Hi. This is Deana, new to chi people (intro and pic posted yesterday in Newbie Corner). I thought I'd share a little more about our newest furry family member, 2 year old Chica. Not only has this sweet little rescue made a wonderful addition to our family, but she's also turned out to be a potential life saver. Unfortunately, I developed a life threatening peanut allergy a few years back. One of my first symptoms, in an anaphylactic reaction, is a sudden and severe drop in blood pressure (which, according to my Dr, could lead to my losing consciousness before I had the chance to get to my EpiPen/injectable epinephrine). Thankfully, with my last reaction, I was able to inject myself in time before calling 911, but it's scary to think what could have happened! So, only a few weeks after adopting Chica, she began frantically sniffing at my left forearm and whining like I'd never heard her whine before. She wouldn't stop and she seemed quite distraught. Well only a few minutes later a large rash developed in the very area she'd been so focused on! I didn't think much of it, since I've heard of dogs pre-alerting to medical issues before, but I did tell a fellow nurse friend about it. She suggested I mention it to my allery doc, so at my next appointment I did, and to make a long story short, Chica is now in training as an official medical alert service dog! My Dr. said since Chica alerted to something as basic as a rash/skin allergic reaction, there is a very good chance she would also pre-alert to a systemic/anaphylactic reaction as well. This could allow me an extra minute or two to inject my EpiPen and call 911, which could be a literal life saver! Prior to my Dr. "prescibing" Chica as a medical alert service dog, I was pretty uninformed about service animals. I assumed that only large breeds could be working dogs, but my Dr. said that more and more people with severe peanut allergies are utilizing service dogs, and that size isn't an issue in the case of either medical alert or peanut detection. I've since done some research and learned that chihuahuas in particular make exceptional medical alert dogs because of their tendency to remain so glued to their favorite person. Chis are in service worldwide to those with life threatening allergies, diabetes, epilepsy, etc. While Chica's medical alert abilities are apparently inate, we are working with a local trainer, especially on crowd socialization. Service dogs must be well behaved at all times in public, and Chica used to sometimes bark at strangers. With training though, she has learned that barking will earn her the "Cesar shush" (which she doesn't like the sound of) and behaving nicely will earn her praise and a tiny piece of coveted freeze dried liver. Her trainer says the closer she is to me physically, the better the chance she would medically pre-alert, so I purchased a sling/messenger style dog carrier to use when we're out and about. I have her ID tags clipped to it, and I also keep a copy of the letter from my doctor and her trainer's most recent "report card" in the bag, just in case I should ever be asked to provide proof of her service dog status while out in public. I also, at my allergist's suggestion, had a custom pin made that says "Owner/Handler has severe nut allergy. EpiPen in purse" and it's on the outside of the bag. It increases the chances that if I did lose consciousness, someone might use my Epi to save my life, instead of just calling 911 (because, in cases such as mine, oftentimes by the time emergency personnel arrive, it's too late). Sadly though, I've read recently about people trying to pass off their little dogs as service dogs, just so that they can take them places. As someone with a valid need for a potentially life saving medical alert service dog, this makes me understandably frustrated! The celebrities treating their tiny dogs as fashion accessories makes me angry too. If I'd wanted to just carry around a cute little dog around in a fancy purse, I could have for years (we've had our wonderful 8 lb toy poodle for over 9 years now.) Anyway, I'll get off my soap box now, but I just wanted to share about my little life saver. I'm sorry this is so long!