S'Dandi Shih Tzu
All Rights Reserved
2000 - 2008
Sally and Dick Watkeys
8235 Outer Drive South
Traverse City, MI 49684
Graphics courtesy of:
S'Dandi Shih Tzu
Just BePaws . . .
Hunter had been spooked at six months old at his first show. A huge sign fell into the gates with a crash just as he was doing his diagonal. He stopped slightly, dropped his tail, recovered and continued his pattern. I thought all was well, and he was OK. The next day, he was more hesitant to show. He looked wide-eyed and startled at every loud sound in the big enclosed building. Big dog barks seemed to unnerve him. I don’t remember what was showing in the adjacent ring when the sign fell, but now imagine it was some breed of large dog. We had a problem.

He went home to go to handling classes and continued to exhibit signs of fear when in the presence of another breed, especially if they were big. We went to the Nationals. On our way across the country in the RV, Hunter and I walked through every truck stop and rest area around generators and noise from Michigan to CA. By the time we got to San Frisco, he was somewhat better. We walked in the hotel where he seemed to relax. He liked the Shih Tzu all around. These were his kind of dogs. He liked the carpet. Hallelujah!! He showed well and kept his tail up throughout the classes. I was a happy camper. Now, home to the other all-breed shows.

We entered a small show in Indiana. I didn’t take the RV. Hunter let me know that he hated being groomed among the other breeds. He was a real twit and went in the ring looking like we’d been fighting through the topknot thing. I was upset, he was upset, and it showed. I was losing him. Back home for more classes. Nothing seemed to be working. Hunter kept getting worse. I was beside myself. For the first time, I was facing the prospect of losing a wonderful example of our breeding program to fear.

We had such high hopes for this boy. He was a repeat breeding of “Orie,” our first home-bred champion. In my opinion, he was even nicer than his big brother, and that’s saying a lot. It didn’t matter how nice he was. If he didn’t want to show and exhibited fear, he would be a pet. I didn’t want that to happen. So, we continued to go to shows, try to compete and get him used to the routine. Some judges did their best to help. Ken McDermott and Loraine Boutwell gave him special treatment in the ring. They cajoled, sweet-talked, gently caressed and gave him extra time on the mat. We all were trying to give as many positive experiences as we could to this beautiful dog. I will always be grateful for their efforts and time. However, no matter how much everyone did, it wasn’t working.

Then, in a phone conversation with my friend, Sharon Moore, I related my disappointment, my shattered dreams, and my crashing hopes. She suggested another environment, one where the caregiver wasn’t as involved as I. Hunter needed a totally different experience and living situation away from Mama Sally in order to grow up. I guess it’s like sending human children to camp for experience and confidence. Sharon didn’t have any males to show at the time and could concentrate on Hunter. She and her husband have a grooming shop in their home where all breeds of dogs come to be groomed. Hunter would be free in a room adjacent to the grooming room. He could see these other breeds and get used to the confusion and noise, which accompanied them. After careful consideration-I also had to convince my husband that this was for the best-we decided to try it. Hunter went to “Camp Sha-Mar” on Oct. 31, 1999. I cried as I loaded him in Sharon and Mark’s van. My beautiful, year old dog didn’t know what was happening to him. He had always been with me. I was rejecting him. I felt awful watching them drive away.

During the ensuing phone calls, Sharon assured me that Hunter was fine. He was doing well, eating well-never one of his problems anyway, and seemed happy and content. I relaxed. They took him to some shows. He wasn’t entered; he just got wheeled around in his crate through the noise and dogs. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and Easter came and went. Dick kept asking when Hunter was coming home. Sharon really wanted to show him before returning him. I didn’t have the heart to tell her she couldn’t after all the work she had done for us. So, Hunter stayed longer than expected. He sired a lovely litter of puppies, (one little black/masked gold bitch is home with us.) He was entered in several shows. I was anxious to say the least.

After his first show with Sharon, she called to say he hadn’t even offered to drop his tail in the ring. He’d let her do a topknot with no problem. She was disappointed that he didn’t win. I was thrilled with her report. He liked the ring and showed well. She continued to show him through the spring. No points but Hunter was happy. That was all that mattered.

We met in New Castle, PA at the Memorial Day Shows. Of course, I was devastated when he didn’t jump right into my arms and give me hugs. He was happy and content with Sharon, showed well, looked good and enjoyed the ring. Ecstatic is the word for my reaction. I took him home with us to see what we could do.

Remember I said Hunter had no problems with eating everything in sight? Well, he was a little overweight when he came home. He went on a crash diet of green beans and low-cal food dropping 3 ½ pounds in a month. We entered some shows where he floated around the ring on air quickly accumulating points. Now, 2 majors and several points later, we’re anticipating another home-bred champion instead of a beautiful, pet dog.

Friendships in this “show thing” are so very important. Without this good friend, Hunter was destined to become “just a pet.” That’s not all bad but would have been disappointing in this case. A friend gave of herself, rehabilitated our boy and returned to us the makings of another champion. How do you say “thank you” for such a gift? We will always be grateful to our dear friends, Sharon and Mark Moore. They are very special people who truly care about others and this wonderful breed of ours.

Hunter sends hugs and kisses and is waiting for another trip to “Camp Sha-Mar.”