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This article was published in our newspaper today (well, yesterday).

Sweet on petite
Chihuahuas are a national craze, but Central Texas pet owners have had a big crush on their little dogs for a long time

By Robert Winterode

AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Chris Cortinaz recently got the name Delilah tattooed on his wrist.

The Austin hair stylist is happily engaged to his fiancée, Leigh Glass, yet he couldn't help but acknowledge the other woman in his life.

"She's taught me so much about the female species," says Cortinaz.

Delilah is a 17-month-old longhaired Chihuahua. She hangs out in Cortinaz's salon during the day, greeting customers with an amicable yap before settling in their laps for petting.

Cortinaz is thinking about getting another tattoo: a portrait of Delilah on his arm.

"Chis" (rhymes with "ties") -- slang for these small-fry pets -- and their owners are indeed separated from the proverbial pack. A near-subculture, Chihuahua owners are linked by an unsurpassed devotion to their dogs; in Central Texas, the Chihuahua has become a way of life.

Austin's Abra Moore, a Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter, lives with two Chihuahuas, Wendle, 7, and Scout, 2.

"They're whimsical," she says. "They're very complex little creatures. . . . That's what separates them from a Pekingese or a Shih Tzu."

The Chihuahua is a canine of mythic proportions.

In the past 10 years, more than 350,000 of the little dogs have been registered with the American Kennel Club.

In that time, they've managed to swagger across the silver screen in hot pink (see both "Legally Blonde" movies), ham it up for Mexican fast food, front an animated ensemble cast (Ren of "Ren & Stimpy") and hog camera time with a host of celebs from Britney Spears to Paula Abdul and Roger Clemens. They've also been known to write a book or two; Paris Hilton's pooch Tinkerbell penned "The Tinkerbell Hilton Diaries : My Life Tailing Paris Hilton," and Wheely Willy, a paraplegic dog from Long Beach, Calif., has penned a couple of children's books, including "How Willy Got His Wings."

These dogs also know how to wear an outfit around town.

CiCi and Remy Martin have a wardrobe of nearly 50 outfits. Their owner, Mai Nguyen, 42, runs Warehouse Liquor in South Austin, where the dogs hang out during the day.

"That's my baby," says Nguyen. She's not pointing at her daughter, Nancy, 19, but at CiCi. The dog goes everywhere with her owner, including to neighborhood restaurants and groceries. CiCi is also the proud mother of two 10-week-old pups.

"We're keeping them," says Nguyen. "That's my family."

Sleek, jet-black Liberty Belle is another Chi who knows how to sport a trademark look. Her wardrobe consists of, among other things, a ballerina's tutu, a gator costume for Halloween, a set of UGGs, a Longhorn jersey with Liberty's name and Vince Young's signature, and evening wear with Louis Vuitton and Coach prints.

Liberty's owner, Cymberly Pierce, 21, a University of Texas advertising major, shops at Austin's Fetch, a doggie boutique. The store's owner, Cynthia Herman, has witnessed a trend.

"It's a toy dog craze," Herman says. "We've always had a large set of collars, but now we carry more smaller-sized ones."

In Fredericksburg, something similar has happened at the boutique Dogologie, which now carries sweaters and tees in size XX small, according to owner David Pedregon.

Liberty has plenty of opportunities to show off her clothes and her bling: bead necklaces, an $80 red, white, and blue necklace and a charm that says "sweet thing." The dog is a class-A socialite.

"If it's a theme party, I'll dress her up in the theme," says Pierce, who takes her along to college parties. "I have to watch out for people trying to feed her beer, though."

In her "Warning: Can't Hold Her Licker" dog tee, Liberty struts her way into dog-friendly establishments. But she's also into improving her mind: She's sat in a crowd of 500-plus students at UT's University Teaching Center for lectures on management information systems and business management.

Besides business, Liberty knows classic dog commands including sit, circle and roll over. The next trick Pierce will teach is called "pose," in which Liberty will lie down and cross her two front legs.

"They're smart," says breeder Jo Klunkert, 80, owner of Jo's Tiny Bee Ranch outside of Bastrop.

With 26 female dogs, seven male dogs and 20-plus puppies, Klunkert's kennel is full of yipping Chihuahuas. Business is brisk. In one weekend, Klunkert says, she's sold nine pups and taken deposits on four.

"They're intelligent creatures and very easy to train," she says of the breed's appeal.

Celeste Serna Williams, general manager of garden boutique Big Red Sun, agrees. Her dog, Ana Empanada, accompanies her to work. The "little local celebrity" looks more like a miniature deer than a Chihuahua.

"She definitely loves the finer things in life," Williams says. A large jar at Big Red Sun betrays Ana's weakness: fortune cookies. Ana also chows down on organic dog food, meats, eggs and cheeses. She particularly enjoys brie. And she loves the spotlight: Ana sometimes makes a guest appearance when her dad, Williams' husband Adrian Quesada, performs as the lead singer of Austin's Grupo Fantasma.

Despite her star quality, she's not a Chihuahua who likes to parade around in feminine finery.

"She's more of a tomgirl," Williams says (though Ana sometimes wears a faux mink stole).

As for the myth that Chihuahuas can speak, Williams confirms it.

