Xiao Chow

Rainbow Crossing-Dec. 4, 2019

In the beginning, there was a Chow.

This dog was a spark, a catalyst, and he changed the world for thousands of dogs. Xiao Chow, Chowzer, or just plain Chow was the very first dog Terry and Linda rescued together.

He was a thin, very scruffy intact male Chow with an injured knee, a predilection (obsession) for chasing cats, and some typical Chow issues with being handled and groomed. Terry got a call and rushed over to pick him up. He didn’t like one of Terry’s resident dogs, and Linda’s home was at her dog-limit, so what to do with this guy?

We converted an old, semi-derelict building that John and Terry bought in 2010 into a refuge for dogs who needed a roof and a safe place. We half-jokingly dubbed the space “The Puppy Palace’. This was the beginning of Unidos para los Animales.

Chow was soon joined by others; puppies, adults, all sizes and shapes and ages of dogs. From the very beginning, he made it clear to all the dogs that this was “his” place, and every single one respected this. He was truly a benevolent leader of the gentlest and best kind.

In 2012, we moved kit and caboodle up to John and Terry’s amazing property on the mountain, and Chowzer was the first dog again. He settled in like the king he was, and he has since been our rock, our anchor, our constant friend and always our Chow-chin.

He has greeted every single volunteer and visitor with a combination of dignity and kisses. He bestowed the magical “Chow-smile” on us every day when we opened up the door to his suite. He has  tolerantly helped raise thousands of puppies and shared his kingdom with hundreds and hundreds of dogs. He got along with every single one.

Chow loved the rainy season, principally because rain + dirt roads in the coffee farm = MUD! He was at his happiest wallowing in mud puddles and enjoyed the spectacularly sticky black mud puddles at the farm. The amount of filth he brought back with him was epic, but we never really minded the disaster he made of the car because he loved it so. He didn’t run when off-leash, but rather pranced along with a high-stepping gait that always made us smile to watch.

Chow was not perfect. He had some body-handling issues when we first got him which required careful management and which over time, with gentle handling pretty much disappeared. He did not like to be confined, and once tore a crate to pieces at the groomer, and shredded a door at the Puppy Palace. He could be dog-reactive when on leash, was obsessed with chasing cats, and he was flat-out-terrified of thunder and fireworks.

But he only read the first couple of chapters in the Chow Manual and then decided to go rogue and break the stereotype. He loved people. All people. He was incredibly tolerant and gentle with children. He was the same for all the dogs who came and went. He was the best ambassador for his breed we could ever imagine. None of us are perfect, but Xiao Chow was very, very close.

Today, Chow flew away on angel wings to rule a new kingdom. He had severe arthritis and knee and elbow issues. We have been managing his pain with a cocktail of medications, but he was getting weaker and the mixture wasn’t working well. He was struggling to move, falling frequently, and clearly in pain. This weekend he went down and could not get up again without help. We knew it was his time.

We celebrated his last days with visits to the places he loved most, riding in the car, slow sniffaris in the coffee farm, visits from his beloved kids, tripe lunches, chicken and rice dinners, bully sticks and ice cream cones. We told him how much we loved him. We let him know that he taught us so much about how to live a good life, and we thanked him for this gift. And today our wonderful veterinarian came to him at home and sent him gently across the Bridge. We are grateful that Chow was allowed to cross at home, surrounded by we who loved him.

Unidos is truly Chow’s legacy. He has been with us, matching every step since the beginning. There is a hole in our universe without him. Everything feels askew and likely will for a long, long time. Our hearts are broken and at the same time filled with gratitude for the gift of being a part of this grand old dog’s life. Chow, we will miss you forever.

Chow was the first dog we brought in after forming Unidos para los Animales. He had been loose on the streets for several months. Although he was dirty and quite scruffy, it was difficult to see how thin he was because of his thick coat. He had a pronounced limp in his left hind leg, which we later had diagnosed as a partially torn cruciate ligament in his knee, probably from being struck by a car.

Chow came to us through a friend who had been feeding him. He attached himself to her, and stayed near her condominium, which was not a huge problem until one day when he spied the family cat through the open front door. A furious chase through the house ensued, with many things being knocked over and much screaming and general chaos. The chase ended with Fluffy the cat being pried out of Chow’s jaws, thankfully unscathed. An hysterical phone call later, and Terry had a Chow Chow.

Chow is a spectacular Chow-possibly the nicest we have ever known. He is quiet, easy going, loves a walk and loves petting and attention. He is great with all people, and fine with most dogs at the shelter. Obviously, he is not fine with cats! He rides great in the car, is perfectly house trained, and is absolutely gorgeous.

You may be asking why we have him listed as a Sanctuary Dog. Chow could be adopted or permanently fostered locally. He has mild separation anxiety when put in new situations. If crated and taken to unfamiliar situations, he panics and could chew out of a crate so we would not dare risk flying him. There are very few people in Guatemala who understand Chows and their character. He is between eight and ten years old, we believe, so he is a senior dog. He has some arthritis, and takes a pain medicine daily for life to help keep him comfortable. Although Chow is good with all people, he is still a Chow. He can be cranky, doesn’t appreciate people grabbing his collar to move him, and dislikes brushing on the back half of his body. He can snap at people for pushing him too far, too fast. Once he knows you and has a reason to consider you someone important, he is incredible. When he smiles at you, you melt in a puddle.

Chow is very much the King of the Cerro. He is patient and tolerant of all the dogs, and is very content in his routine of long daily walks, car rides to the coffee farm, surveying his domain, and receiving petting and adoration from his subjects. Recently he has decided that he would like to join in when we  train, and will honor us with a sit if the treat is sufficiently delicious.

We are a small organization dedicated to helping dogs and cats in Antigua. We sterilize, rehabilite and find homes, and work with other rescue groups.