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Aye Chihuahua! Eli Takes Manhattan - And Everywhere Else
by Diane West
Sometimes you have to give fate a hand. And sometimes, fate takes you by the hand. Upper West Side residents Karen Biehl and her Chihuahua, Eli, winners of the 2006 Best New York Tails contest (featured on our cover)--and now winners in Milkbone's National Make You and Your Dog Famous Contest--have experienced both.
Ms. Biehl, a gifted opera singer, came to New York hoping to make her talent a full-time profession. But, like many creative people who come to this great city, found she had to do something else in the meantime. Other than work, the Texas transplant found herself living a solitary existence in the big city. She started keeping gerbils and is a proud member of the American Gerbil Society. But, while she still loves and keeps the little furry critters, they weren't doing much to force her out of the apartment and meet new people.
"I was looking for a man with a dog," Ms. Biehl, a Dallas native who now works at the prestigious New York law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell, says. "But it was taking too long. So I decided to forget the man and go for the dog."
From Craig's List to Chihuahua King
New to the city and not sure where to start looking for a dog, Ms. Biehl turned to the same place people worldwide look to find just about anything--Craig's List. She came across a listing for Eli, who by then had had at least three homes and wasn't in the best health. But Ms. Biehl changed that.
Then, to her surprise, Eli began changing her.
"I used to sit in my apartment night after night," Ms. Biehl says. "But Eli gave me an excuse to start going out. I started going to Chihuahua Meet-Ups, Leashes and Lovers parties, fundraisers and benefits at Animal Haven, North Shore Animal League and the ASPCA." She's especially proud to work with the American Cancer Society's Dogswalk for Cancer every spring. The duo raised well over $1,000.00 last year for various causes--$1100.00 during the ACS Dogswalk alone. "He inspires me," Ms. Biehl says.
Sometime during this newfound freedom, people began to mention how cute Eli was--and did Ms. Biehl ever consider entering him into a contest? So she entered him into the "Barking Beauty Pageant" to benefit the ASPCA and The Stone Soup Theater earlier this year. To her surprise, he won. Then he entered other contests, and won those, too. Then he won the Best New York Tails 2006 contest.
And then, the Milkbone contest came along.
"I didn't realize how competitive I was," Ms. Biehl says.
And how. Suddenly, the tall blond beauty from Texas wasn't thinking twice about sporting a large, handmade Milkbone sandwich board at public events with her and Eli's picture on it, handing out flyers and campaigning for votes with the drive of a politician running for Congress. Fortunately, for Eli and Karen, it paid off. They won the "Small Dog Category" in the Milkbone contest and will soon be smiling at you from Milkbone boxes on the shelves at a store near you.
As far as Karen is concerned, however, Eli will always be a winner.
"When I get on the subway and see that "subway scowl" on people's faces, I'm still amazed how people's faces brighten up when they see Eli's little head pop up out of his carrier. People thank us for making their day."