Skip to main content

Tom's Take: Corny the Canine

07/28/2015 11:42AM ● Published by Tom Mailey

Photos courtesy of Tom Mailey.

I wanted to name him Speedo, because he is small and inappropriate. The kids wanted to call him Cornelius. As fans of the democratic process, we compromised, and so his tags read “Speedo Cornelius.” But really we just call him Corny, a black chihuahua tinier than a loaf of bread. He’s a dog we never intended to have, but now we can’t imagine life without him. Isn’t that the way with dogs?

There was a bit of a void after our Labrador died. Diamond was a big, beautiful girl, full of affection and loyalty and although we missed her, we thought we were fine being down to one dog, a sweet dachshund mix named Bella. With two boys in high school and all that craziness, one dog, we assumed, would be enough. So I’m not sure why we stopped by the Placer SPCA in Auburn one Saturday after a hike in the canyon. Nothing else to do, I suppose. I remember saying, “Let’s just see what they have.” 

Well, what they had was Corny. In fact, he was the only dog there that day, out of a cage and being kept in a large back room. They told us he was older, about 10. For whatever reason, his previous owners had dropped him off weeks before. When we entered, he didn’t do any of the things a stereotypical chihuahua does: bark, growl, pee all over. Instead, he bolted across the floor with an energy that belied his years and leaped like a puppy straight into the arms of our 15-year-old, licking him like an old friend or, more accurately, like he was covered in bacon grease. That was it. The little twerp has been with us ever since. 

 Corny can be as calm as a clam or as skittish as a squirrel, and is prone to anticipatory wheezing fits whenever we approach the pantry because that’s where the treats are kept. His two main expressions are proud, bold confidence, or complete, abject terror. With the former, he’s a diminutive police dog on high alert, all chest and chin, ears perked like two sails full of wind. The second look is far more fitting for his size: wide-eyed, ears pinned back, a little scrunched down—like he’s about to be crushed by a plunging meteor only he can see. Then again, when much of your navigational life is spent dodging feet and tires, you’d be a little jumpy too. 

Thankfully, unlike many small dogs, he’s rarely yappy—with one exception. Any dog below the knees? Corny’s chill with. He’s happy to touch noses, sniff butts, do all the stuff dogs do to say hello. But any dog bigger than that? He loses his mind, calling them out with a non-stop bark barrage that I’m sure is 70-percent dog expletives—but, only as long as he’s on his leash. He’s like the guy who’s only brave enough to talk tough as long as his friends are holding him back. Usually the big dogs just give him a disinterested glance, but if they do woof back, Corny instantly goes from belligerent soccer hooligan to imminent meteor victim. His dignity is a fluid thing.  

And not to sound, er, corny, but there is another aspect to his personality: love. Empty laps are intolerable. Bellies were made for scratching. And he can’t just sleep next to you—he has to sleep against you. Any attempt to change that, and he’ll give you a third look involving large, saucer eyes and a sad, worried expression that seems to question your very commitment to the relationship. So, even if your arm is falling asleep, the dynamic is rarely changed.

I will never know why his previous owners gave him up. Nor will I ever know why exactly we stopped by the shelter that day. All I know is we’re happy about both. And isn’t it that way with dogs? 

Catch Tom on the Pat and Tom Morning Show on New Country 105.1, e-mail him at, or follow him on Twitter @kncitom. 

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to the Style - El Dorado County free newsletter to stay informed

In Print tom mailey tom's take pets