Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Studies show Lucy is not as unique a snowflake as previously imagined.....

We've done Doppelgangers. We've done BuscemDog. But nature is a broad, colorful, diverse and cruel universe and there are lots of things that look like STUFF. As you may have guessed, a lot of people we encounter have a difficult time reconciling that Lucy is, in fact, a dog. More or less.

Today, I pay humble tribute to the many many many many many many many many many many many many things that are Not Dogs to which Lucy has been compared. Naturally, not all are favorable but, if ever I do get insulted, all I need to do is look at Lucy.....and then it's kind of like "Yeeahhhh, that is one weird lookin' dawg...."

(I should note, some of these animals are actually nicknames we've give her.....Don't you judge me.)

1. An Aye-Aye.
Her puppy picture would drive this one home.

2. A Lizard.
Most species will suffice, but the ones that hiss or shoot blood are particularly good examples.

3. A Dik-Dik.
I can believe with every inch of my being that Lucy could seamlessly meld with a herd of these mini-deer and possibly interbreed. And she is DEFINITELY a dick. <---That was funny.

4. Most insects, but Mosquitoes in particular.
Which would explain why she always leaves me feeling itchy and anemic.

5. A Marmoset
Pretty much any animal with the prefix 'pygmy' works anyhow.

6. A Possum.....
Or, otherwise:

7. Lemur
Yes, I know a lot of these are primates of some type. But they're different. Even the ones that are technically the same. And they look like Lucy. So just let it go already.

8. Monkeys.
This search led to so many images of things that are APES and NOT MONKEYS that I may have
(absolutely did) start screaming incoherently at the computer. Because, as we all know, Lucy is definitely a monkey. And Lucy looks nothing like an ape. Stupid Internet.

9. A Rodent, of Usual Size, since Lucy is very small. She is.....a tiny thing.
The ever popular choice of exclamation when seeing a toy dog.

10. The Baby from "Eraserhead"

This one made me throw up in my mouth a little when I realized it......and I will never again see syringing medicine in to Lucy's moth the same way. And it was already pretty disgusting.

11. Baby Birds
The schlumpier, the better. None of that "new born parrots who still have such adorable faces" nonsense!
I'm looking at you, cockatiels!!

12. Embryonic Dog
She's always had 'didn't cook quite long enough..' look about her.
Also, an actual picture of Lucy turned up in that GIS- Fetal Chihuahua:

13. A Goat
Not as effortless as the Dik-Dik, but she does make these awful little bleating noises when she wants to be let out in the yard.....

14. Miniature Horse Foals
Sometimes, I look at things and I can't myself from sputtering "DearGodWhyLucy"

15. A Goblin
And similarly,

16. A Gremlin
Both examples lend credence to my ongoing theory that Lucy is not actually a mortal dog but some kind of mythological being sent to me as punishment for some past misdeed. And given some of my past misdeeds, I can safely assume she'll be one of those Chihuahuas who easily live past age 20.

17. A Mole
She does like to tunnel....

18. Ground Squirrel
......really enjoys burrowing.....

19. A Meerkat
Bein' under stuff and sneering...those are Lucy's two major daily activities........

Finally, my personal favorite. An animal I truly adore and admire for their......special.....special-ness. A beast that I think is tragically under appreciated and unfairly reviled, one that so very wholly encompasses LUCY that were it not for their lack of hilarious disproportionately large ears giving clue that they are not one and the same, I would donate her to a zoo straight away.

Ladies and gents, I give you #20. The Naked Mole Rat

Its like all the Wrong Things were mashed together to become so so so right.........

So. Right.

I don't think I can ever hope to top this post.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sickly Little Monkeys

Uh, first off, sorry for the lapse between posts but I have made it quite plain that I'm an easily distracted and supremely lazy blogger. Not to mention that in the last month and a half we've had a cat break her leg and need a second cast put on less than a week later because she is the devil, lawnmower breakdowns and just last night, my border collie mix suffered a scary bout of spewing vomit all over her crate followed by excessive drooling and disorientation ( conveniently timed to be 10 minutes after our vet stops taking walk ins and starts charging emergency fees *blows brains out*) which turned out to be (fingers crossed!) nothing! So for once, it was a case of me just over-reacting instead of some unusual and expensive medical issue.

And I know none you care about that; you just want to talk about dogs and dog stuff. YEAH, DOG STUFF!!!! Let's pick up where I left off on the subject of Chihuahuas. We covered my opinions on show standards and shady breeding practices and I touched on some of the health problems associated with the latter. I'd like to expand on that today.

Purebred dogs can and do suffer from a number of specific ailments and disorders, the Chihuahua is no exception. Since I'm most well-versed in what has become my breed of choice by default ( previously, I owned a Great Pyrenees, about which I could speak at length but aside from him and Lucy, all the other dogs have been of mixed heritage), I'll keep this post about health concerns pertaining only to Chis. Most of them are problems you can find in any number of breeds but there are a few unique concerns when you are the owner of a toy dog.

Starting from the top of the beast, Chihuahuas are one of the small breeds that often has an 'open' molera, or fontanel. For those of you familiar with human babies, you'll know that the fontanel is the 'soft spot' on a newborn's skull where the bone remains un-fuzed to allow the head to better maneuver through the birth canal. Normally, with dogs or humans if there is a fontanel, it will close on its own during the early stages of development.  However, many Chis maintain a small opening for their entire life. Some will have multiple tiny openings and then some will just have one big spot. Lucy has one right at the top of her skull that is smaller than my pinkie nail. It doesn't cause her any difficulties. I try not to let things impale her directly through it though.
                                           Brain-Damage Button!

If the fontanel DOESN'T close all the way or stay tiny and UN-problematic  like Lucy's, it can be one of the contributing factors to Chihuahua issue deux- Hydrocephalus. This is a condition that means "water on the brain". The ventricles within the brain fill with too much fluid that the body is unable to regulate as normal, resulting in increased pressure on the brain itself, causing damage/restricting further development (in the case of puppies).  Its a condition dogs are born with or can develop due to serious skull trauma or medical issues such as tumors and Chihuahuas are particularly susceptible. Typically fatal, and in severe enough cases totally debilitating before the end, Hydrocephalus manifests in several common symptoms:
  • Unusually large head
  • Patchy skull, not solid bone (large or multiple moleras)
  • Lethargic
  • Not growing at normal rate
  • East-West Eyes (eyeballs looking outwards, opposite of cross-eyed)
  • Seizures
  • Difficulty walking, running, learning
There are treatment options, usually involving prednisone, but are not long term effective and can be prohibitively expensive for an ultimately unsuccessful endeavor. There is definitely no cure at this time.

 This is a skull from a hydro-cephalic Chihuahua- you can clearly see that this dog had an unusually large central fontanel/molera surrounded by smaller partial openings in the bone. Poor little mite.

 Ugh. That was gruesome to imagine.

Sticking with the head region, you may have noticed Chihuahuas can have somewhat 'buggy' eyeballs. While many think this adds to their 'ugly/cute' charm, it can also provide another hazard into their tiny, tiny worlds. Eyes that excessively protrude can be easily injured during play or rough behavior. In some truly unfortunate cases of bad breeding, eyes can be so bulgy that the lids have difficulty closing all the way and the dog develops a chronic dry-eye condition, requiring moistening drops daily. Indeed, the super over-sized eyes of some breeds like Pugs can actually 'pop out' of the socket if jarred enough. Which is.......gross. Less gruesome that Hydrocephalus, but still......yeah. If your dog is one of the examples of ' is that a frog or a puppy', please make sure you take precautions to protect them. Normally, I'm the last person in the world to suggest dressing your dog, but in this case, I think having a pair of Doggles around would be handy! At the very least, eye problems are not usually as big an issue as some of the other common Chi stuff, just one of those 'file away for later reference' pieces of info.
                                           It's like a little green olive!

Cruising past the eyeball ski slopes, we land on the mouth! I've mentioned dental concerns pertaining to Chihuahuas before but for the sake of posterity, let's revisit! On a Chihuahua, everything is tiny except the ego and the mouth is no exception. Wee little jawbones often don't have enough space to house a normal number of canine teeth and many Chis suffer from overcrowding, missing or malformed chompers. Lucy has all three options because she's an overachiever!

When the teeth are all crammed together like sardines, it becomes incredibly easy for food to get stuck in between them and lead to excess tartar/plaque buildup. It seems like I have to clean Lucy's teeth five times more often than any of the other dogs, matter of fact. So, with the excess gunk growing at an alarming rate, you get accelerated tooth decay! Which is why so many very small dogs have stink-mouths of death! Regular brushing and professional cleanings do help, but, as in the case of my little snowflake, they can't prevent what the genetics say. She now only has a couple of incisors left ( and the remainders are loosening as we speak) and I'm pretty sure she was just born without several teeth between her canines and molars,  but she can still eat hard foods for now so....meh. I'd like to say 'an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure' but in the case of poor dental structure, there's only so much you can do before breeding will out. A much less minor concern would be the retention of puppy teeth aka, your dog's mouth looks like that of a Great White Shark. But this is a temporary concern vs life-long dental care; fortunately, they can be easily removed by your vet. A lot of owners just opt to have the service performed while the pup is unconscious during their neutering.

