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Step Away from the Chihuahuas, Paris Hilton

No adoption fees for chocolate, toffee, golden and caramel-colored Chihuahuas.

Love is in the air at the Peninsula Humane Society. It may be hovering at shin-level, but it’s there.  We just announced our “Sweet Deal” campaign, a creative effort to play matchmaker for our many available Chihuahuas.  

As of today, 21 of the pint-sized pups are ready to steal your heart and we’ve made a sweet deal: Rather than charging our usual $120 adoption fee ($95 for senior dogs and $135 for pups), we’ve waived the entire fee.

Going along with the sugary Valentine’s Day theme, we’re making this offer for all caramel, toffee, golden and chocolate-colored Chihuahuas and Chihuahua mixes. But, if you visit and happen to fall hard for a licorice or cream-colored Chi, I’m sure we’ll extend the same offer.

Why so many?  Our shelter isn’t alone. For four or five years, Chihuahuas have been the most common breed coming in (stray or relinquished by owners) to all Bay Area shelters.  

A few theories on this phenomenon. First, blame Hollywood. Paris Hilton, other starlets and the lead character in the movie Legally Blond make them look so easy -- easy enough to be purse accessories.

Also, many parents have false expectations. They get the little dogs believing they will be great companions for their little kids. Once the dog lives up to its “ankle-biter” reputation, off he or she goes to the local animal shelter.

Finally, popularity breeds popularity; because the breed is so popular, that leads to many accidental litters. In the end, a perfect storm for a Chihuahua epidemic.

The toy breed needs a good PR person, as they are truly great dogs and among the most beloved pets when owners know what to expect. Pit bulls have lots of knuckleheads and wannabe gang bangers who do a ton of harm to the breed and its reputation, but they also have some of the most compassionate and dedicated advocates I’ve ever seen.  Portuguese Water Dogs have the Prez and First Family, beagles have Snoopy, Dalmatians have firefighters, while Chihuahuas are stuck with a fast food and Paris Hilton, the person most famous for accomplishing nothing.

Maybe they need a new name.  Many people can’t spell Chihuahua. When in doubt, they toss in an extra “u.”  Or, we also see Cheewowa on owner-surrender forms.  Some don’t even try and simply go with “Chi.”

Both folklore and archeological finds show that the breed originated in Mexico which is how they came to be named after the Mexican state of Chihuahua.

But, some historians believe the Chihuahua came from the island of Malta in the Mediterranean. They could have been the Maltese!  How about Dogo Mediterraneaneo? Or, since they are so common out our way, the Western Weasel-Dog.

Ok, naming isn’t our thing.  But, we are good matchmakers. We’re not simply throwing open our doors and letting folks take what they want.  Interested adopters meet with one of our Adoption Counselors, so we can do our best to ensure a good fit, set expectations – especially for families with young children – and make sure the next home is the forever home.

And, the adoption special isn’t our only response to the Chihuahua over-population; we know we can’t adopt our way out of this.  We’re also going heavy on spay/neuter efforts. We offer low-cost surgeries at our Coyote Point shelter (call 650/340-7025 to make an appointment), we bring our mobile clinic to targeted communities and offer pet owners free fixes and alter any stray Chihuahuas at no cost to owners who redeem their lost dogs at our Coyote Point shelter.

Now, if we could just get Paris Hilton to keep her dogs away from paparazzi, or better yet, to just go away all together, we’d have something.

To check out our available Chihuahuas like Conchita, Oliver, Rusty or Bob, visit www.PHS-SPCA.org or, even better, visit our new Tom and Annette Lantos Center for Compassion, 1450 Rollins Rd., Burlingame. Adoption hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends.

