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Penny the Pretty Purebred Chihuahua

A few weeks ago, the future wasn’t looking so bright for my beloved elderpin Scooby.

He’s on an upswing for now, and I’m grateful. I’m also incredibly humbled by the concern and kindness expressed by longtime friends I and friends I know only through this blog. You are all so awesome.

My friend Katie was one of the people who reached out – with a bag of easy-on-an-old-dog-stomach kibble. She has met Scooby many times; she sold me my house; and she knows what it’s like to love a very tiny dog.

Katie lost her 13-year-old Chihuahua Lucy a few months ago. The following interview is about her new pipsqueak Penny.


sweet penny

Did you always know you would get another Chihuahua?
Yes — we talked about options for another dog. I have really bad allergies so that put a limit on certain breeds. But I’ve always been a small-dog-person and we decided that we knew what to expect with Chihuahuas after our time with Lucy. So it just made sense. I honestly can’t imagine having another breed right now.

You didn’t get another dog right away. How did you know when it was time?
I never thought I would be able to get another dog. Lucy was so special. I call her my soul mate. There was no way another dog would be able to fill her place or be as special … and we talked about how it wouldn’t be fair to another dog, if we were always comparing it to Lucy.

The house was SO empty. Our hearts felt empty. We did everything to stay busy and stay out of the house because it was just so sad and empty. We went on walks, car rides, out to eat as much as possible, different events around town. Anything to keep our minds off things.

We cried a lot too. Sometimes at predictable moments, other times completely out of the blue.  Maybe around the beginning of August, we started talking about “what if we found a dog that felt *right*?” and decided that we would keep an open mind but it had to be just right.

On a few occasions I found myself searching online for puppies and looking at the pet store adoption center. One dog caught my eye, and I convinced Ben to visit the adoption center the next day during their open hours. There was no connection with that dog, though, so we left.

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Penny’s first day at home.

A few weeks later, I randomly came across a breeder’s website and saw Penny’s picture. Oh my gosh. She looked smart. I had told Ben, if we got another dog I really wanted it to be a smart dog. After sitting awhile and getting nervous, I sent an email to the breeder that night, asking if that dog was still available. He called me the next morning and patiently answered all my questions about the puppy, her parents, known health issues, his location, etc etc. We set up an appointment to see her in person. When we got there, I walked in the room and Penny made immediate eye contact with me.

There were a few other puppies playing around her and they were all oblivious to the fact we were there. But Penny connected. We held her, watched her, talked to him, etc but then left her there so we could talk to each other and be really sure that it was the right thing.

We decided to go out to eat to have this discussion and on the way to the restaurant a double rainbow appeared in the sky. It felt crazy but it was a definite sign that Lucy was sending to us. She was saying, it’s okay, you need this puppy, I’m sending her to you! We went back the next day and brought Penny home with us.

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Was it challenging at all to adjust to a new dog with a different personality?
Oh. My. Gosh. I forgot what it was like to have a puppy. Lucy was so independent and trustworthy. Puppies are not! I don’t know how something so small can poop and pee as much as she did the first few months. And she got into everything. Everything. We have to keep a close eye on her.

Penny is still a puppy, so I’m sure she will continue to mature and become more responsible. But we can’t let her roam around the house like we let Lucy. She truly gets into as much as she can, the second we look away. But in the last couple months she has really started to mellow out and show us what a great dog she is — she is smart, albeit sneaky at times – and ridiculously loving.

She gives actual hugs, where she wraps her front paws around your neck. And the best kisses. She has this hilarious way of “army crawling” where she stretches her front legs out far in front of her and her back legs sprawl out like frog legs and she wiggles her way into where she wants to go.

She has some similarities to Lucy, I’m sure because its breed-related, but sometimes we take it as those “signs from Lucy that she sent us Penny.”  Penny is also quite a bit more needy than Lucy was — she cries (loud!) if we leave her at home in her kennel. She put a cramp on our social lives for awhile because we didn’t ever want to leave her. And she is vocal. While Lucy never barked, Penny has made up for those lost barks. She likes to talk to the neighborhood, letting everyone know “HEY! I’m outside!” And she groans and growls at us if we try to reposition her when she is resting. She is hilarious.

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How is Penny different from Lucy?
The vocal part is the biggest difference. Penny talks ALL the time. She will whine a little bit if she wants something, she groans as she settles in and gets into a comfortable resting position. And she will bark at anybody/everybody walking nearby. We are working on that. We tell her it’s rude. I firmly believe she will get better about the barking.

