My new Versa My license plate reads “Puggies” to the embarrassment of my brother and likely any other family member who has to drive it. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad if it simply said “Pugs” although I have a feeling they’d turn their noses up at that as well. But “Pugs” and “Pugz” and “Pug” were taken when it came time to register my car with the state, so “Puggies” it became.

“Puggies” is in homage to a statement my mother and I heard years ago at one of the joint concerts and dance recitals my friend Joan would host with her daughter, TDB, and her students. I hadn’t known Joan long, when she invited my family to attend. I had recently bought my pug, Vader, from her and she thought I’d enjoy it given that one of the musical numbers would feature Joan’s cast of pugs being pulled in wagons and on leashes by her littlest students.

At intermission, my mother went to use the bathroom and found a roomful of giggling, little girls in pink tutus and ballet flats squealing, “the puggies are in the building.” It was cuteness personified and so the memory stuck, as did the name, which popped to the surface, when scouring my mind for possible pug-themed plates.

To complement my license plate, I have adorned my car with an array of bumper stickers – a bone reading, “I love my pug” and a round car magnet declaring “I work hard so my pugs don’t have to.” I also have a yellow and red sticker reading “Thank God for Hana” and a silver "HI" logo for my beloved Hawaii, as well as a small stuffed, tuxedo-clad pug that hangs from my mirror.

All this paraphernalia has been there since I got my first Versa in 2009, but they show up ever so better on the brand new royal blue Versa I purchased last week. Until the license plates are officially changed, my father, who kept my old car, has had to ride around in the former “puggie-mobile” as has my brother, who borrowed it. My new car awaits its new moniker, but that hasn’t stopped passersby from pausing by my car to read the transferred bumper stickers. I know because I’ve been watching this interaction from the windows of Books-a-million as I work. So far this evening there have been several. They pass my car only to hit reverse, backup and smile. The other day in Waterbury I parked next to a man in the exact same car, color and all. I jumped out declaring – “We have the same car!”

“We also have the same dog,” he shouted back, nodding at my pug bumper sticker. “Ours is a blonde,” he noted. We stopped and chatted, walking away with huge grins on our faces.

I know my family humors me. My siblings probably seeing me as the doddering, childless aunt to their children, who projects her affections onto her two somewhat annoying dogs. “Puggies” is silly, but harmless, they seem to convey while I try to argue it’s only good branding for when I finally write my dog book. Truth be told, my car and I sport the title with pride. Yes, I love my dogs and the enjoyment they bring and yes, I was serious about the branding, but the real reason I’m glad my car doesn’t read VT 4342 or some other banal number is the same reason I remember the squeals of those girls. Puggies conjure up smiles, glee and grins, if also an occasional shake of the head.