Shih Tzu Nation

By Mir
January 25, 2022

Good news: I’m back again, in under a month! With the words, and stuff!

Bad news: Nothing interesting ever happens here except as it pertains to the dogs. If you aren’t interested in dogs, first of all, what is wrong with you, and second, this is not going to be very interesting.

When we last left off, everything was broken and/or deeply annoyed. Goose was in a cone and battling her mortal enemy, thrice-daily eye drops, and our house was presumably about to burst into flames due to faulty wiring, which would’ve been sad but also most of our electronics were already fried so, eh. We are now rewired and less dangerous, and Goose is fully recovered from surgery, footloose and cone-free.

And while it’s true that we are still operating our garage door via a spare clicker my husband has literally hung on a nail in the wall with a zip-tie (klassy!), most of the broken things have been repaired or replaced.

Which of course meant it was time for more Dog Shenanigans™.

First, the very best news: Rosie was adopted! Her new mom adores her and immediately set about spoiling her rotten—as she deserves—and this picture of her lounging in her new home made me so, so happy.

“Why yes, I am the queen.”

(For those of you playing along at home, this puts my fostering batting average at a solid .500, which I feel pretty good about.)

The very same day that Rosie was due to go out on her “trial” (we allow adopters to take a week to see how things go), I saw a tiny ball of matted fur listed on a local shelter website and sent said listing to one of the rescue volunteers who coordinates which dogs get pulled for fostering. About an hour later I received a text letting me know that another volunteer had visited him and gotten a tentative tail wag; yet a third volunteer would be headed out there later to dog-test him (check to make sure he would be okay with other dogs, using a well-trained dog to gauge behavior) and pull him if he did okay.

This, by the way, was the first picture I received:

Maybe just a sad possum wearing a terrible toupée.

“Oh lord, what a mess,” said the volunteer to whom I’d sent his listing.

“YOU KNOW THAT’S HOW I LIKE THEM,” I replied, positively giddy.

I decided to bring Goose over to the shelter during the dog testing, to make sure they’d get along. At this point, Goose was still in the cone. Tiny mess of a dog was non-reactive (good) but clearly also very overwhelmed (poor baby), and Goose was nonplussed about the entire thing. The other volunteer there took the new rescue home while I went to my home, dropped off Goose, bathed Rosie, and then got her all ready and delivered her to her new family. On my way home from dropping off Rosie, I picked up the new dog. I carried him into the house and set him down, whereupon Goose gave him a thorough sniffing while he stood there like a tiny, terrified statue.

“Um, why is this weird lamp all up in my grill?”

He was matted and filthy, so I set up my grooming station and shaved him down. (Anyone who wants to come for me for not leaving his coat longer, shush. He was matted to the skin and it’s very painful when that happens; literally the only humane solution is to cut all the hair off and start from scratch.) Underneath all of those snarls and dreadlocks I found one 9-pound wall-eyed Shih Tzu with a weirdly human-looking underbite and a bad case of resting bitch face.

“Hi, I’m Grok and I don’t know how to dog.”

He refused all offered treats during grooming, refused kibble when we were done, and ran straight into his crate and cowered in the back of it. This was how he tried to spend almost his entire first week, with a few notable exceptions.

In the beginning, I simply moved his crate around the house depending on where we were hanging out. I let him stay in there, but I made sure the crate was in the same room as us. After a couple of days I would reach in and extract him, and hold him for a while, and I wouldn’t say he LIKED it, but he endured it. One day I reached in to pull him out for a bit of cuddle therapy and I noticed, um, things did not look quite right in the, er, penile region.

Listen, I’ve had male dogs before. I am familiar with the periodic appearance of the red rocket. But I’ve never had an intact male before (Grok is not yet neutered) and I’ve also never seen ANYTHING like what I saw that day. And Grok was shivering, which can be an indicator of pain. So I snapped a picture (no worries, I will not share it here) and sent it in the rescue group to ask for advice, and the IMMEDIATE response was “Call the vet right now.” Which: ACK.

Long story short: Grok—my new foster who was scared of everything and only wanted to hide in his crate—was experiencing an episode of paraphimosis (DO NOT CLICK THAT LINK IF YOU ARE SQUEAMISH) and we had to run off to the vet for immediate medical attention. The vet was able to, uh, resolve everything, but then when it was time for me to go, they—I swear this is true—gave me a handful of packets of lube and told me that if it happened again I should “generously lube everything up and guide the penis back into place.” Um. WUT. “Oh,” I said, throwing the lube into my purse. “No thank you.” The ladies behind the desk and I all chuckled together, nervously.

