Sizing up the dogs

Dial C for Chihuahua-Bk 1Many dog lovers claim to love all canine types and sizes, and in a world where the tiniest breeds average only 5 pounds to those weighing over 150, this is a remarkable range of taste. Nevertheless, it does seem as if Americans prefer larger dogs.  Perhaps it is our culture (“bigger is better”?) or perhaps this tendency arises from something else (a need for protection in an increasingly chaotic world?). Even my sister, who is getting on in years and has had two knee replacements, wants a mastiff, one of the biggest dogs in the world. And this is a woman who would probably have trouble walking a turtle.

In a survey conducted by My Magic Dog, the majority of respondents reported their preference for a medium or large dog, versus a small one.  However the survey was skewed by the fact that respondents were most likely to have service dogs, large enough to pull wheelchairs or accommodate them with other tasks necessitating a more substantial canine.

Yet, among service dogs, it may come as a surprise that even the little Chihuahua has served this purpose. One of our respondents discovered that the family’s pet Chihuahua could predict her son’s seizures. Predicting seizures is still a mystery, a response that some dogs have, but not others, and one which crosses all breeds and sizes.  Although the manner in which the dog gives an alert can be trained, the ability to predict the seizure cannot. It appears to be something the dog knows through some innate sense or natural instinct that we have yet to understand.

In full disclosure I have to admit to being someone who has always preferred larger dogs. Thus, in browsing through a bookstore, I was surprised when the title: Dial C for Chihuahua: A Barking Detective Mystery caught my attention. I was about to put it back on the shelf until I saw a badge on the back cover noting that a portion of the proceeds would go to the ASPCA.  Intrigued, I picked up the book and read the first paragraph where I learned that this particular Chihuahua was from a shelter. I’ll read anything about dogs at shelters especially when a portion of the sale will benefit one.Little Dog (2)

That’s how I ended up reading about a talking dog named Pepe who is vain, intrusive, claims to have had outlandish experiences, solves mysteries, is loyal to a fault, and speaks Spanish! Dial C for Chihuahua was such a charming book that I immediately bought the next two in the series: Chihuahua Confidential and The Big Chihuahua. Both books were as delightful as the first, with Pepe conveying opinions that had me laughing out loud.

And . . .speaking of talking animals:
A driver stopped by the police in Mexico City was ratted out by his pet parrot who screamed “He’s drunk! He’s drunk!” A sobriety test showed that the bird knew what he was talking about! (This Week, Jan 24, 2014, p. 4).

One disappointing caveat however.  On page 169 of the first paperback, the female protagonist, Geri, goes into a storefront business and is told: “Dogs aren’t allowed in here.  You’ll have to–.” At which point she says she’s allowed to bring her dog inside since: “He’s a therapy dog. . . He’s covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

Assuming a therapy dog is the same as a service dog is a pervasive mistake that has made it exceedingly difficult for people who have service dogs. As the misuse of the appellation “service dog” grows, more establishments resent and find ways to restrict entry for all dogs – including service dogs whose human partners are, thereby, restricted as well.

Emotional support does not make a dog a service dog. The Department of Justice’s position on this is clear: “Animals whose sole function is to provide emotional support, comfort, therapy, companionship, therapeutic benefits, or to promote emotional well-being are not service animals.” (Italics mine.)

While small dogs may not be the typical service dog, they bring joy and comfort to millions.  Additionally, their size makes them ideal partners as therapy dogs, going to hospitals, rehabilitation centers, courts, schools, crisis centers, and programs throughout the country. Their petite sizes are ideal for cuddling, as they rest on the bed of an invalid, curl up in the lap of someone in a wheelchair, or snuggle into the arms of someone dealing with tragedy.

The “Barking Detective Mystery” books remind us that even the tiniest dog has the same intrinsic value as our larger canine partners and the stories of Pepe, the talking Chihuahua, are a delight to read. If you’re a fan of mysteries, this is an enjoyable series, or as Pepe would say: they are muy bueno!

Our readers love dog books.  What are your favorites?

For an excellent review of “the little dog syndrome” and a comparison of behavior problems between large dogs and small ones, click:

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8 Responses to Sizing up the dogs

  1. Jaana Hatton February 5, 2014 at 1:48 pm #

    An excellent comparison of the many values of dogs, small and large. There are different needs and different dogs, as the author well pointed out.

  2. Mary E. Trimble February 5, 2014 at 2:12 pm #

    I remember those cute Taco Time (as I recall) TV commercials with the love-bitten talking Chihuahua. I’ve never had such a small dog. Labs grab my heart.

  3. Cliff Mueller February 5, 2014 at 3:55 pm #

    I must be un-American. Besides our dachshund, we’re fostering two Chihuahuas (one only 4 pounds) from Hearts and Hands Animal Rescue (plug). It is great therapy for us in that we have to be alert and not dropkick them when moving about. Also, picking up after them, especially on walks, is much easier than with big dogs!

  4. Kathleen Kaska February 6, 2014 at 5:44 pm #

    I will check out the Pepe books right away. They sound delightful! I love dogs of all sizes, but would chose one I could pick up and carry in case I had to rush him to the vet.
    As always, your blog is a joy to read, Patricia.

  5. Ann Barbas February 6, 2014 at 5:45 pm #

    At one time in my teens I had a miniature poodle. Unfortunately, at a time when he was almost blind. I let him out one evening and I never saw him again. Very sad for me.

    Later in my life, married, we had hunting dogs. German shorthair pointer, English setter and black labs. I think I can consider them all as service dogs as they knew that it was their duty to bring back the birds to their master.

  6. Bill Thorn February 6, 2014 at 6:02 pm #

    Deliver me from loudmouth Mexican parrots!! BTW, notwithstanding all his other accomplishments, can Pepe pull a wheelchair??

  7. Hemlata Vasavada February 7, 2014 at 7:03 am #

    An informative blog explaining the difference between a therapy dog and a service dog. I’m glad to learn that all dogs are man’s best friend, and even the smaller ones, besides warming the hearts of their families, can be helpful in many ways.

  8. Patti Cole February 9, 2014 at 8:22 pm #

    Enjoyed your article. I love how you always do your thorough research, share your sense of humor and at the same time teach your readers.needed info on misconceptions.

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