We adopted Chino in January of 2007. I had begun working part-time, and I feared Biscuit would be lonely. Also, I was stunned by the mistreatment of dogs in Texas, where we were living at the time (see Biscuit), and wanted to save another dog if I could. I began looking online at the shelter sites. Quite by accident, I happened upon a dog foster-home page – and this little face peered out at me. I knew he was the one.
He was a stray who had been found wandering the streets in Georgetown, Texas. He was described as “a Shar Pei, possibly mixed with a Corgi!” because his legs were so stubby and his head immense. But Shar Peis are somewhat rare, and are even less common in Texas. They didn’t realize that he was so small and awkward because he was malnourished and 20 pounds underweight. His tail had been broken, and he was infected with heartworm – a common affliction of dogs (both shelter and owned) in Texas, because the warm weather is a breeding ground for mosquitoes, as well as because of a lack of prevention.
We immediately went to see him at his “foster home” – which turned out to be a crate in an RV. We took one look at him, looking at us quietly with his baby elephant toy in his mouth -and told the woman we would be back the next day to pick him up. He cried like a little baby when we left. We decided to name him Chino – Spanish for “Chinese” – in a nod to his heritage. Eli – the shelter name for him – just didn’t fit. Chino suited him just fine.
We actually brought him home two days later. The shelter paid for his treatment: two shots of an arsenic compound, 24 hours apart. He was the sickest dog I had ever seen: he couldn’t eat and when he could stand up, he looked like a newborn foal, shaky and unsteady. We had to keep him as still as possible for four weeks. For the first few weeks, it wasn’t difficult: he was weak and barely conscious. I had to feed him by hand. We didn’t know if he was going to make it.
This enforced calm inadvertently worked out to be to our advantage, when it came to our other dog, Biscuit. We’d had her for a year by this point; after a difficult first year of life prior to coming to us, she was becoming quite comfortable as the resident canine princess. She was used to her immediate family, but still hid in the presence of anyone else; and barked viciously whenever a strange dog was near. Biscuit was beside herself when we brought Chino home, even though we did have them meet down the block, on neutral territory. She snarled with absolute venom whenever she dared to approach him, and her hackles stood up so high she looked like an angry cat. I was becoming worried that we had made a mistake.
But one day, Chino had ventured out to the living room and flopped himself down on the carpet. Biscuit approached gingerly, almost on tiptoe. She sniffed at him, showed her teeth. He didn’t move. She growled a bit; he just lay there patiently. Suddenly, Biscuit jumped straight up in the air – I went to grab her, thinking she was attacking… but then, she started prancing all around him, almost joyfully, trying to entice Chino to play. He sat up carefully – and the two began wrestling. I swear they were both smiling. I was sorry to have to stop them, but I knew I had to keep Chino still. They have been the best of friends, ever since that moment. Almost three years later, they are still inseparable.
Once he had recovered, the first thing we learned about our new addition was that he was a complete couch potato. I read that the kind of coat he has is related to his temperament; a rougher, “horse” coat would usually mean a more active, stubborn, high-strung dog; whereas a softer “brush” coat like Chino’s meant that he would be more calm, less active. The stubborn, strong-willed nature of the Shar Pei would still be present, but it would not be as pronounced.
He is the most gentle, sweet animal I have ever seen. I have never, ever seen him anything but placid and docile around people. He adores children, and even protects them. My husband’s niece brought her newborn over one afternoon; her husband rose up over the baby, playing monster. Chino raced over, forced himself between the baby and father, and began nudging and licking him away from the baby. He has done this on many occasions, and considers himself the guardian of the house and of our daughter.
So I was lulled into a false sense of security, thinking that Chino’s benevolence extended towards other animals as well. Wrong! We brought him to visit my parents; my sister was staying with them, and brought Lila, her little orange tabby. Within seconds of spying the cat, he had her in his jaws, shaking her like a grizzly bear with a salmon in its mouth. The cat was screaming and spraying urine everywhere. It was awful. I managed to pry the cat out of Chino’s mouth before he did any real damage to her. We never made that same mistake.
Unfortunately, we have no control over the wild little animals that make their way into our backyard. It is fenced, but only with wire; they come in to eat the herbs and rhubarb the previous owners planted. Chino has killed two rabbits, and would have killed a stray cat if I had not been able to pry it out of his mouth in time.
I also see how he could have gotten separated from his previous owner: he is an escape artist. He runs away routinely, either breaking the fence or rushing past us through the front door. We can never catch him; but he always comes back within a few hours. I guess he just wants his freedom sometimes. Well, don’t we all?
He’s our sweet, loyal, lazy Buddy, brother to Biscuit and Eve, and the perfect addition to our little family. We couldn’t ask for a better furry friend.