19: My Chilly Chis

19: My Chilly Chis

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?

My Chilly Chis

Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them, Filling an emptiness we don’t even know we have.

~Thom Jones

Dog owners tend to be drawn to a particular breed or breed type, and our choice was the Border Collie. We’d had various breeds and mixes but our Border named Bongo stood out for his astounding loyalty, obedience, intelligence and ability to practically read our minds. He was so smart that my husband suggested that, instead of the kids, we should send the dog to college.

When you get a puppy and raise it along with your children, it becomes a part of their childhood and a part of your family history. When my older son went to college and my younger went to heaven, Bongo dutifully stayed to ease our grief for as long as he could. When it was time to put him down, we knew we were losing the last vestige of our children’s childhood. If you’ve ever had to say goodbye to a loved one, you know that you give a piece of your heart to hold onto until you meet again in heaven. We didn’t think we could give our hearts to another dog after Bongo passed.

“It would be unfair to any dog that should come into our home,” I said. “We could never love it like we love Bongo.” Everyone agreed. Anyone who knew Bongo lauded his special personality.

Months passed, then years. We shared Bongo stories and how we could sometimes “feel” him jump on the bed or catch a glimpse of him out of the corner of our eyes. Bongo could never be replaced, just as our own little boy could never be replaced.

My adult daughter and I often walked up and down the rows of cages at the city animal shelter, wondering if we were ready to volunteer. We agreed no dog would come home with us.

One day, as we passed by the cages, one small brown dog reached her tiny paw through the bars as though to stop us. It was a Chihuahua mix. Despite her obvious trepidation about the shelter cacophony and blur of passing strangers, she wagged her tail and licked our fingers, coaxing us to stay with her.

“A Chihuahua?” We looked at each other. No, not the neurotic yippy-yappers. But then, we remembered Bella the Chi we once dog-sat for a friend. That Chi wasn’t an anxiety-ridden noisy small breed. Neither was the sweet therapy Chihuahua, Nellie, who visited my daughter during her long infusions at the hospital. Maybe with an open mind both my daughter and this rescued one could have a new life of purpose becoming a therapy team, too. This Chi mix had a perfect, easygoing temperament and was obviously social and gentle.

When she came home, she slipped into her new home life quickly and easily. It’s not good to treat a dog like a child, I know, but her size just begged to be babied. Soon, I found myself warming a blanket in the dryer, bundling her up and cradling her in my arms. Just the sight of a blanket makes her eager for the next cuddle session. She always seemed so chilly that I bought her a sweater. My husband warned me not to spoil her, but I ignored him.

Sweet little Suki slept in our bed under our blankets with us, and she ate kibble, canned food and treats from our table. Love and adoration beamed from her large, brown eyes. Over the next year, Suki gained weight. Bony when we got her, she ballooned unhealthily. We showed our love with hugs and kisses and big dog portions of food from the drive-thru. Whenever we passed by a fast food place, she licked her lips. This was not good. Our love had to be kept non-edible. No more fast food. And more exercise.

The perfect solution? A new friend. It was such a happy time for us to return to the animal shelter, this time on a mission to find a new family member. It didn’t take long.

If we thought Suki looked terribly thin and forlorn when we first saw her, this little Chihuahua mix looked like a shivering waif straight out of Oliver Twist. An oversize, threadbare T-shirt made him look even more pitiful. His legs were thinner than chicken bones. Yet, he had the bounce and energy of a tightly wound spring. Gizmo was the perfect, annoying little brother for Suki. He got her running and losing the weight she’d put on during the previous year.

You’d think our little pack was happy and complete, but I was hit by the most curious urge to adopt just one more Chi. A third. My husband thought I was crazy and it took some time to convince him that I was not becoming an animal hoarder. We’d never had more than two dogs at a time before but this feeling was hard to resist. Two Chis were terrific. Three would be thrilling!

“No more Chihuahuas!” my husband said. “If we ever get another dog, it will have to be a Border.” It only seemed fair. But the thought of having three Chis was overwhelming, so I went to the animal shelter website to see what Chis were available. As I clicked on the pages, one particular little dog caught my eye. It was described as a Chi mix but it looked like a Border Collie. Closer inspection revealed that it was a rare Border Collie-Chihuahua mix. I couldn’t believe it. I rushed to the shelter, knowing that my husband would have his Border and I would have my Chi.

Bongo was named after the bongo drum, which my husband played, so it seemed only natural to name his new Bochi (Border-Chi) Quinto, the name of the companion drum. My husband was over the moon when he saw Quinto’s soft, playful face. And now our three little Chis have filled our home with a lot of joyful antics. We can’t lie on the sofa without being covered by happy Chihuahuas, bubbling over with glee.

I never considered myself a Chihuahua person. Dogs, to me, aren’t fashion accessories. But they still do look irresistibly cute wearing a T-shirt or sweater. As for Quinto, while he is the size of a Chi, he has plenty of black and white fur and the look of a Border—so we decided to keep his couture limited to a tiny red bandana, which seems to suit him quite well.

So, in the name of good dogs everywhere and especially our precious, irreplaceable Bongo, we have rescued three homeless dogs from the shelter and become members of the ASPCA. Alas, none of our Chis turned out to be therapy dogs, except for the therapy they provide us at home. The amount of love they bring into our lives still amazes us.

We wonder if Bongo looks down upon our pack and approves. If he were here, he would have loved to play with these three chilly Chis. I imagine that someday he’ll be herding us all into heaven, where he’ll look at us as if to say, “And you didn’t think you were Chihuahua people!”

~Lori Phillips

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