                               The misshapen, gappy gates of HELL!!!!!

Body-wise, your dog is actually built ok, even if it is a tiny caricature of a former wolf. Chihuahuas can and do have a risk of back problems and although one normally associates hip displasia with large/heavy breeds, toy dogs can suffer too. But it *is* thankfully less common. The major structural flaw of the Chihuahua's body is almost always 'patella luxation' also known as Lookit' Dem Craaazzzyyy Swinging Kneecaps!!!!!

Resulting from a birth defect, extended trauma or serious injury, patella luxation is the medical term for a 'trick' knee. The patella (commonly referred to as the knee-cap) in normal cases, sits between two grooves in the femur bone of a dog's hind leg and moves up and down as the leg does. However, in cases of luxation, the patella will actually move to the side. This can be mild enough to just cause a weird gait or severe enough to actually showing immediate lameness for a dog. In the case of a dog being born with this, sometime the grooves of the femur are too shallow and allow more range of motion in the knee than they should. Other times, as a result of too much high impact jumping during the formative stages of puppy growth or jumping on/off of tall surfaces even as an adult, luxation is caused by loosening of the actual patellar ligament due to the strain of leaping around.
Symptoms usually include: dogs stopping in mid-run with one leg lifted, yelps of pain upon landing on the leg after a jump, prolonged periods of lameness with the hind leg 'hitched up', 'Bowed knees' either inward or outward, stiffness in hind limbs and otherwise odd gaiting in the rear.
This particular condition is totally a case by case basis. Some dogs, like Lucy, have such a mild form of it that their legs only really look a little weak or odd and every now again the knee will bow a little. For other dogs, surgery might be necessary the very first time it happens. It can be expensive but is usually a one time deal. Ways to avoid developing or aggravating patella luxation are mainly limiting jumping and in some cases, using stairs for your small dogs. Lift them on to beds or sofas whenever possible. Keeping your dog in good physical condition and at a healthy weight is also key.

As an aside, the OFA ( orthopedic registry for dogs ) lists Chihuahuas as only having a 10% occurrence of PL. This is generally regarded as a seriously underestimated number and largely attributed to the high amount of Chis being bred without having their knees checked at all. And those pet dogs who have been diagnosed are not being registered with OFA because they aren't breeding prospects so why bother, right?

                             Horrible little chicken bones.....

That pretty well sums up the 'outside' concerns for a Chihuahua. All of the conditions above can be found in many if not most other toy breeds and the eye/dental problems are often even more severe in flat-faced pooches such as Pugs and Shih Tzus.

So let's move on to the inside of this peculiar little vehicle!!!!

I like to think that very small toy breeds are akin to hummingbirds- they need a steady source of nutrition, particularly as babies, in order to thrive. Chihuahuas have an incredibly high metabolism and a very small stomach. Indeed, if Lucy is ever starting to look chubbier than I'd like, a day or two of more restricted kibble amount will trim her right down. The negative side of this of course is that whenever she gets ill or has a flare up of her bowel illness, she goes from ' healthy and fit' to ' skeletal and disturbing to look at' in less than a week. So it can be a balancing act to keep your Chihuahua appropriately slender. And the biggest pitfall in managing nutrition is the risk of hypoglycemia.

And that's a fancy word for low blood sugar! Honestly, I have no idea how people deal with this in adult dogs as my experience is totally limited to dealing with toy breed puppies. I would assume it comprises of scheduled meal times and periodic monitoring throughout the day. I know that that woman who owns the almost upsetting-looking 'worlds smallest dog' has to feed her from a spoon like every 2 hours or something absurd like that. "Teacup" dogs rabble rabble hurf! Anyhow. Manifesting in lethargy, disoriented behavior and loss of balance/coordination, if ignored, hypoglycemia can lead to coma and death. When Lucy was a bebbeh, and in the case of other pups I've dealt with for family members, usually you'll get the onset of hypoglycemia when your delicate flower first comes home and decides food is no fun so it sulks instead of eats. Or, if food is waaayyyy too boring now that it has this cool new place to investigate. When you bring a new dog home, really, no matter what the age, it isn't unexpected for them to miss their first meal or two. And normally, no big deal, they won't starve themselves to death on purpose. But with a toy breed, this can obviously lead to ALL SYSTEMS DOWN in a shockingly  short amount of time. My home remedy to combat crashing rat dogs? Syringe some corn syrup right down their gullet. It's absorbed quickly and perks them back up right away. With Lucy, I did that once by itself the first night and then mixed a little bit in with her puppy food for the next day or so. After that, she ate fine.

