The Chihuahua: One Big Little Dog
by Marjorie Dorfman
How can such a little dog be so brave and daring? What makes the Chihuahua tick and why are they such popular pets today? These and other penetrating questions will be addressed if you dare to read on.
Although I have never made more than a passing acquaintance with a Chihuahua, I do have a story like no other about one of these incredible dogs. About forty years ago, a local paper published an account of a woman whose life was saved by her pregnant Chihuahua. As the story went, a man rang the bell of this Brooklyn, New York home and a woman answered. The man said he was from the Gas Company and she did not ask for identification because he was wearing a standard ConEd uniform. He ascertained that the woman was alone and then asked to see the boiler, claiming there was a dangerous gas leak up the street. She led the man to the basement, her very pregnant Chihuahua following silently behind. Once downstairs, the man attacked the woman and tried to rape her. The dog jumped up and ripped out the mans jugular vein, and he died before he hit the floor.
Being that this is America with a never-ending capitalistic spirit, the woman advertised in that very same paper (The New York Post) and after the dog gave birth, sold the "killer puppies" for a great deal of money. Truth be told, as a woman living alone in the Big City I would have considered buying one of them myself. In the case of the woman in question, she claimed that the dog wouldnt permit her own husband to get near her for quite a while after the incident. Could the Chihuahua be the long awaited link between man, woman and birth control, and does this method beat wearing combat boots to bed?
It almost seems to defy the laws of nature for such a tiny creature to be so aggressive and brave. It may be the same concept, in reverse, as the giant elephant not knowing its own strength. These pint-size dogs are driven by their loyal, undying love for their owners, which turns them into little, four-legged, kame kaze bodyguards when it comes to protecting them. With its big eyes, big ears and bigger than life macho attitude, the Chihuahua is the epitome of the cocky canine. These qualities make this tiny breed the ideal pet for some and the worst possible choice for others. They have become more popular since the commercial burst onto the cultural scene of Taco Dog, but they have always been popular pets for elderly owners and apartment dwellers.
The Chihuahua is the oldest breed of dog on the American continent and the smallest of the American Kennel Club registered breeds, weighing in at 2 to 6 pounds. Although native to Mexico and named after the Mexican State of Chihuahua, abutting west Texas and New Mexico, records indicate that the breed was originally Chinese. It is likely that the breed originated from the ancient Techichi dogs of the Toltecs that crossed with hairless dogs from the Orient. These dogs are believed to have been sacred to the Pre-Columbian Indian nations. Historians describe the Techichi as a heavy-boned small dog with a long coat, indigenous to Central America and directly connected to the Toltec civilization located near present day Mexico City. The Techichi was a larger creature than the modern day Chihuahua and was also mute.
The Aztecs conquered the Toltecs and adopted the little dogs as sacred icons of the upper classes. They were used in ceremonies to expiate sins and acted as guides for the spirits of the dead. According to breed historian, K. DeBlinde, the Techichi was crossed with an Oriental hairless breed that made its way to the New World via the Bering Strait land bridge and the smaller, smooth-coated, very vocal Chihuahua of today was born. Brought to Europe at the end of the nineteenth century, the modern Chihuahua is quite different from his early ancestors, with his variegated colors ranging from snow white to jet-black. Mexico favors the jet-black and the black and white spotted. The United States prefers the solid colors.
The Chihuahua was first registered with The American Kennel Club in 1904. It comes in two varieties; long or smooth coat. Smooth-coated Chihuahuas have a soft, glossy and close coat that is full over the body and scanty on the head and ears. The long-coat can be flat or slightly curly and must have an undercoat. Its tail resembles a plume. The ears, feet and legs are feathered; and the neck carries a ruff. The official AKC standard for the breed describes the Chihuahua as "a graceful, alert, swift-moving little dog with saucy expression, compact, and with terrier-like qualities of temperament."
The key word here is saucy, which some Chihuahuas carry to an extreme. The tendency to be temperamental, a reputation for being suspicious of everyone but his owner, and a clannish dislike for any other breed of dog but his own, makes this little guy unsuitable for many households. On the other hand, in households without children, where the dog can be pampered as the only child, so to speak, he might, and usually is the perfect pet.
The Chihuahuas loyalty and devotion to his master makes him an amiable companion, and his size makes him a convenient one. Chihuahuas have been known to ride about inside a pocket, a purse or a tote bag or even tucked firmly under an arm. They enjoy outings immensely, although they never share tolls, gas or other traveling expenses. Although it is tempting to carry these little creatures around, they will fare better if taken for walks. They hate the cold and may shiver. They will tolerate and even appreciate a warm sweater on colder days.
At home this little dog is curious, enterprising and mischievous. Left to his own devices, the little guy might decorate the entire house with a roll of toilet paper, make confetti out of the mail or commandeer your bed or favorite chair as his own. The Chihuahua gives and demands affection. Although tiny, this dog may well end up master of the household if boundaries arent carefully established. They like to lick their owners face and when strangers are present, they follow their owners every move. Very well socialized Chihuahuas, however, can be friendly with strangers and other dogs.
The Chihuahua has a life expectancy of about 15 years. Because of his short nose, he tends to wheeze and snore. The prominent eyes make the little critter susceptible to corneal dryness and secondary glaucoma. Never let a Chihuahua eat toxic products, fertilizer or chocolate. Feed lightly as the breed tends to gain weight. Puppies are born with large heads, frequently necessitating cesarean deliveries by a skilled veterinarian. They are vulnerable to fractures and other accidents in puppyhood. Some animals have a molera, an unclosed section of the skull, which can remain open throughout the dogs life. This makes the dog prone to injury. And yet, it will defend its master to the death if it senses danger. By using pet medical insurance your Chihuahua will be protected against a medical crisis such as a fracture or Molera.
Whether or not a Chihuahua is for you and your household depends on your needs and whether or not you have small children. Think carefully, for you owe that consideration both to the dog and to yourself. If you choose one, however, you will not be disappointed, as their loyalty knows no bounds nor does their courage. Just be sure to keep them away from the door if a man comes knocking from the Gas Company to inspect your boiler.
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Here's some books that could really be of help:
Chihuahuas for Dummies
by Jacqueline O'Neil
Get the lowdown on your Chihuahua's special needs. Learn all about this affectionate, long-lived family pet. This fun and friendly book provides insights into this popular dog's temperament, sensible advice on taking care of and training your Chihuahua, tips on participating in a variety of dog competitions, and much more.
The Essential Chihuahua
by Howell Book House
The Essential Guides have all the facts that the new or experienced pet owner needs for a successful relationship with his or her pet. Packed with interesting sidebars, the books discuss the special characteristics of the pet; bringing your new pet home; the optimal way to feed your pet; and how to properly groom your pet. Also included are comprehensive chapters on health care and how to train your pet like an expert.
Check this review by Marjorie of a must-have collar:
When the cats and dogs are away, the information tags will play.