Category Archives: Dogs

Chino

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.

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Biscuit

We’d just moved from Colorado to Texas.  I had a 2-year-old, no job, didn’t know anyone, and spent long hours at home with our daughter while my husband worked even longer hours.  I had been longing for a dog for years – dogs had always been an important part of my family – but always worked too much to have time for a pet, and lived in small apartments my entire adult life. I just didn’t think it would be fair to the dog.  But now was the perfect time.

The treatment of animals in general – and dogs in particular – in Texas was appalling.  I know there is animal abuse everywhere; but no place I’ve seen devalues and mistreats dogs the way they do in Texas.  It’s almost ingrained in the culture; it was explained that dogs were used as “early warning sytems” intended to guard the owners’ property.  They were not pets.  All of our neighbors had dogs that were penned in a corner of their backyards, with bare, ramshackle shelters the only respite from the brutal summer heat and winter chill.  No one came to pet or play with them; they were antisocial and lonely creatures.  The owners would fill up a dry food container and leave it outside, which would quickly become infested with bugs; or they would toss scraps and food to them.  We met and visited people all around Texas, from all walks of life; the attitude was almost always the same.  Only two people we knew (who happened to be friends of ours) even allowed their dogs indoors.  We were horrified.
Our next-door neighbor (a middle-manager at a software corporation and small-business owner with a lovely home) had a cocker spaniel penned up in their back yard.  Her fur was a mass of matted knots and insects; I could smell the dog six feet away.  One of her eyes was missing as a result of untreated disease.  She would show her teeth if I came near the fence, and I could tell she was terrified; I would toss dog biscuits and scraps to her, which she would gobble down greedily.  The first “ice storm” in ten years (a slight glaze, which was a “storm” to Texas, laughable to a New Yorker like me) occurred that winter, and we could hear that poor dog howling in pain.  We ran outside to find her feet frozen to the ground. We ran to call the police; but someone came and took the dog away in the meantime.  We later learned the dog had died.  Two weeks later, this woman installed a new dog in the backyard.  We found out later it also died, this time during the heat wave the following summer. It was futile to call the police or animal control; unless we viewed physical abuse taking place, this treatment was considered legal.  The only way they would respond if there was a lack of shelter from the sun (an umbrella would suffice) or water for the animal.  They considered the complaint a nuisance.  It was inexplicable.

We went to the local shelters to find a dog.  We adopted a little Jack Russell terrier in February 2006.  As soon as I saw her, I knew she would be mine.  We named her Biscuit, after the dog in my daughter’s favorite children’s book.  She had never been inside a house in her entire life; in fact, she had never been outside a cage, except to eliminate, until she was rescued.  She was a puppy-mill breeding dog.  She was under one year old, yet had already had at least one litter of puppies.  She was emaciated – under 12 pounds – and gained 8 pounds in her first month with us.

She was petrified of flashlights and fly swatters, and other very specific objects – and the way she cowered led us to believe that she had been hit with them.  She was terrified of men, and snarled whenever Eduardo would come near.  She hid under the bed for a week – but would come out when I coaxed her, and never once “went” inside the house… except to urinate on Eduardo’s side of the bed!  He was not happy, to say the least.  It took her months before she would allow him to pet her.

She has come a long way since then. Now, he’s her human “daddy” – and it’s clear she thinks of me as her mommy, the Alpha.   She is my constant companion, never more than a few feet from me.  She is one of the most intelligent dogs I’ve ever known.  Now she does not cower and growl when strangers come; she barks, but now grudgingly allows others to pet her – which is an amazing thing, for her.  She just loves my parents, especially my dad.  She still fears other dogs; but adores her sibling-dog Chino, and tolerates my parents’ Shih Tzu Fiona.  She sees herself as my daughter’s “sister” – and the two of them have a true sibling rivalry over my attention!  And she loves cheese more than anything in the world – even more than meat.  She’s a real part of our family, and I can’t imagine life without her.

More than that, I can’t understand the people who might have hurt, neglected, abandoned or even killed her – had we not found her.  It is hard to imagine how many thousands of dogs meet the same fate on a daily basis.  If you don’t want the responsibility and expense of an animal that needs your time, love, and attention, and to be a part of your “pack” – don’t have one.  It’s pretty simple, in my opinion.  It doesn’t matter if you’re not a dog-lover; if you’re a compassionate human being, you don’t want to see any creature suffer needlessly.

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