Unconditional Love

               He has big black eyes and a small flat nose cute as a button.  He tries to act cool and not show any emotion.  When he sees me put my coat on, he follows me and waits for me to say goodbye; and when I come back, he is at the door, waiting to welcome me home.  I get angry with him sometimes, and I might yell at him.  He just walks away, glancing back at me with those big black sad eyes.  As soon as I calmly call his name, he runs and sits next to me waiting to be caressed.
               He is quiet most if not all the time.  He doesn’t say much but his love towards me shows in everything he does; from staring at me adoringly to his happy trot next to mine.  Sometimes he doesn’t eat his food and I have to hand feed him; but if I put some boiled chicken in his bowl, he will happily and eagerly inhale it.
               When he pinched a nerve on his back, I faithfully gave him his medication.  He didn’t like taking it and acted hard to get, so, I had to shove it his mouth.  He travelled with me to Greece and Florida and happily came along.  It didn’t matter where he was as long as he was with me.  He did not like being left alone at my mother’s apartment, and I almost lost him.  He got trapped at the grocery store next door, and I was able to grab him.  I got mad at him and spanked him on his butt.   He turned his head and looked at me sadly with those big eyes as if saying: “I’m sorry mommy”. 
               He has a large basket full of stuffed toys and when he gets bored, he takes each and every one of them out.  On occasion, my family room floor is full of his toys and I have to hop to get around them.  I try to put them back in the basket but he takes them out again or tries to grab them from my hand.  So I put them away when he is sleeping or when he is outside and I hope he won’t have his extra sensory hearing and wake up or run back inside to stop me. 
               I cannot take his blanket away.  It’s his.  He gets upset when I put it in the wash; but he is very happy and drags it on the floor as soon as I take it out of the dryer. 
               His love towards me is unconditional.  He doesn’t care if I yell at him, if I leave him alone for hours or just minutes.  He doesn’t have any concept of time.  He is always happy to see me come back.  As much as he tries to act cool, to show that he doesn’t really care, his little tail gives him away.  It starts slowly.  The tip of his tail starts trembling, like the tail of a rattle snake, and slowly the movement moves all the way to the body of the tail.  Then the wagging becomes stronger, and if you put your face next to it, it will cool you like a fan.  He thinks that you don’t notice; but you know and you notice.  You realize, that no matter what you do to him, yell at him or scold him like a child; get mad at him for throwing up on your rug, because he didn’t like the food; or for letting go some urine because he didn’t scratch the door on time for you to let him out, he will still love you; and he will love you unconditionally.  He will run around in circles to show you how happy he is to see you; or lick your hand till it’s raw to show that he appreciates you taking care of him, for feeding him and giving him a roof over his head.  This is what I call Unconditional Love. 

Traveling with my Shih Tzu - Nappy - Part 1

This past winter was full of fun, but also a bit stressful for my little shih tzu, Nappy. In February, we decided to get away from the freezing cold of the Midwest and traveled by car to Florida. The day came when we were all packed including Nappy’s toys, food, and his favorite blanket.

The road trip was uneventful. He positioned himself at the back seat of the car, amidst his favorite squeaky toy of a Coney Island hot dog, his favorite chicken jerky treat, and his little blanket. He curled up and ready for the road trip. The only time he moved was when the car slowed down and looked out the window to see what was going on. Of course, we had to make a few stops to eat, use the bathroom, and he was there, right along with us. We stopped to get some Kentucky fried chicken, and sure enough he had to have some. (I made sure I cleaned all the spices and removed the skin. I only gave him plain chicken breast). You can imagine what I had to pack to make sure that I had everything for my little shih tzu (water, paper towels, plastic bowls, and of course some clean wipes).

The two day trip went quite well. The first night we stopped at LaQuinta at the outskirts of Atlanta. It’s the only hotel that will accept pets without charging an arm and a leg. We stayed at LaQuinta in one of our previous trips to Florida when Nappy was a year and a half. Since Shih tzu’s have a good memory of where they have been, he remembered the hotel. Sure enough he remembered the entrance to the hotel, and since most hotels look the same – especially chain hotels – he knew exactly where he was going.

We settled in for the night, we had a good night’s sleep and the next day we headed on our way. We arrived in Naples, Florida (our final destination) the eve of the second day. The house we rented was quite spacious and the owners had no problem with us bringing a little dog.

