The Dog Emailer

By Mir
September 5, 2009

So I’ve been meaning to tell you that Otto and I met a Real Live Dog Whisperer here in town, but after umpty-hundred emails back and forth I’ve decided that she is not, in fact, done justice with the moniker Dog Whisperer.

She is the Dog Emailer.

(Though I do not think she actually emails WITH dogs.) (On the other hand, knowing what I know now about her, it would not entirely surprise me if she did.) (But that’s not the dog I want, because I get grumpy when I have to share my computer.)

ANYWAY. There was some sort of dog festival thing here a few weeks ago, back before we all got sick and we contemplated putting one or both of the children on Xanax just to get through each day. Back when we were still under the illusion that everything was fine and dandy, we spent part of an afternoon petting dogs and talking to people, and then, being rescued.

See, despite our horrific experience with Super, we still want a dog. And we still would prefer a rescue to hand-picking a puppy that comes with papers and matches the drapes. For one thing, we don’t care about papers, and for another, we don’t even HAVE drapes. But if the experience with Super taught me anything, it taught me this: My instincts about animals are exceptionally craptastic.

I see a pair of cute little eyes and a drooly tongue and I fall in love, which (come to think of it) is a pretty good summary of my teenage dating years, too. Hmmm.

What we need is someone smart to take us through this process. Someone who knows things about dogs. Someone who can keep a cool head and be led by intelligence, not a propensity to start cooing in an annoying high-pitched voice the moment something with fur walks by.

What we need is the Dog Emailer.

The funny part is that we didn’t KNOW we needed her. In the course of talking with other folks, someone sent us over to chat with her, and she had us sized up in about thirty seconds. We told her the whole story: We want a rescue dog, we had this horrible experience both with the dog himself and with the rescue that gave him to us, we need something hypoallergenic, and P.S. we are sort of clueless but willing to learn.

She all but swept us onto her lap and patted us on our heads. After the initial conversation that day and multiple discussions via email since then, she “analyzed” our needs, both in terms of the hypoallergenic-ness of a potential pet and what we as a family are hoping to have in a dog. (Point for the Dog Emailer: She required us to gather answers to all of her questions from the children as well as just from me and Otto. For the record, Chickadee wants a dog that will sleep in her bed and sit on her lap when she’s reading, and Monkey would like a dog that will run around with him sometimes and lick his face when he’s tired. I’m glad they’re keeping their desires nice and general.) We talked about the setup of our house and our property (including the fence that Super slipped through, and whether we’ll consider erecting more/better fencing), and who will take the dog to training classes once he’s come home.

The Dog Emailer suggests we find either a whippet (these are not truly hypoallergenic, by the way, and we’ve discussed that, though they are very low-shedding and low-odor dogs) or a shih tzu.

As we continue emailing back and forth, the Doggie Wars have begun here at home. Otto has very little opinion on the matter; while he wants our eventual dog to be a reasoned choice and a good fit, the breed doesn’t matter much to him. Me, I’m really torn, because I’ve sort of fallen in love with whippets but I know that shih tzus are arguably a slightly healthier choice, allergy-wise, and I am also somewhat prejudiced against little dogs. But Monkey has seen whippets run and wants a whippet, period. And Chickadee is convinced shih tzus are little pom-poms of love and and if we get one it will spend its lifetime in her lap, so she wants one of those, period.

Meanwhile, the Dog Emailer and I continue to correspond about breeders, rescues, animals I’ve found on Petfinder, and the relative merits of these two breeds when it comes to things like taking the dog camping with us.

It’s possible I may not have mentioned that if we get a whippet, we sort of have our hearts set on naming it Devo.

It’s also possible that I found a shih-poo on Petfinder last night and began cooing at the screen. Upon sending the listing to the Dog Emailer, I noted that I wasn’t sure if the dog had eyes (he’s a real puffball with a completely furry face), and she emailed back, “Eyes are overrated. Go check him out.”

