Sunday, August 22, 2010

Hahamongna Chihuahua

Last Tuesday evening after picking up Tommy at Starcrest Kennels, I drove past a little black Chihuahua mix running in the opposite direction along Oak Grove Drive, just where it’s sandwiched between the 210 Freeway and Hahamongna Watershed Park.

I made an abrupt u-turn (sound familiar?) as I cursed profusely. I can’t stand the thought of a dog getting hit by a car (as the Tommy saga reveals), but it’s not like I want to spend my free time catching them.

And yet, I can’t help myself.

The u-turn brought me into a driveway of sorts leading to a dirt road into the park. The entrance to the road was blocked off by a big chain; I parked my car parallel to it. There isn’t much of a shoulder on Oak Grove so it turned out to be the perfect spot to land.

I opened the passenger door in the off chance the dog might just jump in. He didn’t. Instead he lay in front of the car in the dirt.

I left the passenger door open and squatted a few feet away so as not to spook him. The poor guy was exhausted. I threw some kibble his way. He got up and checked it out but didn’t eat it; at least he wasn’t starving.

Tommy whined in the back seat, so I gave him some chicken jerky and broke off little pieces for the Chihuahua. That he liked. I lured him closer. He gingerly approached and sniffed my hand. One of his eyes was all teary and had a big red bulge at the bottom of it (a condition known as “cherry eye”). He let me stroke his back. He had a yellow rope tied around his neck with about two inches of leash. I gently took hold of the leash and started to pull him toward the open car door.

And he flipped out, twisting and turning and bucking up.

Back in February I tried to rescue a stray dog in L.A. Long story, but the upshot is I got bit, the dog ran away, and I spent the morning in the emergency room. Granted that dog was a Jindo, and they can be fierce, but even a Chihuahua has sharp teeth. And what would be the point if I scared him off too?

I reflexively let go of the yellow rope, the dog tore off, and Tommy flew out of the car after him. The Chihuahua with the pit mix on his tail ran into the middle of the street. I screamed for Tommy to come, but he ignored me (so much for rocket recall). The little dog circled back toward the side of the car where I stood, leading Tommy directly into my arms. I shoved him into the back seat and secured him with a harness and seat belt.

Even after that harrowing ordeal, remarkably the little guy hung around, although a bit warier now.

I started to experiment. I gave him a command in a stern voice; that only made him slink away. I called him Chico, the only Spanish name I could think of (lame, I know); it had no affect whatsoever. I made a noose out of Tommy’s leash and lured the little guy with chicken jerky. As soon as I lifted the makeshift noose, he ran away.

Back in the driver’s seat, I put pieces of chicken jerky on the bottom edge of the passenger doorway. He stretched his neck to reach them, while Tommy whined and barked in the back seat. (I couldn’t blame him. Under the circumstances, he was being a pretty good boy, but he didn’t exactly put the Chihuahua at ease.)
The little guy scooted out of sight. I got out of the car to look for him and found him waiting on the other side. As I approached, I sweet talked to him and he wagged his tail. I took that as a hopeful sign.

I watched a bicyclist pedal past. A few cars sped by, followed by a looker in a turquoise VW van. His eyes stayed with mine as I watched him pass, his wheels spinning him toward some unknown destination. I half expected, half hoped he would turn around to join me. Maybe there was a reason I’d stopped for this Chihuahua. Maybe the dog was part of some larger plan to bring me and the man in the VW van together. It would be divine intervention that would lead to love ever after, the kind of fateful event that changes your life and makes for a great story.

But of course the looker just kept driving.

I let Tommy out of the car, and we walked down the dirt road into Hahamongna. The Chihuahua followed at a safe distance. But then an off-leash dog that looked like a fox tore after him as if he were a rabbit. For the second time in an hour, the poor pooch ran as if his life depended on it, and surely it did. The fox-like dog was retrieved by her human, and I went back to the car, securing Tommy in the back seat again.

The Chihuahua still stuck around.

I sat on the dirt cross-legged, like a yogi, hoping he’d crawl into my lap. He came right up to me but as soon as I tried to put my hands around him to pick him up he stiffened and I backed off.

“Sometimes you just can’t catch ‘em,” is what one dog rescuer wrote to me after I'd bemoaned the fact I hadn’t caught that Jindo.

I looked longingly at passing vehicles willing someone to help me. But I remained the lone loon sitting in the dirt.

The day slipped into twilight. It was hot. The quest became a meditation.