The next day, we needed to explore Naples. We took Nappy with us, and drove around the city. It wasn’t too hot so it was all right to leave Nappy in the car and run in the store. The temperatures ranged from sixty to seventy five degrees and that was pushing it. It was not a hot February for the snow birds in Florida. We tried to find a few beaches where we could take Nappy and exercise him a bit. There are not that many places in Naples that are dog friendly. They don’t allow dogs anywhere in their parks or their beaches. The only beach that we found was a small beach half hour north of Naples, called Bonita Beach. And when I say small, it was small. There were other dogs, big and small, running around, in and out of the water. The sand was not that great. It was more of a brown color beach than the light sand color that I am used to, as in Gulf shores. I guess it was all right for dogs. I didn’t like Nappy getting all dirty, and he didn’t like it either. We tried to stay for a while, but Nappy was not a happy camper. He ran away from any other dogs that tried to get close to him. (I’m telling you, he thinks he is human). After a while we decided to leave and got him home to clean him up.

Nappy enjoyed staying at the house more than any other dog that I know. He was content, being around his toys and his food. He didn’t mind much if we left him there. As long as he got a treat, he stayed by the door waiting for us to come back.

The house we were renting had a big in-ground pool, and Nappy was happy to just run around it. We had a few running laps chasing each other. He enjoyed that more than the doggy beach.

The month went by and we had to leave Florida. The two day return trip seemed longer this time since we were all anxious to get home. I’m sure Nappy felt the same way. Not that he was able to articulate his thoughts, but I was able to see his excitement when we got home. As soon as we pulled in our garage and let him out of the car and inside the house, he ran around so happy to see his toy box still there, and his food bowls placed in the same spot as before we left. I’ve never seen a dog run in circles, being so happy to come home.

That was not the only trip that Nappy took this year. There is a longer trip that he took when he came with us to Europe the end of March. Stay tuned for Part 2 of Traveling with my Shih Tzu.

Dog Betrayal

When you get a dog you expect him to be your lifelong friend for ever, right? He would follow you, run after you, sit next to you, wait for you by the door, and never stop looking at you with those adoring eyes. That’s what I expected when I got my shih tzu, four years ago. Well, not that I don’t have all that, but it’s slightly different now, that my husband retired. I will start from the beginning.

I decided to quit work and pretty much be semi retired back in August of 2005. By the end of September of the same year, I decided to get a dog. After a long consideration of what kind of dog to get, I decided on a shih tzu. My husband was still working at the time and he, too, thought that a dog would be good company for me, since our children were all grown up and pretty much out of the house. So we brought this little sweet puppy home, called him Nappy, and not too long after that I got very attached to him and he to me. He would still get excited when my husband came home from work, and he would hop and jump up and down as soon as he saw him coming through the door.

Our days were on a schedule. My husband would take him out in the morning when he’d leave for work, then as soon as he’d close the door behind him, Nappy would come up and sleep with me for another hour or so. Then we’d get up, I would have my coffee, he would sit at my feet and either fall asleep or just stare at me. Sometimes we would have a staring contest just to see who would withdraw first. Needless to say that he won all the time. After my morning coffee, he would follow me to the bedroom where I would change into my exercise clothes and then he would stay at the top of the stairs, waiting for me, while I’d exercise in the basement. It was a ritual. Every day, as soon as I’d put my coffee cup in the dishwasher, he ‘d get up from his spot in front of the fireplace and wait to see where I would go so that he could follow. This went on and of for the next four years.

This past October my husband decided to retire, so he is home with me and Nappy now. The first few days after he retired, Nappy didn’t know exactly what to expect. He would still follow me wherever I went, wait for me to give him his food and water, and any treats when he was a good boy. Gradually, I noticed that he stopped coming to me, and go to my husband all the time. Especially after he’d notice that my husband would go into his office, he would follow him and when my husband picked him up and held him on his lap a few times, Nappy quit following me everywhere. He began a new ritual: follow papa in his den so that he can pick him up. I was surprised to see that. I was wondering what made him change. Until my husband confessed to me of what he did to lure Nappy to be his buddy all day long, day in and day out. And here is the secret: when my husband let Nappy out in the morning to do his business, as soon as Nappy came in the house, my husband would give him a treat. In the afternoon, when we would have our afternoon coffee he would give Nappy another treat. In the morning when he’d finish eating his cereal, he would let Nappy drink the milk. Sometimes I wondered if it’s a cat that we got instead of a dog.

