A Very Special Shih Tsu   34 comments

Charl the shih tsu (pronounced shee tsoo) at his favorite place, the Oregon Coast.

Charl the shih tsu (pronounced shee tsoo) at his favorite place, the Oregon Coast.

I lost my friend yesterday.  He was named Charl.  I didn’t name him and, fittingly, it’s uncertain why his name is Charl and not Charles or Charlie.  He was a little shih tsu.  I have been blessed by having in the past 20 years two of the best dogs I could ever imagine.  First Sugar and then Charl.  Shih tsus are dogs originally bred in China for the households of royalty, where women with bound feet needed the warmth of their fur in wintertime.

Shih tsus have very unique and engaging personalities.  And this particular shih tsu had a truly unique personality even compared with others of his breed.  He was 16 years old and lived quite the full and exciting life.

Never let anybody tell you a small dog is not a “real” dog.  And never assume a small dog can’t go hiking and adventuring with you.  I had some of these preconceptions before I met Charl, and he shattered them all.  I inherited him from an ex when he was just one.  He was my companion for more than 15 years.

A little known fact about the old west that has been lost to history: shih tsu scouts!

A little known fact about the old west that has been lost to history: shih tsu scouts!

I swear he was part cat, especially with respect to having 9 lives.  There were many times when I thought he had been lost.  He had a habit of wandering from the trail and driving me crazy with worry looking for him.  One time he got lost while hiking high on Mt. Hood.  My uncle searched in one direction and I went the other.  When my uncle found him he was sleeping right at the edge of an enormous cliff.  Another time was in the snow and it had gotten dark.  I still don’t know how I managed to meet back up with him that time.

But until he got old he never shrank from a physical challenge.  I may have had to lift him up and over big rocks on climbs, but he would routinely do 15+ mile hikes with major elevation gains exceeding 3000 feet!  He was extremely healthy throughout his life, never sick and (almost) never a pain.   He could hold his pee for incredibly long periods if necessary.  And when he was too old to hike with me he’d wait patiently in my van for many hours.  He was a very mellow and relaxed little thing who almost never barked.

Charl in his later years was not as intrepid though he always played along.

Charl in his later years was not as intrepid though he always played along.

When on camping/photo safaris, as soon as I got up at dawn to photograph, Charl would move right into my sleeping bag.

When on camping/photo safaris, as soon as I got up at dawn to photograph, Charl would move right into my sleeping bag.

He almost became prey on a number of occasions.  On Hurricane Ridge in Washington it was only by very quick action on my part that he wasn’t taken by an eagle.  He even came face to face with a wild wolf, a lone alpha male in Yellowstone Park.  He was only 10 feet away, but again my presence saved him.  I snatched him up before the wolf could get any ideas about snagging a take-out lunch.

When he was a youngster he would disappear with his sister Abbi, most times at the beach.  Some time later I would get a call when someone found him.  Invariably they would’ve scored treats or even full meals.  He wore my phone number around his neck his whole life, and it was necessary in his case believe me.

This wolf is looking right at him but Charl had very little idea he was face to face with his wild origins.

This wolf is looking right at him but Charl had very little idea he was face to face with his wild origins.

On a trip to Yosemite National Park, Charl shows the local deer just how ineffectual he is as a hunter.

On a trip to Yosemite National Park, Charl shows the local deer just how ineffectual he is as a hunter.

All through these trials he maintained that extremely mellow disposition that everyone remarked upon.  When he was a puppy he was of course rambunctious.  But throughout his life he was a dog who could appreciate laziness in all its forms.  He slept many hours on my lap as I drove.  I thought of him as a lap dog who had adapted very well to an active life.  In fact, shih tsus are the most adaptable of all the lap dogs.

Charl was always happy to lounge on people and keep them warm, even little people.

Charl was always happy to lounge on people and keep them warm, even little people.

The great thing about lap dogs is you can take them anywhere.

The great thing about lap dogs is you can take them anywhere.

He learned how to hike by following my previous dog, Sugar.  There were some years of overlap when I had two dogs.  Sugar also taught him how to love streams.  He was afraid of them at first but after watching her cool down many times by plopping her belly down in cold creek water he got the idea and started following suit.

 

Charl goes canyoning in southern Utah.

Charl goes canyoning in southern Utah.

The only hassle was his fur.  It was the kind that doesn’t shed.  That made it strange.  It would pick up half of the forest floor as if it were velcro.  Powder snow would quickly ball up until he couldn’t walk for all the packed snowballs on his under-carriage.  He needed frequent combing and bathing.  Especially when his hair was long.  I always thought he looked more like a natural dog when his hair was long.

