by Neva Bodin
Her current owner wasn’t home when I went to pick her up. She sat in a 6 X 6 foot cage watching me warily. I’m sure she was asking herself, “Now what?”
Her name was Something Pagoda of Altar, (I don’t remember the first part anymore), but she was called Pagoda for short. She was a registered Shar-Pei.
The Shar-Pei was the 134th breed recognized by the American Kennel Club, but has been around for hundreds of years. From China they were bred to guard, hunt, herd, and later, fight, and are known for intelligence and devotion to their owners. Read more at http://dogtime.com/dog-breeds/chinese-shar-pei#kaGlChkebosZICiU.99
She was three years old when I purchased her, had been kept in a cage for the purpose of making litters of puppies to sell. I was her third owner. She didn’t know how to respond to her name, didn’t enjoy being petted, as touch seemed somewhat foreign to her, and wasn’t house broken.
Looking back, I feel somewhat guilty that I too, purchased her for her ability to have puppies. We had just started farming and I thought I might get out of nursing so was looking for other sources of income. My kids were still in school and I would be needed on the farm.
I was amazed that she came out of the cage willingly with me—a stranger. However, on the 60 mile ride home, she sat on her side of the front seat, shivering, and giving off a distinctive body odor I soon learned was what a Sharpei does when feeling fearful. Waiting for her was a 3 X 4 foot insulated doghouse with its own doggy door and kennel around it.
Purchased in the fall, I invited her into the house sometimes to get acquainted. She soon learned to come to her name, tolerate being petted and show more courage. She only relieved herself under the Christmas tree once to get the message that the tree didn’t mean she was outside, and it was not acceptable behavior in the house. She was the most intelligent dog I have ever had.
Her first litter was born on New Years. I crawled in that big dog house with her and attended the births. My memory fails, but I believe she had six. Her second litter was the next August, and she had seven. I only raised two litters from her.
Marketing a Shar-Pei is a challenge. Not many are acquainted with the breed. “Wrinkle Dogs” is the most common name people associate with them. And wrinkled they are, looking like little old men walking around in baggy underwear.
They were chunky, solid little puppies when born, and their skin was loose and rolled all over. They had very short, semi-bristly hair. They were playful and loving. Each had a different personality—some shy like their momma, some brave and more aggressive.
Shar-Pei come in various flavors and colors—chocolate, cream, fawn, red. Most of mine were fawn, but I had one cream born.
Pagoda and I developed a strong bond. One evening, as my high school daughter watched out the window for my coming home from work so she could time supper, she had to return to the kitchen to stir something, Pagoda who had lain on the floor watching her, then got up and put her paws up on the window sill to take over the job.
Other times when the wind blew strong, she seemed nervous waiting for me, and when I didn’t come home, but stayed in town due to a windy storm one evening, she went to the corner in the living room and faced the wall, hanging her head.
This, after, she and her son whom I hadn’t sold due to his having a droopy eyelid, were almost buried in their house and kennel one night during a blizzard. She somehow managed to get them out and climb the snow over the six foot kennel fence and push a side garage door open, (left open a crack for the cats to come and go) and save her son and herself. She would never go into that kennel and let the door shut on her again, after having lived in it for three years. After watching her a few nights, including a very cold one that finally made her stand in the doorway of it looking up at the sky instead of sitting outside, I said, “Okay, you win. You’re a house dog.” She was the best house dog I’ve ever had.
When she was seven, she got cancer. Finally, we knew the day had come to give her peace. My husband and I cried as we drove her home to her final resting place.
May she be waiting at those glorious gates.