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World's tiniest dog?

Tiny Pinocchio, or Noki, is so small he sleeps in a bird cage. His bark is more like a canary's chirp.

By TOM ZUCCO, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published April 22, 2003


ST. PETERSBURG -- Linda Skeels-Hopson is standing at the broken screen door with her ticket out of this place nestled in the palm of her hand. She holds it up and straightens the tiny red bow on its head.

"Go ahead," she tells a visitor. "You can touch him."

Two brown M&M eyes squint against the sunlight. He doesn't get out much. Curbs are a problem. So is tall grass. And any animal larger than he is.
[Times photo: Cherie Diez]
Linda Skeels-Hopson, 52, who breeds Yorkshire terriers, is trying to claim the title of world's smallest dog for Tiny Pinocchio, her 1-year-old Yorkie, shown at two-thirds of his actual size.

Which is just about everything other than plankton.

This, Skeels-Hopson believes, is the smallest dog in the world.

Tiny Pinocchio, a steel blue and tan 1-year-old Yorkshire terrier, tips the scales, if you could call it that, at an even 1 pound. He is 8 inches long, stands 4.5 inches tall at his shoulder, and fits comfortably in a baseball cap.

To claim the title of world's smallest dog for her pet, Skeels-Hopson, who breeds Yorkies, has contacted the people at Guinness World Records to seek forms her veterinarian has to fill out to verify the dog's size. Or lack thereof. To discourage those who might abuse their dogs, the record is based not only on weight, but on height and length.

The current Guinness record is held by a Yorkie with the clever name of Big Boss that lives in Thailand. Big Boss stands 4.7 inches tall and weighs 17 ounces. His exact length is unclear, but Skeels-Hopson is sure her dog is smaller.

"And I'd agree with her," said Dr. Michael Rumore, a veterinarian at Lake Seminole Animal Hospital, where Noki (Tiny Pinocchio's nickname) gets his regular checkups. "I honestly think it is the smallest dog in the world. He's highly abnormal, even for a toy breed."

There are several possible causes, Rumore explained, including hormonal deficiencies or some unknown form of canine dwarfism. "He just stopped growing at eight weeks," Rumore said, "although he has matured and he's healthy.

"To be honest, we don't know why he's so small. He may be just tiny."

Rumore does know this: Noki owes his life to Skeels-Hopson, 52, who cared for the dog when it was first born. It weighed just 2 ounces, and no one, except her, thought it would survive. Noki, whose father weighs nearly 4 pounds and mother a gargantuan 71/4 pounds, was born in her house.

There is no fence or Beware of Dog sign in the front yard of the small, gray shingle house on Second Avenue S. Noki sleeps in a metal bird cage on the coffee table in the living room. That's also where he goes when there's company. So people won't step on him. His bark, such as it is, resembles a canary's chirp.

Forget conventional dog food. Noki eats Gerber baby food -- a 21/2-ounce jar every five days or so. He prefers beef or turkey flavor. And forget conventional dog bowls. He eats out of the baby food lids.

"People slow down and stare when I'm out walking him," Skeels-Hopson said. "They'll ask if it's a real dog.

"Like Pinocchio, he's my miracle," she added. "I prayed so hard he would live, and he did.

"Maybe he is my ticket out of this life I live."

Sam, her husband, is disabled. Their only income is from Linda's Yorkie breeding business. But if the record is verified, Skeels-Hopson hopes it will lead to Noki calendars, Noki T-shirts, books, movie deals . . . all things Noki. She already has a Web site (tinypinocchio.com) devoted to Noki and Noki-related products.

"I can see us on Oprah," she said. "Think of what he can do for the world."

The possibilities boggle the mind. But before that happens, he'll have to get out to meet his public. At least he travels well. Usually in a small MacGregor sports bag. Or a pocket will do. And if he doesn't get stepped on (his owner's biggest fear) or meet some other untimely fate, he could live 15 years. Maybe longer.

Yes, someday soon, he could be huge. Figuratively speaking.

"Don't worry," Skeels-Hopson said, repositioning his tiny red bow. "Fame won't go to his head."

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