“Well,” one finally said, brightly, consulting the computer. “We’ll see you back here for his regular appointment on Monday!”

“Yes!” I agreed. I turned to the tiny dog in my arms. “But no handjobs on Monday, dude.” Fortunately, this brought more laughter, even as I remembered why I’m not usually allowed to go out in public.

Lucky for me, there has not been a repeat episode, and he’s being neutered this week, so fingers crossed for that being our one and only close encounter with Grok’s manhood. PHEW.

Ever so slowly, Grok started spending a little more time outside of his crate, sometimes even of his own volition. The good news is that he turned out to be mostly housetrained (whether truly so or just too neurotic to potty unless he witnessed another dog doing so, WHO KNOWS?) even though the shelter estimated his age at just a year. The bad news is that his who-knows-how-long time as a matted mess meant that 99% of the time, he would pee on his own front legs whenever he peed, because prior to being shaved everything was just… uhhh… trapped and stinky, anyway, so cleanliness wasn’t exactly his priority. He also has needed a sweater or coat most of the time because it’s been cold here and he lost his floof, so every potty trip for the first week pretty much meant taking the dogs out, encouraging him to go, praising him for doing so, and then coming inside and throwing his sweater in the washing machine and also giving him a quick scrub. And then we had this weird storm and it SNOWED and that was very alarming and meant maybe should not potty ever? Am confuse?

“Get off my lawn!”

About 6 days in, Grok decided I was safe and also sort of comfy, and thus began what I am now referring to as the New Baby days. Because Grok wants to be ON me, and if he is NOT on me, Grok cries. Have you heard a 9-pound dog cry? It’s pitiful. So if I am, say, standing in the kitchen cooking, he is sitting at my feet, crying. And if I am sitting down—aaaaaaanywhere—he is in my lap.

“You’re my mommy now.”

This has been interesting, both because it’s been a long time since I parented a needy infant and because Goose is slightly miffed that my lap is always occupied. Of course, Goose seemed slightly depressed even before Grok arrived, and I was just beginning to wonder if I should worry when she finally got her cone off. And LO, GOOSE RETURNED. Goose was just really mad about the cone, I guess, and she once again became her goofy, joyful self once her head was freed. Yay!

Up until this point, the dogs had mostly ignored each other. And Grok did little other than hide in his crate or sleep in my lap. But one day he was hanging out in my lap while I was wearing sweatpants, and I looked down to discover that he was quietly chewing away on the drawstring. So I took him into the family room and offered him a rope toy and he PLAYED WITH IT. LIKE A REAL DOG. And then Goose tried to play with him, and that was scary, so he he ran back to my lap. Still, it was progress.

Grok warmed up to eating kibble but continued to refuse treats for a while. Or, more specifically, he would politely take the treat and go drop it in his crate. So I suppose it was only a matter of time before my nighttime “Everybody go crate, get a treat!” declaration was met with this:

“Go ahead, give him a treat. I don’t mind.”

We had to drag Goose out of there (she has her own crate!), and she was annoyed. You could practically hear her insisting that he wasn’t gonna eat his treat, anyway, and you shouldn’t let it go to waste!

At this point, Grok spends very little time in his crate, follows me around like a duckling, runs outside when told it’s time (and yes, Goose taught him to use the dog door), and happily sits for (and actually eats!) his treat when it’s being dispensed. He’s changed so much in less than two weeks, it’s nuts. And then a couple of days ago, Goose pounced on Grok out of nowhere, and just as I was running over to grab and scold her, Grok rolled over and batted her face.

And then they were playing.

The first time it happened was like a miracle. And the next few times it happened, it was just more hilarious every time. Now, it’s part of their routine that Wrestlemania must commence on my bed every morning after Otto lets them out but before I’m actually awake, so that’s fun. (And by “fun” I mean “loud and bumpy and kind of annoying but also adorable.”) Grok only wants to play about half as often as Goose does, which means Grok’s ears are perpetually damp (from Goose chewing on them) and also that I say “Stop, he’s telling you no” 15 times a day while Grok tries to crawl inside my shirt and Goose continues trying to bite him.

Actual, if blurry, footage of Goose trying to eat Grok.

