My twin Maltese Shi-Tzu pups, Sunshine and Snow, have been keeping me entertained for eight years now. It seems like yesterday when they came into my life. I had taken my friend Eric with me to a breeder with the intention of looking at a Schnoodle, the kind of dog I thought I wanted. The Schnoodle turned out to be quite sickly and I was about to leave when a litter of three adorable pups – a brother and two sisters – stole my heart. The boy was brown and white, but the two girls were almost all white, and one of them was very friendly and wanted to be cuddled. The other one was shaking in a corner and didn’t want to be touched. I knew immediately that the strong and friendly one would be a good companion, but the other one was incredibly cute and I felt certain that I could bring her out of her shell. As I was trying to decide between them, Eric said “Why don’t you take them both?” And the rest is history, as the saying goes. I don’t know whether the thought would have occurred to me if he hadn’t mentioned it, but I take full responsibility for my decision. I named the strong and healthy one “Sunshine,” which fit her personality perfectly, and the other one, “Snow,” as she reminded me of the soft white mysteries.
Snow was miserable on the ride home, and when we arrived, she didn’t want to get out of the crate. Sunshine clambered out first, explored their new home, and finally persuaded her sister to venture forth. Soon they were chasing each other around, turning somersaults, and falling on top of each other.
I fed them a rich diet of specialty canned foods and real cooked meat, and they grew quickly. Before long, they were getting into mischief. They attended weekly puppy play sessions at the vet’s, where they learned some basic commands and I learned “gentling” techniques. From a checklist, I gradually exposed them to a variety of substrates, loud noises, and people of all sizes and different kinds of clothing. Kindergarten was followed by more training courses, all based on positive reinforcement, and they eventually mastered their basic and intermediate skills.
“Maltese Shish-Tzu” is actually the name of a lesser-known breed, but I suspect that my little “designer mutts” were the result of an intentional first-generation coupling. They grew to weigh 20 and 22 pounds, respectively, or more than twice the size of either a Maltese or a Shih-Tzu. Sunshine has the sunny disposition of a Shih-Tzu, and Snow has many characteristics of a Maltese. She had a few behavior problems, but thankfully most of them are behind us. They now see a holistic vet and are treated with Chinese herbs and therapeutic massage.
In future posts, I will write about some of their adventures.