Maybe she’s actually the Dog Yoda. “Feel he will, with furry face he has.”

Regardless, we’re strapped in for it to take a while, but we’re hopeful we’re on the road to finding our dog.


  1. chris

    as a two-time shih tzu owner, i can only praise them both to the skies. louie (rip after 13 happy years) arrived when our 5 were all much younger and grew up with them as part of the pack. murphy has come on the scene of late and is no lessed loved, although the pack has started to grad school and law school and college, etc. they literally live to hang out with people and are happiest in that role! i can send you photos that will make you get misty-eyed but you don’t need that. my only word against a larger dog would be to remember that he occupies a LOT more physical space than what he appears to when sitting still. blessings!

  2. Lucinda

    Divo! Brilliant. Thanks for the morning laugh and good luck with the continuing dog search.

  3. Kathi

    Have owned both a whippet and currently own a shih tzu – just remember whippets are hyper and a shih tzu NEEDS to be groomed every 6 or so weeks and they can overheat outside VERY easily. Both are also prone to allergies.

    My dad raises labs so I had them growing up, I have had several shelter dogs as an adult, and I currently have a shelter lap/shepherd mix and shih tzu.

    All that said, I have never had a dog that can just make me smile like my shih tzu! He is the funniest, smartest, sweetest, cuddliest dog I have ever had. I have two grown kids and a middle schooler – my son got a shih tzu for his wife before he deployed to Iraq and she loves her little baby. My daughter and her fiance rescued a schnoodle (she has TERRIBLE allergies) and they have had great success with him.

    Having been the mom that, no matter what the kids say, always ends up with the bulk of the care – I recommend the shih tzu of your two choices.

    BTW, I know your decision is none of my business so feel completely free to ignore me – I am a mom, I am used to it!!

    Good luck!

  4. Chuck

    If whippets are like greyhounds in this regard, I think they’re total couch potatoes most of the time when they’re not outside running…so I’m sure Chickadee would still get lots of lap/cuddle time with one of them. Good luck in your search! (Also, your proposed whippet name is teh awesome.)

  5. lis

    Oh, good luck with whatever you decide! My dog makes me crazy almost every day, but she brings so much to the family. Dogs are so wonderful for families.

  6. Valerie

    Wow, your Dog Emailer is right on the money, I’d say, at least with it comes to Shih Tzus. My dad and stepmom were given one last January and while they weren’t particularly fond of smaller dogs, Vinnie has managed to win them over. He snoozes with my dad in the recliner, but he still loves running around outside with my stepmom when she’s in the yard. The funniest thing is the other animals. They have several geese and a goat, and they’re all afraid of Vinnie! He has absolutely no problems in the self-esteem department. I suspect when he looks in the mirror, he sees a big sheep dog. :) Bottom line, it sounds like the Dog Emailer picked one that would definitely work with all your wants and needs. Though I do love whippets… :)

  7. Em

    Is there any such thing as a Shippet? A Whipzu?

  8. Nicki

    Well, at least you’ve agreed on a name. My mom brought home a kitten once after I had left home. (Apparently the void I left was easily filled with something small and furry.) She and my sister couldn’t agree on a name, so poor Atlantis/Sasha was one messed up pet. They probably could have used a Kitty Whisperer.

    Best of luck on your continued search for the perfect pooch. Our baby Dane will be coming home next Saturday, so my adventure is just beginning.

  9. elizabeth

    I know a shih tzu breeder that also shows them; took one to Westminster even. And she recently had a litter of puppies. Well, she didn’t have them obviously, but she’s got puppies now. It’s papers and all that entails. If you want her email just let me know. Good luck with the search. You’ll find the right one this time.

  10. elizabeth

    oh, and that is the perfect name for a whippet

  11. Half Assed Kitchen

    I wish I’d had her when I was trying to decide to have children.

