Editorial March 2015 Issue

Small But Mighty

How one little dog can make a huge difference.

Whole Dog Journal editor Nancy Kerns

Nancy and her dog, Otto

Have you experienced that moment when your family has been reduced for whatever reason from multiple dogs to just one, and you keep thinking you need to check the back door to let someone or other back inside? You get used to the rolling thunder of dog paws and canine vocalizations when the doorbell rings, and a circus-like amount of hubbub first thing in the morning when you head to the door to let the pets out – and then suddenly there is just one calm dog, politely following you around. It’s weird, but at the moment, given that I’ve only loaned out my second dog (not lost him), I’m enjoying it.

Tito, the 10-pound Chihuahua we took in about four years ago “for a few weeks,” is currently staying with my sister-in-law and five-year-old niece about an hour away. We lost my brother to cancer just after the new year. I’d been staying at their house a lot, and because they are all “dog people,” I always brought my dogs with me, and my niece has really bonded with little Tito. They lost their family dog, Hannah, to old age a few months earlier, and Ava really misses having a canine companion. She’s an only child, and they live in a rural area where there aren’t any other children close enough by for casual play dates, so having a little dog run out of the house every day to greet her when she gets home from kindergarten is the next best thing.

chihuahua and little girl

Ava’s mom reports that Tito sleeps with Ava, keeps her face clean, and rides on her lap in her car seat in the car. Unlike most adults, Ava is endlessly amused by the fact that he won’t give a tennis ball back after he’s fetched it, but will allow himself to be chased, merrily playing “keep away” for an hour. I suspect he’s going to pretend not to recognize me when I next visit. “Nancy Who? Nice to meet you, but I have to get back to my little girl.”

Tito is a funny guy, full of character and “Don’t tread on me” bravado, and he’s easy to have around for all reasons save one – his relentless drive to alert the household to anyone’s arrival; go to the store for milk and you will be welcomed upon your return to home as Odysseus, lost at sea for 10 years. It’s a little much, so out of scale that it doesn’t seem sincere, somehow; frankly, it feels like small dog hysteria to this large dog person. Without him here it’s just . . . so quiet!

I don’t know if my sister-in-law will want to keep Tito forever, or just for a few months, or what. All I know is that if they need him and want him, he can stay. He’s happy, and Ava is happier with him there. That’s huge. Tito gets a lifetime pass.

Whole Dog Journal editor Nancy Kerns

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