Colleen Mitchell saw Chica for the first time on Facebook. She was scrolling through her news feed late one night when a photo came up of a 16-year-old, two-and-a-half-pound Chihuahua who had been left at Abilene Animal Services Shelter. Area rescues were sharing the dog’s details in the hope of getting her pulled ASAP.
Mitchell, who volunteers with several groups in west-central Texas, stepped up.
“I was there before the doors opened the next day, with her information printed out,” she says. “When I asked for Chica, they gave me this weird look and said, ‘You mean the blind one?'”
Turns out, what Mitchell thought was a flash effect in her intake photos were severe cataracts. Not only did someone dump an elderly dog, but one who also could not see. The odds of a family adopting her from the shelter were slim to none.
“The employee came out holding her like a can of Coke,” she recalls of that morning in June of 2013. “Chica had this worried look on her face. Her bottom jaw was pretty much gone. She was filthy and smelled.”
Mitchell took the Chihuahua straight to her vet for an exam and then home, where she got a bath and a blanket to curl up on and rest.
“With how old she was even then, I didn’t think she would live long. I prepared myself and tried not to get too attached,” she says. “And then I fell in love. Chica has such an expressive little face and just wants to be held. She would be happy sleeping 23 hours a day and cuddling for the one hour she is awake.”
Chica pretty much sticks to that schedule, with her waking hours spent posing for Facebook posts. Mitchell initially created the Chica-Chan community — with the Japanese term of endearment “Chan” suggested by her anime-loving son, Adam — to share freedom photos. The response was so positive, that she continued posting and began using the dog’s popularity to raise money for area and national animal-welfare organizations.
Mitchell, a trained chef turned accounting student, has raised more than $15,000 in Chica’s name through T-shirt and toy sales (check out the Chica toy in the top photo!) and other events. She posts all donations received and made to Facebook, with National Mill Dog Rescue regularly getting checks.
All signs point to Chica being a former breeder herself. She has only a few teeth left in her mouth, causing the receded jaw. Her tail has several breaks, yet it still wags with enthusiasm, Mitchell says. She was left to go blind.
Chica was also never spayed, and because of her advanced age cannot undergo the surgery safely, nor can the several, likely cancerous mammary tumors she has be removed.
“We’re just keeping an eye on them. She can’t go under. The anesthesia would kill her faster than the tumors,” Mitchell explains. “And all of our other dogs are fixed, so her not being spayed doesn’t matter.”
Those other dogs are all Chihuahua and Chihuahua-mix rescues, each one a miracle, too. Tuffie, for example, was found in a field starving and bleeding out from a massive infection. He also had a small bullet in his chest.
Bella, Daisy, Little Bit, and Tippy also live with Mitchell, husband Darryl and Adam. She also considers Lily Bear and Cooper, who stay with daughter Bethany, part of the immediate family.
To follow Chica as she enjoys her new life, join the Chica-Chan Facebook community.
Learn more about dogs with Dogster: