Last summer, Dekalb County Animal Services in Georgia answered a call about a vacant house with possible abandoned animals inside. They found three dogs, one of whom was a Chihuahua with deformed front legs. According to DCAS director Susan Feingold, they examined the little dog and gave her the medical attention she needed, including deworming and vaccinations. Because of her birth defect, though, the Chi was transferred to Society of Humane Friends of Georgia, a nonprofit rescue, to get additional care and attention.
The society enlisted Jacki McDonald as a foster for the little Chi, now dubbed Little Miss Birdee Smalls. “The kennel supervisor called me when Birdee came in specifically because I had a ‘chicken wing’ dog foster previously,” McDonald says. “She hopped around like a baby bird, so that’s how her name came about.”
When McDonald had to go out of town, she left Birdee in the care of Brian and Christina Cribbs. Although the Cribbs had sworn off more dogs when they adopted No. 4, those few days with Little Miss Birdee was all it took to win them over.
The Cribbs were already dog parents to two other Chihuahuas, one Pit Bull/Dachshund mix, and a deaf Pit Bull. Little Miss Birdee Smalls fit right in with their family. Brian and his wife affectionately refer to her as a “Chi-rex,” due to her short front legs and habit of hopping around on her back feet. At just over a year old, Birdee weighs a surprising 3.8 pounds and gets around by “hopping around and bracing herself on her more formed arm,” Brian says. “We call it her beefy arm.” The Cribbs wanted to make it easier for Birdee to get around, though, so they started doing some research on carts.
They met with Alicia Williams, a vet tech at Duluth Animal Hospital. She also had a special-needs Chihuahua, named Roo, who uses a cart and shares his life with a chicken. Williams offered some very useful insight on cart types and fitting, and the Cribbs decided to get one for Little Miss Birdee. Initially, they were going to build their own, but it proved more cost-effective to use Eddie’s Wheels for Pets. After taking molds of Birdee’s chest and legs, they sent her measurements off to have her own cart specially made.
The Cribbs created a Facebook page for Miss Birdee so others could follow as she adjusted to her new life and, particularly, to her new wheels. Although she adapted to the cart very quickly, as shown in many adorable videos, Birdee did need some help with the change in height it created. She loves her chew bone, so the Cribbs made a small wooden block for Birdee to prop it on, and they raised her food bowl. Her cart also enabled her to sit on her side, which, according to Brian, “might not seem like a big deal, but this is pretty huge. The wheels are about so much more than walking. She can sit like an average dog, though she’s way better.”
When not wheeling through life, Little Miss Birdee (along with her humans) gives back to the community by volunteering and shares her home with fosters from Laskey’s Lucky Ones and Volunteers. She and Christina also recently visited inmates through the Canine CellMates program at Fulton County Jail. Christina is a certified therapy-dog handler through Atlanta Pet Partners, and Brian is going to get his certification soon. And now that Birdee is old enough, they are going to move forward with getting her certified as a therapy dog, like her fur-sibling, Emilio, so that she can do even more in the community.
“We love our dogs and love that other people get something out of visiting with them like we do,” Brian says.
Through sharing Little Miss Birdee’s pictures, videos, and accomplishments online, the Cribbs quickly found out they were not alone in having a little “chicken wing dog” or “Chi-rex,” connecting with others such as Bunny Angel and Ellie May and Madi. They’ve also amassed quite a following from fans who have just fallen in love with the little quirky Chihuahua.
“We like helping special needs dogs,” Brian says, “because we like for other people to know they’re just like every other dog, they just need some help learning or moving around.”
Paws up to Little Miss Birdee Smalls and the fantastic family she has found!
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About Meghan Lodge: Fits the Aquarius definition to a fault, loves animals, and is always pushing for change. Loves ink, whether it’s in tattoos, books, or writing on that pretty sheet of blank paper. Proud parent of Toby (cat) and Axle (dog). I’m a former quiet nerd who’s turned bubbly animal-obsessed advocate.