I found Sugar’s picture on the web 8 years ago, on a breeders site with the caption underneath, “Free to a good home.” I wondered what was going on with the dog, who was only three years old at the time. What breeder would give away a purebred Cocker Spaniel?
Chula came to us last November through a more traditional route, through our local no-kill shelter. She’s a purebred Shih-tzu with a sassy attitude and independent soul, well known at the shelter as ‘a biter’. Her description on the website said that she needed to go to an ‘experienced’ owner. Over time, we’ve learned that she’s a little dog with many fears.
Many people rename their dogs when they get them. After I got Sugar, people told me to rename her “Oreo”. Oreo just didn’t fit her, though. She is a sweet little dog who loves me deeply and lives her life to be my partner. The name Sugar fits her like a glove.
If you look up the word “Chula” in the urban dictionary, it means ‘sexy b***’. Really.
Somehow both their names fit their personalities and even though they don’t have the names I would have given them, I didn’t change them. The adoption process is very stressful for a dog and I didn’t want to add one more thing to all the new routines they needed to get used to. Dogs love predictability.
Sugar was spayed and given away because she was hoarding toys and not particularly social with the other dogs at the breeder. When something happens that she doesn’t expect, she shakes uncontrollably and hides. She was having a tough time with all the other dogs and people around her all the time.
Thunder, gunshots and sometimes unknown fears paralyze Sugar to the extent that she cannot move.
The breeder told me that she had found Sugar in deplorable conditions at another breeder and bought her just to get her out of a terrible situation. By the time I got her when she was 3 years old, she had borne 3 litters.
I don’t know much about Chula’s life before she showed up at the shelter, but I can guess what happened. She is ridiculously cute and small and people just gravitate to her. The temptation is to grab her and put your face right up to her face, talking to her in a high-pitched baby voice, “Oh Sweetie, look at you! You’re so cute.” Then put your nose in her ruff and give her a big wet kiss.
That’s a big mistake in Chula’s world. Just after we got her, I learned the hard way that she bites hard. Really hard.
As it turns out, her breed is the closest to the wolf of any breed. Go figure. Chula’s instinct is to growl and bite if a stranger approaches her too fast. At the shelter where I found Chula, she preferred one particular man who was with her every day. The shelter was full of loving volunteers but quite chaotic.
We don’t sit around and feel sorry for them, but we do understand that their life experience has taught them things. We set new expectations and reinforce the good behavior. They love their daily walks, car rides to our local preserves, playing ball and their chew toys. Since coming to us, Chula’s become quieter and more centered, giving us happy licks when she is particularly pleased. Sugar has adapted to Chula and spends more time out with us instead of under the bed in her safe space.
I like seeing them happy.