I have zero inclination to adopt Grok, as 1) I’m still embarrassed to have foster failed on our first foster, 2) our favorite thing to say about Grok is “head empty; no thoughts,” and 3) Goose is plenty of entertainment. Buuuuuut now that they’re such exuberant playmates I wonder if maybe I should get my dog a dog, as it were. Goose never played with Rosie (not for lack of trying on Rosie’s part) and this was a complete surprise, but she seems to adore him. Still, that’s not a good enough reason to keep a whole ‘nother dog, even if he is pocket-sized. Right? I think? We are enjoying the antics while they last, though.

Speaking of antics, when we decided to adopt Goose, Chickadee decided to give us a DNA kit for her for Christmas. My love of Shih Tzus is well documented, but I really wanted to know what Goose was mixed with. Anyway, SURPRISE!

Adopt a dumpster dog, get a purebred.

Goose is 100% ridiculous, and also 100% Shih Tzu. ALSO once you’re in the database you can find “close relatives” and she matched with a dog not too far away that appears to have been with her family since puppyhood, so I reached out to the family to see if we can find out anything about the breeders, because that’s probably where she came from. (Do you want to test your dog’s DNA? My referral link will get you $50 off!)

Anyway, that’s what’s happening here. Grok heads back to the vet for the big snip-snip in a couple of days and then HE’ll be in a cone and who knows what will happen then. I feel like the constant game of bigmouth will have to pause, but I guess we’ll see. It seems like Grok is forever at a disadvantage, being 30% smaller than Goose, plus he barely knows how to dog. Maybe with a cone he’ll actually be able to hold his own during Wrestlemania.

Just out of curiosity and hypothetically and for no reason at all, how many Shih Tzus do you suppose I could accumulate before Otto would divorce me? Asking for a friend.


  1. Jess Van Dyne-Evans

    Well, in today’s photo, you have a dog on each side. Otto MUST be feeling left out. Any loving wife would MAKE SURE he had his own bookends…..:)

  2. Sandy

    I don’t know. Goose and Grok look like they really enjoy playing with each other. I think Goose would like to have a dog to play with. :)

  3. Beth Stoddard

    I am SO glad you are writing again. I love this, and Grok kills me. That face…

    PS You should 100% keep him.

  4. Angela

    Adopting a foster dog is not failing fostering, it’s wonderful and win-win and earns you bonus points! Sure there are limits but I don’t think you’ve reached them. :) Either way you are doing wonderful things – keep up the good work!

  5. Aimee Parrott

    Excuse me lady, you have a 100% foster win percentage. Goose was adopted, correct? If you adopt Grok, you will STILL be at 100%.

    Also, I love Goose and Grok. I’m not even a small dog person but they are fricking adorable.

  6. Chuck

    I’m a Grok fan but it’s your call. As you’ve said, he’s young and it will not be a challenge to find him a furever home if that’s what you choose. But I think your home would make a pretty awesome furever home for him also. :)

  7. June

    Man, I wish I’d had that referral link before I ordered a kit last week! We have a rescue that is supposedly a Shih Tzu/Jack Russell mix (we call her our little Jack Shit, of course) and I can’t wait to see the results.

  8. Susan

    Sounds like the title of a children’s book. Goose and Grok. You’ll know if he is the one to stay when the time comes. Until then, enjoy the antics.

  9. Liz

    I think that you should adopt Grok because he is OBVIOUSLY Goose’s dog.
    And thank you for allowing my supremely asthmatic pet allergic self to live a pet life vicariously through you.

    • Mir

      Hahaha but if I allow my dog to have a dog then do I have to get my dog’s dog a dog and if so, WHERE DOES IT END, LIZ??

      Also, fun fact: I am also asthmatic and incredibly allergic to dogs. This is how my love of Shih Tzus began, because they have hair, low-to-no dander, and are (theoretically) hypoallergenic. They don’t trigger my allergies at all.

  10. Karen

    In Mir Speak – Welp. My dog has two dogs, so please, woman! JUST DO IT. Otto adores you beyond the beyond, that’s been pretty clear forever, he’s not going anywhere. SO.. just adopt Grok, and let the third *Shit* be the foster that doesn’t fail, the revolving door dog. Two is company, three is a crowd, and all that. Although my three are awesomeness together :-) You’re welcome.

  11. Becky W

    We did DNA testing with our Shadow. People with Schnauzers said he was one, he looked exactly like a Schnauzer. He was 1/2 Poodle! He would have been so embarrassed we never told him! Anyway, 3 is the best number so some catch up is in order, maybe a Grok for Goose and a Yorkie for Otto (also a dog with hair). We have 2 and the little boy ONLY loves my husband. They are pretty funny too. Good luck on your foster journey. Sounds like you’re doing a great job so far. Congratulations Rosie!!

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