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Asthma and Chihuahuas

Chihuahuas are serious business.

To begin this blog post, I would like to warn you all that I will be quoting two of the most reliable sources of information on the entirety of the internet:

The first being and the second being

One of our most challenging adjustments in moving to Guatemala, culturally speaking, has been the superstitious nature of the people here in the mountains. We like it, and we respect it. However, it's how mad and frustrated elders get with us for NOT following the superstitious beliefs that we find difficult. Many grandmothers have expressed disgust with us for not adorning our children with protective amulets or red ribbons to protect them from "eyes of evil." Others have warned that our kids will get sick if they eat ice cream or have ice in their drink when it's under 20 degrees Celsius outside. So while we are walking around in shorts with our kiddos downtown, people walk by us in full parkas and winter gear looking at us like we are crazy. However, nothing embodies the whole topic better than my experience with Domingo and his son, also Domingo. They could not believe that I was so stupid, to be an adult with asthma, that in my whole life had never bought myself a Chihuahua to "give the disease to."

So, here's a miniature crash course on the history of Chihuahuas, thanks to that trusted favorite website of mine that I mentioned earlier,

"The Maya culture viewed dogs as being guardians of the afterlife. They used them in burial ceremonies. Mummified dogs have been found alongside many bodies. It's believed that people assumed the companions would join their masters in the afterlife and guide the way. The Maya even have nine different words for 'dog' in their languages. It's unknown which breeds the Maya domesticated, but historians believe it included the Techichi and the Xoloitzcuintli (Xolo) at the very least.

When archeologists unearthed ancient burial shafts in Colima, Mexico, they discovered pots and sculptures dating back to 300 BC depicting a dog with striking similarities to the Chihuahua. Archeologists have also discovered wheeled dog toys in Central America dating back to 100 AD, showing both apple head and deer head varieties. These were likely two variations of the Techichi, suggesting a direct link with the modern-day Chihuahua."

While there's a bit of "blah-blah-blah" there, I think it's important history to note as this region's people have held these little guys in high regard as companions for quite some time. (Millenia actually, no big deal)

Back to Domingo and Domingo. A few weeks ago, I talked with them and had to use an inhaler while chatting. There was a lot of dust in the air that lightly triggered my asthma.

"Owen, do you have asthma?"

I nodded.

"Owen, can I ask you why you don't take care of yourself the way you should? It's because your a gringo isn't it?"

"What do you mean?" -I replied.

"Could you tell me why you've never bought yourself a Chihuahua?"

Insert long pause and analytical staredown.

The seriousness of a 72-year-old man scolding me for never owning a Chihuahua was amusing to me.

I looked down and paused for another minute to ensure my response was not offensive. Unfortunately, it still was. I started chuckling when I asked Domingo what Chihuahuas do for asthmatics. I hoped the explanation would be something about the Chihuahua dander providing a natural immunity for the Chihuahua master. In fact, beyond the hilarity of the topic itself, I was super intrigued.

His instructions began, firm and extremely serious.

"If you buy yourself a Chihuahua, it will absorb your asthma and die. The dog will eventually take on your symptoms as you lose them. It would be best to allow it to sleep with you on the bed and take it to the places you go. Please do not, and I repeat, DO NOT try to cure the dog. The Chihuahua must take your asthma to the grave."

I loved this all too much. Suddenly, the vast number of Chihuahuas in Central America made sense. If you put all of the Chihuahuas of Mexico and Guatemala together, they would fill 17.5 football stadiums. Ok, I have no references for that; I made it up. However, it's still worth imagining so many Chihuahuas together, cheering for the same team.

I went to bed that night thinking about Domingo's words. "Is it a thing?"

A few minutes after tossing and turning and imagining Chihuahuas absorbing my asthma, like some scene from The Green Mile, I found myself upright in bed, googling. Instant results.

Here are some screenshots of my findings.

It IS a thing!


I'm going to summarize how this became a thing. I'll do a little myth-busting for any superstitious folks, and we can all get on with our day.

First off, this is a fact: there is roughly a 50% chance that children with asthma will outgrow it. Given the widespread belief (yes, even some doctors here will recommend the purchase of a Chihuahua to asthmatics), many parents of asthmatic children acquire Los-little-petos for their wheezy child in hopes of curing them.

If I were a conspiracy theorist, this would for sure be my go-to. That somehow, the Illuminati owns the Chihuahua industry and is tipping off Guatemalan doctors to spread the word and make billions while accomplishing their ultimate mission of over-populating the planet with Chihuahuas.

But seriously, the thing that propagates the belief is that while almost half the world's children with asthma grow out of it, Chihuahuas have a common tendency to develop respiratory problems. They often develop a loud wheeze that sounds like asthma as they grow older! So as the child ages and half the time gets better, the beloved pet in many cases deteriorates and develops asthma-like sounds and symptoms.

For something untrue to stick and spread, not everyone has to believe it. Even just a few people with "personal experiences" can help a rumor or myth spread like wildfire. In this case, consider asthma being cured by Chihuahuas officially debunked!

Christina liked the idea of me carrying one around everywhere in a pouch, but the medical evidence isn't there, folks!

Finally, to finish this post, I will share a favorite game of mine. It's called "Chihuahua or blueberry muffin?" Please comment below with your guesses. Photo credit: Mariya Yao.


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Also, if you liked this article or are interested in what life looks like for a Canadian family of 7 living in the highlands of Guatemala, please check out THE DAILY SCROLL.

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