  12. Jess

    Has nobody yet suggested one of each–a whippet AND a shih tzu? ;)

  13. ccr in MA

    Oh, you have to get a whippet and name him Devo! Have to! Please! Do it for me!

  14. dcfullest

    My best friend had shih tzu– it was a great dog. She is small but doesn’t act like a yappy small dog, at all. She goes camping with the family all the time and loves it.

    She never goes to the groomer, a wash in the bathtub and occasionally brushing keeps her in great shape!

  15. Rachel

    We have a shih tzu and we love her, she is social, but not hyper and is not yippy. She is also 15 years old and wants nothing to do with our one year old, so I can’t really speak to the child friendliness of shih tzu’s. Go team shih tzu!

  16. wafelenbak

    Oh, I bet a Shih-poo would be a cute (and adorable) dog!
    My only complaint against Shih Tzus is that my parents’ neighbors have had two of them and both of them were champion barkers. But, with proper training I’m sure you could get that under control.
    Best wishes with the journey! :)

  17. Summer

    Ah, my father had a dog of that breed combo, and I always obnoxiously insisted on referring to it as a “shihtz-a-poo.”

  18. carolyn

    One of each sounds like the winning ticket to me.

  19. Michele Bardsley

    I have a Shih Tzu. He is the most laidback, loving, happy-go-lucky dog I’ve ever had. He’ll cuddle, but he’s also independent (unlike my Chihuahua, who spend 90% of his day on my lap). He loves everybody, even people and animals who do not want his love. That’s why I named him Cassanova. :-) Grooming, especially in the hot months, really helps him (they have a lot of fur), and I’ve had to take him to the vet for skin allergies (handled with medicated shampoo). Still. The coolest dog ever.

  20. catherino

    We just rescued a shih tzu about 8 months ago (to join the basset hound we already have) and it was the best decision we’ve ever made. We never thought we were “small dog people” but she has completely changed us.

  21. Kristie

    Whippets are sight hounds. Make sure if you choose to go this route you research what that means.

    I’m not a small dog person at all. I personally own a Pit Bull and a Rottweiler but I’ve met many Shih-Tzus that I’ve adored. The Shih-Poo might be your best bet. I think you’ll get the best of both worlds, a dog who will run with Monkey AND will sit with Chickie while she reads. :0) Poodles are actually herd-guarding/water retrieving dogs and are highly trainable.

  22. Nelson's Mama

    I’ve wanted to recommend a Shih Zhu to you all along, but you seemed to be really leaning to toward a larger dog.

    My Boy Nelson is a Zhu and is my first small dog, what I love about the breed (besides his endearing personality) is that he is fairly stocky and substantial. He is not a fragile, hot-house flower of a dog.

    He loves to snuggle on the couch, ride in the car, play tug, and loves my twelve year old daughter to distraction.

  23. Emily

    I’m going to ditto what Kristie said – do some research on sight hounds and what you need to do to make sure they are safe outside (either a fenced yard or always on a leash that you are holding on to). It’s not a good idea to let them run around the yard without a physical fence because if they see something in the distance (even if it’s something dumb like a plastic bag) they WILL go after it!

    Either way, good luck to you and your family finding the perfect pup for your clan.

  24. Jones

    Having owned whippets for many years and falling completely in love with their temperament I will praise them endlessly. BUT I would never recommend one for children or people with allergies. They shed a great deal. They are charming but more suited for couples/singles without children. Just a thought from a whippet owner.

  25. Heather

    I hope you find a wonderful fit!! :)

  26. Headless Mom

    You HAVE to have a whippet named Devo. You will be my idol for sure, then.
    (Although I just read Jones’ comment and that would be a bummer.)
    Still, a cool thought, though.

  27. Bill

    Any news at all about Super?

  28. Alicia

    Please, please bypass the shih-tzus and get a lhasa apso! My parents had 3 shih-tzus…all nuts, yappy, and boring. My lhasa is 11…no behavior problems AND cuddles, licks unless you tell her no runs and plays like a puppy still.