That, of course, is more of a preventative action. If your dog or puppy is past the point of ' hasn't eaten yet/turns away from food and seems a little off ' then you need to call a VET. RIGHT. AWAY. I wasn't kidding when I said your Chihuahua could very very VERY easily die from this if you ignore it. And always consult a vet before making any decisions about home-treating your dogs. I know about the corn syrup thing from vets and other Chihuahua people and from years of helping raise unwanted litters of various species, but I am in no means a medical expert and have never hesitated to take one of my pets in for treatment or diagnostics. So. Yeah. Veterinarians are here for a reason- if you're ever unsure, call them.

                            " Feed me to maintain the general wretchedness! "

And of course on the flip side of regular nutrition, is the buzz word for all of pet-healthdom: OBESITY.

I have zero doubt in my mind that, given the opportunity, Lucy would weigh 400 lbs. She (like a hummingbird) is ALWAYS snuffling around for food. I have watched the dog crawl under an end display in a pet supply store, looking for dropped treat scraps or delectable dust bunnies. If we have guests for dinner, she parks right under them in case they decide to ignore my 'don't feed the dogs' rule. Frequently, when faced with her odd little quivering visage, they will develop temporary amnesia on the subject. Perhaps there is something innately charming about a dog that blinks one eye at a time that I've managed to miss in the last 6 years and change. Regardless, Chihuahuas are one of those breeds that is easily and willingly subject to gluttony.

The curse of being so small and attentive and cuddly as toy breeds is that people tend to cross the lines of good sense and view their pets as perpetual babies. In some ways, they are. They require a little more care and attention than a hardy mid sized mutt, they often get cold easily and need to be bundled up, they want to be held/carried and cossetted and often, they demand the bulk of their owners devotion during the day. And there are real worries like the aforementioned hypoglycemia associated with not feeding your Chihuahua enough. Plus....a lot of people these days seem to equate "loving" their dogs (and children but that is not my arena in which to battle) with FEEDING their dogs.

It's so easy to give in to those big dewy eyes, that head cocked inquisitively to the side at the sound of a wrapper opening or the prancing in circles on hind feet (just like a people!) at the word "treat". But you must, simply must resist for you are doing your dog a disservice by spoiling it so! Everyone in the free world knows the health risks associated with obesity in humans. Newsflash: All of those scary words like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke, arthritis and crippling immobility can strike your fatty fat fat dog too!!!!

My general opinion on obesity (being fat myself, due to an ACTUAL medical condition that I have been fighting against for 7 years now) is that if an adult person chooses to make unwise food choices and not exercise etc, then that is their prerogative and more power to them. However, nothing makes me angrier than seeing a seriously overweight child or dog. Because, though I hesitate to make the dogs=babies! comparison, like human children your dog should have no control over what it eats.They are dependent creatures who count on us to make the right choices for their health and well-being in every aspect. Killing with kindness is an epidemic in dog-owning households nowadays. It is up to the parent/owner to make the appropriate nutritional choices for their  child/pet and make sure that physical activity is part of daily life.  I always tell people, don't give a damn how I look as long as the dog is healthy. I will not be a part of that stereotype.

There is literally no benefit whatsoever for your dog to be overweight. Fat dogs are depressed, restricted and often smell gross. The only positive thing associated with it is the owner genuinely enjoying indulging their dog's ever whim. And frankly, that's indicative of a deeper problem that this blogger does not possess the necessary medical degrees to address.

Dogs, even Chihuahuas, want to be able to run and play and enjoy their lives. They want to explore and go on walks daily. Yes, they may SEEM hungry ALL the time, but that's an evolutionary trait designed to keep them from dying in the forest. Food is available? EAT TIL YOU BARF AND THEN EAT THAT TOO BC FOOD IS NEVER COMING BACK! Its just instinct, not an actual physical need to be eating all day long. My dogs routinely try to convince my husband when he gets home from work that they have not eaten in well over 90 years despite having had dinner less than two hours before. He doesn't fall for it and neither should you.