Charl is struggling in the snow because his fur picks up snowballs.  La Sal Mtns, Utah.

Charl is struggling in the snow because his fur picks up snowballs. La Sal Mtns, Utah.

So he got a free ride in my pack, the only time he skied!

So he got a free ride in my pack, the only time he skied!

His favorite place in all the world was the Oregon Coast.  He loved to run up and down the beach chasing the surf as it receded, chasing shore birds, having a ball.  He would run until he was a speck in the distance, and I would have to run after him.  He used to be so fast, like a flying dust mop!

Charl rests after some fun on the Oregon Coast.

Charl rests after some fun on the Oregon Coast.

The sand was good for playing in, but the warm rock is much better for napping on.

The sand was good for playing, but the warm rock is much better for napping.

Even the last time we were there, with him an old codger, he started to run for a bit before tiring quickly.  Because of his love for the beach I will be going with my uncle to the coast soon to scatter his ashes.  My uncle, Charl and I hiked many times together.

Charl as an old dog.  Though he eventually went blind, he aged gracefully.

Charl as an old dog. Though he eventually went blind, he aged gracefully.

I suppose I shouldn’t be sad that Charl is gone.  He lived a full life after all.  But I am sad, very sad.  I know that I will never meet a dog like Charl.  Rest in Peace buddy, you’ll be missed.

 

Charl: 1998 - 2014, Rest in Peace.

Charl: 1998 – 2014, Rest in Peace.

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34 responses to “A Very Special Shih Tsu

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  1. Never knew how much I could love a dog until I had one. Thanks for your beautiful tribute to your best friend. I know he’ll be missed.

  2. so cute and lovely 🙂

  3. Beautiful story and pics Michael ! I remember Charl well since I got to live with him and walk him for a bit ! I know how much you will miss him!!!

  4. I’m very sorry – take heart that you had so many years of wonderful memories with Charl. My parents have had two Llasa Apsos, both who seem to have no clue that they are just little. Size is what you make of it!

  5. Sorry to hear about your old friend.

    Friends
    Dogs, departed companions,
    I told you that the sky would fall in
    and it did. How will we see each other again
    when we’re without eyes? We’ll figure it out
    as we used to when you led me back
    to the cabin in the forest in the dark.
    – Jim Harrison

  6. So sorry for your loss! What a wonderful long life you gave him. I just love the photo-story 🙂 It reminds me so much of the life journey I had with our first dog, William. Like your Charl, he was just something special even for his breed, King Charles Cavalier, which are all quite wonderful and loving dogs. My heart warms when I remember William.

  7. What a great tribute to your sweet friend and companion. I know he will be missed terribly, but little Charl had a great and exciting life with you.

  8. What a wonderful tribute to your amazing dog. It brought to tears to my eyes. So very sorry for your loss. Rest well dear Charl!

  9. What a lovely little being. So much soul is those eyes. It’s perfectly okay to feel sad. It’s a profound loss when our companions leave us. Warmest wishes – Julie

  10. Lovely tribute to your dog. I feel your pain, I have not yet been able to write the tribute to my horse.

  11. What a beautiful tribute to Charl! So many memories you get to have of him, may you find peace in remembering. So sorry for your loss.

  12. loved the stories and tales you shared about him.

  13. Thank you so much for sharing Charl’s life and photos. I’m so sorry to learn about your profound loss. I’ll keep you two in my thoughts and heart.

  14. So sorry for the loss of your dear dog. He looked like a great adventure companion. You were fortunate to have each other for so long. Blogs are a nice place to share these kinds of tributes. I did the same when we lost our golden after 14 years. It helped me to recall and honor our lives together.

  15. I am sorry for your loss. You wrote a fine tribute to Carl and his photos were lovingly done.

  16. Such lovely photos you have to remember Charl by. I’ve never seen a Shih Tzu with so much hair, especially under his chin! He looks one in a million 🙂

  17. Really so sorry for your loss…

  18. So sorry for your loss but what beautiful memories you two made over the years. 🙂

  19. I am so very sorry for your loss. Nothing can describe the pain of losing such a friend, but this tribute is a fine, fine thing. I’ll charge a glass to Charl this evening.

    If you ever get the chance, or feel the need right now, i can recommend the astonishing Foreword to a book, “Red Neck Blue Collar Atheist.” The author, Hank Fox, describes so beautifully the loss of his dog, and best friend. It’s heart wrenching, but incredibly pertinent. It helps. I know. I think you might even read the whole thing in the e-sample if you follow the link. It begins on page 9.

    My thoughts are with you.

    http://www.amazon.com/Red-Neck-Blue-Collar-Atheist/dp/0615429904

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