You know how an ugly breakup can make you do things, like get a drastic haircut? In the throes of a dark time in my life, I adopted a furbaby on a whim. Roxy, my first shih tzu puppy, was my thing.

Before I go into how my furbaby soothed the drama, let’s first get familiar with the breed and quickly dabble into the science of pet therapy.

Pet therapy and animal-assisted interventions

Animal-assisted interventions (AAI) are done by involving animals in an alternative or complementary treatment plan to help improve one’s psychological and/or physiological health. Pet therapy is one kind of AAI.

It’s not just dodgy voodoo business either. Scientific studies have shown promising evidence of how pets and animals benefit our well being. For instance, a study of elderly with Alzheimer’s disease showed that they ate more food (higher nutrient intake) and needed less supplements with a fish aquarium in the dining area, saving on health care costs (Edwards and Beck, 2002). Experiments also showed that live animals were better able to reduce anxiety compared to petting stuffed toys (O’Haire, et. al., 2015).

Imagine if most of our hospitals had pet cafes or even an aquarium in them, it would make a world of a difference. AAI has yet to go mainstream in the health sector and science needs to dive into this concept more, but it is well on its way to becoming very popular.

My shih tzu Roxy has been my pet therapy fluffball (the puppy version of a stressball, haha). Below are a few tidbits on the breed and why it is such an amazing dog to have.

Some key Shih Tzu traits and characteristics

Shih tzu dogs are small, beautiful and docile lap dogs whose origins trace back to 7th century Tibet, China. Their name means “lion dog” in Chinese, befitting their luscious mane that grows long down to the floor.

Because this is a toy breed, they are ideal indoors, even in small apartments. Very loyal, they love tagging along with their owners wherever they go. Mine goes as far as walking into the bathroom with me. When I take mirror selfies, Roxy would always be photo bombing the scene, the little diva.

Before adopting though, I was weighing the pros and cons of getting a pomeranian vs a shih tzu dog. Both are tiny and adorable fluffy pups. But here’s what I figured: pomeranians tend to bark more, so I went with the slightly more laid-back shih tzu. Also, to my surprise, shih tzu dogs have low fur-shedding tendencies compared to the high-shedding pomeranians. Both require high maintenance for grooming though, so best be ready for daily combing and monthly (or at least quarterly) trips to the professional groomers (Coates, et. al., 2020).

So, I chose a shih tzu for my first pet and named her Roxy, just because she is so undeniably foxy. 😉 As I am writing this, Foxy Roxy is now over 1 year old and she was born on May 13, 2019. I got her when she was just a two or three month old puppy, and I Iove her so so much!

Roxy – my ultimate gal pal, the sole witness to all my highs and lows

Ehem, as I was saying, I broke up with my ex a while back. So I finally got a floofy puppy of my own — hooray! 🙂 Roxy gave me a renewed sense of purpose and routine. I groomed and fed her daily, bathed her weekly and took her to the vet whenever she needed to.

Oddly enough, Roxy is also a living, breathing alarm clock. Before, I wasn’t used to waking up in the wee hours of the morning. Now Roxy peaks up over my bed and barks or licks my hands every day to wake me at the crack of dawn. She also likes to remind me when it’s time to eat. Such a sweetheart. I wonder how she can tell time like that without a clock like us silly hoomans? Dogs are just downright amazing, don’t you think?

As with most breakups that come with abrupt lifestyle changes, there were moments when I was sad for a little while. One time I just cried suddenly, and Roxy came up to me and stuck her boopy nose under my arms to comfort me (or perhaps just to see what was happening, who knows). She made me stop crying just with her cuteness and actual puppy dog eyes. <3

Of course, my puppy wasn’t the only key to moving forward. Friends and family were there for me too, of course. But Roxy was so instrumental as I adjusted to a new phase.

Also, don’t let her tiny figure fool you. When she barks, usually at stray cats outside, she becomes cutely fierce. But she usually settles down shortly and goes back to lounging about the house.

She brings me so much joy and I love how she is my mini-me — with those huge doe-eyes and fabulous lashes, plus an active and playful personality to boot. I love to fix her hairdo and put her in cute dresses because she is my little diva that likes to flaunt her floof. 😛 Here are some adorable photos of her from a few months old up to one year.

Feeling blue during the pandemic’s quarantine? I wrote about some ways to up the ante in our own homes entitled, “Wanderlust remedies for quarantine blues.” If mental health and self-care articles are your thing, make sure to check that out too.

How about you? Feel free to share photos and stories about your own puppy love and other luscious pets in the comments below. How do they play into your life? That would be so interesting to see! Thanks for checking this out. I wish you best of luck on your furparent journey.

References:

Coates, J., Bloom I., & Rodgers, L. (2020). Shih tzu dog breed: Facts, temperament and care info. (2020, April 30). Pet Central by Chewy. Retrieved August 27, 2020, from https://petcentral.chewy.com/behavior-breeds-shih-tzu-dog-breed/

Edwards, N. E., & Beck, A. M. (2002). Animal-assisted therapy and nutrition in Alzheimer’s disease. Western Journal of Nursing Research24(6), 697-712. https://doi.org/10.1177/019394502320555430

O’Haire, M. E., Guérin, N. E., & Kirkham, A. C. (2015). Animal-Assisted Intervention for trauma: a systematic literature review. Frontiers in Psychology6 (1121). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01121

Written by

May Gordoncillo

May earned her BS and MA degrees in communication from the University of the Philippines (UP). She is currently pursuing her PhD. This aspiring doctor of philosophy now unleashes her creative prowess in Luscious Mind.