To review, This:
is disgusting and should be considered a form of abuse. (and yes, ok, theoretically, this dog might have a thyroid condition and certainly, if your dog is gaining or retaining weight for no good reason see a vet yadda yadda....)

And, THIS:
while weird and disturbing on several levels, is a dog in excellent body condition with good muscle tone, obvious 'tuck' (waist between ribs and hips, viewed from the side) and a happy, active attitude.
 Aside from the face, THIS is what a Chihuahua's body should look like, weight wise.

And there you have it! A whole lotta words about the various gross or heartbreaking problems you can experience when owning a Chihuahua. Just think, this is a comparatively short list so far as purebreds go. Whenever I look at Lucy and get sad over the things that are wrong with her, I remember to stop and thank my lucky stars that she's not an English Bulldog. Indeed, all of you stop and be thankful that your dog is not an English Bulldog. And if it is....well.......enjoy your vet bills!

Ugh, maybe a Bulldog would be an improvement.......

Thursday, September 15, 2011


In my last post, I touched on the subject of conformation and of breed type. I mentioned how Chihuahuas in general have changed relatively little in the show ring for the better part of the last century.

But, you might be saying, if THAT is how Chihuahuas are supposed to look, then how come the 'Taco Bell' dog is kind of different looking? What about Paris Hilton's dog? And...wait a "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" aren't BOTH of the main characters supposed to be Chis? Why do they look so damn different? What gives? Is this some sort of trick?

Well, it is kind of a trick, really (aside from the cosmic joke that is the Chihuahua in the first place, of course ;-P). The trick is : ethical vs unethical breeding practices. So, how about we start to outline what IS and ISN'T correct for this breed in particular and find out just how we can have such a kaleidoscope of differences!

For starters, going back to my last post, the Chihuahua Club of ( Insert your country here!) maintains a written and illustrated standard of the intangible ideal Chi. Since I live in the USA, I'll be drawing from my country's club page for info but really, there should only be the slightest of differences from nation to nation if any. There is a thorough outline of what is acceptable and what is to be avoided through breeding from coat length/texture/colors to size to alignment of teeth.

Full Standard HERE ---> ( I don't feel like re-reading OR listing the whole spiel at the moment, hehe )

But this is the gist of what we should be expecting/looking for when searching for a 'good' Chihuahua.
And right about now, you might be summoning images of tons of dogs you/your family/friends have owned which were PUREBRED Chis that looked very little like this image. You might be concerned that you actually had a mutt or a MinPin or if the urban legend is true and it really WAS a rat from the streets of Mexico, but worry not. You may actually have had a 'real' Chi. It just...well....might not have been a very good one. And don't think I'm judging you for it because, heaven knows, I own the most wrong Chihuahua ever whelped......

No, the reason your neighbors' Chihuahua weighed fifteen pounds when the standard calls for no less than two and no more than six pounds for the ideal specimen was simply a matter of its breeding. And a dog so far out of standard usually comes from one of two sources; a puppy mill/pet store OR a 'back yard breeder'.

Lets start with the more offensive of the two. A puppy mill is essentially a dog factory. Multiple breeds of dogs are housed in almost universally filthy, cramped conditions, denied veterinary care/basic grooming + hygiene and quality food and kept alive for the sole purpose of churning out as many litters of puppies back to back as they are capable. They are used and used and eventually used up in one of the more horrifying examples of 'supply and demand' aside from dirty livestock trade.

Mill dogs of various small breeds in a classic example of 'kennel housing':

Familiar face......

Dogs, mostly Chihuahuas rescued from one SINGLE mill in their shelter pens: 

Females are bred from their first heat cycle until an age when their litter size would naturally decrease (usually before age 5) when they cease to be profitable and are disposed of. And no, that doesn't mean they find a new home or even have the dignity of a vets' office and sedation before the shot. It USUALLY means either being dumped, a bullet to the head if they are lucky or finally being allowed to starve to death. Between birth and demise though, their days are filled with swimming in their own waste in a too-small cage either being impregnated or nursing puppies. Sometimes, they are re-bred before their current litter is even weaned. But at least then, they're getting fed. Indeed, most dams only receive regular feedings when they are nursing a litter, in order to keep the puppies thriving. Because the puppy is the 'final product', you see, they have to be roly-poly cute little genetic nightmares in order to pay the bills.

