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Milo lets it all hang out on his Web site

June 15, 2003|Michael T. Jarvis

How far can a homely face and a Web site take you? Hilary Bein of Los Angeles will find out when Milo's tongue (www.milostongue.com), a site devoted to her Mexican hairless dog, Milo, rolls out this week.

Although the words "you oughta be in pictures" aren't necessarily the first ones uttered by strangers when they encounter Milo on the street, their responses are often animated, Bein says. "People will pick up their cell phone and call their friends -- in front of me -- and say, 'I'm looking at the ugliest dog I've ever seen.' You can't look at this dog without laughing. In a way, I feel like I have to share him. This world can use some laughs right now."

Bein found Milo at an animal rescue organization in Riverside eight years ago and thought he was a Chinese crested. "He was 15 pounds, and coughing like he was going to die any minute, with a tongue bigger than his head." A friend who breeds dogs told Bein that Milo was actually a Xoloitzcuintli (pronounced sho-lo-eats-queent-lee).

"It's one of the oldest breeds in the Western Hemisphere," says Bein, unleashing a compendium of Xoloitzcuintli factoids. "The Aztecs had them. The pre-Columbian Colima Indians buried statues of them. It's the national dog of Mexico. Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera had several."

And that distinctive tongue? It's a matter of teeth, not tissue, she says -- the breed has a normal tongue but no premolars. "If they're missing too many teeth, their tongues hang down." Milo's, she says, is 4 inches long from the front of his lips, and "if he's really relaxed, it hangs longer. I can gauge his mood by the length of his tongue. He sleeps with it out. Often he'll sleep on it, and when he lifts his head the tongue sticks to his chin."

Bein, an artist and former pastry chef, isn't planning on retiring from the online sale of Milo T-shirts, mugs, magnets, bumper stickers and greeting cards.

"If I can make enough to pay his bills," she says, "that's OK."

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-- Michael T. Jarvis

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