I am sure you all know the story of the first Thanksgiving. The pilgrims fleeing religious persecution in Europe to sail to the new land and start again. The Mayflower and all the hardships those pilgrims endured during the voyage. Their first step out onto the rock. The feast where Indian and Pilgrim came together and celebrated the harvest in peace. Yes, it is a story written, sung and acted out throughout the years since then. But does anyone know the story of the first Pugsgiving? No? I didn’t think so. This story, once shared every Thanksgiving night when everyone settled around the fireplace, their bellies stuffed with food, is now almost forgotten. That is why I feel like it is time to once again share this story so that it can once again be told to future generations. Told so that no one forgets that first Pugsgiving and how they also struggled.
And so let me begin this story in 1620:
It was a dark time in Europe. Pugs everywhere struggled to find a place to celebrate their heritage. They were often persecuted by other dogs. Their meeting places were raided. They were ridiculed, beaten and ran out of town for what they believed. Pugs everywhere were forced to meet in secret. The time and location of these meetings were passed from pug to pug by short, muffled barks barely noticeable to other dog’s ears. It was truly a hard, dangerous time to be a pug.
One day, while in the marketplace, Percival Pug heard a rumor of a large ship setting sail for a new world. This ship was said to be carrying some people called Pilgrims. These Pilgrims were supposedly escaping Europe to pursue their freedom to worship. Percival Pug gathered all the information he could and then passed the word that all pugs needed to meet quickly and secretively.
After a quick discussion, it was decided that 5 pugs would take the chance to stow on board and travel to this new land. They were: Percival Pug, Millie Pug Standish, Phinneaus Pug, Patience Pug and Theodore Von Pugginstin. They packed a few meager supplies and slipped on board mere minutes before the ship, Mayflower, set sail.
The pugs were able to remain undetected for many days, but eventually their food ran out and they were forced to venture out and search for rations. The ship’s food supply was heavily guarded and while trying to slip by the guard with a loaf of bread in his mouth, Phinneaus Pug was seen and trapped. Even when asked if there were others on board, Phinneaus refused to give up their location. Finally, when word of Phinneaus’s capture and impending lashing reached the other pugs, they decided to come forward and accept their fate along with him.
Some of the Pilgrims voted to throw all five pugs overboard, but Theodore Von Pugginstin offered them a compromise. They would be at sea for many weeks and months and there really was nothing to do on a ship for entertainment. So Theodore Von Pugginstin convinced them that if they would allow the pugs to continue on the voyage, the pugs would provide entertainment to keep up morale. After much discussion, it was decided that the pugs could stay on board only if the performed tricks for the crew and passengers once a day.
So for that long, treacherous voyage those pugs performed once a day. They jumped through barrel hoops, balanced swords on their noses, and juggled wooden spoons. The pugs were so entertaining that no one minded sharing what little food on board with them.
In November 1620 when land was sighted, the pugs celebrated along with the Pilgrims. But when the discussion began as to who would be the first to step out on land, many of the Pilgrims were hesitant. They were not sure what this new land would hold. What awaited them on shore? They voted to have a pug try out the land first to make sure it was safe for the others. It was decided that Mille Pug Standish would be set ashore the following morning. So it was actually a small pug paw that first stepped out onto Plymouth Rock. As time passed, the Pilgrims were ridiculed that they had sent a pug out first, so the story was rewritten to be Miles Standish, a pilgrim, who went first.
The pugs worked side by side with the pilgrims that first year. They helped move the smaller trees, dug the holes for planting crops and served as guards for the camp. Their short, sharp barks warned of any approaching danger.
During the first Thanksgiving, the pugs dug up the turnips and potatoes. They were even responsible for herding the turkeys into the camp!
One of the famous Indians that helped the pilgrims during that first long, hard winter was no other than, Pugahontas. This name was later changed to Pocahontas to fit more with the Pilgrim’s perferred retelling of the story.
So as you can see, over the years these brave pugs’ contribution to our history has virtually disappeared. Well, it is time for that to end. This year, after your own feast, gather round the fire and share this story with your children. The First Pugsgiving must remain a part of our history and heritage.