations are common.
We venture into Hope McNeill’s life and discover her crush on a co-worker, her attempts to understand a flailing romantic relationship and her unbearable fear of public speaking. She takes up speech classes after her father gives her an improbable assignment, publicly toasting her parents at their fortieth anniversary party. But even the comfort of the pugs on pug hill can’t help her overcome her rhetoric anxiety.
AF: Have you always had a fondness for pugs or was it fueled by pug hill?
AP: I have always had a fondness for pugs. I love their unique personalities and wonderful good looks. When I first heard about pug hill, I knew it had to be part of the novel I was planning about dogs.
AF: Do you have a favorite pug on the hill that you personally identify with and which pug traits do you relate to the most?
AP: While I admittedly have not been to pug hill as many times as my protagonist, Hope McNeill, I’m not sure there is only one pug I saw there that affected me. They all do. I love the sweetness of pugs, the pride, the joy and delight they seem to experience at the smallest things. I love their patented looks of surprise, their rounded bellies, how they stick their tongues out at you, and the way they cock their heads quizzically.
AF: Do you consider yourself a person with a ‘pug’ personality and is this why your character Hope McNeill finds solace on pug hill?
AP: I consider myself a dog person, definitely. When I was growing up, we always had at least four dogs at any given time. I think dogs can bring a lot of comfort to people and add immeasurably to their lives. So, yes, that is why I wanted Hope McNeill to find solace at pug hill.
AF: Are you currently at a place in your life where you foresee taking home a little pug of your own soon?
AP: I’d very much like to have a pug, yes. For the last few years I’ve been living in a non-dog friendly building in New York. I’m planning on moving this summer to a dog-friendly building at which point I’ll be first in line at a shelter.