Dale Staley says he is once again “fully shih-tzu’d” when he reads the paper and has a cup of coffee each morning. Fred, a 5-year-old Shih Tzu, lies on the back of the couch behind his head, and Niko , a 1-year-old Shih Tzu mix, lies at his feet. It’s a pleasant way to start each day.
Last year, Dale and his wife, Peggy Kehrer Staley, lost Tootsie, their 10-year-old Shih Tzu, to heart failure. It was devastating, especially to Fred.
“We weren’t sure we wanted to jump back in right away with another puppy,” Peggy says, “but we didn’t like the idea of Fred not having a buddy around since he had never been alone.”
A couple of friends had told Peggy about Petfinder, so she decided to check it out. “It was so much fun to play around in there,” she says, “and I learned so much about different dog breeds and how to get your house ready for a puppy.”
While browsing, she spotted a litter listed by Gateway 4 Paws, based in Fairview Heights, IL, that interested her and made arrangements to meet them. She and Dale took Fred along.
“The whole litter of adorable little fur balls were running around us and one was really ‘selling himself.'” Peggy says. “Even though the rest of his littermates were being very energetic puppies and making a lot of noise and playing with each other, he ran into the room, sat right in front of me and didn’t take his eyes off of me. It was unbelievable!” She definitely felt chosen, and they adopted Niko.
Now two dogs are there to greet the couple when they get home at night, no matter how late. “By the time we get to the door, they’re there, too, and greet us with lots of ‘welcome home’ puppy kisses, which are awesome after a long day,” Peggy says.
Once the kisses are dispensed with, Niko scrambles for a squeaky toy. “He’s very polite and first takes the toy to Fred and squeaks it up against Fred’s side to make sure he doesn’t want to play, too,” she says. “Then he brings the toy to us, so we can throw it for him. ”
Niko reminds Peggy and Dale of their beloved Tootsie, and they see many of her same traits in him. “As silly as this may sound,” Peggy says, “we think he’s a reincarnation of our little Miss Tootsie.” And, indeed, he seems to have chosen them as much as they chose him. It’s enough to give you goose bumps.