AT HOME IN HEATH: THAT WHITE BALL OF FURRY JOY RULED THE ROOST
When we fell in love with Precious at the pet store, her soft coat of hair was multi-colored in shades of tan and black. As if her goodness could not tolerate darkness of any kind, Precious quickly morphed into a completely white dog. Bill always regretted the transformation, but those dark eyes peeking out from her shag of white hair meant pure joy to me.
I did mention that Precious was a little head-strong, didn’t I? Well, we have to take ownership of that. Yes, that’s a natural trait of Shih Tzus, but our desire to please her meant she was in charge and she knew it. I took her to Obedience School to even up the score. That’s when she discovered treats!
Precious was only a few months old, but she’d already decided that she much preferred people to any kind of animal. She would tolerate the curiosity of other dogs, but only barely and she herself had no interest in them – at all. When we went to Obedience School, she enjoyed the interaction with me, but seemed to hate having to be polite to the rest of the dogs.
Some things about obedience school she was great at. “Sit,” for instance, was natural to her. I could hear her thinking, “Watch this! All I have to do is put my butt down and Mom will give me a treat.” She was great at “Heel,” also, but she rarely had to use it once school was over. We usually followed Precious around as she sniffed her way through the neighborhood or a park.
On the day she was supposed to learn “come,” I was sick. Maybe that’s why she never quite got it. It was the weekend of my wedding anniversary and as soon as school was over we were supposed to board her and head to Santa Barbara for an overnight celebration. As it was, I barely had the strength to drive to the lesson with Precious. We went through the motions. Precious didn’t quite get the concept of “come” and I was too sick to stay around for help. I went home, went to bed and didn’t rise for several days.
The next week was graduation, so once I was able to get out of bed, I worked hard on teaching Precious the concept of “come.” I wanted her to earn her diploma. As I said, getting her to sit was easy. Then I’d walk away, turn around and give the command to come, wildly waving the treat I wanted to bestow on her. She’d look at me as if to say, “I’m right over here, five steps away. Bring me the treat.” By the end of the week, she would occasionally amble over for the treat, but not with any kind of regularity and certainly not within the time frame the final exam demanded. We went ahead to the final class, but I doubted we’d succeed.
During the final exam, Precious went through all her paces with aplomb, until we got to the “come” part. Other dogs could barely wait to perform. They’d sit with pride and break into a run the moment the command was given to come. Then they’d leap into their owners’ arms and celebrate.
It didn’t go that way for Precious and I. We got three chances. The first time, she ignored me and the treat completely. The second time she looked at me with curiosity as I offered an entire handful of treats. The third time I put away the treats. I squatted down to her level and begged her to come to me. We had a stare down and at the last possible moment, she relented and strolled toward me, ignoring me as if the whole thing had been her idea in the first place. She plopped her butt down in front of me and waited for her treat.
Here’s the funny part. The instructor was amazed. Apparently, Shih Tzus rarely master “come.” They are the sweetest, most loving dog that exist, but they don’t do “come.” “She must really love you,” the instructor commented as she allowed Precious to wear the cap and gown for her picture.
She did love me, almost as much as I loved her. Come back next week and I’ll tell you more about my shaggy ball of joy.