when i went to the spca a few weeks ago, i was told that they had just rescued over two hundred dogs from a nearby puppy mill. the spca employee i overheard said that they were treating the animals for various health problems before putting them up for adoption a few at a time.
the houston spca has two separate areas for their dogs: small breeds and puppies are kept in one area, and larger dogs are kept in another. since i wanted to adopt the smallest dog possible (a dog only slightly larger than a gerbil, maybe–one i could hide in my purse and take to the movies), i went right to the small dog area. the rescued dogs they had out were mostly puppies. tiny pomeranians yapped at me as i walked by. baby chihuahuas chewed my fingers through the bars of their cages. all of the small-breed puppies were spoken for. the information cards on each of their cages were stamped ADOPTED in big red letters. there were labrador and rottweiler puppies as well–their information cards said UNWANTED LITTER instead of CRUELTY SURRENDER like the others. but you can’t fit a rottweiler in your purse unless your purse is a samsonite, and even then it’s not much fun for you or the dog, so i kept looking.
i didn’t have my heart set on a puppy. a small adult dog, after all, is guaranteed to stay small, is probably much calmer than a puppy, and might already be housetrained. the older dogs were quite different from the puppies. they cowered in the backs of their cages, wrapped around each other, staring at nothing. they didn’t bark or look at anyone or run forward when i put my fingers through the bars. mostly they looked sad and tired.
one of the cages held two chihuahuas, a brown and white un-neutered male and a tan spayed female. they were huddled together in the corner. both of their cards said CRUELTY SURRENDER, and neither were adopted. if i stayed very still for a long time, the male chihuahua would scoot forward and sniff at me a bit before retreating again. the female didn’t move at all–she was laying down with her head resting on her front paws.
anyone who knows me relatively well knows that i have something of an instant-gratification problem. if i can get something now, today, i’ll choose it over all other available options. i knew that since the female chihuahua had already been spayed, i could take her home with me that day if i wanted. she seemed much sadder than the other dog, too, so i figured she probably needed rescuing a little sooner than he did. i stood in front of the cage and tried to catch her eye, but she wouldn’t move or look at me. i found a nearby spca employee (one whom i’d overheard saying that she was off the clock but still working anyway because so many people were asking questions) and asked if i could check out the female chihuahua.
“she looks really scared, doesn’t she?” i said, as the spca worker unlocked the cage. the card on the door said the dog’s name was kelly.
“yeah, she’s had a bit of a hard time. i think at the puppy mill she was one of the mothers.” as she lifted the dog out of the cage, i could see eight little nipples on the dog’s underside. i bet she’s been a mother recently, i thought. poor thing.
the spca worker cradled the dog in her arms and led me to an empty room. i put my purse on the counter, sat down on the concrete floor, and she laid the dog gently in my lap. “just come out when you’re ready and let me know, okay?” she said. she went out and closed the door behind her.
i looked down at the tiny chihuahua in my lap. she hadn’t moved at all–she was standing up in my lap exactly where the spca worker had put her, with her legs locked in place. i pet her gently on the head and tried to get her to look at me, but she wouldn’t. i lifted her up and put her on the floor, thinking maybe she’d move around more if she wasn’t in my lap. it didn’t work, though; she stood frozen in place. i picked her up and opened the door.
“do you think she’ll warm up to me?” i asked the spca worker, who was standing just outside.
“oh, i bet she will,” she said. “she’s had a rough life up until now, but i’m sure she’ll get better.”
“i don’t have a leash or anything; do you have one?”
“sure,” she said. “here you go, puppy. i bet you’d like a pink leash. would you like a pink leash?” she placed the pink leash around the dog’s neck, right next to her hospital-bracelet collar. i picked her up and took her to the adoption area where she crouched, shaking, on the desk as i paid my sixty-five dollar adoption fee. they told me she was about four years old.
she wouldn’t walk on the leash, so i carried her to my car and set her down in the passenger seat, where i had to push her rear end down a little to get her to sit so she wouldn’t fall over on the ride. she still wouldn’t look at me. when we got to my apartment, i put her down on the floor and let her investigate her new home. she sniffed around a bit, timidly, dragging the pink leash behind her. she mostly kept away from me, unless i stayed very still, and then she’d come over and sniff at my outstretched hand. at one point she went around the corner, out of sight, and then i heard a funny little clicking noise. i looked around on the other side of the bookcase and found her up on her hind legs, her paws against my full-length mirror, staring at her own reflection. now there’s a dog i can relate to.
i named her maude lebowski because i love the big lebowski so much that i was maude lebowski for halloween last year. also, the day i brought my new dog maude lebowski home, she peed on my fucking rug.
