This is the story (as I know it) of Milo. He was my birthday present to me a few years ago. I literally got him the day after my birthday, and he was a bit bigger than I had wanted. Since then, he has become much more than I bargained for, but I’d never give him up. To understand what I mean about being more than for what I’d bargained, you need to know his whole story, as related to me by the director of our local United Humanitarians, Linda, and his previous owner, beginning with his puppyhood.
I had recently lost one of my precious rescue babies, and I desperately needed a small body to keep beside me, so I decided I wanted a chihuahua. I was fully aware of their one person only temperament, and that’s what I wanted. With that thought in my mind, I went to United Humanitarians to get heart worm prevention for our other animals and to ask Linda (the extraordinary woman who runs our local chapter) to be on the look out for someone who wanted to get rid of a chihuahua. Her face immediately lit up. I had just missed a very sad lady who needed to give her chihuahua a new home. How much more perfect could the signs be? Linda did caution me that the dog in question was a larger breed chihuahua, and did I mind that? Of course not! He was a chihuahua! How much larger could he be? Try 15 pounds with the energy of a Jack Russel Terrier. Hoo boy! Of course, I didn’t find that out until later.
Now for his beginnings. He was only 6 months old when I got him. I was his third owner, and in looking at his medical records that came with him, I just realized that today (2/20/2013) is his 4th birthday. Mom went with me to pick him up from his owner’s apartment. A few minutes after arriving, her son entered the room in his wheel chair. Could we feel any worse about taking him? Mom had prepared for something like that situation, and she had brought with her a notebook she’d made of pictures of our property and our other dogs. As Milo’s human mother looked at the pictures, she related Milo’s deplorable beginnings.
She’d seen an add for large breed Chihuahua’s, and she thought one would make a good companion for her son who had mobility issues. When she got to the address, she realized it was a puppy mill. When she got to look at the puppies, she was horrified. None of them were in good health, and they all had to some degree a skin condition she recognized as mange. Her heart broke, and she chose the puppy that looked like it had the best chance of survival. She took him to the vet, and the decision was made to report the woman as an illegal breeder. Not only did he have mange, he was under weight, and he had a breathing condition which might or might not improve with treatment. There were other signs he may have been abused further, but it was difficult to tell with all of his other problems. That caring lady spent a small fortune on a puppy who responded very well to her loving ministrations. He was completely healthy by the time the decision was made that she and her son needed to give him up.
Not wanting to leave him locked in his kennel all day long, she’d occasionally leave him out to roam the apartment. The problem with that were her apartment building neighbors. When he was locked in the kennel with is toys, he was quiet all day. When he was left out of the kennel, even with those same toys, he barked all day long which everyone knows is a no-no in apartment living etiquette . Unfortunately, the days she left him out of his kennel were those days she went to take care of her ailing mother, so the neighbors were treated to his barking and wails for hours. Obviously, this didn’t go over too well in her relations with her neighbors, but at his age he really couldn’t be left out of his kennel for too long. Accidents were bound to happen. The neighbors had some sympathy, but not too much. His sharp little bark wore thin very quickly. Abruptly, she closed the picture book, and gathered the few toys of his she’d left scattered for him until I had passed muster as someone to whom she could give over his care. She truly did not want to give him up, but she wanted what was best for him, so she saw no other way than to give him to a family that had much more time for him.
I don’t blame her. As we spoke to her about the little guy’s history, we found that by the time she got him at eight weeks: he had mange, he was malnourished, and he’d suffered some form of physical abuse and mental anguish. We were getting a serious interview, and if we didn’t pass, we weren’t going to get him.
Once we got Milo to the car, he couldn’t wait to go for a ride. He didn’t even pay much attention to his former mistress. When her son using his crutches got to the car, however, that was a different story. Milo stayed next to him, and as we back backed slowly out of the parking space, his young master stayed next to him, their contact was finally broken when his mother placed her hand on his arm to keep him from falling and to let us go. That moment broke my heart, but as we were driving away, Milo went to point with his nose out the window as though he knew he was beginning a new adventure.
When we got him home, we placed the plastic bag his other mother had packed for him next to a chair where he could easily get to his toys. We didn’t mix them with the toys of the other dogs which were in a doggie bed because we wanted the other dogs to respect his toys as his own until he felt comfortable sharing. Tippy, our shephard mix and Duke, a full blood (and snipped) tri-color sheltie, were good sports about his arrival. They played with him only as rough as he wanted, and he wanted to play plenty rough! It was like he was expending as much of the extra energy he’d built up as he could. It didn’t take us too long to realize full tilt was the only way he played, or did anything for that matter! So here we were with a large chihuahua, seemingly with a built in power cell, and we were just a tad shell-shocked. We’d never seen a chihuahua so big or so determined to be a big dog, so we decided to find out just what breed he is.
With just a few clicks of the mouse, we had lots of pictures from which to choose, and we eventually determined him to be a Deerhead chihuahua. The two signature features of this dog are his hind legs are longer than his body, and his head resembles that of a deer. Thus, the breed was name Deerhead. His long hind legs give him an odd walking gate, but he can run like a grey hound! When running full out, his hind feet actually pass his head. It’s also believed that this breed is one of a few breeds that are descended from foxes rather than simply bred smaller and smaller from wolves.
Getting back to Milo’s story…After we got him home, he acted like he was a guest for the first few days, but as he realized he wasn’t going home, he did begin to settle in. After all, the only one who’s opinion we didn’t get about his moving from one family to another was Milo himself. He was the only who couldn’t express an opinion, or so we thought…
One evening while we were watching TV and the dogs were playing with their toys, Milo came to a sudden stop in his activity. It was one of those things that really shouldn’t get your attention, but it does because of the total lack of movement. After a few moments of standing there, Milo dropped the toy he was playing with (it wasn’t one of his), walked over to the bag of toys his previous owner had packed for him, and he very carefully began removing his toys and carrying them, one by one, across the room to drop them near the small basket bed we used for collecting their toys in one place. He repeated this activity until ALL of his toys were in a pile near the basket with the toys belonging to the other two dogs. It was kind of like, after one week, he decided, “Okay. I’ll unpack now because I think I’m going to go ahead and stay here.”
It was at once funny and heart gripping. He’s at once an unstoppable power house (until he drops to recharge) and a very small soul who still needs some special looking after because he may never completely heal emotionally from that early abuse, but he’s our Little Man. He’s our Milo here to stay.
NOTE: I know I stressed United Humanitarians a bit early on in this. I did so because they are great people who are all volunteer. Even the vet does not get paid. All charges are for supplies and to cover their cost of medicines. Look for one near you to volunteer or donate time/money. If there isn’t one near you, there’s sure to be a shelter or rescue group in need of your time or assistance. The following statement was attributed to Ghandi, but it’s not known if he really said these words or not. If not, it’s still a great saying: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. “