A Shih-Tzu Christmas

Gracie Hopper and Ava-Roo cordially invited this Shih-Tzu friends for our first annual Shih-Tzu Christmas.  A great time was had by all: liver treats, free play, and eight laps to sleep on made for a great evening.  We even took a group shot.  Gracie was (mostly) a good girl, Ava interacted with people and other doggies, Ranger and Teddy really enjoyed themselves.  And Junior, Junior seemed to be in Shih-tzu heaven.  Miss Lisa also had the opportunity to do some training in.  (Gracie did a little growl with  Ranger got something she wanted, but Lisa handled it well.)

Enjoy the video.  It really was a fun evening.

I’m Not Sure, But I Think This is “Play”

At the very least, it’s the beginning of both doggies playing.  (Together.)  What do you think?

A few minutes later, Gracie tried to initiate play, and Ava-roo walked away from her.  It is a start.

Our Summer Garden

Had a conversation with folks from work on our summer gardens. Question was raised to me about how my tomatoes were this summer. I replied, “We didn’t plant a garden – instead, we grew dogs.”

Since we got Ava “used”, we didn’t grow her as we might raise a puppy, much like we did with Gracie.  Instead, she came to us with her own set of baggage, her own fears, her own phobias.  And it would be unfair for us to think that she’ll be all affectionate on day one – that’s impossible.

So – what we grew was trust.  And that takes time, consistency, and fairness.  We had to continue to show love to Gracie, but we had to share that love with Avaroo.  Instead of watering tomatoes – we fed and took care of dogs instead.

I think of Avaroo sometimes as an onion – you peel back one layer away and see something different inside, something delightful, something wonderful.

The past six months have been dedicated to this little 9+ pound dog and her 12+ pound younger sister. It’s been about helping them grow together as a family unit, about helping both continue to feel loved.  Dogs are amazingly complex and yet delightfully simple creatures.  They certainly have feelings, show emotions, and to that age old question – are capable, IMHO, of showing much affection and perhaps even love.

It’s neat now to look at the layers we’ve peeled back to see what we’ve got.

You’ve already read some of the other blentries that outline both Ava and Gracie’s growth together. There are a few things that stand out in my mind.

Ava’s reaction to kids and the changes has been nothing short of remarkable.  She was very fearful of kids when we got her – now, her confidence in kids has been restored – and perhaps it’s further than it ever was.  She trusts kids, she loves kids, and they love her.  Quite a change from the first night when she was so freaked out by the neighbor kids, backed out of her harness, and ran in towards the house.

On labor day weekend I took Ava by myself to an outdoor gathering. She was scared at first – what with the loud trains, the number of people, and the number of dogs. But when she and I sat down – me in my chair, and she in my lap – she showed a level of comfort that she really hadn’t shown before. What might have helped were the dozen folks that came up to say “cute doggie” and pet her. Good for the old canine self-esteem. When we got home – Sharon was there at the door to welcome us home – holding Gracie in her arms as she normally does for me. Who did Gracie sniff and lick first? Not Sharon, not I, but Ava – as if to say, “where did you go, I missed you!”

There’s the nightly “attack” when we both come home – being met at the door by 21 lbs of tail wagging dogs. With each day – Avaroo gets more and more animated – more and more joyful to see us.

Then there’s the fence “play” Ava has with the 75# Boxer next door – the first time I saw this, I couldn’t believe it and had to call Sharon out with her video camera.  So Ava is capable of play – just not with Gracie.

This past weekend at a friends party – Avaroo followed me quite literally everywhere – as if to say, “Dad, you’re my comfort zone – protect me from these strange people.” But what was really cute was this tilted head look of adoration towards me.  Or perhaps I’m reading it wrong – perhaps she was saying something else to me, maybe “Dad, your fly is open.”

There’s still much work to be done. We’ve not yet seen Ava and Gracie play together – and perhaps we never will. But they’re a cohesive little doggie family – happy as individuals, but happier together. And we see their progress – both as individual dogs and as a team – and there’s an inner joy and happiness that words cannot begin to measure.