I got back in the car and pondered what to do. I don’t pray but I found myself asking God for help. It wasn’t a deep plea that souls resort to when confronted with a life-threatening danger or the loss of a loved one. It didn’t have the profound weight associated with facing mortality. It was matter-of-fact.

“Look, God, I can’t stay here all night. Either you help me out or this dog is going to end up as roadkill or dinner for a coyote.”

I started the car and waited, hoping he’d come to his senses and jump in, the door still open inviting him in. He didn’t.  I wanted to drive off, but I couldn’t see him. I may have been ready to give up, but I didn’t want to end my quest running him over with my car. Talk about irony.

I turned off the engine and walked around to the other side. He wagged his tail again when he saw me.

I tried one last thing.

I placed one of Tommy’s old blankets on the ground with pieces of chicken jerky in the center and sat beside it holding the makeshift noose. He came up to check out the treats and, just like that, I slipped the noose around his neck, tightened it, folded the blanket around him, and carried him to the front passenger seat floor. Still holding the leash around his neck, I got in the car and shut the door, then climbed over the clutch to the driver's seat.

Oh my god. I did it!

With the pit bull on high alert in the back seat and the Chihuahua mix huddled in the blanket on the floor, I started the engine and, giddy, headed home.

Epilogue (inspired by Haiku Bandit)

hahamongna chihuahua
playing hard to get
cherry eye
not your turn to die


  1. Thank you, sweetheart, for the compliment (or perhaps admonishment for a previous hard tone?)

    once, some years ago, I reluctantly agreed to keeping a found Jack Russell Terrier puppie the kids (son and his girlfriend) had "rescued" from busy White Bear Ave. He was a beauty, most notable for an inquistive countenance, and an athletic physicality that denoted his working heritage (I respect anybody that works as hard as I do).
    I can't describe how much I loved this little guy; how much I loved his spirit, despite my preference for German Shepard Dogs, having learned to be a good dog person after having raised two males in succession, a twenty year investment in garnering knowledge. (Today, I wouldn't advise anyone to acquire an American bred Shep, as they are are often too aggressively bred, mainly for profit, the cops here reporting they find their recruits in Belgium and Europe.) Like Cesar says, you have to be the Alpha, strict, even tempered, consistently patient, and always with love, without anger. Not an easy thing to learn. One would hope that most parents would adhere to those values.
    Long story short, turns out little Roscoe was bi-polar; sometimes he would just snap, eyes glazed, and take anybody on, often without cause, literally ready to kill. Absolutely fearless. Maybe this was the reason he was abandoned.
    You know the story. My wife and son have facial scars to prove it, and I have marks still on my right hand. Eventually, I had to take him "down to the farm".
    It tore my heart out-years later, I still grieve.
    Intentions aside, one learns to be careful with their commitments, a little forethought going a long way to avoid bitter disappointment.
    To end on a positive note, I hope you can come to visit and meet our little Dottie, she of the sweetest disposition, yet still a mighty huntress. Now, that's a damn good dog...
    Dottie says, "Say hey there, Tommy!"

  2. Bandit, admonishment for a previous hard tone? No, not at all. Haiku inspires because of how challenged I am to keep my stories short and sweet.

    I'm sorry to hear about little Roscoe! That's a heartbreaking tale. I've heard an unpredictable dog is the hardest (maybe impossible?) to rehabilitate as you can't find cause for his or her behavior. Sounds like you loved him regardless and have the scars (physical and emotional) to prove it.

    Though I'm not a Cesar fan (I'll explain at some point), I do agree with your comment: "you have to be the Alpha, strict, even tempered, consistently patient, and always with love, without anger."

    I think dogs teach us to be better humans.

    Thank you for the cautionary tale. I think I'm okay with the little black Chihuahua. I'll explain in an upcoming post.

    Tommy says "Hey there, Dottie!" She does sound like a damn good dog.

  3. I'm glad of your success. I've tried these rescues many times and always failed. (I lack your patience.) I see so many strays; wish folks would be more aware of things like a hole in the face, a gate left open...

  4. Petrea, I've tried and failed many times too, either because the dog was too hard to catch or I didn't have the time to stick it out. The stars aligned for this little pooch.

  5. Are you and Tommy going to keep him? I'll bet he hopes so.

  6. I was once a finalist on a dog park in Long Beach. Small budget (lost) and the park never happened.
    Anyhow, my design was based on the use of haiku's. I would have begged to use yours (at least a version of it)

    I enjoyed this story and am thrilled with the happy ending. I've never owned a dog but have rescued my fair share. One, a pit, on the night of our 20th anniversary.

