top of page
  • Writer's pictureDonna Brown

Getting a new Shih Tzu/Bichon Frise puppy to love

As I sit here pecking at the keys, a 14-week-old Shih Tzu/Bichon Frise puppy is curled up on my lap. His name is Teddy Roosevelt, named by grandson Everett. The journey we have taken to get to this point has been fraught with trials and tribulations, good intentions and heartbreak.

It all began on April 3 with the passing of our old rescue dog, Jacques. His end came quickly and occurred on the day we were to leave on a two-month camping trip across the northern tier of the United States. Those who love dogs know the pain the loss of a dog can cause. If you have never had that bond, the agony others go through seems frivolous.

As we traveled across this vast and beautiful nation, I continued to apply to various agencies to adopt a new companion. I soon found that the adoption process has drastically changed in the past 15 years. I have previously had rescued dogs. Winslow, a Cockapoo adopted 30 years ago was found at a shelter. With little effort and $50 I took him home the same day. Jacques, a Poodle mix was adopted in front of PetSmart in Marlton in 20 minutes and $250.

As I searched, I soon found that most small dogs were no longer housed in shelters, which now are filled with special needs dogs, senior pups and large quantities of pit bulls. Small dogs are usually turned over to small dog rescues where the dogs are cared for in foster homes. I also found that a rescue dog to my liking, 1-5 years old, non-shedding and under 20 pounds would cost between $500 to $1,200 to rescue.

I accepted the cost factor and began to apply online to rescues in New Jersey and neighboring states. I discovered that the days of simply desiring to give a dog a loving forever home were gone. Applications were as long as 19 pages and agencies required fenced yards, either home visits or video tours of your home before and after the adoption, four references who were not related to you, a glowing report from your veterinarian and correct answers to cryptic questions. Night after night I sought to find the correct words to bring a dog into my life. My friends reported they were being interrogated by numerous agencies, then silence from the rescues. Months dragged on.

Oh, I was contacted to adopt an 8-year-old dog with no teeth, a retired puppy mill mother who had never been out of her wire floored cage and was frightened of everything, including walking on the grass, a puppy who was born with no eyes and a poodle who was born with no back feet and would need to wear leather shoes to protect her ankle bones.

I continued my quest and found that dogs were also being brought up from southern states and the Texas border and brought to New Jersey for adoption. I was told that pickup trucks from Mexico travel to Texas and dump dogs along the highways.

On June 5, a rescue called to say a dog was currently being fostered in Texas would arrive to New Jersey. I was elated. The rescue’s website displayed various awards and corporate sponsors. The bio for the little Shih Tzu showed photos of a healthy adorable 1-year-old dog.

On Saturday, June 25, my husband and I waited with other adoptees and when my dog emerged, he weighed 13 pounds and had a respiratory infection. He was sweet and gentle. They gave me antibiotics and I believed he would flourish with good food, care from my vet and a lot of love.

On Monday, I took him to a wellness visit with my veterinarian who said he was about 4 years old, malnourished, needed more medications, but would probably be fine very soon.

By Wednesday it was obvious that the pup was not getting better, and by Thursday at my follow up visit the doctor told me he was in a dire condition, needed hospitalization, oxygen, transfusions and most likely would not make it. I chose to contact the rescue agency and return the dog that we already loved. I received a refund for the adoption fee and the accompanying letter spoke of my dog in the past tense.

It is truly honorable to want to save an animal and give it a loving home. Volunteers work hard to make that happen. Sometimes things go wrong. That is why we chose to purchase Teddy at a reputable breeder.

As I finish this column, I glance up to see a sign I bought in Medora, North Dakota. It is the town where Theodore Roosevelt National Park is located and says, “Heaven is Where You Get to See all the Dogs You’ve Loved.”

Donna Brown is a former Hammonton Middle School librarian and a columnist for The Gazette. To reach Donna Brown, send an email to


bottom of page