When Ariel Davis adopted a 2-year-old Chihuahua named Prancer in April, she assumed he might have devilish tendencies. After all, the tongue-in-cheek adoption ad penned by his foster, Tyfanee Fortuna of Second Chance Pet Adoption League in New Jersey, described him as “demonic,” like a “haunted Victorian child” or a “Chucky doll in a dog’s body.”
“There’s not a very big market for neurotic, man hating, animal hating, children hating dogs that look like gremlins,” the ad noted.
But when Davis introduced Prancer to her home in New Haven, Connecticut, he seemed surprisingly tame while settling in for the first couple weeks.
It was a short-lived respite for what was to come.
“At the end of the second week, he was like, ‘All right, it’s cool, I think I can start coming out of my shell now,’” Davis, 36, told TODAY. “I definitely started to see a lot of the behaviors that had been advertised in the ad by the lovely Tyfanee. She was very accurate. We had a couple of run-ins with men that were embarrassing.”
With help from trainers, Davis is working to help Prancer feel safe, and to understand he doesn’t need to protect her — and that she’ll protect him. When she takes him with her to work at a rehabilitation center for women, she asks everyone to simply pretend he’s not there.
“If nobody’s looking at him or trying to pet him or drawing attention to him, he’ll just walk around, shaking his little butt, sniffing the floor and minding his own business. But it’s when you make eye contact or draw attention to him that he feels threatened,” she said. “So it’s really just getting him get used to being around people that aren’t threatening him or he perceives to be threatening him.”
Though Prancer is quirky, to say the least, Davis has “not a single regret” about adopting him. He’s loyal, very smart, loves giving her hugs, listens well, is always delighted to see her, has no interest in running away, and likes attention without being overbearing or demanding.
The diminutive dog has helped lift her out of depression about the pandemic. She loves the adorable way his face seems to scrunch into a smile when he’s happy.
“I feel like he’s everything that I expected him to be and so much more,” she said. “I have an amazing dog that I love very much.”
The biggest challenge is adjusting to life with a celebrity pet. When Davis adopted Prancer she wanted a companion, not a famous dog, and the fan response has been overwhelming.
Prancer has over 95,000 Instagram followers. “Friends” star Matthew Perry asked him to model a bandana emblazoned with “Could I Be Any More Of A Dog?” from his merchandise store. Davis has been approached about books and movies, and fielded numerous media requests for interviews (ahem).
She enjoys talking about her dog but the publicity has been a shock.
“People wanted pictures of me and I don’t even want to look in the mirror,” she said. “So having this companion lets me say, ‘I want to take better care of myself.’ I’ve started to take steps, looking into what I need to do to change things that I’m not happy about with myself, and I have Prancer to keep me going. I come home every day and see this little man that’s my inspiration to wake up the next day and do it.”
Fame has offered Prancer fringe benefits beyond the ultimate reward of finding a loving forever home. For instance, Petco sent him a care package that included a blue monster that is now his favorite toy — despite the fact that it’s roughly half his size.
“He carries it around. He’ll sit with it and likes to leave it in my bed,” she said. “That’s painfully endearing.”
Davis has noticed other rescue groups have started sharing over-the-top adoption profiles for hard-to-place pets, and hopes potential adopters will do their research, know what they’re getting into and make sure they’re adopting for the right reasons.
Hopefully others will find the right fit, as she did. While doing all she can to give Prancer a happy life, she’ll continue celebrating the quirks that brought them together. For example, she’s planning something special for Halloween for his Instagram followers.
“There’s going to be a Chucky costume involved,” she said. “Most definitely.”