Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Chihuahuas Multiply in Shelters

According to the Los Angeles Times blog, “LA Unleashed,” there has been a sharp increase of Chihuahuas entering California animal shelters. The increase is being blamed, in part, on the long-term pop culture status of these feisty little dogs—from Paris Hilton’s pocket pooch, “Tinkerbell,” to the saucy, lately departed “Gidget,” who played the Taco Bell Dog who snarled, “Yo Quiero Taco Bell!” during the wildly popular Taco Bell commercials of the early 2000s.

I don’t have statistics for our Shelter here in Metro Houston, but Chihuahuas arrive, in various sizes and temperaments, on a regular basis. Recently, we received four Chihuahuas which were surrendered by their owners because the owners claimed, “We aren’t making money with these dogs anymore.”

One of those dogs, “Peaches,” the matriarch breeder Chihuahua, is sitting on my lap as I write this entry. We’re at my Mom’s house in Spring Branch, TX, which is a virtual “Chihuahua Ranch” since my Mom has three Chihuahuas (plus my very first ever foster dog, a Jack Russell mix).

“Peaches” has overcome her fear to exhibit her true Chihuahua nature—she is snippy, bossy, needy, and exceedingly cute as she prances along, thrilled with her new life as a “Queen of the Lap Dogs.” Her very nature—her tendency to snap if she feels threatened, her prancy gait, and her radar-quick prick ears, are hall-marks of the breed’s character.

I grew up with my Mom’s Chihuahuas—we’re in the fourth generation of dogs (none are related)--and while I am a small dog fan, I rarely recommend Chihuahuas to my adopters.

These are high-maintenance dogs—their tiny tummies do best with several small meals, they have are horrifically difficult to housebreak (so you’ll be cleaning up tiddle spots and poops around the house) and they are noisy, noisy, noisy. Of course, they love to snuggle, they have kissable little, round heads, and they fit perfectly in your arms.

Still, I don’t recommend them to most of my adopters. Chihuahuas aren’t great with little kids. They are fragile and nippy. They chew up everything they can get in their mouths. And if your Chihuahua eats a packet of M&Ms, you’ll be making a vet visit to have its tummy pumped.

We get lots of Chihuahuas in the Shelter. Many come in with confirmation issues—overbites, underbites, hip problems, splayed feet, weird body shapes and eye problems. The Chi-Weenies (the Designer Dog cross of Chihuahuas with Dachshunds) aren’t any better, in spite of the “thumbs up” given by the Animal Planet show, “Dogs 101.” The ones we get at the Shelter tend to be wildly long in the back, with bad teeth, temperament issues aside.

All that said, my little foster girl, “Peaches,” is going to make some Chihuahua-savvy person an awesome pet. She’s a very perky, pretty girl (in spite of her overbite and bad teeth) and is a snug-bug who is easy to sleep with (yes, I let her sleep in bed with me—it’s almost unheard of to banish a Chihuahua pet from your bed!) Right now, “Peaches” thinks she’s going to stay with me, but on January 2nd, she’ll be at a foster-dog event in search of an owner who will give her the life she deserves.

What do you think about these attractive little diva-dogs? Let me know in the comments!

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