I write this as our Mia, our Chihuahua, lies next to me, sleeping and enjoying the warm weather and the late summer sun.
Alive. Well. Happy. Beautiful.
Not long ago, she was nearly killed by another dog. She dealt with injuries more severe than I believe I could endure without going mad. And she survived it all – stubborn, clinging to life and focused on survival.
I found out a few things back then, things I’d like to share.
I will tell you what happened when she got attacked later in this post – but first, I need to tell you about how Mia and I got to know each other.
Gentle Giants and Yappy Chihuahuas
I grew up with dogs – but not with Chihuahuas. I grew up with Newfoundland Dogs, and I still own one together with my family. Newfs are huge dogs, weighing between 50 to 80 kilos. They are the gentle giants of the dog world – a bearlike appearance paired with a heart of gold… and a love for water, mud, and redecorating your house.
I loved them all and still do. It is one of the greatest presents my parents have given me in my early childhood to grow up under the supervision of a babysitter with black fur (we would later have a brown and now a black & white Newf – but my early years were spent with black Newfies watching over me).
Now, Mia in comparison wasn’t initially my dog. I never had the idea of getting a Chihuahua. I would never get a small dog, right? I was a big dog guy.
But then Marina came into my life, and with her came Mia.
Chihuahuas aren’t the quietest dogs – but they are unmistakeably dogs. They aren’t animals that should be carried around in bags. They want to run, they want to enjoy the sun, they want to be with other dogs.
The Chihuahua Who Chose Me
The thing with family dogs is – you chose them, not the other way round. Usually, you visit the breeder or visit the local dog shelter. You make a decision to get the dog.
With Mia, everything was different – when Marina and I got to know each other, Mia just came as part of the deal. When our relationship started, one day, Marina just brought her along.
What I didn’t know back then was, that Mia is never friendly to strangers. She barks, shows her teeth and won’t let anyone touch her. (She doesn’t bite – but she will make very sure that you believe she will. She also isn’t afraid. She just doesn’t want to be touched.)
As an example: It took my sister Susanna the better part of 5 years and countless office hours and holidays spent together before she was allowed to touch Mia regularly.
But with me, she was never that way.
She never showed her teeth. She never barked at me. (Other than to say: “I want this – give it to me,” that is.) She was never angry at me or threatening to bite me.
In fact, I didn’t realize her attitude towards strangers before we started taking her with us to public places together.
I remember the first time Marina left her with me while she went to work. I was afraid that something could go wrong. That Mia would run away when I took her out, or would carelessly cross a road. I wasn’t used to small dogs.
But Mia managed everything to perfection. She told me everything would be okay. She taught me that I could trust her – and that she trusted me to do the right thing.
And only then it dawned on me what a huge present Mia had made me. Later Marina told me that if Mia wouldn’t have gotten along with me, if she had objected to me, our relationship would have been over before it had started.
But Mia decided to like me. And here we are.
This happened 6 years ago – and the following years we spent together.
And I learned a lot about Chihuahuas:
Mia taught me how fearless they are when she decided that this was her garden and that raccoon (at least 3 times her size) simply had to leave. That poor fellow hid on a tree for a couple of hours.
Mia also taught me how much stamina Chihuahuas have, going for extended hikes in the summer sun in our families second home in the mountains of Bavaria.
She taught me how persistent they are when they want something, and how good they are at telling you exactly what they want – even without words.
She taught me how good Chihuahuas are at sleeping – completely forgetting the world around her while sleeping all curled up in my lap.
She taught me that she is a better guard dog than any of our Newfoundlands when she started to bark whenever the doorbell rang. And how much of a home my flat had become for her.
She also taught me that she can easily cope with larger dogs – she was never afraid, always in the middle of the pack, and well capable of keeping most dogs at bay.
She taught me that she could easily take any responsibility bestowed upon her when she went to comfort her little big brother, our current Newfoundland Dog accurately named Friendly Fellow, when he was scared by fireworks on his second new years eve. (Which made for an adorable image – 3 kilos of Chihuahua comforting 60 kilos of Newf.)
There are many many more things this little dog taught me, and I could go on for thousands of words. But the important thing is that over the years she taught me that she was my dog as well as Marinas. And that I love her, and she loves me.
This summer we went to Bavaria again – Mia, by now, loves our families little cottage in the mountains. She loves hiking in the summer and sleeping on the sofa near the oven in winter. She loves running through the grass and being carried through a rain storm in autumn.
She loves the freedom that this place provides her with. But that freedom sometimes comes with the price of a little less safety. The world is so much more dangerous when you weigh three and a half kilos.
It happened when we were hiking, passing a nearby farm. A hunting dog suddenly appeared saw Mia and went straight into attack-and-kill-mode. She hadn’t provoked the other dog. There was no noise, no growl, and no bark. The other dog just went from a view to a kill.
It rushed her, bit her in the neck, picked her up and shook her like it had just caught a rabbit. Mia was only saved because Marina instantly jumped in between, took the other dog by the neck and shouted at it causing it to let go of Mia. Mia escaped into her savior’s arms. Crying. In pain.
She was injured. Badly.
We realized she had a gash of probably 10 centimeters in her skin. She wasn’t bleeding heavily – the wound didn’t go deep into the flesh. Later at the vet, we would learn that the skin had basically been pulled of her flesh on most of her back.
But luckily, no bones were broken, and no organs were damaged. Nevertheless, this wound was life threatening, and Mia only survived because of an emergency operation. And for the next days, we would still be unsure whether she would make it.
I will never forget how Mia cried the first evening after the attack. Not from pain (as the vet assured us she wouldn’t feel any due to medication) but from sheer awe at the unfairness of the world.
The coming weeks Mia taught me that she is tough as cement when it comes to clinging to life and dealing with an injury.
It wasn’t an easy recovery: Large parts of her skin didn’t reattach to the flesh again and just died. These had to be cut away, leaving a vast area of open flesh on her back. The result: Daily visits to the vet. Daily redressing of the wound. Antibiotics, treatments with disinfectants, more pain.
I’ve got images of her wound at the time, but I’m not going to share them here. No point in sharing images of blood and suffering here.
She took it all with the stubbornness of a dog that just didn’t want to give up on life. She went back to eating normally on the second day after the attack. She started communicating with other dogs on day three. Running on day 4.
It took 6 weeks for her wound to heal fully, but Mia’s character recovered within 2. The visible scar on her back (that large area left without fur on her back) is bigger than the scar her soul suffered.
As I said before – this dog is tough as cement.
If anything, our bond strengthened during these weeks – with all the care she needed, and that Marina and I would give her, with all the attention she needed and deserved. With all the hours spent at the vet. With all the time spent lying at her side when she slept, healing.
I sometimes have the feeling that I’ve mentally taken a bigger beating than her.
I learned to respect owners of small dogs that take their dog protectively in their arms whenever a larger dog shows up. Better safe than sorry, right?
These are concerns I never had with a Newfoundland Dog: I always had the biggest dog around and could be sure that he wouldn’t injure another dog but would still be able to escape without life-threatening injuries himself. What could another dog do to hurt my dog?
But then – Mia loves her freedom. I sometimes need to force myself not to pick her up when another dog arrives at the scene. She wouldn’t have it any other way. She taught me that as well.
She didn’t change her attitude towards other dogs; she still runs around barking fearlessly in between larger dogs. She is teaching me not to be afraid of them when I would love to tell her otherwise. I force myself not too, but my heart still sometimes skips a beat.
I also learned – again and with more clarity – how much I love this yappy little Chihuahua with a heart of gold and a love for life. And how much love she is continuing to give me.