    Pay no attention to the warnings about kids either. Mine was 7 when we brought a baby into the house and she survived the toddler years with grace and never an atempt to bite!

  29. Amy

    Just want to put in my two cents – please consider a poodle. They are wonderful dogs, perfect for people with allergies (my husband is allergic to most living things),they come in all sizes, they are fun, affectionate, intelligent and adorable. You do not have to have them groomed into funny shapes, but you do need to brush them and clip them in a very basic manner. Poodles are awesome dogs!

  30. Catherine

    I’ve said this in comments before, and I’ll say it again. We are a dedicated Shih-tzu family, and I’ve fostered them as well.

    They are cuddly, velcro pom-poms of love. They also like to romp and play with toys.

    ‘Nuff said!

  31. Kimi

    I’ve never owned a Shih-tzu, but I’ve heard a lot of negative in regards to them and small children. You have to be very stern with them and everyone in your home (including your children) have to agree to and enforce a specific set of rules for the dog – else it will do as it pleases. The whole family has to act as the pack leader. You have to be really consistent and that can be difficult when children are involved.

    Their upkeep is moderate to extreme depending on the length of their coat and where you live. They require a daily brushing because of their long fur. They have sensitive eyes and ears that you have to keep clean and free of gunk.

    Whippets are good with kids if not teased or rough housed with. Despite what you’d guess by looking at them, they are actually very mentally sensitive dogs. They are big softies! Again, they need to be handled in a consistent manner – everyone in the family has to stick to a set of rules.

    Grooming is extremely simple. They have very short hair. In fact, you don’t really have to bathe them often – only when really necessary. But because of their short hair, they are rather sensitive to the cold. In cold weather, they require a jacket.

    A better fence than what you have now is absolutely essential. They are hounds. They will hunt and kill small animals – especially cats.

    I hope this helps you some in your decision making. I truly hope you find the right dog for your family. :)

  32. mom, again

    I know zilch about dogs except that all of them we had when I was a kid were a mess. Esp. the Weimaraner(sp?) that picked up the yappy dog habit as a puppy from our back door neighbors yappy dogs. His yap, yap, yap could be heard for miles, making us very unpopular in the neighborhood.

    Anyway, reading through things and knowing your lifestyle it sounds to me like a poodle/poodle mix has the additional feature of loving to be in the water. Which means, he’ll be in the pool with you! Which may be lots of fun and all, and would save on having to bathe him. But. Will this cause problems with your pool filter? Otto may be concerned with this. (I can’t envision a whippet in the pool, but should that be the case, it doesn’t sound like as big a problem. I envision a whippet on a lounge chair in the sun, toasting itself to happiness and warmth. And possibly enjoying a girly drink with an umbrella in it.))

  33. Kim

    Thanks for the ear worm, Mir. I love whippets ~ such graceful animals ~ and shih tzus are adorable, too.

    Your dog will find you ~ keep looking!

  34. joaaanna

    Cross ’em. A Whipzu? Or (my fave)Shiziit? Whippet kinda creep me out – but I imagine they are loving. I’ve been friends with one Shih tzu and he was so lovely… and loved to have his butt scratched. (he’d actually sit ON your feet until you would scratch his butt.)

    I will still praise the Bassett. Just because they are so, so, SO cool – if stubborn – but awesome. Although my Hubert has allergies (chicken, pork, wheat & yeast – yea, THAT’S fun) he makes me so happy.

  35. Nicole

    I am stunned by many things in this post. A. That there is a kind of animal called a whippet (I thought that was a nitrus oxide thing), B. that there is such a thing as PetFinder (is it like the Craigs’ List Classifieds for pets?) and C. the phrase. “Eyes are overrated.” Classic.

  36. Catherine

    My eldest daughter (who has some special needs) has read to Daisy (our shih-tzu) for years.

    Daisy sits quietly, and licks body parts only when allowed.

