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NEW YORK – Huge eyes, pointed ears and a flat nose: with its small body and wrinkled, inquisitive face, the French bulldog is irresistibly cute.

According to the United States Kennel Club, this is the sixth most popular breed in that country. In addition, there is a large group of celebrities who worship him. Madonna, Hugh Jackman and Ashley Olsen all have French bulldogs. Also Reese Witherspoon, who has been photographed all over the city of Los Angeles with his, a little black dog called Coco Chanel. Dwayne Johnson’s home has two French bulldogs and, according to People magazine, they are also the favorite pets of Chrissy Teigen and John Legend.

Recently, Kokito, a ten-month-old bulldog puppy, died on a United Airlines plane traveling from Houston to New York after a flight attendant placed the puppy in the overhead compartment. His death sparked a debate in that country about animal cruelty and acceptable transportation policies for four-legged companions.

According to Kitty Block, president and chief executive officer of the Humane Society in the United States, placing an animal in a storage compartment can cause a rise in its temperature, as well as suffocation. But the risk is even greater in the case of “brachycephalic dogs” which, she said, in veterinary jargon means “with a flat, wide head.

The skull of these particular animals is so disproportionate to their body that puppies often have to be born by C-section. Health problems are often present in their lives.

This does not mean that they deserve to die in the upper compartments, but that French bulldogs are much more fragile than they appear to be: an unfortunate fate generated by human decisions in raising them.

“People buy these animals without realizing that they could be sick from the moment they take them home or that they will need many surgeries as they age. It’s terrible for the dogs and it’s terrible for the owners,” Block said.

The breed standard has been continuously refined based on certain physical requirements that make dogs more conspicuous, but put their health at risk.

“The same traits that make them cute make them sick,” explained Philippa Pavia, medical director of Blue Pearl Veterinary Partners in Manhattan. Cute is good for business. After all, Pavia said, “Manhattan has a very skewed population” when it comes to French bulldogs. Even the clinic’s manager, Terri Ciaramello, is a proud owner of two charming French bulldogs, which have their own share of health problems.

One of the dogs, Baron, had to undergo airway surgery when he was only 13 months old. Daisy, the little dog, had to undergo back surgery when she was two years old. “She was very reckless,” said Ciaramello. “She liked to jump, and that’s not what these dogs are made for.

In 2006, Jenny Comita, a journalist who has contributed to Vogue and W magazines, fell in love with the breed and bought Louise, an eight-week-old puppy, at a Texas kennel. According to Comita, Louise never barked and needed little exercise. She was also very connected to human emotions. “If I saw you crying, I would jump into your lap and start kissing you,” Comita said.

In the end, Louise ended up being as expensive as she was affectionate. Because of food allergies, Comita had to prepare special foods for Louise. By the time she turned seven, Louise was paralyzed from her spinal problems. Comita and her husband, Seth Yellin, took her to the New York Animal Medical Center for an MRI scan. Louise died under the effects of the anesthesia. “She suffered a lot,” Comita said. “She had health problems all her life.”

Today, Comita and Yellin have a Creole man named Scout. They rescued Scout in the Humane Society, which means the dog was thousands of dollars cheaper than Louise. Comita said that he is not exactly as loving: if you are sad, he does not jump on your lap or start kissing you to make you feel better. But Comita can’t conceive of having another French bulldog.

“I love them, but I would never have another one. I was young and dumb. Basically, they shouldn’t exist,” he said.

Source: La Nación