Adapted and reprinted with permission of

It isn't easy, raising a spiritual Chihuahua. In fact, it would be easier to raise the dead.

My Chihuahua, Truman, is going on nine. I got him when he was three months old and a mere three pounds. But even though he was no bigger than my palm, he already had a fully developed soul, brimming with unconditional love, loyalty, and devotion, all the aspects that we associate with a high degree of spiritual evolution.

Truman was, and is, my first and only dog, and I marveled at these wonderful canine qualities that made him seem so superior to his petty human counterparts. I even went so far as to write a book about him, "A Widow, A Chihuahua, and Harry Truman," in which I waxed eloquent about how he brought me through the dark days of widowhood and helped me gain an even deeper admiration of his namesake, Harry S. Truman. But alas, through the years I have come to realize that my sweet little dog angel is no paragon of virtue. He can easily fall prey to selfishness, vengefulness, manipulation, and other ego-invested vices, and in fact, he grew so clever at getting everything he wanted that my friends started calling him Truman the Human-not necessarily a compliment.

I think Truman has probably been guilty of most of the Seven Deadly Sins, with the exception of sloth. He is not a lazy dog, and lives for his walks-a good thing for his owner, who is lazy and would never get a lick of exercise if it weren't for him. But let's look at a few of the others:


You've heard of the Thirty Years War. Well, I have one for the history books too. The Nine Years War has been going on at my house since the day Truman arrived. He entered a household ruled by my two five-year-old cats, Petie and Rhonda, a pair of devoted littermates who took one look at the pretender to the throne, hissed and spat, and drew the battle lines then and there. This three-pound something, who looked like a rat and smelled like a dog, was low man on the pole, period. If he dared to approach the ruling elite, he was swatted with an angry cat paw. So, he would slink off, whimpering and dreaming of the day he could claim his revenge.
Today, Truman is eight-and-a-half pounds, almost as big as Rhonda, and that happy day has come. His primary mission in life is to keep the cats and me apart, and he will stop at nothing to accomplish it.

Now, it's interesting. The cats have never been jealous of each other. If I kiss and cuddle one of them, the other one just sits there serenely, amber eyes blinking like those non-threatening flashing yellow traffic lights. But dogs-and in particular Chihuahuas-are another story. If I call Rhonda, Truman races over, jumps in my lap and grins down at her triumphantly. If Rhonda tries to jump up on me, Truman bares his teeth, growls, and snaps at her. Unwilling to condescend to Truman's level, Rhonda takes a military approach and makes a strategic retreat, sauntering off like she doesn't care. Then, suddenly, she begins advancing along the rear flank and leaps up onto the couch or chair from behind, settling on my head, where it's her turn to flash the enemy a smug smile. Truman then retaliates by whimpering and licking my lips with the intensity of a long-lost lover finally reunited with his amour.

Since cats don't kiss, and it's impossible to resist these fervent demonstrations of adoration, Truman definitely has the upper hand. Imagine my amazement, then, when I awoke one morning to find Rhonda sitting on my chest and licking my lips, while Truman looked on in helpless rage.

If you've ever been licked by a cat, you'll appreciate my dilemma. It was heartwarming, to see how far Rhonda would go in imitating the enemy to get my undivided affection. But it was like having my lips assaulted by an electric sander. I hated to hurt her feelings, but I had to push her away, albeit gently and with kisses and assurances of gratitude.

"Oh, Rhonda, thank you. Oh, Mommy loves you too! My best kitty girl! But honey, your tongue is too rough! Truman's tongue is soft, but kitties have sandpapery tongues so they can groom themselves. And Mommy's lips are getting raw...Here, you can kiss my hand instead."

I put my hand in front of my lips. Rhonda gave it a few licks and then wandered off, which was Truman's signal to leap onto my chest and begin licking my lips with even more fervor, as if, in addition to declaring his love, he had to wipe away all traces of his adversary's presence.

Being a dumb human, I was completely unconscious of the sinister fact that these kisses were not what they seemed. I later discovered that when dogs lick you on the lips, they are not saying, "I love you." They are saying, "I own you!" They are asserting their dominance, an absolute no-no, as it is your job, from Day One, to establish yourself as the alpha dog. Being clever-far more clever than you'd ever suspect-your dog knows this, and so must resort to the most devious of means to wrest this title from you.

"Lust has been a major problem with Truman."

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