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We have three wise visitors from the East camping in our barn over Christmas. They are chihuahuas, seeking shelter from a spell of deep freeze weather while their humans travel south for the holidays. The dog parents were convinced at least one of the tiny-but-forceful dogs might freeze all alone in their outdoor igloo on a windswept 40 acres north of town, so we opened our stable door and brought them in from the cold.

They spent the first hour racing around and around the sand-covered floor of the barn, possibly searching for a mouse dinner. There’s already proof that the smallest and scrappiest of the trio, Lupin by name, can bring down prey twice his size. His family once caught a pack rat in a live trap and the mom, a strangely kindhearted soul for someone who has a gun and knows how to shoot it, packed up the rat to release it.

She put the rat, its trap and the three chihuahuas in her car and drove eight miles for a release far enough away from the house to prevent a return. When she carefully set the trap on the ground and opened the door for the packrat, Lupin jumped out of the car’s window and immediately killed the unfortunate rat. It was twice his size. As they say, the best intentions rarely go unpunished.

This same chihuahua continued his fearsome ways in our barn when I let Lucy, the golden retriever in to play with the little dogs. She immediately ran for their food bowl and Lupin was incensed. He led the others on a full-scale barking frenzy as he charged the dog that outweighs him by 50 pounds.

Lucy, being Lucy, backed away and cowered behind me as the three circled around and tried to nip at her legs. Nobody has told her that she’s a big dog. She still imitates what the miniature dachshund Juliette taught her when she was a puppy about climbing onto the back of the couch to look out the window. She’s not a puppy anymore, so when she tries to lounge on the four-inch surface of the top of the couch, her long legs dangle over. Sometimes, without warning, she wiggles around enough to lose her balance and crashes to the floor. She looks embarrassed, but gets right back up on the horse that threw her.

Meanwhile, back in the barn, the dogs’ tiny noses just barely fit under the barn door, so they can bark at anyone who dares approach. When I walk past, I see three quivering, shiny black noses peeking out, the dogs making enough noise for 101 Dalmatians. I can’t wait to see what the chihuahua pack does when Santa and the reindeer try to land in the barn. I expect to find reindeer fur covering the floor and coal in the stockings.

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