Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Plucky Little Shih Tzu

Plucky little shih tzu!
Shiner Bock, 30 April, 1999 ~ 16 February, 2011

We said "goodbye" to Shiner today, I knew in my heart we would, although the trip to the vet's office was a scheduled routine visit. We listened to Greg as he listed options, but "end phase" was expressed too many times and we knew we had to let her go. When a dog physically begins to shut down, it happens so fast...faster than the humans who love them can absorb what their eyes are seeing and their heart refuses to acknowledge.

She was an anniversary present from Peter and weighed hardly anything at all. She made me think of dandelions gone to seed as she floated and bounced across the room. We already had our huge magnificent yellow lab and our vet, on meeting Shiner, said "Carol, this is a terrible mistake," but he was wrong. The two were inseparable. Shiner had a short period of grace when all was well. I can still see her, in those early years, racing across the lawn chasing balls, hair flying and plumy tail waving. She retained a bit of that joie de vivre right until the end.

Our little shih tzu developed allergies when she was just a few years old. Shiner was like the boy in a bubble and blood tests produced a mile long printout of all the things she could not tolerate. I gave her shots everyday until they no longer worked. There were medicated baths and her bedding was kept spotlessly clean. The list of medications grew longer and more experimental. She never complained and trusted us completely and without reservation.

Here comes Shiner!

There were years of daily walks, lab and shih tzu side by side, all through our small town. It was during these excursions that I first began snapping village scenes with my cameraphone and sending them to unlikely twosome part of my creative journey from the very beginning.  We were an odd trio and I couldn't begin to guess how many times a muddy battered pick-up truck slowed down with "what you got theah is the long and the shoht of it," or "who's walking who?" Even as late as November, until the snow made it impossible, Shiner raced up Blue Hill Mountain every morning with Peter.

Shiner Climbs the Mountain!

Shiner's decline started in earnest in December. Cooper, the gentleman's dachshund, joined our pack and family matters called us to Connecticut. She met those last challenges and chaotic weeks with an equanimity that would put most humans to shame.

Shih Tzu ~ Lion Dog

Legend has it that the origin of the shih tzu began in ancient China and Tibet. They are one of the oldest breeds of dogs, from at least 1000 BC.

The war years were difficult for the shih tzu; between 1940-1947 registrations dwindled to a total of sixty-one.

They are sturdy, energetic and very attached to their people, but appear aloof and arrogant with strangers.

Shih tzu are very intelligent and equally stubborn.

They are unusually calm dogs and seldom bark. As one friend put it years ago, "holding Shiner is like having a zen experience." Shiner, named after a Texas beer on a memorable day with a special cousin.

I miss you. Dream with the little angels sweet Shiner.

Smilla's buddy


  1. Ohhh Carol... I'm so very sorry... I know how hard it is to lose a beloved friend. My thoughts are with you.

  2. I wipe away the tears as I type to you my deepest sympathy for your great loss. This moving tribute to your love and admiration for Shiner's great inner light is deeply touching and reveals the soul of you both.

    Strangely, as I was telling my husband last night about Cooper's great Valentine's Day gift to Shiner—first dibs of things dropped on the floor—my husband held Cooper's gift in great admiration. "That must be a very well fed and well loved little Doxie," he said. (My husband is an eater; it would have been hard for him to have shared with Shiner!) The idea wafted in and out and I wanted it to go quickly: what if Cooper knows that Shiner is really, really sick?

    I thought Cooper's antics were of young boy trying to impress the older girl but absolutely clueless. Now I wonder: the comic tricks, the heading into the Doxie fray and letting Shiner go way to calmer places, the warm body to curl up to and comfort? Was this prescient knowledge?

    I know so well that Vet conversation, the years of dealing with medical conditions, the lost of sight, hearing (but still of food) and when that went, we, too, knew the end was now. I am not sure I will have another dog (why I love your dog stories so much), but I know that if have souls, dogs have better.

    I don't know if you have read "The Art of Racing in the Rain." It is a story told by the dog. Warning: it will make you cry, but in a good way. It is almost a fable...but the sorrow of a dog not being able to speak is breathtaking. One the things the dog wants to do "in his next life" is to invent a machine that would allow dogs to take care of their own death to relieve their owners from the sorrow.

