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.