The tiny dog that stole our hearts

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Yorkie

“We had a whole string of dogs before. When I was a very little boy we had big bird dogs, then two purebred English smooth-haired fox terriers. None of those other dogs ever came up to this one.

You could talk to him as well as you could to many human beings, and much better than you could to some. He would sit down and look you straight in the eye, a long mesmerizing gaze, and when he understood what you were saying he would turn his head sideways, back and forth, oscillating like a pendulum clock.”

— ‘My Dog Skip’ by Willie Morris

Years ago, my husband made a trip to the Cleveland airport to meet a co-worker and bring home a surprise. We had learned of an Oklahoma family who raised Yorkshire terriers of the tiniest scale.

With a business meeting coming up, he inquired of this co-worker from Oklahoma if she might be willing to be a courier on her next trip to Ohio. When Linda stepped off the plane, he was puzzled.

There was no crate, none of the tell-tale signs of a puppy in tow.

She approached him with a smile, letting him know all was well. She reached into her coat pocket and out came the newest member of our family.

Tiny

Chantico, the tiniest, mightiest little thing, sat in the palm of the hand. She was a lovely, shiny black puppy with touches of caramel brushed here and there.

I gasped in disbelief at how incredibly tiny she was. I named her after the drinking chocolate, sold in a single shot at Starbucks.

This tiny little thing should never have traveled any other way but in the caring hands of someone like Linda, to whom we were grateful.

Her weight a few days later registered at 8 ounces on our veterinarian’s scale. She was spunky, but when she wasn’t playing or eating, she loved to be held.

Over the years, my family gave me a hard time about suddenly becoming a one-armed worker, because it seemed no matter what I was doing, Tico was tucked in against me, my left hand holding her close.

I have had some great dogs in my life, some intelligent and others who seemed to be greatly lacking in the scholarly department.

Smart

This Yorkie, who eventually tipped the scales at 2 pounds, was not only intelligent but filled to the brim with her own opinion about how things needed to be.

She would listen to conversation, tipping her head, taking it in. If I asked my husband if he would like a glass of milk, she went to the refrigerator well ahead of me, as if to help guide me.

If we mentioned it was time to go to the barn, she tugged on our boot strings.

She went through a time very early on that she didn’t feel well, shivering and quivering. Rushing to the veterinarian, fearful of her limp little body that seemed cold to the touch, I knew there was no time to waste.

A blood test showed possible infection with kidney dysfunction. One vet said, “I recommend you put her down. Spare yourselves the heartache.”

I said I wanted to give her every possible chance. He told me to keep her warm since there just wasn’t much to her, and to be sure she got a bit of food fairly often so she didn’t fade.

Sweaters

A little dog sweater, they said, was not only a good idea but likely a necessity. This began the sweetest little wardrobe gathering you ever did see.

My daughter bought me a special little purse, designed to carry a dog anywhere. Chantico would have been lost inside the thing, so that became her “closet” filled with extra-extra small sweaters of all colors.

The challenge was to find sweaters small enough. It wasn’t long until Tico began searching through that purse each morning, plucking out a certain sweater, bringing it to me as she walked backwards to drag the thing along.

It was the most entertaining thing any dog of mine has ever done. She showed off this skill to disbelieving friends, winning everyone over.

Sick

A second relapse of weakness prompted me to reach out to a scientific scholar friend near Chicago who believed kidney dysfunction could mean ehrlichiosis, a tick-borne disease the mother may have carried.

Her written studies helped convince my regular vet to try it. It perked her up and restored her appetite.

This life-saving information carried our sweet pup through many years with us.

Full of life

Tico spent her days chasing bugs and barn cats if given the chance and trying hard to snag a ball when my kids played catch. She thought my daughter lived just to toss a dog toy for her to retrieve.

She would stand up to dogs far bigger and was the spunkiest of them all.

As bedtime neared, Tico would search me out and stare at me, forcing eye contact. If I didn’t catch on, she would walk to the bottom of the stairs and let out a single tiny bark.

When my great-niece Brynn began battling bedtime, I used Tico to make a point. After explaining how important it was for this small dog to get plenty of sleep, I asked for Brynn’s help.

“Let’s put her pajamas on and tell her it’s time to get ready for bed.” Brynn lit up, eager to choose the right jammies.

“Could you please tell her it’s time to go to bed?” I asked.

Brynn grinned, carried her favorite little dog to the stairs and said, “Time to go to bed. And don’t be getting back up!” We all got a good grin out of that sage command from a wise 3-year-old.

Tico had a pillow at the foot of our bed, and she had to scratch at it and turn in a hundred circles, it seemed, in order to get that pillow just so before she would lie down for a good night’s sleep.

Aged

Tico’s vision was fading with age, but her hearing remained sharp. If she heard a can being opened, she never failed to come see if it was anything worth begging for, and she ate with joy.

This summer we would have celebrated her 14th birthday. Every year with her was an amazing gift, something I must remind myself as I adjust to this empty place her passing has left in my home and in my heart.

Chantico was the tiniest dog I’ve ever held, but her passing has left a hole in my heart that today feels enormous.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.

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