I am a HUGE sucker for dogs, and really kittehs, and pretty much any creature that isn't poisonous to me. Rescue the injured baby opossum in the yard? Check. Snag the dog running lose in the street and find its owner? Check. Hold a duckling close and hand feed it for 24 hours so it survives? And check.
Our home is FULL of animals - rescued kitties, doggies, we have a yard of chickens and ducks, and even a fish tank complete with aquatic frogs.
Despite already living with four rescued cats, sometimes on the weekend, when we're out of errands and chores, we find ourselves at a Humane Society, seeing if any special kitties call out to us. Our last shelter pull was a wonderful roughly 4 year old, street cat. She had nasty fur (where she had it), chewed up ears, a filthy chin. But where others saw scabs and dirt, I saw promise. When she jumped into my purse, she cemented her place in our home and hearts. She's now the best cat in the house, sleeps between us at night, is fluffy and clean, and the official greeting committee when friends visit.
Superbowl weekend, we found ourselves at a shelter, considering a sweet, if slightly enthusiastically bitey, fat, calico, with half an ear. I wasn't instantly smitten, though she reminded me of one of my favorite cats I've ever lived with. While talking her over, we wandered through the dog enclosure.
Now, I am very, very proud of my ability to withstand the temptation of dogs in kennels. We already had three senior dogs at home, and it's difficult to get reliable house sitting when we travel. But sometimes I like to look, pet a dog or two, give a few treats from the treat buckets on the cages, let the dogs know people love them.
As we walked into the room of barking, anxious, dogs, I was thinking about the calico and the fresh cat bite on my hand. (She was spunky.) Just three kennels down the row, I thought there wasn't a dog. As I strolled by, I noticed a tiny, brown, speckled creature on its bed, quiet.
I whispered, "Hey there, little thing!" through the kennel, and a pair of giant ears, and mismatched eyes looked my way. No barks, no excitement, just considering me. A volunteer encouraged me to go into the enclosure. I wandered in, and this tiny creature rolled over for belly rubs. After I rubbed her little pink belly she crawled adorably into my lap and settled in for a nap.
I was smitten.
My husband was not enthused. Not at all. He found me sitting there with my eyes full of tears. "No. NO. No chihuahua, honey. We have enough pets at home." He was, of course, right, but I had a feeling this was THE DOG we NEEDED to rescue. He joined me in the enclosure, and the volunteer told us how she and two other chihuahuas had been dumped on a logging trail in the middle of nowhere. How they'd been left for dead. How they were only ever able to capture two of the dogs. How they were anemic from fleas, underweight, how they'd never been fixed. How this little old lady had a massive "tumor" that turned out to be a giant hernia.
I snagged a cell phone photo and posted it to my facebook account, with the caption, "Husband says he wouldn't divorce me if she came home, that's not a no, right?"
I sniffled all the way home. I kept track of the number of people encouraging us to rescue this tiny, 7 pound, dog. I argued she was smaller than the cat I'd been considering. I said she could go to work with me every day, no extra work for him. I argued our occasionally grumpy hound would think it was another cat. I made up a song about me loving chihuahuas. He called it "The Chihuahua isn't Coming Home" song. I finally said, "If she's still there next month, can I go rescue her?" And he sighed heavily and agreed. I won, really, as February is a short month.
The next morning, I was moping, but not actively petitioning for the dog. Friends kept chiming in on the photo, wondering when he would cave. As he went to take a shower he turned to me and said, "Do you want to call and see if she's still there...?" I squealed, made a phone call, and he got ready to leave the house. I was excited to learn despite a huge rabies vaccination clinic and a few adoptions, she'd still been overlooked. The little long haired chihuahua she'd been rescued with was going home, but not the little speckled old lady I fell in love with.
We drove to the shelter, 45 minutes away, and I was vibrating with excitement. We'd adopted our big Siamese boy from them last year, so the paperwork was simple. While I signed the forms, hubby held the silly little speckled (piebald? merle? dapple?) lady, and she just sat contentedly in his big arms.
We brought the new little lady to our friends' Superbowl party. She slept in my arms on the long car ride, and then snuggled on my lap during the game. The most activity we saw from her all night was when she enthusiastically rolled all over some throw pillows, like a kitten. That night after a full first-day she met the other dogs, the cats...and learned that yes, she could sleep on the bed with us.
In the past two weeks she's been to the vet, the office, she's been banking, shopping, taken a couple of short leash walks (not a huge fan), she's snuggled with the cats and the dogs, and she's met countless new friends. She's been renamed Piglet, and has a slew of new nicknames, Mrs. Von Pigglesworth, Pickles, Sunpig, and Piggoletto to name a few. The vet puts her at about 10, with a faint heart murmur. She may have had dental care at some point in her life, but now her tongue hangs from the side of her mouth most of the time.
We don't know how long we're going to have with her. Could be years and years (we hope!), or it could be cut short due to the neglect before we adopted her. But it's a gamble no matter how old the animal you bring home may be! But the dog we brought home is a gem of a little lady, as sweet as can be, a quiet, nearly silent ambassador for chihuahuas. She's a living, snuggling example of how rewarding a senior canine can be. She's polite, she's low maintenance, she is trained already, and she's so, so sweet and grateful to be safe and loved. She stretches out at night between us, with at least two of the cats and the giant hound, and snorts and rolls around in ecstasy. This little girl, really, no senior girl, should have to spend their nights in a cage alone.
Everywhere we go when someone compliments us on how quiet, sweet, and gentle she is, we have the opportunity to promote adopting senior animals from shelters. She's a gift to us, and we hope to show others what a joy it can be for them, too.