by Wendy Hunter
Wendy Hunter is a volunteer with the Animal Rescue of Fresno. ARF will be sharing their animal rescue adventures with us now every month.
I hope if dogs ever take over the world, and they choose a king, they don’t just go by size, because I bet there are some Chihuahuas with some good ideas.
We live in a big world. We like big things. We drive big cars, carry big phones, surf big computers, buy big houses, and watch big TVs while eating big meals. There are trucks in this town with wheels so enormous, that they could flatten my dinky Honda into a shriveled piece of tin foil. My sister’s Samsung cell is almost the size of her head.
The Mac in my bedroom could double as a movie screen. My aunt’s house sleeps about 47 people, and her television is roughly the size of a football field. My mother cannot cook for any crowd less than the 5th Infantry.
Yet in this super-colossal universe we inhabit, there are still a few small surprises, just waiting to be discovered. Consider if you will, the tiny Chihuahua. Revered by some, reviled by others, this pocket-sized pooch may not be the biggest dog on the planet, but he has a larger-than-life reputation for having a whale of an attitude. Some may describe them as standoffish or unapproachable, clinging to their humans, barking uncontrollably, and raising a suspicious eye to strangers. Others scoff at these behavioral allegations, and proclaim the Chihuahua as proud, feisty, and courageous, with loads of loyalty packed into a petite package. Whichever team you root for, you can count on the debate to be, well, just like the critter itself: vivacious, vibrant, and very vocal.
When it comes to dogs, some people know just what they want. But many times, people know exactly what they DON’T want. Every Saturday at ARF, I walk around showing potential adopters all the wonderful dogs we have available.
Every Saturday I pitch their quirky qualities, their sunny smiles, their liquid eyes, their dainty upturned noses. I laud their funny under bites, their chipped teeth, and their joyful nature. And without fail, every single solitary Saturday, I hear the same thing, over and over again. “Why are they ALL Chihuahuas?” “I DON’T want a Chihuahua!” “I HATE Chihuahuas!” “I would NEVER own a Chihuahua!” “NO Chihuahuas!” People have extraordinarily strong feelings on this subject. I mean people are adamant. People are immovable. It may be a beautiful love story for some, but for a large part of the population, it appears this peanut pup doesn’t have many fans.
Let’s face it, Chihuahuas have a horrible reputation. In a nutshell, Chihuahuas are the Donald Trump of the dog world. They’re mean. They’re nasty. They bite. Children weep in their presence. They’re noisy, obnoxious, ridiculous beasts that do nothing but take up space and buzz around you like a pesky gnat on Red Bull. At least that’s the general perception of them. But in reality, they’re more like Bindi Irwin, nailing the jive on Dancing With The Stars: spunky, zippy, bouncy, and as bubbly as Champagne.
Before celebrities like Paris Hilton popularized the breed, before gaining cult status in Taco Bell commercials, and way before they became darlings of the big screen in films like Legally Blonde, these mighty mutts were considered sacred by several ancient cultures. Maybe. Or they were sacrificed to the gods. Perhaps. Or they were mummified with their owners. Um, okay. Or they were served for dinner. Gross. Who knows? I tell you, the origins and myths and legends related to this one little creature are overwhelming.
I don’t think I’ve ever read a subject so steeped in speculation, assumption, theories, innuendo, and general guesswork in order to answer one simple thing: Where the heck did the Chihuahua come from? According to a plethora of websites, the Chihuahua was possibly derived from the Fennec Fox and/or the Aztec “Techichi” dog, and might have been used in religious ceremonies, and may have been a palace companion, gently guiding their masters to life everlasting, but in all probability…was an inexpensive menu item for the poor folk.
I cannot begin to sort fact from fiction, because my brain will explode, but here are just a few theories about this humble dog’s beginnings. Spanish traders supposedly brought Chihuahuas to Malta from Africa and Asia; pooches purportedly frolicked in Egypt 3,000 years ago; skeletal canine remains were discovered in Chichen Itza and the Yucatan; and clues suggest that some kind of Chihuahua-resembling hound has occupied Central America for a thousand years. This clearly proves at least one true piece of evidence about the dog in question: that mutt really got around. The simplest explanation is that the smallest dog breed in the world is native to Mexico, and received its name from the Mexican state of Chihuahua. So there.
For many people, the Chihuahua has no redeeming qualities, and is generally akin to, well, a rat, a varmint, a pest, a bothersome being, scurrying about, under your feet, uninteresting, unattractive, unfriendly, completely unlovable. But these people would be wrong. These animals crave attention, and are more than willing to give it back. The ARF Chihuahuas will happily lick your face off if you let them. They’re cheerful, adventurous, and make fantastic companions. And did I mention the cuddling? They’re also brave to a fault, and will challenge a dog 10 times larger to a duel. They’re lively, jolly, frisky, and hey, look at all the colors to choose from! Black, white, fawn, sable, and chestnut, just to name a few. Want a short coat? You go it. Prefer long and wavy? No problem. And c’mon, they’re cute. With those big eyes and perky ears, what’s not to adore? You can see why owners love to spoil and baby them.
But mom, leave the stroller at home occasionally; a good walk benefits both parties. Chihuahuas are famous for burrowing, so be careful where you step; that pile of dirty clothes in the laundry room may be hiding a sprightly surprise. And since he likes it warm, your petite playmate may also snag a siesta in the snuggly folds of those freshly dried sheets. Olé! It’s common knowledge that W.C. Fields did not care for animals or children, but that doesn’t mean the two cannot coexist in harmony. However, please tread carefully; these mini munchkins are easily injured. Obedience, patience, socialization, and close supervision are the keys to a happy household. And I’m not just talking about the dog.
I have given you many good reasons to adopt a Chihuahua. But if you’re still not convinced, consider this statistic from the website of our friends at Compassion Without Borders (CWOB): “Over the past five years, Chihuahuas have begun filling up California shelters in record-breaking numbers, representing up to 50-60% of all dogs in some shelters throughout the state, and replacing Pit Bulls as the most common breed of homeless dogs.” This means that thousands of Chihuahuas are killed each year in California shelters, particularly in the Central Valley, where we have some of the highest euthanasia rates. Luckily for us, CWOB heads down to Fresno every six weeks or so and rescues 25-30 Chihuahuas for transport to Minnesota. The Animal Humane Society in Minneapolis has more room for little dogs, and because of high demand, they are adopted out very quickly. If you are interested in learning more or donating to this amazing cause, please visit: cwob.org/central-valley-rescue-program.html.And if that still doesn’t inspire you, check out the recent fostering experience of an ARF volunteer: “Despite our family’s Hispanic heritage, we were never fans of the Chihuahua. Too small! Too jumpy! Too yappy! Then, as Chihuahua chance would have it, we became the foster parents of a Chi mom, Rosalie, and her five puppies. This represented a gigantic learning curve for us self-described cat folk, as we had never fostered dogs before. The phrase “What were we thinking?” was heard at our house daily. We admired this little mama who cleaned up after each pup, corrected their behavior, and whose heart was much bigger than her diminutive body. We took pictures and video, sharing our adventures and lessons learned on Facebook. Life had thrown us a Chihuahua-sized curve ball. Fostering is a limited engagement by definition. And so, at two months of age, Mom’s triplets flew to Minnesota to find their families; the remaining siblings stayed in Fresno and were adopted together. Happy endings all ‘round. And mom? Little Rosalie, Rosy, and sometimes “Rosita Chimichanga,” is smiling, as I write, tucked up into a fawn-colored ball on our sofa. She seems to be saying, “Silly humans. I knew they’d come around.”
Check out more animal rescue stories in our Pet Perspective section. Advertise in KRL and 10% of your advertising fees can go to a local animal rescue, including ARF.