The response for help that I didn’t realize I needed, and hadn’t asked for in so many words, came all the way from Texas. José, his moniker for a Facebook pictorial debut, had a little something more going on than just garden-variety cuteness as vast as his home state. Beaming from his eyes was a liquid love, so piercingly aimed in my direction that it had me turn my head disbelievingly, in case his laser love-show had been meant for someone else. I responded to his foster mum’s post, cooing over his obvious splendour. I shuffled his adoption papers, in my head.

Joe on his first day with us.

Joe on his first day with us.

A few days later, restraint flew out the window. My friend posted a video of him being amazing, proving that I had a previously undiscovered thing for Chihuahuas, or perhaps just this Chihuahua. I can’t explain the mystique that is love at first sight so I won’t try except to say that little José drew his bow from afar, sinking its arrow squarely into the middle of my chest. There was ease and flow to the adoption proceedings. And it soon became clear that José knew something that I, as the ready student, didn’t quite have a handle on. His capacity to teach the subject in question with authority, was nothing less than awe-inspiring.

And, so I could address him with questions in class easily, I tightened up his name a bit too. To Joe.

My feisty, well-muscled cartoon character of a professor, the satellite dish-eared little Mexican jumping bean, with perfect comedic timing, wasted no time in the classroom. He saw my specific academic need, and began demonstrating mentorship at a savant level on a moment-by-moment basis. He continues to break it down for me, like all good teachers do. His teaching method: Be a funny, easy-going goof. Repeat.

Trust and joy, the curriculum.

As a two-year old little man rescued from a kill shelter in Texas, passed hand-to-hand through a daisy chain of angelic helpers into Canada, he’s earned street cred in the trust and joy department, in my books. With those traits engrafted into his nature, he attracted those trustworthy human friends along the way, ones smitten with his contagious joy. So things worked out pretty well for him, thanks to his methods. But his mission, since everyone has one, isn’t about helping me reinforce the level of trust and joy I already fleetingly know – it’s something much deeper, more brave, more sustained, much more new worldly. Joe’s PhD-sized knowing about this stuff is teaching me how to pluck trust and joy, at his doctorate level, from the ether, where it’s unseen and unfelt. That even when things on the outside can look worse than iffy, trust and joy is abundantly better than fretting and hand wringing, and that’s a Joe-ism, if ever there was one. Most importantly, he demonstrates with his eyes, ears, and tail, that trust and joy are self-cloning gifts, bringing even more trust, and even more joy, by the barrelful. All I have to do is pull the cork for my load to be lighter, and when I don’t feel like trusting or being joyful, he urges me to fake it until I make it, because nobody, not even me, can tell the difference anyway. My only question now is whether there are enough Chihuahuas in the world to help all of us get this.

Joe and his pal, my other very favourite teacher, Reginald Jewel.

Joe and his pal, my very favourite teacher of other subjects, Reginald Jewel.


The snugglers.


How I came to need some Chihuahua medicine.

I’ve tended to do things a little differently. I think a little differently, sometimes a lot differently. I don’t follow anything or anyone, and I’m open, supremely open, to possibilities other than the ones I can concretely see. I’ve been accused of going rogue on more than one occasion, and I have. I work with the compass of my intellect, my logic, and my heart, and up to now those things have served me pretty well. But like I said, the ante has been upped, and my ideals and I, have painted ourselves into a bit of a tight corner requiring much more walking, a whole lot less talking. To be free of constraint in this new place requires trusting, that the as-yet unseen fruits of my efforts will come. Trusting, despite big efforts tried, and tried again, because my compass says I must. Being joyful while still in the queue without any number on a piece of paper to tell me if I’m up next, or even how much longer I can expect to wait…

Class looks like this.

Joe, coming up for air.

Joe, coming up for air from under the blankets.

Joe makes me laugh a hundred times a day. He climbs into everyone’s lap who visits, or nestles on a shoulder like a parrot, because his ‘it’s all good; they’re all good’ attitude is all the permission he needs. He unfurls the skein of his foot-long tongue into unsuspecting mouths, enjoying the shrieks, spitting sounds, and kisses that result. With his incredibly muscular little body he can run the length of a field as fast as can Reginald Jewel, our other academic advisor/Standard Poodle, as the pair take turns chasing and being chased while we watch, transcended in the moment from the what is-ness of our days. He vaults onto high places in a series of hysterically well-orchestrated gymnast’s moves, regularly overshooting the mark. Somewhere along the line, he adopted the goose step as his comical gait of choice, and his ears adjust up or down like a sail directed to whichever way the winds of fun seem to be blowing. He attacks and ferociously shakes RJ’s giant sock monkey toy, among other plush things, with the very same zest that he uses to take down his own, scaled-down critters. He’s debonair in his cozy wardrobe, but his confidence in being naked before the world has me preferring his nudity too. His love of dog treats is epic, as his waist-high trampoline jumping skills attest. He isn’t yappy like so many other little dogs, but instead chooses to be vocal only when it matters. He tunnels under the blankets and shuts down his breathing as if wearing an aqualung, becoming a limp, questionably comatose lump, which has set alarm bells off on occasion. But I’m slowly realizing that he has this breathing without oxygen thing, down.

For more information about the wonderful non-profit organization that brought us Joe, or to donate, please visit:

Joe in the Sherlock Holmes-inspired outerwear he puts on the deduce the meaning of life.

Professor Joe, in the Sherlock Holmes-inspired outerwear he wears while deducing the meaning of life.


Namaste, Lizzie


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