Penny likes car rides – but she pukes. Every. Single. Time. Which is a bummer for me because I really loved taking Lucy along with me as much as possible. I have to keep car rides with Penny to a minimum. And I always, always take a blanket or towel to catch the puke. I learned that trick quickly.

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Penny has helped you through some trying situations already. Can you talk about how having her there has been good?
Yes she has — Ben had a terrible accident about a month after we brought Penny home. He was hospitalized for nine days, followed by a long recovery at home (plus a second recovery period from surgery after getting home). My parents took care of Penny while we were stuck in the hospital. As soon as we got home, we wanted her around though. She would lay quietly next to Ben, as if she was taking care of him. It was odd, but somehow there was a noticeable change in her maturity level after the accident.

She continues to keep a watchful eye over both of us.

Do you have a Chihuahua story? Share it in the comments.

Find the perfect gift for the dog who owns your heart in my Valentine’s Day gift guide and be sure to enter to win a wristlet from waggiwear.

What I Buy for My Dogs at Cabela’s

That dog don’t hunt.

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The same could be said about all of the Wayward Dogs, even though two of them are, presumably, retrievers.

Under the care of other people, golden boy Luke and the very black lab-like Charlie Machete might have been OK hunting dogs. Both have a powerful drive to chase birds and bunnies, and they’re not unwilling to give up something they have in their mouths if you ask. (The elderpin, on the other hand, has a mouth like a steel trap – with some missing teeth.)

But, alas, of the Wayward Dogs are gun shy and, I’m sure, too old to be trained for hunting, even if we wanted them to.

These facts, however, do not stop me from eagerly prowling the pet section at Cabela’s - a sporting goods chain that began in my home state of Nebraska.

Actually, I’m kind of obsessed with checking out what the hunters and adventurers who shop there buy for their dogs. Products for hunters and hunting dogs are designed to be durable and weather-resistant.

While much of the pet selection at Cabela’s doesn’t interest me at all – the in-ground fencing systems and electric training collars, for example – some things positively intrigue me.

Highly-reflective, light-up collars, GPS trackers and doggy backpacks – these are the items I drool over in the regular pet aisle and then dig for in the the clearance section, an entire room at the back of the store known as the Bargain Cave.

So far, I haven’t been able to snag a deal on any of the hot items mentioned above, but I have found some steals.

This heavy duty dog bed cover cost $10.77.

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Charlie Machete’s new neoprene vest was only $11. (Regular price: $44.99)

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Why the vest? Charlie Machete doesn’t have a very thick coat.

The neoprene vest, which can actually be trimmed for a custom fit for your dog, can help keep his core warm on cold winter walks (worked well last night) and prevent his underside from turning into mud city when conditions are soggy.

And, no, the camo pattern doesn’t bother me. It’s actually fun to walk through the woods while he’s wearing it. And it looks good with his new Cinnamon pattern waggiwear collar.

Where do you find surprise bargains for your dogs?

Reminders: Check out the deals in my Valentine’s gift guide and enter to win some waggiwear gear of your own!

Note: Cabela’s had nothing to do with this post. I just shop there sometimes and wanted to share the news of my successful bargain hunting.

What He’s Wearing: Thunder Jacket Edition

Of course, I said yes when offered the chance to review a Thundershirt product.

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Two of the three current canine residents at Wayward House suffer from anxiety. The triggers are different.

For Luke, it’s stormy weather. Often, he realizes the weather is turning before we do. He paces. He pants like he’s having a heart attack. He glues himself to whatever human is in the house, following so close that he trips you. This might cause you to yell out, which frightens Luke even more.

Sometimes he just hides. He’ll stick his nose in a corner of the kitchen or climb into the bath tub where his panting sounds are amplified.

golden reteriver meme

A lot of times, we’ll just give Luke some Wal-finate, a generic antihistamine he often needs for his allergies, anyway. It makes him drowsy enough to forget about the storm.

But if I can avoid drugging my dogs, of course, I will. So, when a  thunder jacket for dogs by Thundershirt arrived in the mail, just as the skies began to darken, I immediately strapped that thing on Luke.

Boy, did he look good!

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The product did seem to work, as well. Although Luke definitely did not forget about the storm, he didn’t move around so much or pant his brains out.

He mostly just laid quietly in the bathroom.

And he didn’t seem to mind the jacket. I left the house for a couple of hours with him in it and returned to a happy dog who didn’t seem to have tried removing his outfit.

