We have awesome friends in our little area on the lake in the campground where we have our permanent site. We spend a lot of time with our next-door neighbors and have gotten to know the whole family and they ours.
Tom and Christine (the neighbors) have a Shih Tzu named Gigi. She’s a beautiful blonde and she knows it. They also adopted a male Shih Tzu (Brutus) at the animal shelter who was abused and very afraid of people. Brutus is black and gray.
The first time they brought them to the lake, Gigi came running over to make friends with Ralph and me but Brutus stayed on his own porch and had none of the bouncy personality of the other dog. It got so that when we pulled in the drive (which we share with Tom and Christine) Gigi would stand impatiently on her porch waiting to race to one or the other of us for a hug and some kisses.
Last summer we enjoyed our lake lot and our friends. As we visited with Tom and Christine one afternoon, Tom said “I think Gigi may be pregnant but I’m not sure yet. She’s only had one litter of pups and they all died except one.” A month or so and the pregnancy became obvious. We all pampered and coddled the new mother-to-be and she flourished. Christine mentioned one day “Wouldn’t you like to have a dog? Tom and I will give you a pick of the puppies as a gift.” The puppies are purebred but have no papers due to a problem with Brutus’s former owners. Ralph and I quickly replied in unison “NO. We don’t want a puppy, but thank you so much for thinking of us. We’re on disability, retired, can come and go as we please and don’t want the responsibility of a dog.”
This went on all summer into the fall, when the puppies were born on September 17. Tom and Christine brought the puppies to the camper for a weekend when they were all old enough and we all had fun watching their antics and laughing at the roly-poly pups, that all looked just like their mom.
Left to right – Sister Sally, Father Brutus, Mother Gigi and Patty
There were five little puppies and were they ever cute! Of course, again we were offered the pick of the litter and again we said no. One day we got a call from our friends in the winter and they wanted to stop by for a visit while Ralph was ill. They live about an hour from us and we were excited to see them. They brought only one puppy with them that day, the runt of the litter named Patty. Ralph loved having her on his lap and petting her. We had a great visit with our friends and again said no when they asked if we’d like to keep her.
During the winter three of the pups were purchased. Patty and her sister Sally remained with Gigi and Brutus. Soon it was spring and time to open up the campers again and one weekend Tom and Christine left the dogs home with their daughter. They came over to chat and asked again if we’d like one of the remaining puppies. They loved both Patty and Sally but had grown especially fond of Sally, even though she was a barker and Patty was the quiet one. We said no, but this time when we came home we really talked about the pros and cons of owning a dog.
I’ve never liked lap dogs and have always had a bigger dog. Ralph has had two lap dogs and really enjoyed them. We wavered back and forth and finally decided why not? Yes, we’re retired, but we pretty much stay home in the winter and are at the camper in the summer. These dogs are small and we could easily travel if we wanted to. We were told Patty was cage trained and loved the car. Against our better judgment we decided to try being dog parents.
The weekend came for us to bring Patty home. By this time she was nine months old, had her shots, was almost potty trained and had a very sweet little disposition. We brought her home with lots of hugs from her birth family and shot records, dog food and the admonition to “bring her back to us if you decide she’s not for you.”
Tom and Christine were ecstatic that we decided to accept their generous offer and knew that we’d give her a good home. We got home the first night with our new baby and cuddled and got used to her. She’s a little sweetie who loves to sit on your lap and curl up to sleep. We bought her toys that she wasn’t too interested in at first but later grew to love.
That night we put Patty in her cage before we went to bed and were careful to see that she had a night light on, soft blankets and even a ticking clock for comfort. She started to cry but we ignored her, even when her little voice barked a few times and she clawed at the closed door. We tried, and failed miserably, to wait it out. She was much happier with her new place to sleep on the foot of our bed. We figured it would help her since it was her first night with us. The next day we settled in with our new baby and had fun learning her
personality and watching her antics with the toys. Later I found out from Christine that none of the dogs played with toys (probably because they had each other). We love the way Patty sits on the floor and cocks her head to one side, as if she’s listening to a secret. As she got more used to the house she became bolder. We normally keep all doors open or slightly
open but she found out that she could push the door and get in the room.
We’ve had to learn to watch Patty’s signs that she wants to go outside. First she comes to Ralph and stands on her hind legs with her front paws on his knee. Then she goes to the door, but doesn’t bark or do anything else to flag our attention. She’s only had a couple of accidents and they were at the door and she had warned us but we didn’t pay attention.
This little imp has become the focal point in our home. She makes us laugh all the time and Ralph took over total care of getting her outside and seeing that her food and water are full. She likes me and gives me kisses, but it’s Ralph who is her sugar daddy. She loves to sleep on his lap. Ralph gets up at night with her to take her out and then the two of them cozy up on his recliner and sleep the rest of the night there. I come in the room in the morning and they are both asleep and comfortable.
Patty loves the car and gets very excited when she realizes we’re going somewhere. She is a great traveler but really wants to ride in Ralph’s lap while he drives. She’s happy in mine, though. When we can’t take her we put her in the cage and she settles down nicely. We learned from Tom and Christine that they put all the dogs in a cage together. No wonder Patty was terrified the first night in the cage alone. (She still sleeps at the foot of our bed though).
Have our lives changed? Definitely. Are we sorry? No way. She has brought love, laughter and excitement into our house. She is going to be spayed next month and we’re already anticipating with dread the day and night she’ll have to spend at the Vet’s while we stay home alone.
After her surgery I hope to feel well enough to begin training her. I’ve trained her to sit now but she has more to learn. My last dog trained easily and Patty is a smart little dog so I think I’ll have no problem. My hope is to train Patty and prepare her for visits to local nursing homes in the area. She’s so low-key and loving that I know the residents will love her as much as we do and it’s a way we can pay it forward. Gayle, I’ll probably have to ask you for advice since you’re the resident dog expert.
I don’t plan to write about Patty but I may put her in a book some day. All I want to do now is enjoy this little piece of fluff that we call “The Princess of Everything.” It’s amazing what a dog can do for someone who isn’t feeling well. Patty has gotten Ralph up and out of his chair after a long winter of illness and as soon as I got home from the hospital
she wanted to sit on my lap and give me kisses. She seemed to know how bad I felt. It was hard to keep her on my lap for long because of the pain I was suffering, but she made me feel so much better with her unconditional love.
Oh, and did I forget to mention that the Shih Tzu is called The Lion Dog? Very appropriate, I think, since I’m a Leo with an August birthday!
I’ll stop raving on like a new grandparent but I hope you enjoy the pictures of our little sweetie and the ones of her sister Sally, her mother Gigi and Brutus, her father. Sometimes things you think you don’t want end up being a blessing. Our Patty is one of those things and we love our friends for giving her to us because they believed our home would be perfect for her. It is.
If you’d like more information on the Shih Tzu breed click here.
Here is a newspaper story about Pet Therapy in Nursing Homes
Programs for Elderly.com has information about free pet visits
In my writing career I have also said NO to things I thought would not be the best for one reason or another. Have you? I’d like to hear about it.
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