I always figured I was the most likely person to make a surprise addition to the family, just on account of my age and social life, but my mother is never, under any circumstances, to be underestimated. This weekend, she brought home two shih tzus as a surprise.

The “surprise shih tzus” Kingsley, left, and Rocky make up two-thirds of the nascent pack at the home of The Maine Millennial and her  mom. Photo courtesy of Victoria Hugo-Vidal

It’s not even the first time she’s brought home a surprise shih tzu. I was with her when we adopted our old dog, Louie, without telling Dad. (In our defense, he was napping and didn’t pick up his phone. When we called. You snooze, you lose.) This time, it was my turn to be the dad. The only one more surprised was Neko, my mother’s cat, who takes every canine incursion as a diplomatic affront.

Their names are Kingsley and Rocky, and they were rescued from Mississippi by Maine Lab Rescue. We don’t know much about their past (you could say it was … Rocky, ba dum tss), but they were clearly loved and cherished because they are some of the snuggliest and affectionate pups I have ever encountered. It’s a little strange to have dogs without deep psychological wounds.

We were told that they were 6-year-old brothers, but Kingsley appears to be older. He moves much more sedately than Rocky, and his muzzle is stately and gray. Also, while Kingsley appears to be a full-blooded shih tzu in both nature and physique, Rocky is definitely a mix. For one thing, he has an actual snout. They are both small, black and fluffy. Rocky is constantly begging for affection and attention. He enjoys being held like a baby, which I try to avoid doing, in case it accidentally triggers motherly instincts and the ticking of my biological clock. Kingsley likes sticks. Big sticks, small sticks, chunks of bark. If it’s from a tree and can fit in his surprisingly wide mouth, he’s a fan. He’s also eaten several not-quite-ripe apples that he found on the ground beneath our Siberian apple tree. I’ve been calling them “A$AP Rocky Balboa” and “Sir Ben Kingsley.”

You might be wondering how my dog, Janey, is adapting to suddenly being part of a pack. When the boys first met her, Rocky, being full of excited puppy energy, charged her, and she immediately flipped him onto his back in a move so smooth and quick that if dogs could compete in the Olympics, she would have won the gold in judo. Rocky’s given her a pretty wide and respectful berth since then. Kingsley is a bit more of the stand-your-ground type, and is not at all intimidated by the fact that Janey is literally twice his size.

It’s fascinating, watching them try to figure out their spots in this new social situation. All three of them are dog-friendly dogs: Rocky and Kingsley are besties, and Janey used to run in a street pack and currently runs in a doggy day care pack. So they are predisposed to make it work. But there is still an adjustment period. It’s very human – or, perhaps, we are doglike. Janey got so stressed one morning she didn’t eat her breakfast. This is the only major difference between me and Janey (besides our species) – when she’s stressed, she doesn’t eat anything, and when I’m stressed, I eat everything. So far, the pecking order seems to be shaking out as Kingsley on top, Janey in the middle and Rocky on the bottom. I will keep you updated on the progress.


And for the record, my cat, Juno, does not give one single hoot about the new additions. My cat cares about exactly two things in life: kibble, and screaming at people when they sit down on the toilet. Since the shih tzus don’t interfere with these things, she doesn’t care one way or another.

So far, the worst part is the deafening Greek chorus of barking. See, Janey barks when she has a reason to – if she sees something strange, or smells something strange, or hears something strange. We may not always agree with her barking, because 99 percent of things that alarm her enough for her to raise her voice are completely harmless (bird outside, bug inside, car pulling into the neighbor’s driveway), but she doesn’t bark just for the sheer joy of it.

Not the new guys. Now, if Janey barks or even just growls at something, Kingsley runs into the room as fast as his stumpy little legs can go, barking at the top of his lungs. And then Rocky starts barking from wherever he is in the house, because the other two are barking and he doesn’t want to be left out. This happens at least once an hour. Last time it was triggered because I got up off the couch, and it was deafening.

They are perfect, and now they are family. Welcome aboard, Rocky and Kingsley.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @mainemillennial

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