It has been my experience that people who don’t grow up with dogs in their lives usually don’t get dogs as adults, and if they do, they don’t develop strong bonds with dogs.
Phil Keller from West Virginia is a definite exception to this.
He was 60 years old when he got his first dog. Getting the dog was something that his late wife, Sandy, wanted. As they drove the forty miles home with Ciiji in Sandy’s lap, Phil would glance at the dog, who would then lower her eyes shyly. Before the trip ended, Phil told Sandy, “You know our lives will never be the same again now.” It became obvious that “this little girl had stolen my heart.”
When he retired a short time later, his experience with Cijji, the Shih Poo, had been so rewarding that he volunteered at animal adoption center where he found and adopted Pepper, a black miniature Poodle.
As I usually do when I take interest in a new subject, I immediately started finding out everything I could about dogs. I read books, I watched dog shows on TV and I talked to other dog owners. My first instincts were to teach Cijji and see how much I could teach her.
The first thing that needed to be taught was house breaking. Sandy had wanted a female dog because she did not like the idea of a male dog cocking his leg to pee. She decided to use puppy pads and to train Cijji to use them. Using the command “get on the pad”, I started training Cijji to go sit on the pad. I started her out one foot from the pad and when she went to the pad I gave her a treat. Soon she would run to the pad from as far away in our house as I could get her.
Another thing I was interested in was teaching her to pick out objects from an assortment of toys. I would have her sit in front of me and I would place in front of her, a collar, a ball and a stuffed toy that we called “baby.” If I said “collar “and she touched the collar with her paw I would give her the treat. She did pretty well at this but never got 100 percent accuracy. Sometimes she would get so excited she would touch all three.
Cijji learned many words and when I speak she stares intently at my mouth just hoping to hear something that means enjoyment for her. One of the things she learned was the saying “ daddy get cookie” which meant I was going out and was not going to take her with me. She would go to the stair well and lie down and give me this sad look.
Cijji will pout and I always felt that for a dog to pout it must have above average intelligence. Just like a child feels it is punishing the parent by being moody.
Cijji is a good guard dog and will bark whenever she hears a noise outside. It takes more than a day for her to start feeling comfortable with strangers. She learns tricks quickly and is a great walking companion. She will stay by my side and never complain about how fast I walk or how far.
There was one night that changed Cijji’s life forever. The night Sandy died unexpectedly, Cijji was sleeping with her. This was about a year ago and I know that Cijji must have tried to wake her several times. After that night, Cijji comes to me when I am sleeping and wakes me up to see if I am ok. I know she still feels the loss. When I am walking her in the local park I may hand her leash to a walking partner and she will stop and come to me as if she is so afraid of losing me.
When I adopted Pepper, the mini Poodle, Cijji was slow to accept her. But they have become close friends now and Cijji is the alpha dog even though she is the smaller of the two. At four years old, she weighs 15 pounds with silky black hair.
Cijji is a fussy eater but always seems to keep her weight perfect. It is so funny when I give her something new to eat. She will sniff it, lick it, sniff it again, lick it again and sometimes says no thank you.
She likes to lie beside me in a chair when I watch TV but never on my lap. Sometimes she will sleep in another room by herself and other times she wants to snuggle up to me.
In summary I would say her personality is like a Lhasa Apso. Quick to warn of strangers. Loyal to owner. Slow to make up to people. It would seem there may have been Lhasa Apsos used in the development of the Shih Tzu. Maybe cross breeding brings out throwback personalities.