Pet stores (yes EVEN THE NICE BRIGHT CLEAN ONES THAT CLAIM TO BE DIFFERENT AND BETTER) pretty much exclusively get their stock from mills. Its the cheapest option to get a full range of breeds from one source in one delivery. How very convenient and economical, right?  The industry makes hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars each year. And you are NOT rescuing the puppy if you buy from a store. You Are Not. What you ARE doing is contributing funds to keep the place in business another day and while yes, your puppy might end up well cared for and live an unblemished life, you just condemned its mother to another day in squalor and fear. So for decency's sake PLEASE don't even go IN a pet store that sells dogs or cats. Don't give them your business, don't give them a moment's attention and spread the word to your loved ones. For every mill that is raided, another one or two pop up. MORE INFO HERE --->

As a side note, just because a pet shop puppy is ' kennel club registered/registrable ' doesn't mean jack shit. People often reference that as a point of pride or status for their dog. All that means is, somewhere in the annals of history, both of your dog's parents were the same breed. It doesn't mean they were good looking, possessed all of their limbs or weren't hideously deformed. Just that, for example, they were both Chihuahuas that came from Chihuahuas. The parents do not have to be champions or from champions to be registered, ergo, if you feel the need to point out your puppy is "An AKC REGISTERED Labrador" then its probably from crap stock. Because anyone who would actually do the research involved to find a quality puppy would already know that AKC etc is a pointless thing to say unless you have shown your particular dog to a finished championship. Just sayin'....I could technically have Lucy registered.....juuuuusssttt sayin'.....

The other option, which still isn't good, but is at least a step up, is the so-called "back yard" breeder. This usually accounts for say, someone who never got their two dogs fixed and had an 'oops' litter or some jerk off who wanted his kids to learn the 'miracle of birth' or someone who wants to breed dogs but doesn't want to devote the time to showing or health testing their stock. On the surface, most BYBs seem darn near reputable. Their dogs might come from ten pedigree pages worth of champions and be beautiful animals. Their dogs live indoors, either in nice kennels or in the family home. Puppies come with their first shots, dewormings and started on potty training. You might think you've lucked the hell out, finding a quality dog from someone who isn't one of those 'show snobs'. And you would be wrong.

While I am not saying that your Uncle Bob who bred dachshunds for forty years and never set foot in a show ring didn't love his dogs and care for them to the nth degree, and I'm not saying Aunt Dotties mini poodles weren't actually healthy dogs who made great pets, whether they were or weren't is not the point. The point is that by and large, BYBs are allowing two unproven dogs (working or show) to procreate. They are not generally spending thousands of dollars in health testing their breeding stock. They are not traveling thousands of miles to see how their dogs stack up against other of their kind in shows or field trials. They see no reason to meticulously trace their dog's individual lineage back to Adam, as any show breeder worth their salt should be able to rattle off from memory. Generally, they see no reason to strike a certain line if genetic issues do crop up in a sold puppy a few years down. Why should they, everyone has flukes now and again, right?

All a BYB contributes to the world, ultimately, is a pet. And you might be thinking, so what? Not everyone is going to want a show or field dog, not everyone cares about pedigrees and genetic quality, and WAIT A MINUTE, aren't Chihuahuas specifically supposed to be companion dogs anyhow? What is the big deal? The big deal IS, if you want a pet, if you want just an awesome average dog, even if it has to be a purebred, odds are your local shelter or rescue group has or will shortly have the exact dog you want. Yeah, even purebreds. There are so many Chihuahuas in pounds across the country right now its absurd. Golden Retrievers, Siberian Huskies, German Shepherds, Labradors- all the top breeds in the world make up a healthy percentage of our shelter dog population. So, if the BYB isn't making active strides to improve their breed, with health screenings, and proving their stock in one way or the other then......why do they exist other than the obvious conclusion of people DON'T do their homework and keep buying puppies from these places.

So yes......those are your major sources for a sub-standard animal. And now you're saying " does any of this explain why Chihuahuas can look so wildly different from each other?" and here is the answer: If you have people who don't know what they're doing as far as judging what dogs should breed beyond " she's in heat, let 'im loose!" whether through ignorance or cruelty, you get dogs with faults combining to make really.....unusual offspring. Like, the dam has an under-bite and dropped ears and the sire is over-sized and mismarked. You have the potential to create a hulking, oddly colored puppy with a Pug chin and one ear up/one down. Sure, it might be cute. And it might be a purebred Chihuahua....but it ain't winning any prizes and you might have a hard time convincing me of what it is on the streets. Let's go through some of the terms bandied about amongst the less than scrupulous Chi people in the world, that have unfortunately made their way into Joe Layman's vernacular when describing his dog.