    Daisy is very literate as a consequence, and it only enhances her beauty to be a smart girl as well as a lovely one.

    I feel strongly about shih-tzus as family pets. But not as a whim. And not as a last resort.

  37. Catherine

    I’ve read Kimi’s comments…those comments could be true for any small breed, not just a shih-tzu. It’s interesting that she has those comments despite never owning a shih-tzu. That breed can be stubborn, but responds well to patient reinforcement.

    For any breed, large or small, I would agree with Kimi’s comments. Family training is important, and consistency is key.

    I find folks who editorialize on shih-tzus upsetting if they don’t actually know the breed.

  38. Mattee

    If you get a whippet, I’ll come over to greet him with my energy dome. While I am proud to say that DEVO was my first concert (and I still dance around the house singing Whip It, and It’s a Beautiful World, and Canary in a Coal Mine), I do NOT remember that video, from the early days of MTV. It was great fun to watch.

    Good luck on the dog choice. Me, I’m gonna find my energy dome and watch D-E-V-O some more.

  39. PandaWriter

    Our 20+ year old Shi Tzu (inherited from my boyfriend’s Grandmother when she went into a home that didn’t allow pets) just passed away, and I will admit she was the sweetest dog ever, and I will miss her. But:

    – she could not hold her bladder over 4-6 hours, so make sure s/he has a dog door s/he can get out as needed.

    – she had separation anxiety you would not believe, and would cut her face and paws wide open on the crate if contained while we were out. She managed to get over a 6 foot cinderblock wall one day (hurting herself on the drop off the other side) and ran off down the street after our car. So not the best in an “only dog” situation. Did much better when we got our Lab she could hang out with.

    – for what it’s worth, she was dumb as dirt so not all Shi Tzus are blessed in the brains department.

    – their eyes protude, so make sure you keep the fur around them well trimmed. They are prone to walking into things and sustaining eye injuries, and ours lost the use of one of her eyes after three separate surgeries for an injury that would not heal after she walked right into a low branch in the backyard one day.

    – she did like to bark, but we bought her a small “Booda” brand stuffed hippo and trained her to grab that and squeak it when we got home instead of barking her dang fool head off. It fed her need to make noise, and didn’t drive us nuts like the barking. It also allowed us to say “Good Booda, Booda, Booda!” on a regular basis. Which shouldn’t be underrated.

  40. PandaWriter

    … oh, and her idea of activity was to lie close to us and stare absently at a random wall for hours on end. But she was very very old already when we got her, so a younger one should be more interactive.

  41. PandaWriter

    … also, we kept her in a really short puppy cut, which nixed the long fur/brushing problem. And left her looking like an Ewok. Which in turn allowed her to live through 6 years of peeing on our carpets. (How could you punish that face?)

  42. Catherine

    PandaWriter’s comment shows an important point–Shih-tzus are a longevity breed. Ours was old indeed when she passed. I don’t think the 4-6 hour bladder issue is typical of healthy younger adults.

    In fact, our nickname for our shih-tzus during difficult weather (they hate storms) is “camel.” Meaning, they will hold it “furever” if given the opportunity and hold huge liquid stores inside themselves rather than expose themselves to adverse weather conditions.

    I think that PandaWriter should reflect if dogs should be expected to hold pee for over 6 hours anyway. I know I can’t.

    I’m a TEACHER, and rarely can go to the potty. But I know that I experience “issues” if I tried to regularly hold my water 6+ hours.

    Just sayin’


  43. PandaWriter

    Her having to hold it wasn’t because we didn’t give her access to the yard, BTW. It was because the minute she stepped outside to patio door, the Labrador puppy started trying to play with her. So that very day she gave up going outside at all unless escorted. Even though trained the Lab puppy to leave her strictly alone in the yard by the end of that first afternoon, she wouldn’t use the dog door ever again. Just walked to a corner of the living room and let loose. No matter how much we tried to persuade her that the yard was just fine, she wouldn’t go out in the backyard unless the Lab was locked in the kitchen.

