S'Dandi Shih Tzu
All Rights Reserved
2000 - 2008
Sally and Dick Watkeys
8235 Outer Drive South
Traverse City, MI 49684
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S'Dandi Shih Tzu
Just BePaws . . .
Several friends have encouraged me to write my thoughts about traveling in the RV for the winter in the company of 17 Shih Tzu.

We left Michigan on the 2nd on January, 2001. Since I had just retired from 35 years of teaching in June, this was our first real trip. I had already negotiated that we would be “home for Christmas” and New Years as husband, Dick, wanted to leave when the first flake fell. Luckily, when leaving day dawned, the weather co-operated so we could get the RV out of the driveway without any mishaps. It was cold, which meant sweaters for the older Tzu, but there was no snow.

Off we went for the first part of our itinerary, Florida, to visit family on both sides. We spent the month near Ft. Myers in Live Oak Resort. This “snowbird” park is very nice. Since we had stayed there on previous trips at Christmastime, most people knew of our dogs and were anxious to see our new babies. We had a good time renewing old acquaintances, visiting family and enjoying weather a little warmer than Michigan. The furry kids enjoyed the attention, walks in the RV park, sunshine and slower pace.

By the first of February, we were ready to head for Texas where we had entered the Victoria Shows. We arrived in town planning to stay in a campground that was quite full but would make room for us near the road for a night or so. Driving down the road to that campground, I spotted a big “RV” sign complete with flags and the word, “New.” “Dick. Stop. This looks good.” We pulled in anxious to get the dogs outside and fed. We were so pleased with the Lazy Longhorn. It had just opened the week before, was spotless and owned by a lovely couple who had thought of most everything for the RV community. The most important aspect of any on the road facility is that it be “dog friendly.” They loved the kids and were very interested in the shows and our involvement in them. Some of the people staying there even came to see us show. That was very special. Of course, it was even nicer when we returned after the show with reports of a win. Everyone was happy. If ever in Victoria, Texas, this is a nice place to camp.

From Victoria we went to Corpus Christi and North Padre Island. It was fun to be near the ocean, but the campground left lots to be desired. The people were friendly enough (there were lots of “winter Texans”) but it isn’t one I’d hurry to visit again. One of the more permanent sites had a tombstone surrounded by a wrought iron fence complete with plastic flowers. The stone was engraved with the words, “Here lies the last dog that pooped in my yard.” I’ll be the first to complain about negligent pet owners, but that was a bit too much. By the way, RVs and pets are welcome on the beach in the National Seashore Park. If ever in that area again, we’d stay on the beach. Just be careful not to touch the jellyfish washed on the shore. Even dead, they can pack a painful sting.

Houston was the next stop for the weekend show. The Farm and Ranch Club there has a big area for RVs. We found a spot and parked. The show kids had all been bathed and groomed, ready for the ring. There were majors both days making the anticipation high. I was pleasantly surprised when we got ringside and some exhibitors remembered when we had been in Houston seven years before. That was really special. It was fun to rekindle those acquaintances and meet some new exhibitors in the area. Adding icing to the cake, Abbey walked away with a 3 point major on Sat followed by WB on Sun for 2 more points. We were thrilled especially since her co-owner, Cheryl Kelly, had flown in from Montana just to see her show. That was very special.

While at the show, we learned of a beautiful RV Resort in Kerrville, Buckhorn Lake RV Resort. It truly was lovely. Nestled in the hill country with a creek running through the facility and complete with nesting Trumpeter and Black Swans, it truly was a bit of paradise. Each site had a phone/modem hookup. Guess who was in email heaven for the week? I could catch up on all my correspondence right from the coach. That was terrific. They even served Hamburger/French Fry dinners on Wednesday and Pizza made to order on Friday nights-cheap. I didn’t have to cook much. Parked right across from us was a couple that show Pembroke Welch Corgis. We had a good week in Kerrville and plan to return next year. Being dog-friendly is another plus for this resort.

San Antonio was our next show. The grounds offered a large parking facility near the rings. We had some rain making it a bit sloppy, but the building was clean and dry. Since this was a 4-day show, we had lots of time to socialize and play. By now, we had gotten to know several of the exhibitors in ours and other breeds so it was beginning to feel like home. Abbey finished on Saturday, and our Suzan got WB on Monday. That was fun!!!

We entered the puppy match on Sunday with our new puppy, Jenna. It was the first time in the ring for this little girl so we weren’t sure what to expect. She did just fine and had a great time. I guess I should finally get around to registering her so she can begin her career soon.

The Houston Specialty was next. One of the newcomers to the breed ended up with Best Puppy in Sweeps, WD for a 5 point major and lots of compliments on her new baby. She was ecstatic, of course. The nice thing about the Specialty and All Breed Shows that followed was that all 9 wins were given to 9 different dogs and most of them went to owner/handlers. Unfortunately, it wasn’t our weekend, but if my kids show well and have a good time in the ring, what more can I ask of them? They have done their job well. There’s always a next time. I see more and more judges acknowledging owner/handlers and the fine quality of dogs they bring to the ring. It is very encouraging.

