|Vegetarian Era Our Animal Friends Little Santo: My Loyal Friend and Mentor|
Little Santo: My Loyal Friend and Mentor
know me is to love me.”
brother-initiate Richard Stewart, Los Angeles, California, USA
In the summer of 2003, inspired by Supreme Master Ching Hai’s lecture Dogs Are Wonderful Beings (Videotape #714), I acquired a lively gold-colored Chihuahua puppy, whom I named “Santo” (Spanish for ‘Saint’) because of his sweet, loving temperament. I had always been fascinated by the perky disposition, independence and keen intelligence that Chihuahuas displayed in TV shows, commercials and movies. As one Chihuahua fancier describes the breed, “With its big eyes, big ears, and bigger-than-life attitude, this pint-sized pet is master of his universe and fears nothing.” These qualities sound much like what we strive for as spiritual practitioners, and are what have long endeared me to the little dogs from Mexico. But Master’s words piqued my interest in the breed even more.
In Her lecture, She describes the amazing devotion and courage of a little Chihuahua who sacrificed his own life to save his masters’: “Do you know how big a Chihuahua is? As big as a rat, but they’re fiercely loyal and protective. One Chihuahua got an award for heroism because he died for his owners. A burglar came in to steal money from his owners and he barked so loud and jumped at him and attacked him so much that the burglar cut his throat and he died. But because he barked so loud and attacked the burglar, his owners awakened and escaped death and robbery. The dog died for them — a small dog like that — fiercely loyal and protective.”
These traits of intense devotion and protectiveness undoubtedly stem from the Chihuahuas’ long, unique history and genetic heritage; for as Master says often-repeated behaviors and qualities such as loyalty and courage are encoded in the cells of living creatures and handed down from one generation to the next. In the Chihuahua’s case, this genetic background may be traced to Mexico’s three major Native American cultures, the Maya (circa 2,000 BC-900 AD), the Toltec (circa 700-1200 AD) and the Aztec (circa 1200-1500 AD), all of which had a close association with a small, gold or sandy-colored dog, the Techichi, ancestor of the modern-day Chihuahua.*
In the legends of these peoples, after death the Techichi was said to lead his master through the fearful regions of the underworld and also to assume his sins, thus appeasing the gods so that the owner could reach a favorable place in Heaven. When one experiences the utter love and devotion of a Chihuahua, it is easy to understand how the early Mexicans could have believed that the dogs’ forebears, the loyal little Techichis, would faithfully await their most beloved humans’ arrival in the afterlife, take on their karmas and then lead them to Heaven.
Another surprising fact about the Techichis is that they were largely vegetarian, enjoying diets rich in corn and other vegetables. Perhaps this is why little Santo and his Chihuahua friends Mickey and Teeny love to graze on the grass and weeds in my backyard every day — genetic memories of their Techichi forebears!
Lessons in Unconditional Love and Devotion
In my case, little Santo also shows all the love and loyalty of his Techichi ancestors, being always willing to give me adoring licks when I wake up, return home from work, or at any other time. Since the day I brought him home, he has followed me around the house and yard, and whenever a stranger approaches he barks fiercely to “protect” me, assuming the tough stance of a big boxer or German shepherd, heedless of his diminutive size.
Moreover, little Santo is always kind and considerate with his Chihuahua friends Mickey and Teeny, who live next door. When he and Teeny, a petite “teacup” Chihuahua, play together, he seems to be aware of her fragile body and adjusts his play accordingly, being careful not to hurt her with his playful biting and jumping. He even shows love for my landlady’s baby chickens by licking their faces (although, being a normal dog, he does like to chase the adult chickens around the yard for fun). Santo further shows his love and detachment by willingly sharing whatever he has with his canine friends, never complaining when they help themselves to his food, water and toys.
Such expressions of affection, care and utter devotion from a small gold dog, my friend and teacher little Santo, give me daily lessons in how to be a better human being and disciple of Supreme Master Ching Hai. For as Master says, dogs are wonderful beings, and their amazing capacity for unconditional love and self-sacrifice can inform and uplift us all: “They are very, very loyal, very protective, at the cost of their own life, even a Chihuahua. A Chihuahua is not like a guard dog. He’s a pet dog. They call them ‘pocket dogs’ because you can put them in your pocket and go anywhere. And they love to be around you twenty-four hours a day, and they’re very affectionate. But when it comes to your life, they sacrifice theirs. These kinds of things are very touching to me. That’s why I cannot help but love animals. Apart from love for all sentient beings, these kinds of stories touch your heart and make you love them more.”
For further information on Chihuahua history and characteristics,
please visit these websites: