A Portrait of the Chihuahua as an Old Man

5 Dec

Sometime circa 1998 my brother and I started pestering my parents for a dog, as all kids tend to do at some point. We watched every dog show and special on Animal Planet and started brainstorming names.

“We are not getting a dog!” my mom said each time we asked. “You know I’m allergic!”

But that didn’t stop us. We laid subtle hints and I even went to the extent of convincing my dad to tell his coworker that I would dog-sit her Chihuahuas. So when a little (OK, big) 1-year-old black Chihuahua named Squirt was dropped off at the local animal hospital in need of a home, the receptionist (the wife of one of my dad’s coworkers) called his other coworker, who said she already had enough Chihuahuas, but she knew just the person — Bob’s daughter loves Chihuahuas!

So in late July 2000 I came home from my gymnastics class to find my mom on the phone with the animal hospital receptionist who was convincing her that a little Allerpet and plenty of baths would subdue her allergies.

“Don’t freak out, but we might be getting a dog!” my brother told me. Of course I freaked out.

Just hours later an SUV pulled into our driveway and out came a giant bag of dog food, a crate smaller than our guinea pig’s cage, and a timid 9.8-pound Chihuahua named Squirt.

“Does he bark? I want to hear him bark!” my brother said.

“Oh, he barks…” said his current owner.

And he hasn’t stopped barking 13 years later.

(Squirt would like me to pause here to clarify that this is not a eulogy, he is not dead yet, nor does he plan on kicking the bucket any time soon.)

He was there for me throughout high school and welcomed me back each time I came home from college, working life in Chicago and now London. Although I’m pretty sure he thinks I live at the airport now since he comes along to pick me up and drop me off. He battled obesity, tipping the scales at 18 pounds in 2007, but eventually swapped caloric dog treats for his new favorite treats — carrots, green beans and radishes. At 14 1/2 years old he’s definitely slowed down, rusted out and is going deaf, but he’s still a tough little squirt.

My Christmas present to myself arrived yesterday, a 35mm prime lens for my DLSR. I could think of no better subject to test it out with than my favorite crotchety old Chihuahua who wanted nothing more than for me to get the big black thing out of his face so he could go sleep in his crate.

old black chihuahua

(It turns out the shallow depth of field blurred background effect I favor is called bokeh, and prime lens capture it well.)

squirt profile

The poor old guy had most of his teeth pulled, so sometimes his tongue won’t stay in his mouth.

chihuahua tongue

chihuahua lick

squirt smile

chihuahua yawn

senior chihuahua

squirt portrait

Eventually he decided he had enough of this portrait session and retreated to his crate.

squirt crate

And since I know you’re curious, here is what 1-year-old Squirt looked like when we got him in 2000. He was so black, shiny and skinny!

baby squirt

(Excuse the photo quality, these are both photos of photos — that’s how old Squirt is, pre-digital age!)

chihuahua puppyI guess even then he had a hard time keeping his tongue in his mouth!

So here’s to you, old gray Chihuahua who used to be black — may you have many more years of radishes in your future and may you get your hearing back, but not so much that you can hear me preparing lunch and continue to bark until I’m done eating.


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