Lynn Voccola February 12, 2012 at 09:04 PM
While I dearly love all dogs, since moving to Pacifica in August, only one dog has snapped at and attempted to bite my Maltese dog while we walk along the beach boulevard - a nasty overweight chi whose owner doesn't even correct the dog. As a breed chis are adorable, but as an owner of a potential "anklebiter" or snapping dog, you bear the responsibility to socialize, train, and correct your dog. (Of course that applies to all dog owners!)
David Carini February 12, 2012 at 11:56 PM
Lynn, it seems like many chihuahua owners are very protective and that's why many of them become "ankle biters". As with pit bulls, it just take extra care on the part of the owner to make sure the dogs are social with other people and dogs. P.S. I have a chihuahua/jack russell mix.
vangie bennett February 13, 2012 at 09:34 AM
I am an owner of a beautiful black purebred Chihuahua. He is not an ankle biter, but he is protective of my husband who is 82 years-old. He has never snapped at anyone, and is well behaved. He has a low growl when someone approaches the car when my husband is driving. I know in my heart when Pup Pup is gone, I will go with another Chihuahua.
Celeste B. February 13, 2012 at 10:40 PM
The problem that I see with chihuahuas are the owners. If you had a large dog like a pit or even a lab, you would train any sort of aggressive behavior out of the dog the first time they growled at someone or even jumped playfully. But with small dogs like chihuahuas, they can't knock over even a child so the aggressive traits aren't punished since they are seen as harmless. This leads to worse and worse behavior. The barking that is too small to be annoying. Biting that is too weak to hurt. This isn't the dogs fault at all but the owners. Eventually it gets to a point where they think they have this rotten dog and off to the pound when it could have been a great one if the owner would have taken the time. Don't pick the dog up when a larger dog gets near but learn to socialize the dog. Yes a larger dog can hurt a smaller but dogs are aware of size differences and react accordingly. The large breed dog that barks are the chihuahua isn't being mean but probably responding to the the chihuahua barking first. Be aware of what the dog is doing. I don't care for chihuahuas as a breed but any dog can be a good dog. When you've found a bad dog, you've found a bad owner. With time and effort, even bad dogs can be retrained.
Harry E. Smith February 14, 2012 at 01:05 AM
This is EXACTLY true! We adopted a Chihuahua a couple of years ago from a shelter who had been beaten, starved, and tossed in the street before she was a year old. What we got was a sweet, loving dog who loves to sit in laps, play, and give lots of licking kisses--especially after being fed. She still needed some training, but has learned quickly and is a good walker and non-aggressive with other dogs. She loves children and has never tried to bite any one. She will growl and bark at noises at night, and I'm sure she would defend us from danger. If even a dog that had such a hard start in life can end up being a great friend, then just about any other dog can too with the proper training, love, and attention!
Maria February 14, 2012 at 07:32 PM
I have a purebred Chihuahua female, who I got last year because my older chihuahua had passed away and I felt bad for my male Chihuahua / Italian Greyhound mix but she is a barker non stop once she starts. She has almost nipped at my sons friends ankles but I was able to control her before she bit him. I take her to the dog park so she can socialize but she gets all shy and hides behind my legs. My other dog runs around and plays, I use to lock her up when I had company because the barking would go on but now I dont she needs to get use to other people and she is now getting better. It took me 2 years with my other Chi who passed away to get her to not nip at people. But at the end of the day I love my little dogs they are very loving with us and I will continue to work on the female with her behavior. Chihuahuas are not for everyone, it is very sad how so many people went out and got them after the Beverly Hills Chihuahua movie than ended up dropping them off at the pounds because they didnt realize how much work they can be and how loud they can be. Pet owners do your homework before buying any type of dog.
Caad4 February 15, 2012 at 04:55 PM
I disagree with the "don't pick up the dog" comment. Our chi's are well behaved and twice they've been attacked by large dogs (one on leash, one off) and once I was bitten by a dog trying to get to mine. Once, a large dog "playing" crushed my youngest dog, causing 8 weeks in a cast. I don't want anything to do with your large dogs around my small one, thanks.

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