Late November 2005, life took a turn for the unexpected for the 6-pound Hurricane Katrina victim. Having spent a few months waiting in a Texas pound, chances of being adopted were getting smaller by the week for the young Chihuahua when the initial Katrina sympathy outpours started to wane. The fact that he was traumatized and seemed determined not to let anyone near his cage didn’t help either.
Debbie Hendrickx, Billie’s current owner, likes to think it was fate that brought them together. “I originally went in looking for a dog I had seen at an adoption event the day before, but that one got adopted moments before I walked in. Disappointed, I walked around, but there wasn’t another dog I felt chemistry with. Billie was brought out to me by one of the caretakers who kept him in a separate area due to his anti-social behavior, almost as a last chance trial.” recalls Hendrickx. “It just took one look into those coal eyes and I was a goner” the proud owner remembers, “it was like he picked me. He barked and snapped at all the others that wanted to take a closer look at him, but he was all love and cuddles with me right from the start.”
Soon after taking him home, Debbie took some pictures to show off the new family member to relatives overseas and remembers being amazed during the process. “He loved basking in my attention and knew exactly what I wanted. Whenever I pointed the camera at him, he would put on this look and just sit there perfectly still as I snapped away. It was extraordinary.”
The pictures were an immediate hit with friends and family, so Hendrickx started to take more; first monthly, then weekly, each time dressing him up in different outfits and getting more elaborate in the themes and backgrounds. “Friends started e-mailing me, telling me they were waiting for their next Billie picture, let me know how it made them smile. Their feedback got me on a mission to bring out more smiles across the country. And that’s how the Billie Valentine concept was born.” Billie’s first professional calendar and greeting card selection came out last year and has been met with great enthusiasm. His ability to really get into character has won over men, women, and children of all ages. Some of the favorites are Billie the Eskimo, the Old Hollywood Diva, the Pastry Chef, and even a cupcake, among many other themes.
Part of the duo’s proceeds goes to the San Diego Chihuahua Rescue in an effort to give back. “We want to encourage people to consider adoption first. Billie is yet another example that shows how giving an animal a second chance in the right loving home can be extremely rewarding. The love and gratitude you get is priceless, even if there are some initial hurdles to overcome.” When asked what’s next Hendrickx just smiles, “Who knows…a children’s book, a stint in Hollywood? As long as Billie is enjoying all this, the sky’s the limit!”
More of Billie’s story and products can be seen on www.billievalentine.com