In the beginning, it didn’t bother me at all; I didn’t even notice it much. But as the months went by, I noticed it more and more. I’d still play with Nappy, give him treats but I would also be the one to reprimand him when he did something that he was not supposed to do. Like a child he went to the parent who is more lenient with him. Shih tzus are adorable dogs and very loyal. Until you give them a treat. They will bark when they hear someone breaking in the house but, if they give them a treat they are their friends. They will even show them where the goods are. I felt betrayed by my own dog. Now I want to get a dog that is all mine. Should it be a shih tzu, or another breed? I love this dog too much though, to decide on another breed. Even though I feel betrayed by this one, I would still get another shih tzu. And as I write this article, my little Nappy followed me into my office and is sitting at my feet watching me with those adoring eyes. Hey isn’t that what dogs are for? To just adore you and be there all the time?

Nappy at the doggie park

Many dog owners have told me in the past, to take my dog to the doggie park so that he can get used to other dogs. I kept putting it off; most likely babying him than “manning him up” as my daughters would tell me. I always found an excuse for not taking him. Sometimes it would either be too much work and other times it was just pure laziness. In the meantime, Nappy, my little shih tzu, would become more and more scared of the other dogs in the neighborhood. While the other dogs would come to him to play, he would hide behind my legs, or run into the front door of the house, trying to get inside.

So one October day, I decided to take him to the doggie park. Both my husband and I got in the car with Nappy in the back seat. He was so excited going out, he didn’t know what was coming.

We arrived at the doggie park and saw an abundance of dogs running around and playing with each other. The owners let them off the leash and the dogs ran and drooled and roughed it with the other dogs. There were not that many dogs Nappy’s size. Most of them were labs, great Danes and a couple of medium sized dogs. There was one particular bulldog, a bit larger than Nappy, who wouldn’t leave Nappy alone. It was a cute bulldog named Bubbles that suited him just fine. We kept Nappy on a leash, afraid that the dogs will come after him and he will run and hide in some bushes. We just didn’t want to lose him. Even though the park was fenced, there were trees and high bushes, that you couldn’t get through if your dog went there.

We walked the whole park area with Nappy along with us. We let the other dogs come and sniff him, and Nappy, of course, would try to run away from them. We petted the other dogs trying to show him that we liked them, so that he will get acquainted with them. Alas, no luck. Especially, when Bubbles, the bulldog, tried to play with him, Nappy tried to hide behind my legs, wrapping the length of the leash around them. I have to admit, though that Bubbles was the cutest bulldog I had ever seen. He was not too big, but not too small either. He was solid and definitely not a lap dog like Nappy.

We didn’t stay at the park too long. We noticed that Nappy was getting anxious to leave (if you can believe that). Yes, as soon as we began walking towards the exit of the park, he walked, practically ran as far as the leash would take him, to the exit. We knew that he had enough and since it was his first time at the park, we didn’t want to push it. We wanted to be able to bring him back.

I am not sure if that park though, was the right park for Nappy. A few days later, while I was having lunch with one of my friends, I mentioned to her about the doggie park and she agreed with me that the dogs there are too big to take a dog like Nappy. So I think I will settle in taking him at other parks where there are not any dogs, and let him run around without his leash. This way he feels free and he can get his exercise.

Nappy and the Evil Bunny

Sometime ago, I found the stuffed bunny that we had given to my daughter many years ago on Easter. Well, she is much older now, and she doesn’t need a bunny to keep her company, so she left it behind when she moved out. One day as I was cleaning up her old room, I found the bunny and wondered why she left it behind. So I called her and asked her. She replied to me by saying: “That ugly bunny? I don’t want it.” I never thought that the bunny was ugly. So I brought it up and put it in the living room. I thought I’d let my dog play with it, but not in a rough way. The bunny can stay on the couch in the living room and my dog can sit either next to it, or just stare at it. It would be like it’s his buddy.