"Applehead" - this is actually taken from the written standard which calls for the dog to have an ' apple domed skull' meaning rounded with a deep 'stop' ( the indentation between forehead and muzzle). However, bad breeders A. take it to extremes where the dog has practically no muzzle at all and looks like Felix the Cat and B. a reputable breeder might reference it when disussing points of conformation but would never see the need to present their dog as an APPLEHEAD Chihuahua because.....well.....the dog is supposed to fucking look like that. It'd be like saying "my LONG HAIRED Shih Tzu". No shit.
An 'Applehead' dog. (Not saying this is an extreme example at all, just as a reference tool)

"Deerhead" - This would actually be a fault in the show ring and is essentially the opposite of "applehead". These are the dogs with long, slender muzzles, a more moderate stop and finer skulls in general. Obviously, it refers to the general shape of a deer skull.

This is a shape more likely to occur in a mill dogs nowadays simply because most BYBs seem to have jump on the "OMG BOBBLE HEADED FUR BABY" bandwagon.
This dog would technically be 'deer' headed although again, not as extreme as I've seen them.
Of course, to be honest, I kind of prefer this look :-)

"Standard Chihuahua"- Chihuahuas are not Poodles or Schnauzers. There is no Toy, Mini and Standard size range. ALL Chihuahuas are supposed to be toy dogs. As I said earlier, while there is no set height range, Chis should weigh no less than 2lbs and no more than 6lbs to be considered correct. But, when you throw careless breeders in to the mix, who might have a 7 lbs dam and a 10 lb sire, you are most likely going to get over sized puppies. I'm no genetic expert so I can't give you the straight odds but it doesn't take a genius to know if you only breed your biggest dogs, you'll eventually wind up with bigger puppies altogether. And since the trend now is to make them as wee as possible, you would have to say SOMETHING to explain your heavier-than-a-soda can puppies, right?!
So a lot of people now have it in their minds that a Standard Chihuahua is one over 5 lbs and anything less than that is somehow miniature. Which explains why whenever I walk Lucy at least one person asks me if she's still a puppy because godDAMN I have seen some grossly over-sized Chis out in the world. And why people think my 10lb corgi/terrier mix Guthrie is a Chihuahua.
This fella ( who actually is very reminiscent of Guthrie at a glance but don't tell him I said that!) is oversized, oddly built and has a 'deer' head but is purportedly a Chihuahua. Even if he's not, scores of identical dogs on the streets and on teevee prove my point.

And on the flip side of that coin, my least favorite word in the universe since owning a toy dog:
"TEACUP"- According to scores of completely clueless jackasses, this means an extra-special rare SUPER small Chihuahua. According to people who know a thing or two, its a sensationalist buzzword for either extremely runty dogs that probably shouldn't have survived whelping let alone gone on to breed OR absolutely normal sized Chihuahuas in the 2-6lb range that just seem extra small to the people whose only reference are their family's "STANDARD" sized dogs ^^^^. Either way, it's a phrase constructed to make people pay exorbitant amounts of money for the deformed little garden gnomes like they're something to covet because celebrities have made palm-sized living accessories tres` chic` in the last decade. The CCOA says it so much better than I could though, since I'm verging on sputtering rage-fueled rhetoric at this point: .

Anyway. This is what one of the little buggers will usually look like.

(I imagine its wondering if they will give it some soda so it doesn't succumb to the near-constant threat of hypoglycemia it must suffer, not unlike a hummingbird, before scheduling a visit to an orthopedic vet specialist to look at that fucked UP foreleg. )

There are other things fadding right now in the BYB/mill world, like merle coated Chis or solid/pied blues. Even albinism. Needless to say, forced color mutations can cause a landslide of health problems and as of right now I believe merles are the only coat pattern currently NOT allowed in the AKC ring. So, if you find a great looking breeder who has merles or uses ANY of the terms above in defining his/her dogs: Run Away.

To re-iterate, no, I don't think you're a bad person for loving your sub-par Chi. No, I don't blame you for not knowing better or even refusing to know better when the opportunity presents itself. That's your choice. I will only want to hit you with my car if you willingly and knowingly seek to support poor breeding practices 'just because' the puppies are cute. I take that stance in defense of all the really OMGZZZ super CUTE puppies who are currently being euthanized in shelters all over the country.
Support rescue, spay and neuter your pets and ban pet stores that sell dogs/cats. Or I will send Lucy to your house to staaaarrreeee at you.