If I hadn’t seen the HBO movie Temple Grandin, starring Claire Danes as an autistic woman who helps redesign livestock facilities to minimize stress on the animals, I would have thought the thunder jacket for dogs was baloney right from the start.

But there is a method behind the garment. Temple Grandin is a real person who realized that in times of stress she felt better when she was hugged tightly or squeezed herself into a tight area. She also noticed that cows seemed to get less freaked out when herded through a narrow chute.

The same idea is reflected in the thunder jacket, which fits very snugly on a dog, making him feel securely hugged, without restricting his movement.

Around the house, I found that the thunder jacket made both Luke and foster dog Charlie Machete calmer.

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While a chill Charlie Machete is always preferable around the house, where I really need that guy to cool out is in public.

His anxiety trigger is other people and dogs. That’s why I take him on walks with the KC Pittie Pack, where he can be part of the group in a structured, safe way.

For our special Coast to Coast Bully Walk on Pit Bull Awareness Day, I wrapped him up in the thunder jacket with the hope that he’d be extra relaxed for this extra special event.

Coast to Coast Bully Walk

Lookin’ good but actin’ naughty.

Unfortunately, instead of behaving like the preppy gentleman his thunder jacket and bandana made him appear to be, Charlie Machete acted like a buffoon.

He acted huffy toward two dogs in particular and pulled on his leash way more than usual. I was pretty embarrassed.

But I don’t blame the thunder jacket. We walked in a different location than usual, and there were many new dogs there Charlie Machete had never before smelled.

Also: When we got home, I realized that his gentle leader had chafed his face. That would make anybody irritable!

I left the thunder jacket on him to see if it helped at an adoption event later that day, but the event was canceled.

I’m glad to have the product, though. I will definitely keep using it on both big dogs to see for what other situations it may be helpful.

What makes your dog nervous?

Big thanks to onetime guest blogger Sonia Charry and PawPosse.com for hooking us up with a thunder jacket for dogs by Thundershirt!

Disclaimer: I received a free product in exchange for an honest review.

Home is where my boys are

Some pictures say it all.
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Even dark, grainy ones taken with a smartphone.

Who is “home” to you?

I sort of used to be this chick

I have nothing against the hipsters. I used to be one.

In fact, I had a lot in common with this girl.

Forgive the low res of this image. I couldn’t find the original, which means I can’t even give credit. (If you’re out there, Hipster Bitch Meme Maker, let me know and I’ll link to you!)

OK, I never smoked cigarettes, I have very limited experience working in the service industry, and the only Chuck Taylors I’ve ever worn belonged to my male roommate. But I have always dug pseudo-tough jewelry, overspent on edgy haircuts and – for the past six years – toted around a very tiny dog.

While I never neglected Scooby’s nutritional needs, in my mid-twenties I was a lesser pet parent than I think I am today.

Oh, I have always adored my elderpin to a point of obsession. And we have always made it to the vet for regular check-ups (and many hypochondriac-y unexpected visits), adhered to a heartworm-preventative regimen and taken long walks around the city.

But I’m a highly social being, and I used to have lots of people over to my home. It was during one of my parties that Scooby showed up in my life. He was instantly the night’s main attracion.

For a while, lots of people were living in my home, along with a whole bunch of little dogs because I needed help paying the rent on a giant, dilapidated Midtown Kansas City house. I liked dogs so much that I offered to babysit other people’s pets, too. One of them stayed for six months!

Fortunately, Scooby and Bella liked each other.

I didn’t think much about Scooby’s feelings during this chaotic time. I just expected him to deal with every situation, from the crook of my arm or someone else’s. However, it became clear on a few occasions that being in the middle of a people party was very stressful to him, as he spontaneously lost bladder control. I can’t believe he never bit anyone too hard – he suffers the ”You’re so cute, I just have to pick you up” fate of all teeny tiny dogs.

I thought Scooby might perish one New Year’s Eve because he had successfully begged so many treats off of visitors throughout the night that his little tummy got huge, and he had a hard time sleeping.

But he lived through it all. We lived through it all.

I’m glad the little guy was so patient with me. If I hadn’t had Scooby to come home to, to feed, to let out and to snuggle regularly, I believe I could have slipped into a real hard party daze.

He kept me sane-ish. And now, he gets to live out the rest of his days in peace and routine. (Except when it comes to regular toenail trimming. I still suck at that.)


Has your dog seen you through some crazy times? Share your story in the comments.

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