I'm pit bulled out. The horrific incident in Pacifica from two weeks ago led to a whirlwind of activity in the media and blogosphere. I caught some of what was reported, written and discussed, but I’m sure I missed a ton, too. Still, I know this topic polarized people, as do most that involve a pit bull attack.
According to the masses, pits are either monsters or wonderful companions, occasionally ruined by bad owners. And, my organization – the Peninsula Humane Society – is either a real peach of an organization that looks at each dog individually and has to make tough, careful decisions, or a pit-loving band that can’t see its way out of a poop bag. With pits, there doesn’t seem to be much of a middle ground.
While we don’t shy away from the issue, we could really use a new one, especially as we prepare to open our new Tom and Annette Lantos Center for Compassion (1450 Rollins Road in Burlingame) on Sept. 10.
When those doors open, visitors will definitely find a few happy, eager Chihuahuas looking up at them (or sniffing their fingers through our unique “pup portals” built into the bottoms of every dog room door). The architect called this the “smell a friend” detail, but we renamed it; the original named sounded way too personal! Anyway, we will have a few dozen Chihuahuas or Chihuahua mixes awaiting adoption. Every Bay Area shelter which does not limit its admissions has the same or more. And, none of us would have guessed this a decade ago. In fact, it was common for shelter workers to say, “If we could only have small dogs, we'd be golden."
Well, now we have them. Chihuahuas and mixes have overtaken pit bulls and pit mixes as the most common incoming breed. Why? Many of us would love to blame Paris Hilton and other no-talent socialites who parade the pint-sized pups in $5,000 purses, almost as an accessory. But, in fairness to the world’s most famous partygoer, we also know we receive many unwanted Chihuahuas from families who don’t watch E! or read People and think paparazzi is a pizza topping.
Many families get Chihuahuas and Chihuahua mixes from friends or “backyard breeders” assuming a small dog will be a great match for their kids. In many cases, the opposite is true. There are some Chihuahuas who tolerate the things little kids do. Rough petting, sudden movements, an occasional ear tug or tail pull. There are far more who don't, but parents realize this too late, after a dog has nipped or made an attempt. So, now we have them.
Perhaps we should simply change the packaging in order to get them noticed and placed them into new homes. Just look at the popularity of Labradoodles, Cockapoos and Puggles. I mean, what could be cuter than a Cherry (a Chihuahua/Terrier mix), a Chug (Chihuahua/Pug) or Choodle (Chihuahua/Poodle)?
But, since were more about substance than style, we focus on good matchmaking. During our adoption counseling sessions, we explain to our visitors which pets will or will not be well-suited for a family with two toddlers, a young-professional who works regular hours or a retired couple looking for a calm, low-maintenance pet. And, we're pretty good. More than 90% of our adoptions stick. Put that figure next to the state's divorce rate (above 50% last I heard) and we're looking really good.
So, if you have kids – or if you don’t – and you want to see which of our little pets or big ones might be right for you, we’d love to help you be among the first folks to take home a Cherry, Chug, Choodle, Shlab (Shepherd/Lab), cat, snake, rabbit, guinea pig or bird from our brand new adoption center. Doors open at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10.