The days have gone by and the bunny sat on the couch, while my dog, Nappy, would either jump on the couch and sit next to it, or at other times would bark at it. At other times, Nappy would pull the bunny on the floor and get rough with it. The bunny is much bigger than Nappy, so you can imagine how it looks when Nappy puts the bunny on the floor and starts barking at it, or tries to pull it and drag it in the family room. On numerous occasions, I didn’t let my dog pull the bunny on the floor, so finally Nappy realized that the bunny was to just sit on the couch.

One morning, this past summer, I sat Nappy next to the bunny and took a few pictures. He just sat there content, sitting next to his buddy, the one that doesn’t bark or say anything, but just sits there. He reclined on the bunny’s lap and let me take the pictures.

As I look back at these pictures now, I realize what my daughter meant by saying the bunny was ugly. The bunny has this evil smile on his face and I can’t help thinking, how did I ever think it was cute. Looking at these pictures with Nappy, I can’t help thinking that the bunny wants to do some harm to the dog. No wonder, in the beginning when I sat the bunny on the couch, Nappy began barking at it. Of course, the bunny is not evil, only looks evil. With a great imagination we can all come up with a story about the evil bunny. But all is in good humor and we can’t possibly have Chucky the evil bunny.

The bunny still sits in my living room, just moved from the couch to the love seat. Nappy will jump occasionally to the love seat, sniff the bunny and he might sit next to it, until we realize that he is there and we‘ll call him to get down. Nappy feels content having a buddy – even though it’s almost twice his size – which just sits there and keeps him company, quietly.

When I decided to get a dog, I thought it would be a nice way for me to begin walking. Little did I know that Shih Tzu’s are not too crazy about walking. I didn’t want a dog that would run me out, but a dog where we can walk at a normal pace or walk as far as I want to walk, not as far as the dog wants to walk.

When Nappy was young I didn’t take him for walks. I waited till he became a year old before I started walking with him. In the beginning we would go just for short walks, so that he can get acquainted with the area and the fact that he is walking on a leash. Eventually, we started walking further, and further. But I always took those walks one step at a time. One day we would walk for 20 minutes, the next for 25 and so on.

Now that he is 3 years old, I am trying to walk with him for about a mile. In the winter I don’t take him walking, because it’s too cold, and besides I don’t even want to go for a walk let alone the dog. But when spring comes and the weather becomes warmer, we start walking slowly in the beginning, and gradually we walk a little further. When it’s too hot outside I still don’t take him for walks because he starts panting and I don’t want to overexert him.

Last Tuesday was a perfect day for a walk. The sun was shining there was a slight breeze and the temperature was in the high 60’s, low 70’s. It was a perfect day for a walk. The last time we went walking was a week before that and we walked for almost a mile. After about a week I thought that he would be ready for another long walk.

We didn’t even walk half a mile and he put his brakes on. Of course, during the course of this short walk, he stopped, sniffed every bush, every wild flower and every tree trunk in his way. I tried to pull him from the leash to go on, but he turned around and started walking back, pulling me with the leash. As if telling me “That’s enough, I want to go back home.” Finally, I gave in, since I saw that he was panting and his tongue was hanging out. I even picked him up and carried him half the way back. He weighs about 16 pounds. While I was carrying him he was very quiet and content. He didn’t even make a move showing that he might want to get off my arms, or show that he is uncomfortable.

We finally arrived home and as soon as he saw our house he started running towards the front yard. He didn’t even stop. He ran straight where the garage door is and waited for me to open it so that he can go inside. Once inside the house he went straight into his drinking bowl, drank as much water as he could handle, which within minutes he brought up (shih tzus are quite aggressive when it comes to drinking water and eating the foods they like, so it’s a good idea to give them everything in small portions), and then he plopped himself on the floor, all sprawled out to rest. I guess that was it for the walk of the week.

When I take my little Napster for walks, it usually takes him a couple of days to recover. He will sleep for the rest of the day and night, and will even feel tired the next day. As much as I like to take him for walks and keep him exercised I don’t overdo it with him, because I know how tired he gets.

The funny thing about this little guy is that he thinks he is human. He didn’t want to go any further and that was it. He stopped and started walking back. He definitely knows what he wants and likes. I tell the story to my friends and laugh about it, (it’s like having a child and brag about something they have done), but I am amazed at how smart they are. I read a lot about shih tzus and what fast learners they are, but I never thought that they would be this smart.

I am glad to have him as a company and laughable companion. Pretty soon I think he will start talking to me. (Really!).