    Chihuahua: A woman told me that they were the reincarnation of scarred people. Because of that I've always had a certain degree of pity for the poor little things

  7. are you sure about running off into the sunset with a guy in a VW van?

  8. Petrea, probably not, unfortunately. I'll explain in an upcoming post.

    PA, I would have been happy to contribute my haiku (or a version of it) to the dog park cause. I'd love to hear more about the pit you rescued on your 20th anniversary. Sounds like a great story.

    Wow, "the reincarnation of scarred people": what a sad and fascinating perspective on chihuahuas. I sure felt pity toward this little guy.

    Regarding your VW van comment: ha! You sound like you're talking from experience. Are you warning me?

  9. I can't wait to read more..... Poor little guy. So exhausted from running for his life. You rare a good kind soul. Angel to lost dogs.

    I just read this, thought I would pass it on.


    Kiss that little Hahamongna Chihuahua! Lucky little baby!

  10. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog. We really look forward to reading more since it appears we have a lot in common :)

    Don't forget, we moved to

  11. Sue! First, I absolutely agree with "Pasadena Adjacent" and wonder why one of your fantasies would possibly include riding off into the sunset with a guy in a VW van? What?? LOL. for your patience and perseverance - Bravo, Sue! I have never rescued a stray dog but I do have Mac, my rescued cat from 18 years ago. He was one of three newborn kittens just strewn into a box and discarded into the garbage in an alley when they were just hours old. I took them in and nursed them and two out of three survived in my care and so Moukie and Mac became part of my family. Moukie died at age 12 but, as I mentioned, Mac is alive and well and still having a good life at age 18. I sure hope little "Chico" has the same fate whether it is with you or someone else! You are a lover, Susan! Don't change!

  12. Whew...can't wait to meet you Susan...what a story. You must feel some sort of calling for this. I was tired at the end, feeling your energy. At some point, in my opinion, we are all going to be profoundly called to take care of the life around matter where we live. Maybe you are ahead of the rest of us.

    Brian Wagner

  13. Susan, you are a saint for saving the chihuahua. What happened next?

  14. Veronica, you're the angel. Love that quote. Thanks for posting it.

    Kari in WeHo, thanks for stopping by! We definitely have a lot in common so I'll see you over at your place again soon.

    Liz, I don't care what kind of car that guy was driving - he was a looker, I tell ya! Mac has had a good life to live to such a ripe age. I can't wait to meet him.

    Can't wait to meet you, too, Brian. Thanks for such a deep and thoughtful comment.

    Terri, stay tuned!

  15. Ah, and awww. I once pulled over on the 110 freeway to rescue a dog. Broke my heart he was more terrified of me than of traffic. Two other cars pulled over to help, but the little guy ran through the fence and then down the ravine.

    Too bad we can't flash them the card that says, "Hey, I'm the good guy."

  16. Hello Sue,

    Thank you for emailing me back to your blog! I so enjoy your style of writing and for a few brief moments in my usually hectic day I can relax and catch up with what's new in your canine experiences! Your a good soul honey and I know that "yo quiero taco bell" was at the right place and time to be rescued by his human angel. Take care and email me or call when you get a chance. Love and miss you, Cindy.

  17. Hiker, oh, that is heartbreaking. Yes, it would be great to have some way of communicating we're trying to help them. Poor lost pooches.

    Cindy, thanks so much for stopping by. You're a good soul for saving your dog too.

  18. Thats how I ended up with Sprocket (RIP) and Roscoe. Roscoe i rescued in a similar manner on Roscoe Blvd, Sprock was dumped on Gelndora Canyon Road way up in the hills. You are an angel, now tell us what happened to the little fellow, are you now a 2 dog household?

  19. daisydog, you have a big heart. Seems everyone who visits is an animal lover who has rescued one or two or more. And so if I'm an angel surely you all are too.

    No, my pack remains the same: Tommy and the two cats. Fate had other plans for the Hahamongna Chihuahua.

  20. Hope you kept the little fella. I'm Mona and was over at Tommy's blog and decided to come over.


  21. Mona, welcome! Thanks for stopping by.

  22. It's good to know you have a Man in the house! And I don't think you'll get him mixed up with the Tom's other women have.

  23. Cafe Pasadena, thanks for visiting! Ha ha. I agree with you: Tommy is one of a kind and unlikely to be confused with other Tom's in the neighborhood.