On Monday, January 16th, I lost my best friend Chato to congestive heart failure. Today, February 21st, would have been his eleventh birthday.

In 2001 I was looking for a second Chihuahua, which was to be a birthday gift from Pete and Stephen. I was working at a dog-training school, and a few of the customers who signed up for classes told me of a breeder in San Jose who “has nice dogs”. I called her and found out she would have puppies available soon. After they were born, I arranged to see the dogs, but I had to cancel the appointment. When I called again to reschedule, I was told that all four puppies in the litter had been sold. I was disappointed, but I figured we would find another dog somewhere else. Then, a week or so later, the breeder called to tell me that a woman who had bought one of the puppies discovered she was pregnant, and decided it would be best not to get a dog at that time. We immediately drove to San Jose and met the tiny, one-pound puppy who would become Chato. He was truly meant to be ours.


Chato was most frequently described as a “character”: he was very intelligent and had a happy, loving personality but he also possessed a naughty, mischievous streak, as well as some eccentricities. He invented a strange game where he pushed a golf ball around on the floor with his cheek, and barked at it. It took him a while to trust people, but once he did, he loved them wholeheartedly. He accepted new dog and cat additions to the household quickly, and he was a devoted friend. Oversized at nine pounds (he didn’t fit the two-to-six-pound Chihuahua breed standard) and far from show quality, Chato was a big dog in a small body; he liked to wrestle and play and guard the house, often patrolling the back yard for hours. He was the most curious, interactive dog I have ever known, and he was interested and involved with whatever I was doing. From the day that we brought him home at seven weeks of age he was a ‘working breed’: he accompanied me to my various jobs until he died. He also went many other places—on walks, to parties, the homes of friends and family, some out of town shows that my band played, my family’s cabin in the mountains, even on a road trip to Nevada and the studios where The Tantrums recorded. He loved riding in cars, watching TV (looking out the front window of the house), playing with his toys, going to the dog park, cuddling with his people and the other dogs, and sitting in the sun on the back porch. We were not aware of how serious his condition was because he never lost his puppy energy— he was chasing a cat in the backyard and playing fetch the weekend before he passed away. In true Chato style, he went out with a bang. I hope he knew how much he was loved, and how important he was to us. I am immensely grateful that we had such a wonderful, amusing, interesting, adorable, loving, loyal and unique friend for over ten years. He brought us all so much life and happiness, I don’t know how I am supposed to go on without him. And I didn’t know it was possible to be this sad.


  • The Real Devil Doll 3y

    Thank you.
  • Mary 3y

    I'm so sorry. Yes it is possible to be that sad. Its hard to imagine ever feeling better again, but you will. Man it hurts like hell though to lost a best friend. Damn it hurts. Good thoughts going out your way.
  • KariMogensen 3y

    I'm so sorry for your loss of Chato. He was a beautiful soul. I've been following your pictures for a long time. My little cream Chi Pollie has an enlarged heart and is on heart medication every day. Her heart takes up more than 50% of her chest cavity and every day i am thankful God has given her another day. The vet said she may live to be 5. She'll be 5 in November. I cannot imagine life without her. Chato is not suffering anymore. And I believe we'll see our pets again some day. Thank you for sharing him with us on flickr. Hugs, Kari
  • Miles Cowperthwaite 3y

    So sorry for your loss... He was such a good friend to you... it is so hard to lose them... My Cheech also had the CHF but never showed that she was slowing down until that last day... i know your saddness... you never get over it... I'm glad he was part of your life and gave you so much joy.
  • The Real Devil Doll 3y

    gebodogs, KariMogensen & MoonDaze2010: Thank you for your condolences and understanding. We love them so much, and they return that love, so there is a massive void when they are gone.

    Kari, I hope your dear Pollie makes it to November, December, and beyond. She will hold on as long as possible for you. I am very glad Chato was still with us for Christmas; he loved the holidays, with all the fun food treats (turkey, yay!), and visits to relatives' houses.
  • Hello Pepi 3y

    Chato lived a life many could only dreamed of and who many cant live. He was blessed with you.

    I'm afraid there is no way to go on with this pain EXCEPT time and knowing Chato would be very unhappy if you were unhappy ! I wanted my dog to go in peace so I did not cry when she left, I braved it because after her death I still didnt want her spirit to "hang around and worry for me as it would not be fair" He gave you his entire life so we can learn from them and pass it on to others who need it (be it in the form of animals or human)

    Its after 11 years when my first dog died that I got my now dog .

    This is such a loving tribute to Chato and All that you shared. Chato would chuckle at this me thinks !
  • KariMogensen 3y

    Thank you so much. i cannot imagine how you feel.
  • Jane Mortimore 3y

    A beautiful story.
  • David A. 3y

    He was my favorite dog here on flickr!
  • Stephanie Manuel 3y

    Sucks to lose a pet. You are in my prayers.
  • BlueCatArtist 3y

    Just reading this now. I am so sorry for your loss. Chato lived a charmed life full of love and joy. In dog fashion I image he had an idea of how much he was loved and appreciated. In my experience, animals just have this way of knowing certain things.
  • sesibone 3y

