shih tzu

My Lion in Spring

Leo, my beloved Shih Tzu, who was born in America but made the trip back to his motherland with me when he was one and a half years old, will be turning nine in September.

He’s usually shaved by this time of year, but I’ve been procrastinating until I could get a shot of him in his winter attire. I had him washed and groomed yesterday… photographing him has to occur soon after with his coat this long since he becomes mop-like.

The Lumix DMC-GX7 did a great job capturing him. Take a look at the larger shot on flickr (accessible by clicking on the above image), and I think you’ll agree.

Xiao Mao and Leo

Xiao Mao and Leo.

Xiao Mao, whose name translates to Little Cat*, joined us in November of 2010. He’s now about three years old. My cat Clyde had died the previous month, and our neighborhood vets (whom we referred to as “The Koreans”) gave him to us soon after. They could tell how devastated we were about Clyde. Xiao Mao had grown-up with five dogs, so we were pretty sure that he’d get along with Leo… which is important, since Leo wants to investigate and then befriend any type of animal he encounters. Xiao Mao had been described over the phone as being female. I had further pictured him being, well, flat-faced and skinny. