A dog of frolic, the breed shih tzu (pronounced "sheed-zoo" in singular or plural), means "lion dog" in Chinese. It is believed the shih tzu was bred in Asia as far back as 1000 BC; the "chrysanthemum faced" pup was brought as a holy gift of high-esteem by Tibetans to the rulers of China.
"Histories are more full of examples of the fidelity of dogs than of friends," observed the great moral poet Alexander Pope.
With distinctive topknot, or pien-ji, the pampered shih tzu had an honored place in the Imperial Chinese Court during the Manchu Dynasty (1644-1911), with special symbolic importance to Buddhists who believed the lion was Buddha's most important companion.
The lion was a symbol of power and good luck and so revered, the ancient Chinese refused to sell, export, or give away the dogs.
Known for its abundant double coat, feather-duster plumped tail, regal bearing, and great affection, the breed is a playful, treasured companion. The first shih tzu were imported to the United States from England in 1938.
And shih tzus make the best pets. I should know. My shih tzu, Clapton, is the best dog in the world.
"A dog," said Martin Buxbaum, "wags its tail with its heart."
Pets can reduce blood pressure during times of intense stress and ease loneliness. Studies have shown that 30 minutes per week with a pet, called "animal-assisted therapy (AAT)," can significantly reduce loneliness among residents of long-term health facilities.
"You think dogs will not be in Heaven?" asked writer Robert Louis Stevenson. "I tell you, they will be there long before any of us."
Love me, love my dog.
("Qui me amat, amat et canem meum." ~ St. Bernard De Clairvaux)