In 2014, Casey and Alex adopted an 11 year old, ex-breeding bitch from a puppy farm background, named "Pippin". In rough shape mentally and physically, Pippin was catalyst for their decision to begin the New Zealand Chihuahua Rescue Trust ("NZCR") which became a registered charity in 2017.
Born on Anzac Day 2003, in the Wairarapa, Pippin, a pedigree tri-color long coat female, was used for breeding before being discarded. After being sold to a new owner here in Christchurch, Pippin lived with him for around five years before he became ill, entered hospice care and passed away.
Unfortunately, Pippin's former owner had stopped talking about her to his friends and had no family in Christchurch. So, without anywhere else to go, Pippin remained inside his dark, dirty, hoarded flat, for over a month. Scared and alone. When the family that owned the property became aware of her existence, they weren't sure where to turn for help with this snappy, grumpy, little dog.
Due to her past mistreatment, Pippin did not trust humans and would not, on the face of it, make a very willing pet. Pippin was a snappy, timid dog with a loud bark and willingness to bite! The property owners freely admitted they were scared of her. Again, without many other options, she found herself available on TradeMe. It was here that our Founder and Managing Trustee, Casey, was immediately struck by this solemn-looking, little Chihuahua.
Casey inquired with the seller and they began to discuss Pippin's needs via email. Realizing the amount of work and commitment needed for someone to care for Pippin, the Seller then abruptly told Casey that she was sorry but Pippin was a "hopeless case" and they had booked her in to be euthanized.
After some discussion, Alex and Casey felt obliged to at least meet Pippin. When they saw the state she was in and learnt more of her story, feeling sympathy for her, they agreed to take her home on 28 November 2014. After some time running around inside the flat, attempting to catch the dog, Pippin was on her way to her new home, with her new owners. Pippin growled and snarled at the back of her crate the whole journey home. Then began several difficult months for Alex, Casey and Pippin.
Pippin was initially terrified and didn't exhibit the behaviors of a normal dog; such as grooming herself, or even eating. Pippin snapped and snarled if anyone so much as looked in her direction. From what we know now, we realize this is simply a common reaction for an overwhelmed, scared dog, unsure of what the future holds for her.
With only basic dog training experience, Casey and Alex largely left Pippin alone, so as not to overwhelm her. Very slowly, and without the threat of unwanted affection, Pippin was given the time and space she needed to process her new circumstances. After the first month of living with her new owners, Pippin began to exhibit more of an interest in Alex and Casey naturally. With more time came more trust and Pippin became much like a normal pet and part of the family.
Once Pippin was settled, their attention turned to her medical wellbeing. Pippin was grossly overweight, had no immunizations, rotten teeth, needed to be spayed and had mammary lumps. A series of procedures and surgeries began to restore Pippin to health and she did well. At times, dogs can have behavioral issues due to pain and this is one of the causes we thoroughly investigate with each rescue dog.
Then, in May 2015, Pippin went into serious liver failure. It was a difficult, scary and expensive time as Pippin almost lost her life. The cause of the liver failure was found to be gallstones, after an ultrasound. Pippin spent over a week at the vets and After Hours, became very skinny and frail and underwent a risky surgery. During that time, Casey and Alex continually visited her, drove her backwards and forwards from the clinics and gave her as much support and love as was possible. Day after day, realizing her owners loved her and continued to show up for her, we feel, was what made Pippin learn to trust and love her new owners.
Casey and Pippin formed a close bond which lead to Pippin becoming Casey's "heart dog". This is a term often used to recognize a soul-mate in furry form! Pippin and Casey went everywhere together. Casey was even able to show this once snappy little dog, in the "Veteran" category at conformation dog shows! With strangers (a Judge) touching Pippin and looking inside her mouth. A true testament of how much trust Pippin had accumulated for her new owner.
Almost losing Pippin's life strengthened their bond, but her experience in rescuing Pippin also taught Casey practical and valuable lessons about dog psychology and behavior. Including how much a little patience and understanding can achieve for a shut down, abused dog. Also how dogs are capable of an all-consuming reciprocal love, even after abuse or neglect and being let down or abandoned by their former owners.
Because of the lessons, love and companionship Pippin gave Casey and Alex, they also advocate for adopting older dogs and those that need a little bit more patience and understanding. Sometimes, with a bit of medical assistance, time, patience and support, a dog can blossom into an amazing pet for a new family. All dogs should have that chance.
Pippin continued to live with Casey and Alex, until 17 (almost 18) years of age, when she passed away on 25 November 2020 from cancer. Both Trustees now have her pawprint permanently etched on them as a permanent reminder of Pippin and the lessons she has taught them.
Although Pippin is no longer with Casey and Alex, Chihuahua Rescue is Pippin's legacy, as without encountering Pippin and experiencing her rehabilitation first-hand, Casey and Alex would not have found their passion for Rescue and helped over 130+ dogs into safe and loving new homes and numerous other dogs in the community.
Casey and Alex began New Zealand Chihuahua Rescue ("NZCR") in 2017, in order to give back to a breed that they love - Chihuahuas! NZCR also helps many Chi-crosses and various other toy breeds when we have the capacity to do so.
Chihuahuas are one of the most abused and over-bred dog breeds internationally, but also here in New Zealand. While popular in television shows and movies, this has led to an increase in breeding and hoarding issues.
Elderly Owners: Similar to Pippin's story, senior owners are unsure where to access help rehoming their dog(s), if they need to enter residential or hospice care. Likewise for the families of owners who have died and left dogs behind. We have taken in, assisted and rehomed many dogs whose owners are unable to continue to care for them due to their health, transition into a retirement village or death.
Hoarding Cases: Given their size, Chihuahuas and other toy breeds are prone to becoming victims of hoarding. Some dog owners feel unable to turn down another small dog, but realize they are also unable to keep up with the regular medical, dental and behavioral needs of each individual dog. We have been asked to assist with the medical treatment, desexing and rehoming of dogs from hoarding cases.
Lack of Breed Knowledge: In depth research into the breed, including personality traits and common health issues needs to be completed by any prospective owner. Many of the dogs that come to us from private surrenders are due to the fact that these owners have not adequately researched or prepared for a Chihuahua and are not aware of the common health or behavioral issues. Once they determine the dog is not a right "match" for their family, they reach out to us for assistance.
Medical Surrenders: Some dogs come to us as they need medical care that current owners cannot afford or provide. For some it is a lack of knowledge regarding common health issues in the breed; for others, an accident or injury means they are unable to afford the costs of treatment or surgery. Please note: this is one of the reasons we heavily advocate for taking out pet insurance for your pets!
Excessive Breeding: Toy breeds are also known to commend a high price on sales websites, irrespective of the pedigree, health or temperament of the dog. Breeding Chihuahuas or popular crossbreeds such as the "Pomchi" has become an easy income for backyard breeders and puppy farmers alike. This has led to an increase of dogs needing forever loving homes. Too many dogs being bred, leads to an issue of not enough dogs finding homes!
Ex-breeding Dogs: For some breeders, once senior dogs are unable to continue breeding, they are discarded. Particularly if they are in need of medical or behavioral assistance, after years of neglect, in order to become a healthy pet dog, similar to Pippin's story. We provide everything they need to ensure they get a chance at a forever, loving, home.
NZ Chihuahua Rescue provide the medical and behavioral assistance for these dogs and ensure that they are taught the skills to become happy, loving pet dogs, capable of being adopted into their forever homes.
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