Shaffer: Farewell to a tiny, ferocious friend

jshaffer@newsobserver.comApril 14, 2013 

Senora Wences, "six pounds of canine fury," in Wilmington in 2004.

JSHAFFER@NEWSOBSERVER.COM — Josh Shaffer

— Señora Wences, the Chihuahua better known as “Six Pounds of Canine Fury,” died Wednesday in her broken-hearted owner’s lap. She was 12, we think.

Born homeless on the streets of Fort Worth, Texas, she skittered into my life in 2003 while acting as the scrappy sidekick and occasional lover to a stray Doberman Pinscher named Pete.

Both dogs arrived on my front porch as flea-infested urchins, and while my wife, Amber, tried to help the larger beast, Señora snuck uninvited into our house and planted herself on our sofa.

She was home.

We kept Señora despite our previous distaste for small dogs, naming her after the Spanish ventriloquist Señor Wences of TV fame, for reasons I can’t remember.

She joined our Labrador and pit bull duo, soon proving herself far fiercer.

To meet her was to be bitten. No one who visited our residence over the next decade escaped a chomp on the ankle. She defended her home, and all who entered it save immediate family members were considered intruders.

This attack-first rule applied to larger foes: skateboarders, garbage trucks, city buses. She howled each time a fire truck passed, noise lifted to the sky. She believed she was a wolf, and in many ways, she was. Mail carriers in Raleigh can breathe easier today.

We once took her on a canoe outing in Falls Lake along with our water-shy Labrador. Once we’d paddled to the middle, I could sense that she was planning to hop over the side and pursue the people she could see wading on the beach.

Amber dismissed this idea as crazy, but as soon as we reached the deepest part of the lake, Señora leaped overboard and began swimming to shore – probably a half-mile away. So I bounded in after her, caught her mid-stroke and tossed her wet body back in the canoe.

Then, over Amber’s protest, I tried to climb back in the boat while still in the water, dumping both my wife and Chihuahua into the lake. Only the Labrador remained dry. From then on, we deemed Señora unsafe for water recreation.

But if she loved you, Señora followed you like a pilot fish.

Amber has not driven to any vacation destination in 10 years without her Chihuahua in her lap. Neither of us have slept a night in a decade without Señora under the blankets, digging with her paws to clear the sheets of imaginary pine needles. In her later years, she would spend 20 of 24 hours in bed, asleep on a pillow, looking like the world’s most comfortable killer.

You could give her a bath by holding her in one hand. Sometimes, out of nowhere, she would sprint in circles around the upstairs bedrooms, a ritual Amber called “The Chihuahua Freakout.” She once bit my face so badly that the scar took three months to fade. But she would also nap on my chest and lick my nose.

Her heart failed on Monday, leaving her unable to walk or eat, but still stubbornly alive. I’ve lost a dog to a passing car and a cat to a fatal ramble through a construction site, but I’d never euthanized an animal before.

I put it off as long as I could. My 6-year-old son, Sam, offered this advice: “I know how we can keep Señora alive. We can make her a robot dog.”

But I carried her to the vet on Wednesday, signed the papers and watched her close her bug eyes for the last time.

I asked her there, in the vet’s office, for one last nose lick, and she looked at me, totally justified, with a face that said, “You’ve got to be @#*% kidding.”

I’d always guessed she’d spent her past life as a very noble creature to have lived such a life – perhaps a St. Bernard carrying brandy to skiers stranded in the Alps.

Her next life, I’m sure, will leave the world just as awestruck and charmed.

jshaffer@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4818

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