Lucky you – in this entry I expose another Hulles Dirty Little Secret: I used to raise and show Shih Tzus.
My partner at the time (whose name I won't reveal here) and I ... fine, you bitches, I'll use her real name: it's Nancy. Anyway, Nancy and I bred and trained Shih Tzus for competition. This would make an interesting story in itself since dog competition is pretty weird, but the tale I really want to tell here is the story of my favorite little dog, Nips.
(The quotes I use below are from the AKC breed description for the Shih Tzu. When Nancy and I were breeding them we had these characteristics memorized, of course. Well, okay, she did...)
(I have since used these same standards to judge prospective girlfriends, and I have to confess they serve the purpose quite well. See for yourself.)
Bite - Undershot. Jaw is broad and wide. A missing tooth or slightly misaligned teeth should not be too severely penalized. Teeth and tongue should not show when mouth is closed.
Nips was a female Shih Tzu, and she was not named for the playful little bites she gave everyone and everything, as most people thought. She was named Nips because she had a dozen lovely ones where lesser dogs have ten. Of course in competition a simple name like Nips just won't do, so her nom de mutt was “Princess Dolly.” I have never thought of any of our dogs by their show names, however; in fact I had to look up Nips' in my AKC registration files to write this entry.
Proportion - Length between withers and root of tail is slightly longer than height at withers. The Shih Tzu must never be so high stationed as to appear leggy, nor so low stationed as to appear dumpy or squatty.
While Nips was in competition we had two other Shih Tzus, a male and a female, being groomed as her successors (so to speak). The show names of these younger dogs were “Lord Abelard” and “Lady Heloise,” but we called them Dumpy and Squatty. Those of you who have claimed that Nancy had no sense of humor whatsoever are hereby refuted.
Expression - Warm, sweet, wide-eyed, friendly and trusting. An overall well-balanced and pleasant expression supersedes the importance of individual parts. Care should be taken to look and examine well beyond the hair to determine if what is seen is the actual head and expression rather than an image created by grooming technique.
One of the reasons Nips was my favorite of the dogs we raised was that she looked sweet with, as they say above, “an overall well-balanced and pleasant expression,” but she had the personality of a pit viper. As I mentioned earlier, she was biting ankles from the day she was born. She was a master of the “pet me, I'm just so damn cute, but when you're close enough I'm going to latch onto your nose and not let go for anything” maneuver. In fact, Nancy and I actually discussed putting her down just to avoid a lawsuit, but our affection won out over our common sense and we continued to show her.
Temperament - As the sole purpose of the Shih Tzu is that of a companion and house pet, it is essential that its temperament be outgoing, happy, affectionate, friendly and trusting towards all.
By now, you're probably asking yourself, “If the little shit was so nasty, how could you show her?” The answer is that during competition Nips, who always appeared to be an angel, actually rose to the occasion and became an angel. Maybe it was the roar of the greasepaint or the smell of the crowd, but for whatever reason, when the curtain went up Nips went from being the most vicious of bitches to the queen of the show, much like Sharon Stone. She somehow metamorphosed into the little dog who conscientiously licks the maggots off the festering gangrenous arm of a small child trapped in a cave until help arrives days later, just so the kid will have a chance at retaining the limb. Well, okay, perhaps I go too far, but she really was sweet at show time for whatever reason. This was something Nancy and I never understood but for which we were immensely grateful.
Stop - There is a definite stop.
Well, get ready, because we're coming to the sad part. One day Nips managed to escape from Stalag 3, one of our kennels, then ran into the road and was promptly hit by an ice cream truck. The other dogs seemed happy about this for some reason, and I would be lying if I said Nancy and I weren't somewhat relieved about not having to face those lawsuits. Still, it was a pretty tragic event for the both of us.
It was particularly heart-rending for me to watch little Nips die in my arms. It's one thing to watch “Ol' Yeller,” but it's quite another thing entirely to have it happen to someone you love, or at least to someone of whom you are quite fond.
“Hulles,” her little dewy eyes seemed to be saying as she lay dying, “sometime, when Dumpy and Squatty are up against it, tell them to go out there with all they got and win just one for the Nipper.” At this point she gave a little shudder, then continued seeming to say, “I don't know where I'll be then, Hulles, but I'll know about it - and I'll be happy."
And then she died.
And this, my friends, is what is known as a shaggy dog story. True? Hah. I'm the guy who defenestrated my girlfriend's Shih Tzu because she killed my fish, remember? The only reason I can think of to raise Shih Tzus would be if wood chippers needed to eat to survive.
I could say I'm sorry to have led you on, but I'd be lying. I was gleefully cackling the whole time I wrote this. The only thing I regret about this story is that Ronald Reagan played Nips in the movie.