Chihuahuas have almost no downside. They’re portable, good-tempered, quieter than the average dog (you heard that right – they don’t bark more than average dogs and their bark is quieter), reasonably healthy (they’re prone to seizures and tooth decay), long-lived (14-17 years, on average), most of them can’t get on the furniture unless you provide a set of stairs, they’ll never drag stuff off the kitchen counter, and you can train them to use the indoor potty system of your choice. So what’s the catch?
Chihuahuas are so fragile that I have been told many firsthand stories about Chihuahuas dying in freakishly easy ways, simply because of their size.
[Chi mommies who have lost pets tragically, you should stop reading now and look at cute puppy pictures instead. But if you’re planning on or considering Chihuahua ownership (or any other small breed), you should be aware of the risks. Don’t worry – there are no grim pictures, and I’ve tried to keep things on the lighter side.]
One of the rules of humor is that a lot of anything starts to get funny. People warned me about so many ways Chihuahuas had been known to die that it got darkly ridiculous (but don’t think I’m not grateful – I am). It got so I’d wander into Angel Joe’s office and say something like, “Just heard a new one. Chihuahua fell out of a puppy purse during a blender demonstration at the Home Show.” (That did not happen.)
So I’ve create an educational quiz, to highlight the risks and responsibilities of owning a tiny dog. See if you can pick the real ways in which Chis have perished versus ones I made up. (Of course, the ones I made up could have happened.)
All right. Here are the answers.
Fell from a standing person’s arms. Yup. Usually when a puppy.
Crushed trachea. This is a trick question, because their tracheas can be crushed (you should always walk them with a harness), but I’ve never heard of one dying right away from it. Usually the breathing problems result in heart trouble, and that eventually does them in.
Gator. Actually, gators seem to prefer poodles. But surely it’s happened, as evidenced by this Halloween costume.
Fell off stairs through bannister railing. Heard that from several people, including my vet. In fact, I think I heard of one that just fell down the stairs and died. We have become paranoid about keeping the door to the basement shut.
Baseboard heater. I made that up. We have baseboard heaters, and I don’t know if I should be worried.
Stepped on. Yup, usually puppies.
Ran into wall chasing toy, broke neck. Actually, it was a coffee table leg. Probably the most shocking one I heard, as it happened right in front of the owner. Horrible.
Drowned in toilet. Don’t be ridiculous. How could they reach a toilet?
Choked on stub of carrot. Yup. Heard that one first hand. She slices the carrots in thin slivers now.
Sat on. Despite the famous cartoon, I haven’t heard of this actually happening. My mother was surprised when I told her. Turns out she sits on her black cat with some regularity when the room is dark. Good thing she’s skinny.
Door closed on head. Made it up. Seems like it could happen, though. Both my mom and I have closed sliding glass doors on our cats’ heads. Cats have hard noggins. Chihuahuas do not.
…and all the rest are true. I think death by house cat was another puppy.
So there you have it – the joys of Chihuahua ownership in the manner of Edward Gorey. Turns out that the price of owning an adorable, convenient dog is constant vigilance. Some things to consider before getting one:
Chihuahuas, alone among dogs, have a soft spot on their skulls that never goes away.
Those little twig legs and tiny ribcages are delicate enough that you should never have a Chihuahua if you have young children. Seriously. I’d probably wait until the kid is seven.
For similar reasons, it’s inadvisable to own a Chihuahua if you are an alcoholic, have vertigo, or are very unsteady on your feet for any reason. Those who own Chihuahuas often develop what Nancy, my dog’s co-breeder, calls “the Chihuahua shuffle,” a manner of walking that doesn’t lift the feet, so tiny toes can’t get caught beneath your shoes.
When walking a Chihuahua, you need to constantly scan the surroundings for unleashed large dogs or, depending on your neighborhood, wild animals. Never walk a Chihuahua off leash, and always use a harness. You need to be able to pull that sucker off the ground like a yo yo.
Your decor and landscaping may suffer from having chick wire, orange webbing or Plexiglas over the open spaces between bannisters, deck railings and fences.
You should never leave your Cihuahua alone in a fenced yard, because of birds of prey. Oh, and avoid gator-filled swamps. But that’s a good idea anyway.