Molly-Joe, Miss Personality for Shih Tzu

By Dorothy Johnson


I met Molly-Jo at her owners’ home on Hillside Street Extension on Monday.  I had met Molly-Jo before and had found her friendlier than she was at her own house.  She is a bit territorial and does not like to have her picture taken. Still she has a Miss Congeniality kind of personality.

Molly-Jo will be three in July and has been with John and Jo Gallant since she was old enough to leave her mother.  She loves to play with other dogs whether they want to play or not and usually gets their attention by harassing them until they play in self-defense.

Molly-Jo loves to ride, stay at camp in Kitchen Cove and her favorite toy.  Her toy, a skinny, stuffed dog, has seen better days.  The toy has been left at camp, frozen in the driveway, lasted through several washings and become the constant companion of its owner.  When Molly-Jo is just taking a trip outside, she is not allowed to take the toy. She takes it as far as the door, drops it and hurries back to pick it up and takes it back in the house.  However, when she goes on a ride, the stuffed dog must accompany her.  She will not leave home without her toy.

While usually “just awesome” according to her owner, she does have a few minor problems.  She does not like to go to the veterinarian and starts to shake as soon as her owner turns into the Little River Veterinary Clinic.  She is also terrified of fireworks and noises and makes her wishes to evacuate the area known to her owners.  John and Jo took her to the Pirate Festival in Eastport, but the noises were just too much for her.  Jo had to take her to the car and sit with her.  Soon Molly-Jo convinced her owners to leave.

She loves the routine of home.  She waits on the stairs while Jo does the laundry, and when Jo finishes the laundry, she is met at the stairs by a loving dog sharing kisses.  Molly-Jo meets visitors at the door and makes her decision on their status.  Of all the loving people in her life (and she has many loving people around her) Molly-Jo is most attached to John and Jo’s granddaughter Maya Gallant.  Maya is the cat’s meow (or should I say, the dog’s bark?) as far as Molly-Jo is concerned.

In general the Shih Tzu, which originated in China, is loyal, affectionate, outgoing and alert.  Through history this breed has been a highly-valued, prized companion.  They make great watch dogs but are not very good as guard dogs.  They interact well with others so are usually good with other dogs.

Shih Tzu is a Chinese word for “lion dog.”  They were bred to resemble “the lion as depicted in traditional oriental art.”  Usually weighing between 10 and 16 pounds, the Shih Tzu is a small dog with a short muzzle and large dark eyes.  Their coat may be any color though a blaze of white on the forehead and at the tip of the tail is frequently seen.  All show dogs of this breed have long, silky double coats, but those that are not show dogs may often have their coats clipped short.  The coats take a lot of care and sometimes this care can be costly. Daily brushing is necessary.

This breed has a number of health issues, some of which are hereditary. No data has been collected on the percentage of dogs with these ailments.  One disease they have is hypothyroidism.  Symptoms for this include hair loss, weight gain, muscle loss and lethargy.  This can be diagnosed through blood tests and can be effectively treated with drug therapy.  Another disease they may have is Intervertebral Disk Disease, which is manifested by acute back pain and loss of coordination.  This disease is common in all toy dogs.

The Shih Tzu often has breathing problems because of its short muzzle.  Other common diseases of this breed are portosystemic shunt of the liver and hip dysplasia and, in some cases, epilepsy.  In spite of these diseases, the median life span of a Shih-Tzu is 13 years 2 month with most living between 10 and 16 years.

The Shih-Tzu is a wonderful family dog, but buyers must be cognizant of the particular care it needs and possible health problems.