Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Leo, the Mexican Hairless Foster Dog, and His Journey North

By Lauren Gallagher, Controller & Shy Foster Dog Mom

It’s a common occurrence. Casaundra Cruz from HSSV’s Regional Rescue department shows up at my office door, asking me if I am ready to take another foster dog home. She says “You have to come meet this one, he is right up your alley, extremely shy”. I can never resist the shy ones, probably because I consider myself on the shy side too. Casaundra also let me know that he was a rare breed, a Mexican Hairless, also called Xolo or Xoloitzcuintli. I quickly googled the breed. I discovered that the Xolos are an ancient dog breed that was considered sacred by the Aztecs. I was intrigued.

When I met Leo, he was very scared, shaking, and not eating. He also had an odd gait, kind of like a tiny newborn fawn, which was very unusual since he was almost two years old. Veterinarians had determined that Leo had a neurological disorder, but it did not affect his quality of life.

But what struck me most about Leo was his appearance. He had dark, rough, and wrinkled skin, which felt like an elephant’s skin on his lower back. He had only a tuft of hair on the end of his tail, a little hair on his feet, and a flat toupee of black hair on his head. Underneath his tee shirt, however, his skin was very soft. Therefore, we concluded that he had been left in the sun a lot (probably too much) wearing tee shirts. He had a farmer’s tan!

So I took Leo home, and he quickly became part of my pack. He was such a gentle and sensitive little guy, scared of sudden movements and noises. We knew he would need to go to an experienced, adult only home. He had the sweetest way of jumping up on me in such a gentle, tentative way, tugging at the heart. Leo was very mellow. He loved to lounge either on my lap, nearby me on the couch, or in the round cat bed. Legend says that Xolo owners could wrap their mellow dog's warm body around an ailing body part, even over the shoulders and around the neck, to relieve pain like a heating pad!

Soon after we took Leo in, a friend of mine was visiting us here at HSSV's Animal Community Center, and met Leo. She quickly told me that she has close friends who really love to adopt this rare Mexican Hairless breed. So we sent pictures of Leo to them. Well, after a couple conversations, they decided to drive here from north of Seattle, Washington with their two female dogs, one, also a Mexican Hairless, and the other, a terrier mix. Both of their dogs were very fearful when they adopted them, so they had extensive experience. They sounded like an ideal family for Leo.

It was love at first sight and they adopted him. I recently received a report that Leo is settling into his new home quite well. He follows around his new canine sisters and recently was seen basking with them in the rare Seattle sun. He will certainly lose his tan up there in the northern Seattle area, and will need to wear sweaters! Leo was by far, my furthest foster dog placement, but he is in his perfect forever home!

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