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HARRISON – The Shih Tzu, with its silky, wavy coat and eager, intelligent eyes, is one of the most endearing of the small companion dog breeds. And that luxurious, dense coat requires a great deal of regular grooming.
Clare County Director of Animal Control Rudi Hicks told the Cleaver that it is not uncommon for Shih Tzu grooming to include at least three haircuts per year. Hicks and her coworkers came into possession of a severely neglected Shih Tzu last week, and not only was this little dog not receiving regular grooming care, but it had been so severely neglected that it took the expertise of a professional groomer to even tackle the task.
Hicks said the dog, Daisy, was surrendered by Adult Protective Services, which was acting as guardian of the person who owned the dog.
“She was a mess,” Hicks said. “We guess [by her teeth] she is 4 years old – she’s the sweetest dog, loves everybody.”
Initially told the dog was quite matted, Hicks had said she could shave mats off. But when she saw the little dog – which actually looked like a cross between a haystack and the Addams Family’s Cousin Itt – she realized she was in over her head and took the dog to Tammy Mitchell, owner-operator of Bark n Bathe at 134 E. Main St. in Harrison.
“She did a good job for us, God bless her,” Hicks said. “She said that dog never moved, just sat there and let her clip her face, her feet, her toenails. She never growled, never snapped, nothing.”
Hicks described the dog as being at a good weight, social and pretty well housebroken.
“In here it’s hard to tell, but if you can get her out [of her cage] she goes right to the door, outside, potties and comes right back in,” Hicks said.
Mitchell also declared Daisy to be extremely sweet and further described the dog’s condition.
“I haven’t done a dog in that condition in at least 20 years,” she said. “Before I started shaving her, I wasn’t sure what [breed] she was.”
Mitchell said the Shih Tzu’s classic longer hair, including a long beard, requires brushing as often as three times a day. For the more common shorter cuts, she recommends regular grooming every eight to 12 weeks, with winter care done at least every eight weeks to prevent formation of ice balls on their feet.
“There’s a lot to maintain on them and they need to be groomed regularly,” Mitchell said. “Most people have them done shorter because they don’t want the upkeep of brushing them every day.”
Little Daisy’s hair mats had to be clipped away before Mitchell could even see the dog’s toenails, which the groomer said were an inch and more in length. She said some of the nails were starting to curl, but the matted foot hair actually had prevented the nails from curling around and back into the toe pads.
“I felt so bad for that baby,” Mitchell said. “They took her out of the cage and I thought, I’m so glad I didn’t say ‘no.’ And I could have because I really didn’t have the time. I worked her in, and I’m so glad that I did – she was just the sweetest little girl.”
The groomer also noted that Daisy’s condition was not consistent with her personality.
“She’s been loved,” Mitchell said. “She was very cuddly once we got her shaved down. We didn’t cuddle on her before, in the condition she was in, because we didn’t know what [skin condition] we were going to find under that mat.”
Surprisingly, no skin issues were discovered under all the matting other than a bit of irritation from mild tugging during the shaving process.
Mitchell advises that if a person does not have the time or finances to properly care for a Shih Tzu, they should not get one.
“They’re expensive, and they should be treated as one of your family members,” she said. “Shih Tzus are very affectionate dogs – I really hope she finds a home.”
With all the care and attention being paid to this charming, affectionate little dog, it is quite likely prospective families will be lining up to provide Daisy with a proper home and all the loving care she deserves.