    There is a special grace that lives in dogs. They teach us how to better people. Wish I could make you a cup of tea and let you tell me every lovely Shiner story and wipe away your tears. Big hugs. Here's my email if you want to "talk":

  3. Oh Carol, I'm so sad for you. Loved the 'long and short of it' anecdote.

    One of my favorite encounters around the village for years was a certain tall elegant woman walking her lab and shih tzu.

  4. Oh i'm so sorry for your loss, they really do become part of the family. After a few Yorkshire terriers - my parents now have a shih tzu, grommit, who is the sweetest little dog!

  5. My condolences to you, Carol. It is so hard to lose a dog. We are preparing for that ourselves with our almost 14 year old springer spaniel.
    I wonder if you are familiar with Mary Oliver's poem, "Her Grave." It is a very moving poem about losing a dog. You can find it here:
    Wonderful memories will remain after the hurt subsides.

  6. Maria ~ Hold on tightly to your precious Satine! xo

    home before dark ~ We laughed and cried through your comment which so accurately describes how we feel...and have always felt with each passing of our dogs. I really do think they are amongst the most perfect of God's creatures. Years ago, my granddaughter told me she wished she could speak their language and I said "Of course you can speak 'Dog'" listing many of the signals I saw daily with our two. She knew them all! At the time our lab was 6 or 7, when communication was nearly perfect between us. So it was with Shiner at the vet's yesterday. She said "goodbye" first pressing her body against mine and then turned around and did the same thing with Peter and soon after slipped away with her head in my cupped hands. We both knew she left us on her own terms.

    Our son (a single parent) recommended "The Art of Racing in the Rain" and we read it a month or so ago. A dog goes to great lengths to hide its illness to spare you pain. They all feel Enzo's sense of responsibility until they can't take another step.

    Cooper knew from the beginning that Shiner was seriously ill...probably from that first sniff with his hound dog nose when he bolted out of his crate at Delta's cargo area. Just like he instantly knew our son's doxies were his own kind. He was respectful from the beginning and I think Shiner would have adored him if she had been well. Oftentimes when he was asleep in his nest, she would lie down in front of it to simply watch him. She only gave him the tail swish when he was awake! He misses her and we have had to coax him to eat...he knows her water bowl is no long set out next to his.

    There is a packed path in the snow on the mountain now and the sun is warmer. We have it on good authority, from Cooper, that wonderful scents abound. It's a good thing to have these distractions.

    A heartfelt thank you.

    Dilettante ~ You can just hear those folks in their trucks laughing and enjoying my funny pair! I doubt I'll ever have a combination quite like that again...we made friends wherever we went! and thank you for the kind and generous description!

    Stefan ~ "Grommit"...what an adorable name! I know he will give your parents many years of joy...shih tzu are wonderful dogs. I think people have the wrong idea about them because of the way they are so often groomed for showing...and Janet loves to describe D.C. city shih tzu in glorious detail (as only she can!)

    Thank you so much for your comment!

    spindrift ~ My thanks...and I am so sorry you have this ahead of you, for surely 14 is an impressive age for your springer spaniel. Shiner is our second loss in the space of two years...and yet we do it again and again because how can we live without them? I followed the link to read "Her Grave" which really does sooth a sad heart. Very much appreciated.

    I stopped by your blog and loved your observations of Maine and family and your beautiful photographs. We have much in common in coastal Maine! I will be back, but I wanted to answer your comment first.

  7. My condolences, Carol. Even though it's forty years ago I still remember the depth of loss I felt when my mother wrote to tell me (I was away at college) that my dog Peggy had died. She and I grew up together. I am very sorry for your loss and I wish you strength.

  8. Dear Blue, thank you. I'd like to think that, someday, transformed and in another life, I will have all my dogs around me once again with the dilemma of which one to hold first.

  9. I still cannot begin to write you, I tear up. You have my heart for the fullness of your love for your family & for your dear pets.

  10. Barbara, you have a way of choosing the exact words that fly to the thanks.

  11. Oh Carol, I have just found this post, and I am in tears. So very sorry for your loss. I know exactly what you must have gone through. We lost our first cairn terrier, Charlie in August 2008. A big hug for you..

  12. I thought I'd let you know Shiner lives on. We are adopting a dog from our local shelter, a shih-tzu and guess what his name is, Shiner!!! My family is so excited to get him. I sure hope our Shiner will give us as much joy as your Shiner. Blessings


Older posts you might enjoy....