Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

San Diego 7 Settle In

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

San Diego 7 Settle In

Article excerpt

Lucky, Dancer, Julia, Rosie, Inka, Dunkin and Joe-Joe have all settled happily into their foster homes in Butler and surrounding communities. They are the "San Diego Seven" Chihuahuas, and photographs of their Monday night arrival at Pittsburgh International Airport appeared in the Post-Gazette Tuesday.

Jodi Hilliard of Butler has been working for two years to make the cross-country rescue a reality. The logistics were complicated, but ultimately the financial costs weren't really that high.

All seven were checked by veterinarian Cheryl Haywood at her Myoma Animal Hospital in Mars. Adoptions of the California Chihuahuas are being handled through her rescue, Critter Care Adoptions.

They all "passed" their checkups, including Julia, the 5-pound, 18-month-old big-eared dog whose picture is on the PG website. Julia stuck her pink nose through the metal door of her shipping crate and her big eyes stared directly into the camera.

Foster homes were recruited by Julie Christensen, owner of PawPrints Grooming in Butler. She also made the connection with Critter Care.

Ms. Hilliard and her family are fostering Lucky, 5, who weighs 4.3 pounds. He's getting along just fine with the family's three Chihuahuas -- Tank, Maggie and Olive.

Some might ask, why are we importing dogs from California when homeless dogs are languishing in local shelters, where some have to be euthanized?

Small dogs are more the exception than the rule in Western Pennsylvania shelters, and they get adopted quickly. There are waiting lists of people who want to adopt small dogs.

In California, Chihuahuas are euthanized "by the thousands," said Marge Fithian of Philadelphia. In the past 12 months she and her family have saved 58 California Chihuahuas through their organization, Many Happy Returns.

Chihuahuas have always been popular in Southern California, perhaps because of close proximity to Mexico, where the breed originated, said Allison Choy, spokeswoman for Chihuahua Rescue of San Diego, the rescue that sent dogs to Pittsburgh.

Paris Hilton and other celebrities are frequently photographed carrying the tiny dogs as fashion accessories. And then there are movies and commercials starring Chihuahuas.

The San Diego rescue finds homes for 200-300 dogs per year, including Olive. Mrs. Hilliard and her husband adopted Olive two years ago when vacationing in San Diego, and she decided she had to help save more.

The Chi-oversupply has worsened with California's economic woes, and the state seems to be plagued with "irresponsible backyard breeders" who produce large numbers of puppies in an effort to make money, Ms. Fithian said,

When she started contacting California shelters and rescues three years ago, they were willing to share the Chihuahua overflow but said they could not afford airline fees. The Fithian family donated $1,100 for air fare and set up a revolving fund. …

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