S'Dandi Shih Tzu
All Rights Reserved
2000 - 2008
Sally and Dick Watkeys
8235 Outer Drive South
Traverse City, MI 49684
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S'Dandi Shih Tzu
Just BePaws . . .
“Abby” was a five-month-old Shih Tzu just stepping out into the world and a family of her very own. The “new parents’ had passed the criteria for ownership and were very excited to take their new baby home-a home also shared with a young boy of “almost 4.” The child was gentle and the parents were watchful during the interview times we spent together. Abby looked eager to go. She was absolutely stunning in full, puppy coat with her topknot caught in a lime green bow. She bounced into the new car crate and was on her way. I asked her Shih Tzu angel to keep her safe.
I always keep in close contact with a puppy and new family, especially for the first few days. All seemed to be going well with Abby. The house training seemed slow, but I was assured that they had lots of time for her. Abby was going to meet a groomer for a puppy cut the next day. (Day 4 in her new home.)
Abby had been in her home for two weeks when we received a call. Abby was okay, but she had bitten the little boy. The mother was rightfully upset, though she assured me that it was just a nick on his chin. She was now very unsure as to what to do. How could she keep a dog she couldn’t trust? She was willing to try it for a few more days, but I knew that this was not going to work. Her son wasn’t going to grow up in a few days, and neither was my puppy. We made arrangements to drive 5 hours to bring Abby home the next day.
This was a very nice family that would provide a good home for a puppy someday, but not today. The mother was visibly upset to have to give this puppy back, but as her son napped on the couch, she knew what she had to do. A puppy that looked a bit like Abby ran quickly to a corner, tail between her lets. I called to her, but she wouldn’t come to me. I thought my heart would break. What had happened to my happy little Abby? When I finally got her to come to me, I knew her reason for hiding: she didn’t want her Mama to see her the way she was. Beautiful Abby had visited “the groomer” all right-and this person should have been given the same haircut!! Yes, I do understand that a cute puppy cut is much more practical for a Shih Tzu in a family situation, but this was just a case of “getting the hair off.” This baby girl was clippered for the very first time by someone who was working on a tight schedule and ddin’t really know what to do to make this a pleasant experience for a puppy so young. The hair-hack was bad enough, but the damage done to the little personality in just two weeks was unbelievable!
I held Abby in my arms, anxious to head back home. My husband, waiting in the car, couldn’t believe what had been done to her in such a short time. As we settled for the long drive, we both noticed that it wasn’t just the haircut that was different. Abby didn’t cuddle or look at you-she just stared ahead. She must have wondered what would become of her now. We talked. I cried.
Then, something must have “clicked” in Abby’s memory. As she sat on my lap, I watched her look at Doug long and hard. He talked to her. She seemed to drink in his smell…trying to remember. The ice started to melt, and we all shared French fries. (Food makes everything better, you know.)
When we arrived home, the rest of the family was as upset as we had been-even her own “doggy” mother looked at her strangely. But it is true that “your Grandma loves you when nobody else does,” because 12 year old Shih Tzu, Shunshine, made room for her. She moved over a little on her rug, and Abby moved in. Sunshine assumed one of her best “Grandma looks”-the one that told the others: “Our Abby is home! Isn’t it wonderful?”
We soon discovered there would be lots of work to do to help Abby become her old self and ready for an appropriate home. She had been confronted with too much too soon for a puppy. Too many people put puppies and children together, thinking it to be a natural mix. They forget that this new puppy needs supervised play and a safe place to simply watch her new world from. Abby had been chased and given little peace. The nip she gave the youngster was an attempt to tell him to “leave me alone!” the last way she could think of. She didn’t intend to hurt him, just set him back in much the same way her mother had done when puppies became too boisterous.
The house training was non-existent. She would only “go” in the house. Abby was lead-trained when she left, but she returned with confidence shaken, carrying her tail down instead of in that lovely plume over her back. She was afraid of any kind of noise from behind, strange dogs, and small children. Where would we begin?
Every woman knows how good a bubble bath and a trip to the beauty shop make you feel. So, first things first! Abby was bubbled and fluffed. Then, we called upon “Fairy Godmother, Sally” and her bag of magic! My dear friend worked her special magic all around Abby. Slowly, gently, scissoring and even clippering our Cinderella-Tzu. Abby was an angel on the table for her. (If that groomer had treated her differently, Abby would have been easy to work with.) Our little lady didn’t have a topknot, much face hair or bodycoat to work with, but Sally gave her a “stylized” look and told her she was beautiful. Abby knew that Fairy Godmothers do not lie, so she believed it was true.
The next step toward “Abby’s Rehab” (as our mission became known) was to find a way to give her confidence again. We signed up for a small-group obedience class. Daughter, Katie had all kinds of patience with her and became her “special friend” and trainer. Almost a month later, however, the house training was not going well. With the help of Sally and Laura, the obedience trainer, we learned that Abby needed us to break each behavior that we wanted her to learn into small parts. Once we found the key, this too, fell into place. Long walks, car rides, and visits to Mom’s work became fun and challenging extra-curricular activities. There are still a few “skeletons in the closet,” but we are, little by little, shaking them all out.
Many times I blame myself for Abby’s situation, but then, I remember that I am very careful about where my puppies go. This was an unfortunate placement. But what about the puppies of those who aren’t so careful-the pet shops, puppy mills…?
Sometimes a shelter or club rescue group intervenes, but, many times they are just on their own-and maybe at only six weeks old!!! These small lives didn’t ask to be created. We enabled them to be here. That tiny 6 oz babe you just helped deliver and hold in your hand entrusts her fate to you. You hold the key that unlocks her journey.
As parents, we tell our kids that they can always come home-no matter what. Well, Abby came HOME with us, and just may be HOME forever. We are so proud of her-and of ourselves, too. Through Abby’s ordeal, our family experienced one of those important lessons in life: turning a negative situation into a positive one. And we are continuously being reminded that “Patience is a virtue.”
Abby is blossoming into the beautiful, funny, intelligent, confident Shih Tzu she was born to be. As I turned out the lights one evening, I know I heard her sigh: “There’s no place like home.”
Place Like Home