HAPPINESS has come to a tiny Chihuahua mix.
Poochie no longer sits by a kennel gate looking longingly for someone to let him out. Now he has a confident air of importance.
He sits with his new family making sure his favorite yellow blanket is nearby. At night, he'll drag it off to his soft bed in the bedroom of his owners.
''It didn't take him long to settle in and be one of us,'' says Ray Snyder. He and his wife, Diane, adopted 4-year-old Poochie from the Anne Arundel County SPCA last August.
The two are advocates of adopting the older dog. ''They are so happy to find someone who loves them and are so appreciative of everything. Another plus is they are house-trained and are good, settled companions,'' says Ray Snyder.
''It is a shame people are always looking for the puppy instead of the older dog, which is so much easier to keep,'' says Diane.
Ray Snyder says, ''We wanted a dog because a family is not complete without one. Diane had a dog named Patches for many years. I'm 32 years old and I had only one other dog in all my life. She was a terrier mix named Susie who lived for 21 years.''
The couple lives in Ferndale. He is originally from Glen Burnie and she from Pasadena. They've been married for two years and have a 5-month-old daughter, Valerie, and Diane's son, 8-year-old Jeffrey, who attends the third grade at Hilltop Elementary School.
Diane has a day care in their home. Ray is a sludge processor, explaining that his company, Bio Gro Systems in Annapolis, processes waste water at its plant in Cox's Creek. ''The water is removed, it is processed and eventually is given to farmers for their farm lands,'' he says.
Poochie, Diane says, is excellent with the children. She keeps four children from 6 in the morning to 6:30 every afternoon on weekdays and says Poochie ''is protective of them, barks at their parents and when he's tired, goes under the playpen, which is about a foot off the floor where no one can reach him, and goes to sleep.
''He's no bigger than a minute, is gentle, content and gets along with everyone except men. He backs off and seems afraid of men, which makes us pretty sure a man abused him at some point in his life,'' she says.
Ray grumbles that Poochie ''took to Diane and the kids before he adjusted to me although I'm the one who suggested getting him.''
Ray Snyder hopes he will have him for at least 21 years. ''He is a good little guy who is funny and dances and stands on his hind xTC legs. And, he's loved,'' he says.
The Northeastern Maryland Kennel Club is holding an AKC-sanctioned breed and obedience match from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Hoyle Gym, Edgewood Arsenal, Edgewood. Spectators are admitted free. Details: (301) 679-1522 or 838-6489.