By Joan Hughes

How much do you weigh? Could you lose nearly half of that weight without jeopardizing your health? A Chihuahua did, and it was almost disastrous.

Shameful Neglect Caught Red-Handed

A family spotted little Chico when they attended a daughter’s soccer game in Alexandria during the summer. He was tied to a railing, but there was no food or water nearby and no protection from the sun. The parents and their 12- and 6-year-old daughters petted him while waiting to see if his owner would show up. Time passed and nobody did. He was skin and bones and they were tempted to take him, but there were license and rabies tags on his collar, so that didn’t seem like a good option. As they prepared to leave, a car pulled up. A woman got out, untied the leash, picked Chico up, got back into the car with him, and drove away. But not before the mother took down the license plate number.

Search for Help

She contacted several animal rescue groups in an effort to locate the woman who had taken the dog, but was unable to find any assistance until she got to the SPCA of Northern Virginia. That’s when Edith Von Stuemer, an experienced humane investigator, stepped in. A dedicated volunteer, she takes on the roles of animal warden, diplomat, and detective.

And so began what turned out to be weeks of frustrating phone calls, false information, hours of legwork, wrong addresses, and the discovery that the license plate number the mother recorded was not that of the little dog’s owner. But the loose ends were finally tied together and Edith located the owner’s apartment. It turned out that she couldn’t afford to care for Chico, and she agreed to release him to the SPCA.

Chico’s next stop: Town and Country Animal Hospital where our 3-pound package of skin and bones had to have a number of teeth extracted. We humans can sympathize, can’t we? Painful teeth can make eating uncomfortable, and in Chico’s case, almost impossible. Small wonder that he was so emaciated. He remained at the animal hospital for several weeks to be fattened up and have his health monitored.

Things are Looking Up for Chico

When he made his first appearance at an SPCA adoption day, the family who had seen him in Alexandria was there to apply to adopt him. They brought Brouser, their 4-year-old miniature dachshund, a family member since his puppyhood. Canine sniffs were exchanged, and Brouser declared Chico acceptable.

An SPCA representative visits the home of a prospective adopter before the placement is finalized. In this case, it was apparent that dogs do well in that home. Brouser “strutted his stuff,” tossed his toys around, and seemed to enjoy just showing off.

Chico moved into his new home, and he and Brouser get along like old friends. They play with toys, chase each other, and indulge in quiet squirrel watching from the front window.

When playing tires them out, they retire to their respective pillows to recharge their batteries. Of course, in true Chihuahua fashion, Chico is always ready to choose someone’s lap instead.

Chico’s Protector

The younger daughter has appointed herself Chico’s protector. She calls him Cinnamon Buns, or “Bunsy,” now, and the name seems to be sticking (no pun intended). When walking him, she admonishes other children not to pick him up or treat him roughly. He went trick-or-treating on Halloween, but she carried him so as to avoid such confrontations. Oh, yes, he also sleeps on her bed.

His presence has been beneficial for Brouser, too. The little Doxie used to be anxious – and sometimes destructive – when left alone,
but he’s more relaxed and better behaved with his new pal around. The whole family feels as though Chico/Bunsy has always been a part oftheir lives.

He still has a couple of pounds to gain but Chico/Bunsy hascome a long “weigh” (pun intended).