Boogie Shoes looking cozy on a yellow banana pillow.

Picture courtesy of Alicia X. Bailey of Little Boogie, a dog with CH.

Boogie Shoes is a darling chihuahua celebrity with a condition called Cerebellar Hypoplasia. CH is a condition that causes effected dogs to have a smaller cerebellum, which results in reduced coordination for controlled movements. Dogs with CH tend to look like they are dancing when they walk.

At first, no one wanted Boogie, but thanks to his new owner Alicia, he got a fresh start in life. He has since climbed to fame, and now has over 60,000 fans on Facebook and Instagram. This is our interview with Little Boogies owner, and also the author of his adorable children’s book, Little Boogie Shoes.

I’d love to start with how you found Boogie. I know a little bit about his story, that he was found in a parking lot and brought to the shelter by a concerned citizen. How did you personally come to find him though?
At the time, I was on staff at the shelter, and I was working the day he came in. The adoption coordinators knew I was a Chihuahua mom and fanatic and asked me to foster him until he could see a specialist about his symptoms, which were at the time, a very wobbly gait and bobble head.

Were you experienced with Cerebellar Hypoplasia before meeting him?
Since I met him and learned of his issues the same day there was no nervous anticipation, but I was scared once I committed to fostering him. I had never cared for a puppy, much less a puppy with complex needs. And I knew nothing about neurological issues. There were a lot of unknowns, and I just had to dive in and learn everything I could very quickly.

What is the most surprising part of owning a dog with Cerebellar Hypoplasia?
They are little joy machines! They can make the grumpiest grump smile! They just want to do what dogs do. They want to love you, be loved by you, play, go on walks, experience new things, and explore the world with you.

In the beginning of his life with us, the thing that surprised me most were other people’s reactions to Boogie. People would see Boogie just being himself -wobbling, falling, taking extra time to stand back up and balance himself. And most people would assume he was in pain, or sick, or it was a “sad” situation of some sort. There were and still are, a lot of people who approach us with a very concerned look on their face, thinking that they are looking at something hopeless. The question I get the most often is, “what is wrong with that poor baby?” My answer is usually “nothing”. However, I do take the time to try and turn interactions into teachable moments. Taking the time to share a little info about Boogie, CH, how he is thriving, how we handle his physical limitations, answer questions they may have, gives me an opportunity to shift that person’s perspective not only about Boogie, but about disabled pets in general.

Is there anything you wish people knew about the condition?
If you bring a CH dog into your family, just like bringing any pet home, there will be a lot of learning for everyone.

  • Remember they want to be independent, resist the urge to hand feed, hand water, carry, etc. Teach them how to do all the things to the best of their ability. Along the way you will see where modifications or assistance will be beneficial.
  • You will have to make modifications to their physical environment, and this may be ongoing.
  • You will have to teach them how to get around your home and outdoor areas safely.
  • Crate, playpen, or other indoor enclosure training is important, so they have a safe space when needed, and learn to be home alone.
  • You will have to assess if they can learn to walk on leash or use a wheelchair.
  • You have to potty train them, and it may look differently than you expect.
  • Dog daycares, pet sitters, groomers, all need to be educated and trained on your dog’s specific needs and limitations. A reputable service provider will welcome your input and allow you to show them what they need to know.

Things to remember when navigating medical care:

In addition to their day-to-day needs, you must become their advocate and remember their life depends on you. Unfortunately, some pet health care spaces can be a danger zone for dogs with complex issues. It is very common for vets who do not see these issues regularly to recommend euthanasia without considering other options. This happened to me at one of Boogie’s first appointments and multiple times when we adopted our second dog Buster.  It is up to you to do your research so you are informed and can make compassionate and rational decisions on their behalf. Don’t be afraid to leave appointments that make you uncomfortable or seek second opinions. And don’t be afraid to share your pet’s positive experiences and milestones with your vet. You may be that client who shows them that a pet with a disability can thrive.

It is very common for neurological issues to coexist with other conditions, and symptoms can overlap. If it is a safe option for your dog, consider investing in an MRI and related diagnostics. Boogie was (and still is) too small to take the risk of anesthesia. So over time, through regular visits his neurologist diagnosed hydrocephalus as well. However, we have another dog in our family who we thought had Cerebellar Hypoplasia, and qualified for an MRI. We opted to do it, and it showed that he has hydrocephalus and an almost non-existent cerebellum. This was invaluable because we were able to address some pretty severe symptoms and adjust things to meet his needs.

I know from what I’ve read so far that Cerebellar Hypoplasia doesn’t affect their lifespan, is there anything that it does hinder? How do you handle that?

In Boogie’s case because of his size and the level of disability he is limited in some basic areas, including:

  • He is unable to walk on tile floors.
  • Cannot use stairs of any kind.
  • He has a special eating area made of beds and pillows set up for him so he can wobble his way to his food and not get hurt.
  • He is unable to go on a traditional leash walk so we use a stroller or his tote bag.
  • Playtimes must be supervised. We must be very careful that our other dogs don’t step on him or bulldoze over him when they get excited.
  • Despite our best efforts, we have never found a wheelchair that fits his size or meets his capabilities. So, as he has gotten older, we assist him with walking when he goes potty. We use a soft sling for this, and he’s happy about it because he loves a good jog prior to doing his business.

Anything else you’d care to share? 🙂 Any future books about Boogie coming out soon?
When we adopted Boogie, he amazed us every day by the “dog things” he would do and tasks he would accomplish. He integrated into our pack seamlessly, and quickly became the most confident and demanding guy in the house. Everywhere we went people fell in love with him, so we started his social accounts to help spread awareness and education about pet adoption and caring for dogs with complex needs like CH.

He is a little ball of positive energy! Our social media community and those we meet doing outreach tell us that he gives them hope, makes them smile, and brightens their day. And occasionally, we get a message from someone telling us they adopted a wobbly dog and that makes us very happy!

No books on the horizon right now, but you never know!

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By Andrea

Andrea is a dedicated dog mom of three chihuahuas. She has over a decade of experience as a dog groomer, chihuahua owner, and more recently as a dog trainer. She loves all things canine, particularly chihuahuas.

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