This is the story of Teddy . . . an incredible Shih Tzu with a tremendous heart who taught me an important lesson in love and courage.
In 2005, my daughter and I purchased Teddy from a pet store (this was before I learned the truth about pet stores). He was so cute, chubby, and adorable we simply couldn’t resist this four-legged ball of fur.
Teddy has always been a puppy at heart. He chewed shoes, papers, and nibbled our beloved African violet collection – one by one. One day I came home from work and there he was sitting in the middle of my kitchen thoroughly delighted to show me plant material hanging from his mouth.
Every inch of my kitchen floor was covered with dirt or the last remnants of another African violet plant. He decimated this plant to the point there was not a leaf left to salvage.
Teddy, by nature, is quite a very happy fellow. You can easily read it in his facial expressions. I always hated to correct his wayward puppy behavior. After disciplining him for being a bad boy, he would walk away from me with his head hanging low, dragging his tail. He made me feel like a heel. Teddy could never stand me being angry with him. That little puppy inside him was bursting to get out.
Even though his head was hanging down, I could see he was looking out of the corner of his eyes to find a favorite toy. Since the house was loaded with toys it didn’t take him long to find one. Immediately, he would pick up a toy and come running back to me. He’d throw his toy in the air and shake it in his mouth as if to say, please don’t be mad at me, I’m cute, come play with me. Of course, I would fall for his trick every time.
Teddy grew up to be one very handsome Shih Tzu. Oh, how he loves to travel and meet new people! He’s traveled on airplanes, but he’d much rather sit in my lap on a pillow when we went on long road trips. I never understood why he always had a thing for semi trucks and cows grazing in the field. The semi-truck drivers would wave and honk their horns. Teddy ate it up. He loves to be loved and played the spoiled ham to the hilt.
I noticed when Teddy was five years old, he had trouble getting up the steps and acted as if his back was hurting him, especially when the weather was cold. It only happened a couple of times and he got better in a day or two so I didn’t think it was anything more serious than sore muscles. I didn’t realize that trouble was just lurking around the corner.
The day was December 19, 2009. My daughter received money for her birthday and Christmas, and as children do, she had such an urgency to go shopping immediately to spend it all. I put Teddy outside in the cold to go potty. When he came up the stairs he yelped in pain. I thought oh, you poor guy, sore muscles again. Since we were going to be gone for a while I put Teddy on my warm bed and made him comfortable. I thought he would be fine until we got home. We were gone most of the afternoon.
When we got home, Teddy came to greet us — dragging his back legs. What alarmed me was the fact he didn’t seem to be in any pain. I am thankful my vet has 24-hour service. The vet took him immediately. The vet thinks something happened to Teddy’s back when he jumped off the bed. He took X-rays but wasn’t equipped to handle an injury of this nature.
After two days, it was determined to take Teddy to a neurologist 100 miles away. I drove the 100 miles in a snowstorm to the waiting neurologist. More tests revealed that Teddy had ruptured a disc in his back. The neurologist said due to the fact the other discs were thinning, it looked like this was a genetic condition. The following day, a myelogram would be performed to see if surgery was indicated. This was going to cost me a fortune, but I didn’t care. I wanted the very best medical care for Teddy. I was, in fact, not thinking about getting another dog, although our neighbors just got a very cute German Shepherd puppy. But would that fit in our family?
Anyway, I was home when the neurologist called. He said the damage was too severe and surgery was now no longer an option. As if the news wasn’t bad enough already the neurologist went on to say the damage was so bad the paralysis was traveling up his back. It was such a rare occurrence he only read about it in textbooks. If the progression of the paralysis wasn’t halted soon, Teddy would be unable to breathe on his own.
I was sick with fear and fervently prayed that I wouldn’t have to make the decision end his life. The days went by slowly. The vet even called me Christmas Day to give me an update on Teddy’s condition. Needless to say, we didn’t celebrate Christmas that year. It took a little while, but the neurologist was able to halt the progression of Teddy’s paralysis after it had traveled over a four-disc region.
Of course, Teddy became the little darling of the animal hospital. The doctor told me more than a couple of times that he was relieved that I decided not to put Teddy down. Most people do because they fear the unknown. He told me Teddy had a very special personality and was one very, very lucky puppy. I still had a lot of doubts and fears if I was doing the right thing. Can I handle a paralyzed dog? What kind of quality of life would he have?
Since Teddy was going to be permanently paralyzed, it was recommended that we order a special cart from K-9 Carts. I didn’t hesitate a moment and told the neurologist to go ahead and measure Teddy for his cart. A couple of days later, K-9 Carts called me to verify Teddy’s measurements. In the end, they asked me if this cart for a short, fat dog? I told them they pretty much summed up my Teddy.
Two weeks went by before Teddy came home. I had strict instructions that Teddy was supposed to get lots of R & R for six weeks. No problem as I was going to do everything in my power to make him well. It broke my heart to go to work in the morning and leave Teddy all alone on a pillow near a bowl of water and food. I noticed when I came home he didn’t even try to move from his pillow. He was either too afraid or didn’t know how. I also noticed the sparkle was gone from his eyes. Again, I was wondering if I was doing the right thing because he was such a sad puppy.
A few days later Teddy’s cart arrived. We had to size it a little more to make it into a perfect fit. I couldn’t believe it; we barely had Teddy strapped in the cart and off he went! The sparkles in his eyes were back.
Teddy has wheels. It has been six years since Teddy’s injury. Teddy is 13 years old. He’s now blind due to glaucoma. During this difficult time, we’ve formed such an incredible bond of love and trust. He knows I am always there for him. I don’t know how he does it, but even though he’s blind he always manages to find what he’s looking for. Teddy still continues to enjoy car rides, going for walks, and sleeping next to me in bed. He thoroughly enjoys the back massages I give him.
I can look back and clearly see I made the right choice in giving Teddy a second chance for a quality life. He has taught me so much and to have courage even when things look hopeless. Many times people point at Teddy and say: Oh, you poor thing. I tell these people that Teddy doesn’t realize he has a problem – people have the problem. Just look at his face, can’t you see how happy he is?
Since Teddy’s injury, I’ve become passionate about Shih Tzus and their health. My daughter and I now raise, groom, and when time permits, show Shih Tzu. I’ve since learned you shouldn’t buy a Shih Tzu (or any breed of dog) from a pet store. Pet stores don’t know the true health or quality of the pet they are selling. It is best to stick with a knowledgeable breeder who will be there for you and answer ALL your questions.
We will always continue to have a Shih Tzu in my home. Most of my family and friends own Shih Tzus. We thoroughly enjoy spreading the pure joy and happiness only a Shih Tzu can bring.