Chi Chi: A Lesson in a Dog’s Capacity to Love

Madeline Muller

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(Photo of Megan Howell and Chi Chi) Bob Fugate


There is nothing like the bond between a dog and their human, a bond that can never be broken. However, there are times when dogs transcend the simple owner-dog bond and go on to inspire more than just their special humans.

Chi Chi, a golden retriever owned by PVHS Student, Megan Howell, was one of those special dogs.

“She always had a smile on her face, even when she had no reason to smile,” Megan, a Freshman, said of her favorite thing about her dog. Sadly, Chi Chi passed away on February 4, 2019 from health complications.

However, her legacy of therapy work and her inspirational life story will always live on forever as a testament to a dog’s ability to love and heal, to forgive and to forget.

Chi Chi’s life had a rough start, as she was abandoned in a trash bag in South Korea, her legs tied up so tight that they were already necrotized (dead). In order to save her life, veterinarians had to amputate portions of all four of her legs, some more than others. The Howells, seeing her online from an organization that they were affiliated with, immediately wanted to adopt her.

“My mom fell in love, inquired, and brought her home,” Megan said.

The rescue organization flew Chi Chi, after her surgery, from South Korea to Los Angeles and then drove Chi Chi to her new forever home with the Howells.

Chi Chi then spent the rest of her life in care of the Howells and did work as a therapy dog in Arizona. The Howells had to take care of Chi Chi’s many medical issues and have  custom prostheses made for her legs in order to give her the most comfort and mobility available. The Howells and Megan were also not able to take vacations because the amount of care required, “..made it difficult to to find someone to care for her needs.”

Megan says that her family has had several therapy dogs before and that her mother always planned for Chi Chi to be a therapy dog if possible. Happily, Chi Chi’s temperament was perfect for working in therapy. She was a recognized face around the Valley and earned the 2018 American Humane Hero Dog Award for being a Therapy Dog.

“I was not Chi Chi’s main handler, but I did go to the library with her for the reading program several times,” Megan said.

Chi Chi’s determination and resilience inspired the Howell family constantly. In fact, Megan’s favorite memory of Chi Chi was after the dog received her prosthetics and the family was getting ready for the day. She heard several loud sounds while she was getting ready and immediately went to the stairs. There was Chi Chi coming up the stairs for the first time! Megan said, “She just wanted to to be with us and not downstairs by herself.” The determination that Chi Chi showed was one of the traits that Megan says allowed Chi Chi to live life to the fullest.

“She taught me and other people not to give up and to love abundantly,” Megan said about Chi Chi’s impact on her, “…She had so many different aspects and connected with so many different people.”

Chi Chi’s impact on both the Howell’s and the world can be taken a lesson for all of us to learn. Forgiveness, charity, and to never give up.


Follow Chi Chi’s Instagram @chichirescuedog