"She definitely has sentences," she says of Ana's drawn-out array of barks and whimpers.

The couple got Ana because Quesada grew up around pint-sized dogs, not because they were inspired by famous Chis.

Even in the Tinkerbell era, perhaps the best-known Chihuahua is the one who famously uttered "Yo quiero Taco Bell."

Whatever happened to that dog? Gidget is alive and well at age 9. Instead of working hard selling tostadas, she spends her days lazing in the sun, according to her trainer, Sue Chipperton.

In Austin, some Chihuahuas get together once a month. There are 129 members of the local Chihuahua meetup group. Every second Saturday, about 30 of the owners and their pets gather in a local backyard to mingle.

Husband and wife Chris Nudd, a retail automation systems specialist, and Amy Gottlieb-Nudd, a UT graduate student, lead the group. Chula and Chico are their Chihuahuas, and their owners are completely smitten with them. Chris recently shot a short film to the tune of Beaver Nelson's "Anything Easy Left" with 2-pound Chula as the star. The young ingénue has a certain charm as she scampers across the lawn and sleeps next to Kiki, the Balinese cat.

"The other day, she had a possum three times her size cornered," Nudd recalls.

"She's gone after Great Danes before," Gottlieb-Nudd says.

Her owners surmise it could be due to a Napoleon complex of sorts. Perhaps that's part of the breed's allure, too.

"So many times I think I want to quit my dissertation and have a Chihuahua farm instead," Gottlieb-Nudd says. She's only half-joking.

[email protected] 445-3506
 

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That's a neat article. Do you ever attend those chi meetups?

The only thing that bothers me is knowing that Roger Clemens has a chi. He's not very popular here in the Boston area because he's such an arrogant SOB. :x : nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn./

That last part was Lily walking on the keyboard. She's now on the floor. I apologize for her rude comment. :roll:
 

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Rachael deano does that! I found that intresting and maybe the public will realise that chi's arent a fashion statement to us! Thank ou for posting that!
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Rachael Polachek said:
That's a neat article. Do you ever attend those chi meetups?

The only thing that bothers me is knowing that Roger Clemens has a chi. He's not very popular here in the Boston area because he's such an arrogant SOB. :x : nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn./

That last part was Lily walking on the keyboard. She's now on the floor. I apologize for her rude comment. :roll:
Cooper and I will be attending our very first chi meetup on the 13th of August. We had plans on attending the one this month but his surgery kept us from going. :(

Roger Clemens is a hometown hero here; he went to University of Texas and was our star pitcher back in the day. I don't know anything about him except for that. I'm not a baseball fan, although I'm glad Boston got rid of The Curse.

Tell Lily I understand her angst and I hope her day gets better. Cooper sends his love and wants Lily to know he thinks she's the prettiest Chihuahua in New England. (I think he's sucking up, but who knows.)
 

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Lily says she's sorry (and I can tell, she really is). She knows she was out of line with that remark. I assured her it wouldn't be held against her because, well, she is the prettiest chi in New England. Uh oh, Vida might have something to say about that (she's in Vermont). On the other hand, can Vida type? That should count for something. :wink:
 

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Absolutely loved that article - maybe one reason is because I'm a Texan through and through!! Grew up there, went to school there, and still have family there and would be back there myself if all my children and grand-children didn't live in Florida.

I love Austin - it's a beautiful city - lots of rolling hills. I have relatives in Austin actually. My cousin and his wife and family live there. He works in the capital there, or at least he did. I haven't seen him in over 5 years. He's some big cheese in the Dept. of Vital Statistics I think.

You know it's really strange. I was just thinking (yeah, I do that sometimes. Gives me a headache, though) chis have always been popular in Texas. We had chis in my family when I was growing up. Then I read your post on the newspaper article about chis being popular in Texas long before they became the national fad. Just sort of weird that I would be thinking about that, and then there's that article.

Thanks for posting that. :)
 

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I'm glad I could give you a little bit of home today. :D

I know that until I was 2 years old, my mom had a chi and just about everyone we knew had one too. I think our close proximity to Mexico might be the reason though.
 

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OKAY...JUST A QUESTION...the article said:

"'Chis' (rhymes with "ties") -- slang for these small-fry pets"

Does anyone else pronounce "chi" like that??? I've always pronounced it like "chee" (rhymes with cheese!!! LOL!!!) I say 'chee' because they're called 'CHEE-WA-WAS more often than 'CHAI-WA-WAS"! LOLOLOLOL!!! :tongue:

Speaking of chai...mmm...I love chai tea (not tai chi). Okay, I'm in my own little world over here. :wave:
 

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I was wondering the exact same thing. Who says "CHI" long I?

I lived in Austin for years (went to UT when Clemens was there!) and it is one dog-friendly town. I'm not far from San Antonio now, and when I read what people in other states and countries pay for chihuahuas, I know we're in chi-country. (They sell them in front of Walmart regularly in the $100 range...and that's with papers...). Not that it's so great, because people don't appreciate them here as much probably...when I read of the girl who almost had hers stolen in London--well, here it's more like people dump them. That's how we got our sweet Dolly.

But, now I know a fun place to shop next time I'm in Austin! Thanks for the article!
 
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