Finally, it was Dick’s turn for something special. We attended a Country Coach RV Rally in Eufaula, OK. The campground was nothing out of the ordinary but acceptable. We chose a spot at the end of the park so as not to bother anyone with the dogs. We shouldn’t have worried as everyone flocked to them. Later that week, we visited the new Oklahoma City Memorial. What an overwhelming experience that was. How anyone can walk away from there without tears in his/her eyes is beyond me. It is beautifully done, very detailed, graphic and documentary.

There is a "field of chairs" set on the actual site of the destroyed building in a garden-type setting, one chair for each victim of the bombing. At night the glass base of each chair is lit. We didn't go back after dark, but that must be like looking at rows of stars on the ground. The whole experience is really special.

The message of the Memorial is one of remembrance and hope. So many people's lives were changed in that one second, but many people came together to offer help, food, clothing, blankets, and anything else needed. It was amazing to see how all levels, races, classes and educations worked together in an attempt to save those trapped inside, those needing medical care, those needing food and shelter, and all the requirements for the rescue folks. Instead of dividing the city, it brought them closer together for a common purpose-to save those they could and to hold up the survivors and families of those they couldn't. The families and survivors also effected a change in the federal law by following the law and taking the proper course of action through the courts. They wanted to change the length of time a convicted prisoner on death row has to appeal. It happened peacefully, without violence, due to the determination of the people of Oklahoma City. Amazing how our system can work the way it was set down in our Constitution through peaceful means instead of violent actions.

We can be very grateful we live in America where we all have rights and freedoms and usually don't have to worry about terrorism. However, it was good to see something good come from something so evil.

Wichita, Kansas was our next show site. Amid high winds and rain (by the way, it rains dust in Oklahoma and Kansas) we had good weather during the day. Our entry was small for a show as large as this. That didn’t deter the determination of the competitors, but made for easy access to new acquaintances. We all had a good time chatting before and after ringtime and getting to know each other a little. Of course, it was fun to take some points, too. Mikey was our “big winner” for the weekend adding 3 singles to his score. Suzan topped it off for us on Sunday with WB and nice compliments from the judge.

Then, on we went to Bartlesville, OK, the home of “oil giant,” Frank Phillips, founder of Phillips 66. His huge, 3000 acre, summer estate, Woolaroc, is located just 12 miles south of the city. What an amazing place it is. Amidst beautiful woods, rocks, and lakes, Frank built a magnificent, log lodge and exotic, animal preserve. This is a must see for anyone who appreciates space and beauty. There is also a fabulous museum on the property with a huge art collection representing the area and interesting information about his life. The next day, we visited his mansion in town that was equally impressive. While in Bartlesville we just pulled into a Wal-Mart for the night. They are RV friendly as RVers usually drop a bundle in the grocery, etc. We were no exception.

Now on to our last shows in Grove OK. Driving across the state we again bucked high winds. That must be the norm for spring weather in this area. I think I‘d rather have snow than worry about all the tornadoes in these plains states.

Our first day was wonderful. Mikey got WD/BOW, Suzan was awarded WB and Rush took the breed followed by a Group 4 placement. What a day!!! The night that followed was also interesting. We were awakened by a police car blaring through the parking lot telling us to take cover in the Civic Center due to a storm scheduled to hit in ten minutes. Scared and shaken, we threw on some clothes, grabbed the dogs we could and ran through the driving rain to the center. There were all the other exhibitors, in like manner, huddled together to wait out the storm. We must have been a sight. As we left the RV, I said a silent prayer that God would take care of my babies left outside. As if to answer that prayer, the storm proved to be just lots of rain and lightning. The high winds didn’t materialize, and we returned to the coach about an hour later. The kids left behind we no worse for the interruption to their sleep. They curled back up and settled down with no problem. We were grateful that the storm skirted around us. It was yet another gift from God.

Easter Sunday dawned bright and beautiful. The show began. Suzan singled out with WB/BOW and wonderful compliments from the judge. We were thrilled!!! What a way to end our show experiences this winter. Tomorrow begins our trek home. I must say, even though we’ve had a wonderful time these four months, met some wonderful people, enjoyed the shows and managed some sightseeing, home will feel good although, I guess I‘d do this again.

We left a little of S’Dandi in Texas by placing a lovely, show prospect, Rush puppy with Ollie and Patty Williamson and breeding Bonnie Coulter’s nice bitch to him in Kansas. It will be fun to see Rush’s influence in new sections of the country. Good luck to both of you.

Those of us who own and travel with dogs must remember to be considerate of others. The most important thing is to clean up after our animals and try to keep the noise at a minimum. We’ve found welcomes everywhere as long as we have informed the parks first, cleaned up before we left and been open and friendly to people who want to see the dogs. It’s been worth it. It just depends on how much effort one is willing to make when traveling.

The only drawback to our trip was that we had to carry each dog in and out of the RV as I have trained them not to go down the steps alone. On the positive side, we both got lots of exercise. If you travel with your Tzu, it can be a wonderful experience for them and for you. Relax, enjoy and have fun. “Happy trails to you.”
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