Call it the Legally Blonde effect. Or, blame the “little-dog phenomenon” on Paris Hilton. Regardless of who’s responsible, the Chihuahuas’ stars rose quickly when Hollywood took a brief but bright shine to them.
And just as with various it-breeds in the past, many of the dogs wound up at animal shelters when the reality of pet ownership set in.
The good news is, the majority of shelter pups are highly adoptable animals. So while the facilities themselves can be intimidating — even downright depressing — places, finding a great match is a manageable task. And happily, there’s no better feeling than bringing home a pet in need.
Meanwhile, a bit of prep work…
Think about what you want.
Though the Chihuahua harbors a rep for being a nervous lap-sitter, many develop stubbornly against stereotype. From the outgoing class clown to the cautiously sensitive soul, Chis inhabit a vast range of personality types.
• Ask yourself what kind of dog is best suited to your life now and be honest — and realistic — about the changes you’d be willing to make should you fall in love with the kind you least expected to.
• If you’re attracted to “project pups” — especially those who require extra effort to adjust and relax — are you able to put in the time needed to socialize and build confidence in your new charge?
• If you’re looking for the consummate extrovert, can you handle the constant demands for attention and play?
Purebreds often have higher rates of congenital health disorders. Chihuahuas, in particular, are susceptible to patellar luxation and hypoglycemia. Chi mixes, however, may offer the size and sauciness you love, but with a more optimistic prognosis for a long healthy life.
Ask questions of shelter staff or volunteers.
The more background information you’re able to garner about a particular dog, the more likely a successful match will be made. For example, if you’re thinking you’ll hire a dog walker or use doggie daycare during the workweek, learning any quirks about your potential adoptee can be a useful planning tool. You may find out that Frieda is delightful around other dogs but is frightened of strangers. Or that Oscar takes extra time to warm up to bearded men.
That doesn’t mean Frieda or Oscar is necessarily wrong or right for you. It’s simply helpful to understand potential challenges — or benefits! — before you make a final decision.
Most shelters can give approximate, if not surprisingly accurate, estimates of an animal’s age. If it’s not listed on the kennel card, don’t hesitate to ask. Since small dogs may live well into their late teens, know that this animal could be part of your life for up to two decades.
Like the vast majority of domestic dogs, Chis are not solitary souls. They’re most comfortable living among others, especially the humans they’ve come to trust. Can you ensure yours a lifetime of companionship and care? If so, we say go for it. Adopting a tiny Chihuahua may just be the biggest gift you ever give yourself.