Tuesday, February 15, 2011

On buying a fake Chihuahua

Perhaps it was inevitable that hucksters would cash in on the Chihuahua fad. There's certainly easy money to be made in that racket.

After our little Chihuahua girl Libby died in November of 2008, we were devastated, and soon wanted another Chihuahua. Of course, Libby could never be replaced, but I felt that raising and learning to love another puppy would be a healing experience. We started looking online for chihuahua puppies and on Dec 3rd we found an ad that had just been posted that very morning, accompanied by a picture of a cute 9 week old black and brown female puppy with floppy ears. We called the seller and made arrangements to see the puppy, and hopefully to adopt her. The sellers offered to meet us at a mall so that we didn't have to drive all they way to their kennels. We met the sellers, we loved the little puppy, and so we brought her home that night, and named her "Baby Girl", or Baby for short.

Baby Girl the first week we had her.

The sellers told us that she'd most likely be no more than 4 or 5 lbs when full grown, since both her parents were small. She exceeded that weight within a few weeks. As she hit 10 lbs, then 15 lbs, we tried to figure out what we had, studying videos and images of chihuahua mixes and their characteristics. We looked for signs of that classic Chihuahua face in her but it never emerged. We began to see a resemblance to the Jack Russell Terrier Chihuahua mix, AKA Jack Chi AKA Jackhuahua. She had the characteristic triangular head, the right size and shape, and a mischievous personality.

Baby's ears stood up for good a few weeks later

Today, at somewhere around 25 or 30 lbs, she's too large to be a Chihuahua, or even a Jack Chi, She's got the large, expressive Chihuahua-like ears, but her size and temperament are decidedly not Chihuahua. Clearly, there is something other than Chihuahua in her. But she's unlike other dogs we've known. She moves with a certain clumsy yet graceful, cat-like style. We've jokingly referred to her as our "autistic puppy" because she doesn't react to people as dogs normally do. Not hostile, just indifferent, in her own world.

Baby "helping" me on the computer

In retrospect, the folks who sold her to us were perhaps not entirely forthcoming about her rich heritage. When she hit 12 pounds or so I called them to ask if they were sure about her pure Chihuahua family tree, and they admitted that perhaps the father was not Chihuahua after all. (Gee, you think?). It doesn't matter though. She's our big girl now, and we wouldn't dream of giving her back.

She becomes intensely focused if I say the word "walk"

I was recently asked by someone who had just met Baby if she was a Chihuahua-Doberman mix; another person recently commented that they thought there could be some Rottweiler in her. I've been thinking, along with some other people, that she bears some resemblance to a Queensland Terrier. One of these days I'll get a proper DNA test done.

Baby Girl at 2, taking it easy out back

Since I started taking Baby to the local dog park to get her socialized, I've run into other people who've apparently been caught off guard by hucksters peddling fake chihuahuas, which typically turn out to be some sort of terrier mix, but now I've seen it all: One day I took Baby to the local pet supply store, where she proceeded to make friends with a well-behaved young female German Shepherd mix, who I'd say weighed about 40 lbs. The lady who'd brought her to the store told us she'd bought the dog as a tiny pup from a pet store where it had been sold as a Chihuahua!

A giant "Chihuahua"!

She seemed to be in a state of dazed amusement over the size of her dog, which even though well behaved, would be a handful for anyone who expected a chihuahua. It was clear that she really loved the dog, as she stocked up on special treats, studying the labels carefully. I loved what I saw in that relationship. In a way I felt sorry for her because she had been conned, but at the same time, I could see that her giant "Chihuahua" brought her happiness and companionship. By the time the puppy had grown into something resembling a German Shepherd, she'd already fallen in love with the dog, and she would never part with her. 

I guess the moral of the story is that sometimes, what you end up falling in love with is not what you originally thought you wanted at all...


  1. This is a great story. Thanks for posting it.


  2. ive had 3 shepards,2 mixed and i pure gs. both of the mixed ones were wonderfull. the pure one i gave away he was too much dog! in san francisco i met 2 little chi mixes and they were primo pets i know i have an eye for dogs. my brothers pure chi is great little dog too but hes not perfect i suspect . your bigger dog at least wont be so vulnerable to dog attack.

  3. @lee - thanks for the comment - it's interesting because Chihuahuas and GSDs are probably my two favorite breeds.

  4. That is such a cute little dog!

  5. What a nice story. I'll guess miniature pincher. But whatever she is, she is adorable.

    A word of advice about DNA tests, don't waste your money. They yield crazy results.

  6. @Bagheera -

    You're right about the dna tests, I got a cheap mail-in cheek swab test from biopet vet lab, which had her in order of genetic share as 1. shetland sheepdog, 2. keeshond, 3. greyhound, 4. min pin.

    I was hoping that something like the more expensive wisdom pro panel blood test could provide a more accurate read, but then again, it's entirely possible that she's "bred out" i.e. so many contributing breeds that they can no longer be distinguished.

  7. I would say to anyone purchasing a puppy to go to the owner's house/kennel. There was a big hoarder/breeder bust last summer in my town. The guy had 30+ Chihuahuas and Chihuahua mixes. The dogs were all running loose but locked in his basement which had every surface covered in feces and urine, siblings were allowed to breed and they clearly hardly any were purebred. But he would load the puppies into his truck and drive to shopping mall parking lots and sell them for $50 telling people they were purebred but just didn't have papers. They were sickly, inbred and most not even 50% Chihuahua.

    I'm glad you saved your dog from a bad situation. People who do this sort of thing just do it for the quick cash and don't care about the animals. Our city has a law against selling puppies/kittens on public property, but as long as there is a market for it, people will continue to buy puppies like this.

  8. I'll try again to post a comment. These articles are so well written and very interesting. Of course I am biased for the writer as I am his mother.

  9. I think you have your hands on a MEGA-chi, perhaps you can start your own designer breed. She's probably fixed though so the mega-chi dna is forever lost.

  10. I like this line :)

    I guess the moral of the story is that sometimes, what you end up falling in love with is not what you originally thought you wanted at all


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