Zen, As In Shih Tzu by Maggie Digiovanni

December 14, 2014

Southern writer, Maggie Digiovanni rescues Shih Tzu dogs from shelters and is a true lover of the breed.  In this article, she shares this special dog with us.

I got to the Humane Shelter well ahead of the growing crowd.  All of us anticipated adopting a pet for fifty dollars instead of the usual two hundred.  I wanted a Shih Tzu and had received word that there was one available.  Since little dogs are usually adopted first, I was taking no chances.

There he was, long shaggy hair dragging the floor and soaked in urine.  Obviously he was so new no one had gotten him to the grooming room yet.  No matter.  I fell for him collar, leash and urine-soaked coat.

“Don’t put him in the tub for a couple of days.  You don’t want to frighten him,” warned the lady filling out the paperwork.

“Oh, of course,” I agreed while silently envisioning a bath moments after we got home.  It turned out he wanted a bath so bad he actually wallowed in the shallow tub of water to get his coat clean.  Once dried, his flag of a tail went up waving proudly as he surveyed his new home.


Shih Tzus are the most Zen of creatures. They seem to know no fear.  Rocky immediately stuck his head in a very dangerous area – between our Scottish terrier and his food bowl.  Startled at the little dog’s audacity, Mr. Scotty moved back to let the new guy eat.

At the groomer’s or the vet’s office, Mr. Scotty shook so hard the tables would wobble.  Rocky walked in as though he owned every place, allowed them to attend him, and calmed his more nervous friend on more than one occasion.

A Shih Tzu’s tail is the primary clue to how it feels.  High and waving, it signals all is right in that dog’s world.  Low and dragging, it’s time to check with the vet.  He’s feeling mighty low if that tail ain’t waving.

Originally kept by Chinese royalty, these wonderful little dogs have faces that melt the meanest heart.  When their coats grow full-length, they require daily grooming at minimum.  Most owners will gather the hair on the head into a delightful flowing topknot.  However, those of us who do not have sufficient time for constant grooming tend toward ‘puppy’ cuts with head and body hair clipped short while the marvelous tail flows in the wind.

The way the facial hair falls sometimes gives this pup the nickname of Chrysanthemum Dog as it looks like that gorgeous flower with the pup’s nose as the center.

One not so lovable trait of the Shih Tzu is the difficulty in house training.  It requires constant attention until it finally gets the idea.  I put down training pads for Rocky.  They remained dry.  I took them up as useless only to discover he had wet under each pad.

Although generally sturdy, like all animals Shih Tzus have health problems owners must be on the lookout for.  One is hip dysplasia.  The long body and short legs make this a possibility in a large percentage.  They snort and snore because of the pushed in nose and jutting lower jaw.

Dental, kidney and bladder problems are fairly common.  As stated before, if the Shih Tzu’s tail is dragging it’s a good idea to check with the vet.

They are amazingly good with children and other pets, but due to their small size they may be at a huge disadvantage when playing with children.  Owners should always be in attendance during child/Shih Tzu play times.

Overall, this dog brings joy to almost any household.  It will take over the home and an owner’s heart with equal abandon.  The household will be all the better for having a Zen Shih Tzu in residence.

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