Corgi Con is a semi-annual celebration of short, sausage-shaped dogs called Corgis. Hundreds of dogs and their families descend on Ocean Beach for a day of events and festivities.
It’s a sunny day at Ocean Beach, all the usual suspects are here: tourists and families strolling, volleyball hotties wearing t-shirts but no pants, and someone hairy doing yoga in the sand.
Today, there are also about a thousand corgis — brown sausage-shaped dogs with tufty white hindquarters and perky ears.
“She and I met the last day of May this year,” Mark del Rosario says with pride, “And she’s been the darling of my life ever since.”
He is not talking about his girlfriend or an adopted child. He is talking about his pet corgi, Einstein. They’ve travelled from Denver, Colorado, to San Francisco for Corgi Con 2017 — a “conference” for corgi dogs and their owners.
People come from all over the nation, not to mention the state, to connect with the extended corgi community. There aren’t any seminars or classes at this conference, but there are events, like the Corgi Ninja Warrior agility course. It’s a take on the American Ninja Warrior television series.
The announcer’s voice booms out of a loudspeaker: “Three, two, one, GO!”
The crowd cheers wildly as a short dog bounds onto the course. He weaves through cones, jumps some bars, and runs through a tunnel. Fans are pressed up to the course in a thick crowd—the spectators in the back are straining to catch glimpses of what sounds like a painfully cute competition.
Karen Hom is one of the founders of Corgi Con.
“You know they're more agile than people think,” she insists. “Corgis like to put on a show so they may stop in the middle of the course to give a smile but it’s all in good fun.”
She’s right about the agility, but it’s still clearly a corgi race when the crowd is laughing as much as they are cheering. The six inch jumps are still high clearance for some corgis, and it’s hard to be nimble around the cones when you’re throwing doggy smiles to adoring fans. Some dogs skid out and roll off course.
If you haven’t seen a corgi, their most defining feature may be their short legs. When I ask Karen why corgis are so special, she doesn’t hesitate:
“Corgis have the biggest personalities,” she laughs. “Tucked into such a small body!”
Most attendees had some variation on this response. Big personality, small body. Kind of like ... kids. Karen doesn’t have any of those, but she does have an eight year old corgi.
“Currently our fur kids are our kids,” she say matter-of-factly.
Karen and the other two founders saw that there was a huge corgi population in the Bay Area, so they got together and created this event. It’s grown from a small, monthly meet-up to a semi-annual extravaganza of corgi love, a breed of dog that even has its own language.
“Derping is a face where they stick their tongue out. I call it the corgi stink eye,” Cristina Iglesias tells me. She’s here with her husband Brett and Don Corgi Leon.
Words like “derp” and “frap” may not mean much to the average person, but a corgi owner knows.
“Frapping is frenetic active rapid play ... Puppies do it. Corgis never outgrow that.”
There’s also sploot.
“Um, sploot,” says Karen Hom. “So, corgis, with their short legs, when they sit … they have back legs that stick out like little drumsticks, and so we call that splooting. When they have both legs out in the back it looks like they're flying.”
Nearby, under a purple tent, Susan Luong is working with rescue corgis. Luong is the founder of Queen’s Best Stumpy Dog Rescue, where all the proceeds from Corgi Con are going this year. The name is a reference to England’s Queen Elizabeth, who has owned more than 30 corgis since taking the throne. Susan describes the derpy look:
“Tongue hanging out and pure joy and bliss just splashed across the face!”
She says it’s part of what makes corgis social-media darlings — but their popularity can make them vulnerable to unprepared owners. Queen’s Best steps in when corgis get less than the royal treatment.
“They're just … high-energy dogs. They need a lot of exercise, a lot of training,” she says. “It involves reorganizing your life around another living being. So it kind of prepares you for being responsible for another life.”
A few steps down the beach, an attendee gazes longingly at a small, costumed corgi and reaches instinctively for his cell phone. That corgi belongs to Ellen Veng, who is holding a blanket over her new (human) baby’s face to shield him from the sun.
“This is Omie, he’s five-and-a-half months,” she says, lifting a corner of the blanket to peek in at her son. “He’s gonna be a corgi lover, too.”
She’s here with her husband and their corgi Yoshi, who’s dressed up as an M&M. and wearing an orange backpack and white sunglasses. Lots of people stop to take pictures, but he’s used to the attention. Yoshi V the Corgi has thousands of followers on Instagram.
“He was our first baby, now we have this one. They're bro-furs,” Ellen laughs. “He’s his brother but he has fur!”
A broad definition of family is what Corgi Con is all about. It’s an excuse to spend time with the ones you love and make some new friends in the silly, earnest, short-legged corgi community.