If there’s one lesson from this – it’s that folks shouldn’t be afraid of shelter dogs.  They do take time – perhaps different time and effort from that of raising a puppy.  But it’s so worth it.


Ava-roo is generally carried up stairs. We require that she climb at least one step — the top one. Today, we were all upstairs, when Ava and Dave went downstairs, leaving Gracie and me up. Grace and I were playing with a toy and I watched as she went downstairs then back up. About 4 minutes later, as we were leaving, who is on the 4th stair from the top? Yes! Ava-roo! I’m so proud. She did it one step at a time, slow and steady. She wanted to join the fun and was determined to get here! Yay Ava!

You Never Forget a Face

We adopted Ava-roo from the very good-hearted people at the New Beginnings Shih Tzu Rescue.  The rescue holds an annual fundraiser call the Shih Tzu Shuffle, a picnic where alumni and their humans come visit and maybe adopt another doggie.    Ava-roo and Gracie were so excited about seeing so many like-minded doggies.  Ranger and Teddy were there.  The 3 and 1/4 Club lives again!

But the highlight of the Shuffle was when Miss Bernadette and Ava-roo reunited.  Miss Bernadette was Ava’s foster mom.  The following video was very spontaneous.  I was asking Bernadette if we could get a picture with her and Ava before we left.  As we were talking, Ava went over and greeted Bernadette.  It was very sweet.

Love and charity is never forgotten.  I’m just sorry the video is so short.

Ava and Her Toy

At yesterday’s Shih-Tzu Shuffle we got a care package. Inside the care package was an Ava sized toy.  Gracie has many many toys. Mostly of the hard plastic kind that can’t be terrorized  and destroyed in three minutes (we timed it once).  But this cute little pink plush doggie was just the size for Ava-roo.  I showed it to her … she took it from me and sort of cuddled it.

There was some tussle, Gracie really (really) wanted pink doggie but Ava held her territory.  Here I’m giving it back to Ava.

Gracie moaned and groaned to get her paws on it.  When I finally put it up to live to play another day, Ava was sort of nesting it, keeping it safe.

I’ve never seen Ava try and play with a dog toy.  Not once.  I find this video very sweet and hope you do to.  She’s just coming into her doggie-ness a little bit everyday.  It really makes me happy.

from Ava to Zoe

Gracie has never gotten along with our neighbor’s boxer, Zoe.  Ava doesn’t have the problems with Zoe that Gracie does and today Ava had some interesting interactions with Zoe. We aren’t sure, but I think they’re playing… What do you think?

Isn’t it amazing the transformation Ava’s had in just 12 weeks!


Today, Ava-roo went up to a complete stranger — a little boy — without any fear! As I understand it, she led the charge to greet him.

This week both Dave and I have noticed that Gracie and Ava have really bonded. I think it started last week when they went to the groomers together. So stressful. Or, did it start with Lisa B. and her Master Class? It’s hard to say. The only agression I’ve seen this week is when Gracie got too close to Ava and Ava didn’t like it. (In fairness to Gracie, she was being very gentle… it was Ava’s naughty — this time.)

Miracles do Happen

… in which two doggies lie together in peace.  In the first half, Ava-roo came to me (another miracle) and Gracie joined us (yet another one — are you keeping track?).

It happened again today.  It’s really all too, too much!

A few things:

  1. Ava was completely comfortable where she was… she normally spends a good 10 seconds in my lap.  Instead she was there 5 minutes. My hand was on her back to act as a shield from Gracie in case she went postal on me.
  2. I think Ava-roo feels very safe in the doggie bed.  I think it might be another shield against Gracie (see the MasterClass video with Lisa. She didn’t do anything for Lisa until she was in the doggie bed).

All in all, things are looking up.

Gracie tries to Play with Ava

Ava still doesn’t have the play thing going… this was taken in June.

Some Hints
I think it takes a while for the videos to load... they're HD format and are pretty big files. If you click on the arrow and then immediately click the pause button. This allows the video to load. Once there is more grey line than black line, you should be able to press the play button. Enjoy.