Second Chance Chihuahua


Pint-sized dog becomes store mascot and family friend
By Holly Galbus
Photography by Kelvin Andow

We all love a happy ending. And for Gus, a 10-year-old Chihuahua who was abandoned and wandering the streets of Rochester before being adopted through Paws and Claws Humane Society, it is a very happy ending indeed.

Gus was brought to the shelter on Sept. 28 of last year. His right eye was seriously infected and later removed. His fur was infested with fleas, and his skin was inflamed with infections. Also, his teeth needed care.

Beneath those problems, however, was a “sweet little guy, mild mannered, even a little timid,” according to shelter manager Tanya Johnson.

Once Gus was ready for adoption, his photo was posted on the Paws and Claws Facebook page, and that’s where Tim Lanning, owner of TJ’s Liquor in Spring Valley, saw him. Tim spoke to his wife, Laura, about adopting Gus. The rest is history.

Joining the Family and the Payroll
On Nov. 4, Gus joined the Lanning family, which also includes Treyton, 13, Maddex, 10, Hadlee, 9, and Reeyin, 7, as well as a Newfoundland named Ida, and a Yorkshire Terrier named George. Laura said Gus quickly fit into the family, as if he has lived with them all his life.

When Gus gets home from work—yes, he has a job—he either curls up in his doggie bed or joins the kids on the couch for a cuddle.

Gus is the “mascot” of TJ’s Liquor in Spring Valley. He accompanies Tim to work each day, and when he’s not asleep in his igloo-shaped bed, Gus is busy meeting and greeting customers, accepting pats on the head, bones, and, from one customer, a daily hot dog from the local Kwik Trip.

Gus is not the first mascot of TJ’s Liquor. That honor goes to Stab, an English Bulldog, who also faithfully accompanied Tim to work each day. Unfortunately, the Lannings had to say goodbye to Stab, and for two years, TJ’s was without a mascot. Tim said everybody had loved Stab and missed his presence in the store. So customers are happy to see Gus and, when they hear his story, they enjoy spoiling him.

Gus is a Gift
Tim said there is great benefit to having a pet in store. He sees the smiles on his customer’s faces when they walk in and see Gus. And Gus, being a little timid around customers at first, has become more social, as he now understands people aren’t going to hurt him.

Laura says that perhaps the greatest gift Gus has brought to their family is the gift of companionship to Tim.

“Gus has helped my husband the most,” she said. “There was an emptiness after Stab was put down. Now, Tim and Gus are inseparable. Tim sits down, Gus sits down. When he goes in another room, Gus follows. Gus is a great dog. A relaxed, go-with-the-flow, good family kind of dog.”

The Adoption Choice
Although Tim and Laura hadn’t adopted a pet from a shelter before, they both say they would do it again, because the process was easy and they are so pleased with their new little friend.

Tim said Gus had very few accidents and that he learned the family’s routine quickly. He also liked the good feeling of providing a home and a loving family to a dog who has been through a difficult time.

Holly Galbus is a freelance writer based in Rochester who often writes about the bonds between pets and their people.