    It’s hard arguing with a fully deaf and half blind 18 year old Shi Tzu. About the only thing she ever admitted to understanding was her name, and where the snacks lived.

  44. PandaWriter

    I can assure you, C, that we did not lock her in the house for hours on end and force a frail old dog to try to hold it.

    She had been a confirmed pee-in-the-house dog for a good ten years before she ever came to live with us. We’d take her out in the yard, and she’d come back in and run to the living room corner to pee 30 seconds later. She’d grown up – and old – in apartments, and thought she should not have to go outside if she didn’t feel like it.

    We just bought ourselves a steam cleaner, and tried to keep her happy and healthy in spite of multiple pre-existing health problems, including two fractured vertibrae from genetic spinal weaknesses, a hernia that kept recurring in spite of repeated surgeries, multiple eye surgeries and skin problems, and at the end congestive heart failure.

    I just didn’t think being old, stubborn, and poorly brought up, plus having multiple treatable health problems should be a death sentence. She’d been a faithful companion to a addled old lady who hadn’t bothered to train her, and she deserved a safe place to live out her life, quirks and all. Which I believe she had.

  45. Burgh Baby

    I think no matter what, karma owes you a really fabulous dog and it’s going to happen this time. Oh, and don’t judge a dog by its size. Our Lhasa Apso (who passed away last year) was about 15 bazillion times more wonderful of a dog than any big dog could ever hope to be.

  46. Michelle

    try a Bichon , they do not shed , good for allergies

  47. Kim

    “Rescue” became the name of my rescued Pom-and-longhaired Chihuahua mix. Everyone thought that was just adorable, and he was the best companion ever. One frozen winter night when he was lost, and I walked the neighborhood yelling “Rescue.” Finally a male voice answered, “What do you need?”

    After recovering from my own ridiculousness and a sleepless night with doors left open lest Rescue reappear, he came scampering back in the morning, dry and warm. Not a snowflake on him. We figure he got “caught” in someone’s garage when they returned home for the evening, and “escaped” when they left for work in the morning.

    Our current rescued dog came to us as a total mystery — his fur had been worn away by extremely poor nutrition and surroundings. Within a week of love and food, he had started to grow what has become the shedding-est coat ever. So much for my wish for a low-shedding dog. He also shares the wonderlust that your Super endulged; I can definitely relate to those antics. However, ours clearly knows to return home for food and a warm bed. Or maybe he’s just older than Super.

    Whomever you find, I encourage you to continue searching for a rescue dog. Sounds like the dog-emailer is providing great guidance.

  48. Catherine

    :tips hat to PandaWriter:

    I can imagine that the passing of the stubborn old shih-tzu was probably a relief.

  49. PandaWriter

    I wouldn’t call it a relief… She died just a few weeks ago, and obviously it’s still a tender spot.

    She may have been stubborn, but she was also sweetly goofy and just a trooper in spite of all her health problems. Never grumpy, never cranky. Not sure I would have done as well if I’d felt as poorly as she must have at her age.

    She just had the one smelly, soggy, insurmountable problem. Considering her complete lack of any training over the 15 years before we got her, I kind of felt that the blame of the problems she had should fall on the previous owners, not her. I will admit it wasn’t always easy to keep than in mind when I ended up with a nasty surprise and a very wet sock at 3am.

  50. Tammy

    Oh, I so want a Shih-tzu but dh doesn’t like small dogs. And, we already have a dog. Darn it!

    Good luck in your search!

  51. Andrea

    @PandaWriter–sorry for your loss. I know how hard losing a loved pet can be–even when they are not the easiest to live with.

  52. Pamela L

    My brother in Atlanta raises Whippets and he absolutely loves them – they are truly beautiful.

    My in-laws had a Shih-Tzu when we were first married. That was the best dog and my boys loved it when they were younguns.

    Either would be great – good luck on finding the one that belongs to just your family –

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