1. she weighs 5.9 pounds.
2. she had fleas. we fixed that, though.
3. it’s easy for me to clip her nails at home. before i took her to the vet, her paws had a sort of howard-hughes look about them, but i was afraid of hurting her if i tried to cut her nails myself. when i watched the vet-tech do it, though, it looked pretty easy.
4. her spay scar was slightly infected. i got some liquid antibiotics that i have to squirt into her mouth twice a day. she hates it.
5. i suspected that she had probably been pregnant many times over at the puppy mill, and the vet confirmed it.
6. i suspected that her crouching down low whenever someone new approaches her means that she may have been abused, and the vet confirmed that as well.
7. she’s missing most of her bottom teeth on one side. that’s what happens when a dog’s dental health is ignored for four years. they gave me some chewy things for her which are supposed to clean her teeth. she won’t eat them, though, so i think i’ll have to brush her teeth myself. she’s not going to like that much.
8. she has joint problems in her back legs. apparently, her kneecaps slip out of place rather easily, and she walks a bit bowlegged in the back to compensate for it. the vet gave me some glucosamine pills, which i crush up into dust and mix into her food. she won’t eat them otherwise.
9. the occasional snuffling/snorting sounds she makes are the result of sinus drainage. believe it or not, a certain kind of over-the-counter antihistamine for people (the vet wrote it down) can clear this right up in a dog. the vet also did a spot-on imitation of the sinus drainage sounds of a dog, and i knew right then that she was the best vet ever.
10. a cross-type harness will help her learn to walk on a leash without putting strain on her neck. apparently, the chihuahua trachea is quite delicate. who knew?
1. she has not barked at all. not once. when i checked out some sites about puppy mills, i learned that quite a few of them debark their dogs. debarkings can be done surgically at the vet, and there is some debate about whether or not it’s humane. debarkings at puppymills are done non-surgically, and there is no debate at all about how inhumane that is. chihuahuas as a breed are known to bark quite a lot, so i’m pretty sure mine has been debarked. i feel two ways about this: glad that my dog is so quiet, and really guilty for being glad that my dog is so quiet.
2. she doesn’t much like other dogs so far. sometimes she growls and shows her teeth, or snaps a little. so far, though, she’s only seen really big dogs and really excited dogs. the big dogs scared her because she’s so little, and the really excited dog scared her because he jumped around and barked a lot, and i don’t think she understood that he meant no harm. we’ll have to work on this.
3. she likes people okay, as long as they aren’t too loud and don’t make any sudden moves. i’ve had quite a bit of success taking her places with me and letting her sit in people’s laps. the other night she fell asleep in chris’s lap. he nearly fell asleep, too.
4. she’ll walk up the stairs but not down the stairs.
5. she is not entirely housetrained.
6. after the first few days of trepidation, she quickly became accustomed to her new home. she follows me everywhere around the apartment, curling up on the floor wherever i happen to be. she has a favorite spot in each room–in the living room she sits under the futon or coffee table, in the study she sits under my computer desk next to the subwoofer, in my bedroom she sits on my dirty clothes. when i’m in the bathroom she likes to climb into my laundry basket.
7. she’s too small to be able to jump onto the bed by herself. when i get into bed at night she stands on her hind legs and puts her feet up on the mattress, wagging her tail until i pick her up. she squirms around happily (which is very entertaining) before burrowing into the comforter next to me, where she stays the entire night. i don’t know if she sleeps the whole time, but she never wakes me up at all, and she’s always in the same spot the next morning.
8. leash training has been slow because outside of the apartment she stays within a five-foot radius of me at all times. i don’t have to worry at all about her running away. if i took her to the park or for a walk i’d certainly put her on a leash for her own safety, but when i take her with me to bars or friends’ houses it’s not an issue.
9. the aforementioned friends make lots of chihuahua jokes. there are taco bell jokes and desert-dogs-don’t-have-to-pee-so-often jokes, and when trina’s husband efrain put his finger up to her nose he said, “she smells the mexican.”
10. so far, she is the best dog ever.