    A touching and loving story of your dear darling Chato. You had been blessed to have had him as long as you did. I do believe he knew you loved him, as you had him everywhere you went, and let him do his thing as he wanted.
    Our dogs are such wonderful friends, family members, companions, whichever way we discribe them. I have lost different dogs throughtout my life and they have lived from eleven to seventeen years of age. Even one vet that i had some years back reminded me that my dogs live and long life, and I said right back... well yeah, I hug them, kiss them, talk to them and sing to them (they never mind if I'm off key), and they don't care what I look like and we love eachother unconditionally.
    You will continue to have Chato in your heart, in your thoughts and even if you were to get another dog, it doesn't mean that it will replace him, but that you still have love to give to another animal that would want love, affection and a forever home.
    After my last dog died which I referred to as my 'Happy Lucy Girl' (black Lab - lived to be two or three weeks shy of turning fourteen years old) I was quite saddened as she and I had gone through a lot of changes together including my recovery from breast cancer having had chemo and radiation treatments. My darling Lucy was my little support system.
    To this day I think of her with love and fondness of happy memories of her. I prayed to God that I would find another dog that I could give love and affection to, and sure enough I found a dog at the dog pound, who let me hug and kiss her while we were in the visiting area, so I knew she had to be the one. I named her Amigita (Spanish for little friend - I tell everyone it means dear friend).
    I have written quite a bit here, but I want you to know that time is a healer, and if you do decide to get another dog, I just know that you will have so much love for your dog, and a lot of love in return. Cheer up The Real Devil Doll, I appreciate your photo of darling sweet Chato, and your story of your life together.
    A quote from Roger Caras: 'Dogs are not our whole lives, but they make our lives whole.
  • The Real Devil Doll 3y

    pepito-!, janie.cakes, David A.2011, stephmanual1980, BlueCatArtist and sesibone:
    Thank you all for your kind words, and for understanding how painful it is to lose these friends and companions for whom we have so much love and affection.

    I got a new puppy in mid-April. Although I am still mourning the loss of Chato, the timing was right: I had rotator-cuff surgery in March (and was off work for a while), and a breeder nearby had three litters of available puppies. The one I got, Pico, is wonderful and I love him; however, he reminds me of Chato when he was a pup, and it makes me so very sad at times. I know he is not a replacement for Chato (or any of the dogs I've lost), and it will get better with time.

    sesibone, your Happy Lucy Girl lived so long (especially for a big dog) so she could take care of you. I am glad you and Amigita found each other, and I know she will keep you healthy and happy. Maybe Lucy sent her to you...
  • sesibone 3y

    Yay The Real Dvil Doll girl. You and Pico will start making new memories now. I have to tell you that even Amigita will at times remind me of Lucy also. I tell myself that I have to love Amigita for her self and that Lucy has crossed Rainbow Bridge and is now with darling Spike another dog (Boston Terrier - lived to be 15 years old) and was pretty close to Lucy, they were like broher and sister (they got along so good). Spike died in June, 1999 (close to my birthday), and Lucy died in Feb. 2009 (right after my cancer treatments were done). God gave me many years with Lucy and now I go on with my darling silly Amigita girl. It is good to hear from you, write anytime you'd like.
  • ellen jo roberts 3y

    I regret not commenting on this beautiful tribute earlier. Somehow Chato lives on via the internet. He exists forever in your photos and memories...and in all of us now, too. Sweet Chato was much loved, and your Dia de Los Muertos altar to him is amazing.
  • The Real Devil Doll 3y

    Thank you, EllenJo. I hope to honor his memory, and keep him with me always.
  • The Real Devil Doll 3y

    Storeadventures: I am so, so sorry to hear about your beloved Flash. It is indeed terribly painful, and I send my deepest sympathies to you and those who loved her. It is fast for them, and they do not know what is going on; but it is a slow recovery from the trauma and grief for us, and we know too much about what happened. If I may, I would like to offer you some advice: please don't beat yourself up over the choices you made regarding her care, because you did what you thought would make her happy and give her the best, most consistent quality of life. Maybe Chato and Flash might have lived a little longer if we had done things differently, but they don't grasp the concept of time like humans do. And nothing could have saved them--as you know, those heart problems can't be fixed. I spent way too much time being angry at myself for doing things I considered "wrong", but it won't bring them back and it's a distraction from the uncomfortable process of grieving. I know Flash was blissfully happy with you, and enjoyed playing and going on walks--keeping her quiet would have only led to boredom and frustration. Most importantly, she knew to the very end that she was loved and cherished, and isn't that what our dogs really want from us?

    I had to have my first Chihuahua, Perlita, euthanized in 2008. She was old (a few weeks away from her 15th birthday), and she had been sick for a while; nothing the vet tried made a difference. I had been agonizing over when I should make the dreaded decision to put her down, and after a very bad night she looked me in the eye and her expression clearly said "Make it stop. I can't take this anymore." Although it was awful, I believe it was easier to deal with than what happened with Chato. I am more at peace with Perlita's death because she communicated what needed to be done, and I ended her suffering. With Chato, and Flash, we knew it was coming but it's still a horrible shock, and feels so unexpected. I agree with you about vets not being as aware of their condition as we would like--I still feel that my vet did not give me as much information as she should have.

    Please do focus on the positive experiences with Flash; but embrace your sadness now, because it is part of your life with her, too. I still shed tears over Chato, nearly every day. If we didn't love them (and were loved in return) with such intensity, it wouldn't hurt so much when they go. Try to take comfort in the fact that she knew you loved her, and you gave her a great life. Again, my condolences to you.
  • The Real Devil Doll 3y

    Lovely dog; she looks great for 14 years old.
  • susan 2y

    they live on in us.
    what wonderful memories.

    We who choose to
    surround ourselves with lives
    even more temporary than our own
    live within a fragile circle
    easily and often breached.

    Unable to accept its awful gaps,
    we still would live
    no other way.

    We cherish memory as
    the only certain immortality,
    never full understanding
    the necessary plan.

    ******Irving Townsend, "The Once Again Prince"
    we are honored to have your photo posted in our pool.
    found admired and loved in the little dog laughed

    ( ?² )
  • The Real Devil Doll 2y

    Thanks Susan.
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Taken on July 3, 2008
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