Falling For The Chihuahua
portions excerpted from the international edition of The Chihuahua
by Barbara J. Andrews, Publisher TheDogPlace.org
The unexpected happens every day and this day was no exception. We were thinking about a smaller breed, but not urgently. Not even seriously!
My husband and I had enjoyed more than forty years of active participation in the sport. As a young child, my heart was owned by a Springer Spaniel. “Babe” was a Christmas present at a time when I would have been just as thrilled with a horse but my father chose wisely. The dog enabled us to share something wonderful at a time when an only child needed to know her father and we hunted over her for four years.
My teenage years included an English Setter until she was struck by a car. It seems like yesterday that I knelt in the busy street wailing in despair. When my mother pulled her from by arms, I thought I would die. Forty years later, I held fast to a very special Akita but even grown-up arms were not strong enough to keep him in my world. Why do we allow ourselves to be so emotionally destroyed, over and over? I suppose it’s because we invite them into our lives and because the time we have with them gives us much more than is taken away when God calls in the loan.
No matter how much research you do, falling in love can still happen by chance. Owning a Chihuahua was the last thing I had ever thought about even though grooming big hairy dogs and running full-tilt around the ring had both of us thinking about the practicality of a smaller breed.
One sunny day in Florida, while on the way to ringside, I spied an excited group of people and detoured to see what was going on. Pushing my way between a very large lady and a pogo-stick which turned out to be a little girl bouncing up and down in excitement, I saw what had drawn the crowd. Oh my. Wow. I wanted to reach down and scoop them all up but like the child, I knew better so I restrained myself and did not jump up and down. It was hard though. They were incredibly cute! Fluffy elfin creatures and sleek doe-like babies in a kaleidoscope of gorgeouscolors!
Entranced, I realized they weren’t barking. In another x-pen there were several silent adults watching and wagging and I wondered why I had unquestioningly accepted the stereotype of “yappy ankle biters”. Just as I was readjusting a few of my previous notions, there was ferocious barking as the adults squared off at an Irish Wolfhound whose owner had pushed through to see the pups. The males were braced side to side, stiff legged, ruffs ridged, tails up and vibrating as they dared the giant intruder to take “just one more step!” The girls bounced back and forth barking encouragement to the males whilst also threatening to bite off the monster’s toe. Everyone laughed as I continued to re-sort what I thought I knew about the littlest breed!
When the crowd finally departed, I stayed to chat with the breeder and it became increasingly apparent that a fortuitous change of direction had given me a whole new perspective, and maybe more. She let me hold a puppy and - I had found our “smaller” breed. Of course she had nothing for sale! Jeesh, there must have been twenty of them in the two x-pens. I alluded to having a full purse but she wasn’t swayed. “No,” said she, “this one is going to a breeder in Mississippi, and this one I’m keeping.”
“Well what about that little black and white one right there?” I asked. “Oh Heaven’s no honey, that one is out of my Best In Show winner and….” Well, you get the point. Sometimes it’s like that with toy dog people. The owners seem to regard them as their own personal offspring!
I thanked her for showing them to me and walked on to the Group rings where I totally forgot to watch. Bill found me a little later, lost in thought. “Where have you been?” he demanded. “I’ve searched everywhere for you!”
Dare I tell him? Wouldn’t he think I had lost my mind?
“Honey, sit down and let me tell you something. I know it sounds sorta silly but….” and I launched into my whereabouts. His jaw dropped as I told him about the little black and white puppy. Then he began to grin and when I stopped for breath he said, “Well you wouldn’t have to change your wardrobe.” (I had always worn black and white with my big black Akita.) I looked and him and we both burst out laughing.
“Right, I guess it is silly. I can’t imagine why I even stopped to look at them.” He nodded, “Well, here comes the Toy Group. Might as well watch.”
We did. He began to tell me what he liked, and didn’t like about some of the dogs in the ring. When he came to the Chihuahua, he said “That one wouldn’t be bad, kinda cute, but are they supposed to have that roachy topline?” I said I didn’t think so and we were both a bit smug when the judge ran his hand over the dog’s back as the handler lifted him down from the table.
We really didn’t talk about them much that night except when he teased me again about having an excuse to go shopping. I laughingly replied that at least they matched my jewelry and so maybe I wouldn’t have to shop that much.
Without discussing it, somehow we wound up at the Chihuahua ring the next day. We enjoyed the judging, learned a lot, and that night, we did talk about the breed.
Well it took some time and we were picky. Now I had a focus for my “research” and no book or article on Chihuahuas escaped me Long interested in Native American culture, particularly the nations of the American South West, I found several books right in my own library that contained interesting background. We talked to breeders, we pinned them down about health problems and decided they couldn’t all be in denial when they said “very few” and “you plan for c-sections and pray for natural delivery.” And I got over being miffed when they rolled eyes and said “You BJ? A Toy Dog?” We did not however, take kindly to the rumor that our Akitas and Mini-Bulls had eradicated our newly purchased Chihuahuas.
A few months later we found the right bitch that carried the qualities we had decided were important to us. We didn’t know much about the finer points but had decided some of the people we talked to didn’t either because they seldom agreed. We felt sure if we stuck to a sound, balanced, showy dog with a good top line and a really pretty face and big ears, we couldn’t go wrong.
I don’t think we did. We have met wonderful, generous, helpful people. They have not laughed at our Working Dog mentality. In fact, a few have looked thoughtful when we tell them we will not forgive bad running gear no matter how much chrome is there.
Isn’t it wonderful? Falling in love? With dogs you can do it over and over again and each time you get butterflies in your tummy. Like daydreaming about the next litter when you spot a great dog and start wondering about breeding to him. Each litter is brand new all over again because it is a whole new “family” you are starting.
Gee, I’m glad I took that detour.
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