Anatomy Review:
(She did not know what the fuck I wanted from her......)

And! *Scene*

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Conformation: The Structure of a Breed; The Foundation for our Love.

All purebred dogs began as mongrels. This is a simple fact- even primitive breeds like Siberian Huskies, Malamutes and Akita were once a much more varied and substantially less finessed version of themselves. Those dogs, of course, were of working origin and the prevailing opinion of this blogger is that the show ring has done a general disservice to working dogs' functionality.  But dog shows do make, in most cases, PRETTY ANIMALS with pristine coats and bright expressions (give me liver while I prance, damn you!) and at the very least are often the doorway through which future dog lovers and dog advocates enter this crazy world. So they can't be ALL bad, even if Bulldogs can't even mate unassisted anymore......

Anyhow, for small companion breeds, Chihuahuas in particular, the physical/temperamental changes that come with a concentrated breeding program have been much less severe. They do not look exactly as they did 100 years but the dog is still easily id'd as a Chi as opposed to say comparing, a Bull Terrier to its forebear. Chihuahuas were always small, they were always feisty and, upon entering the modern world, they were always coveted.
Below we see an example of a vintage Chi, a championed show dog from 1969:
And here is an example of a modern champion, the dog who went Best of Variety at Westminster in 2011:

Not really that radical of a change now, is it? Feasibly, these dogs could travel through time and space and go on to place in each others' rings. I suppose for arguments sake, from 2011, the eyes may be a little larger, the muzzle shorter and the body slightly more cobby, but there is no denying that these dogs are both Chihuahuas.

Conformation plays an important role in the world of purebreds in that it sets a standard for HOW these dogs should appear. By having a standard in place, we are able to determine which animals are the best examples and therefore the most beneficial to breed in order to create exemplary progeny. The concept  is valid in both the show and the working varieties but, as it should be, in the working world it comes secondary to a dogs ability to function and really only serves as far as the animal should be structurally sound to perform its intended task. I'd really enjoy seeing a working Border Collie owner suddenly become deeply concerned with the quantity and length of his dogs' coat, haha!

Therefore, of course, it IS a double-sided coin. When you set in place a thoroughly written account which describes in detail the ideal specimen of your breed, which will always be an unobtainable goal no matter what show people tell you, you open the floodgates of 'type' obsession. "Type" refers to that far away perfection but it seems that preferences truly go in and out of vogue as the years roll on.

An excellent example of this phenomenon is the modern show line of the German Shepherd. At some point in fairly recent history, the "flying trot" for the dog - ie the fluid gait highlighting rear end angulation while the dog is in motion - became the be all and end all of the German Shepherd. Dogs that had more of a slope to their topline (back) seemed to carry this movement more favorably in the eyes of the judges. Other handlers and breeder took note and thus, despite hundreds of years dictating something completely different, a 'type' was born.

As with all matters of aesthetic (think: corsets and plastic surgery), we humans took that idea of 'flying trots' and ran with it. Right in to the ground. And we're still digging!!!! The average show GSD now possesses a topline akin to the finest ski slopes in Aspen. Which goes appropriately with their hocks that now seem to glide horizontally around the ring like an expensive pair of Lacroix. In our perverse quest to make the perfect GSD, we have gone so far beyond the realm of reason and good sense that the current stock is no more than a weak-nerved, oversized and ridiculously shaped parody of itself.

Riddled with a laundry list of genetic issues ten miles long, the AKC show Shepherd is 'trotting' itself into oblivion. And there at least half a dozen more breeds that spring to mind who have suffered the same fate in the name of ring-side glory.


I digress.

Chihuahuas, by and large, are unchanged. They are not wholly unaffected by the show ring but have not been systematically ruined. (Yet). They ARE, however, subject to a much more troublesome problem that I intend to discuss in my next post: unethical breeding practices. For as awful as I find most show bred dogs to look they are at least (usually) health tested and their genetic lineage meticulously recorded. Regrettably, the same can not be said for the booming pet store and BYB industries. But......I will leave that for my next rambling.

So, in closing, I leave you (Sophie, my one reader) with this thought:
For every beauty there is an eye somewhere to see it. For every truth there is an ear somewhere to hear it. For every love there is a heart somewhere to receive it.
 Ivan Panin quotes (Russian mathematician1855-1942)