Friday, December 18, 2009

Back to Those California Chihuahuas

Look back a couple of blogs for my comments on the prevalence of Chihuahuas in California shelters. Well, I apparently made the mistake of taking an AP news release at face value.
I've since talked to a friend who is a toy dog specialist, and she says that though the problem is real, it has been greatly overblown. She has seen photos of some of the shelter "Chihuahuas" in question, and says they are no more Chihuahuas than your average Beagle! Some indeed, look nothing like Chihuahuas and are far too large to be even a bad representative of the breed.
This points up a common problem with shelters -- breed identification. Around here, pretty much everything in the shelter is a Lab, Pit Bull, or German Shepherd or crosses thereof, according to their descriptions. The specific breeds may vary in other areas. But you'll generally find a pretty narrow range of breed descriptions in any given shelter. And DNA testing is revealing that even those of us who think we're pretty good at identifying what has gone into a mixed breed can be lead astray by appearance. Behavior is a much more reliable indicator, but of course you have to get to know a dog (and often away from the shelter environment) to see their true behaviorals colors.
So California probably did see a spike in Chihuahua, they became one of the popular shelter breeds, and now "anything under 50 pounds" as my toy friend says, is being dubbed a Chihuahua.
It doesn't change the fact that people are getting dogs for the wrong reasons and abandoning them for no good reason. . . just the breeds that may be involved.

By the way, for anyone wondering, Nestle's surgery went well. I don't have biopsy results yet, but our vet said it looked like a nonmalignant fatty tumor. I still have my fingers crossed, but I'm breathing a little easier.

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