My passion for dogs, and the Shih Tzu breed, started with my first dog Shente’s Roxy Hart AKA Roxie, from Marg Brown of Shente shih tzu. I had just graduated from college, when I first met Roxie. She had been placed with my aunt for socialization when she was a pup training for show. I thought she was the funniest looking thing I’d ever seen, the “orange shag” we called her! I thought people were crazy for having these ball of fluff dogs!
My aunt and my mom were talking about Roxie needing a home when she was done showing and my mom, who already had 2 dogs, expressed an interested in having her. Without thinking about it I said that I would take her! My aunt introduced me to Marg, and let me tell you I got grilled! Marg really made me think through my spur of the moment choice to say I’d take her, and I’m so glad she did!
Roxie changed my life! She was such a trooper letting me learn how to groom, train, breed, and so much more. What truly captured me was that she LOVED all of it. As I got better with things like grooming and training and I would move those skills to other dogs, Roxie would sit patiently waiting her turn, and would refuse to move until she got her turn too! She was happy, loving and outgoing and all she wanted was to be where I was doing something with me.
She showed me the true capabilities of the Shih Tzu as a service or therapy animal as she supported me through the death of both of my parents, several accidents, moving half way across the country and battling cancer. A dog who was never trained for service, but knew instinctively what I needed and when. When I collapsed she’d paw at me and nudge me to wake me, she would bark for help if I couldn’t get up, she would lead people to me when I needed help and she would even tell other dogs to behave when I couldn’t. It got me thinking, what would happen if she had been trained for service. My heart broke into a million pieces in 2020 when Roxie left this life at nearly 18yrs. She will forever hold my heart and influence my life.
While going through some particularly difficult times, I reached out to Marg who took the time to mentor me. She introduced me to the many ways one can be involved in the “dog” world. I’m truly blessed for the time, knowledge, experience and friendship Marg invested in me. She let me learn on many of her dogs and trusted me with many of her litters. She didn’t give up on me when I made mistakes, she celebrated my success and encouraged me to do better. When I came to her wanting a dog to show myself, she entrusted me with Shente’s Sabrina AKA Rini.
I think I got a total of 2 hours with Rini before she became my husbands dog! She won over everyone she met in seconds. Unlike Roxie, Rini was out going with a true “show me” attitude. While Roxie was intuitive to me as a person and supporting me, Rini was more aware of her surroundings. Rini takes you to the door when someone’s there. She’ll alert me to sounds I didn’t hear, tell me what time it was, and she LOVED to learn. Training and obedience was just another way for her to show off! I got her half way to her championship before we moved half way across the country and I was diagnosed with cancer. The kennel name, Roxini, honours these two amazing dogs, I can’t make them immortal, but something of them will continue.
It was the support I received from both Roxie and Rini during that extraordinarily difficult time of my life that inspired me to take the next step and learn to train therapy/service dogs. A Shih Tzu will never lead the blind but there are so many other roles where this amazing breed can excel. My goal is to find their niche and make sure the Shih Tzu gets known for the support and compassion the can provide to those in need.
This adventure led me to volunteer as a puppy raiser for PADs. The first dog I raised with PADS, was Spartan, who is an amazing Lab/Golden Retriever who will change someone’s life one day. I also had the great honour to be tasked with raising Timber, a Havanese pup, who was hoping to be the first Havanese in the PADS hearing program. I continue to work with and support PADS Okanagan.
I hope that one day, the Shih Tzu becomes just as recognizable as a Lab in the service they provide but if they don’t, it wont be for a lack of trying. I fully encourage you to volunteer as a puppy raiser through PADs, if you have the time to give, and help change someone’s life one dog at a time.