It was Comic Con International 2000, and James Edwards was one of thousands in line to meet one of the stars of the moment: Frank the Pug.
Fresh off an appearance in Men in Black and set to appear in the film’s sequel, the dapper dog was looking sharp in his suit jacket and tie, and more than happy to greet fan after fan. Enamored with the personable pup, James thought to himself, “Hey, that would be a great dog to have.” Eight years later, James and then-girlfriend Becky made it happen, bringing home a curly-tailed canine on the fast track to stardom herself.
Known as Madge the Pug to her fans, the 9-year-old pooch is something of a celebrity in the Coulee Region — and online — with 824 Facebook followers, a collection of YouTube videos and an infectiously goofy smile.
Madge was 12 weeks old when James and Becky brought her to their Holmen area home, “just a tiny little fur ball of furriness,” Becky says. The Edwards’ chose the name Madge as both a nod to singer Madonna and to serve as an abbreviated version of “her Majesty.”
“She’s definitely royalty in our house, and we treat her thusly,” James said.
Indeed, the 9-year-old, bubble-eyed beauty, who boasts the cinnamon bun tail, wilted ears and rolls of scruff that define the breed, served as bridesmaid in the couple’s wedding, donning a custom ivory gown, and has her free range of the bed and furniture. Her teeth are brushed daily with assorted flavors of doggy toothpaste, and special treats include pig ears from the Holmen Meat Locker and ice cream on her Oct. 8 birthday. Always fashionable, Madge has acquired an extensive wardrobe of coats, dresses, shirts and costumes, from penguin to devil.
Proud dog parents, the Edwards’ took endless pictures, soon realizing Madge material was taking over their personal Facebook pages. Creating a page dedicated solely to the photogenic pooch in 2004, they watched the number of Madge the Pug followers climb with each video, quip and picture posted.
“I think it’s just that she’s very personable,” James says of Madge’s personality. “She’s huggable, lovable and sweet — super sweet.”
Pug lovers from as far as China and Great Britain follow Madge’s antics, from snaps of her lazing with her feet in the air to video of her signature “dead dog” and “twirl-a-pug” tricks. James and Becky update the page bi-weekly, more during the holidays when Madge has a new toy or seasonal outfit to debut, and also share pug-centric cartoons and GIFs posted by fellow pug owners. Madge co-follows several other pugs, including the famed Doug the Pug, and has appeared in ads for Milwaukee Pug Fest, where she’s a regular. James and Becky, who own A2Z Social Design, also feature Madge in ads for clients including Hot Spring — Madge is friends with the owner’s dog, Frasier — Ship Shape, Wags and Whiskers, Holmen Meat Locker and Mohawk Flooring.
“Usually any ad that includes a cute dog gets better engagement,” James said.
When Madge isn’t mugging for the camera, she enjoys walks, visits to the grandparents, and sleeping in.
“She doesn’t like mornings,” Becky said. “She’s kind of like Garfield.”
Madge also shares the cartoon cat’s love of food, constantly grazing for crumbs and scarfing down her kibble. James and Becky list “speed eating and farting” among Madge’s talents, and she has the uncanny ability to recognize her kind on TV, running up to the screen when a pug appears. The precocious pup is also litter trained in case of inclement weather.
James says Madge is unconditionally loving, which extends to her fellow canines. They have fostered two pugs, one of which was rescued from a puppy mill near Westby and arrived to their home terrified of people. The little dog clung to Madge, sleeping on top of her, but grew “braver” with Madge by her side and was later adopted.
“Madge is a big supporter of pug rescues and supporting the pugs who need help,” James said.
They hope to foster again in the future, but for now are happy to play publicist for Madge. While footage of a snoozing Madge snorting and twitching in her sleep has proven especially popular, James knows they’ll need to up the ante to realize their dream of seeing Madge in a movie.
“We would love to have a star puppy,” James said. “I think we’ll pursue more storytelling or some kind of gimmick for Madge in the future. Something besides sleeping.”
“Or farting,” Becky added.
Follow Madge the Pug at www.facebook.com/MadgeThePug.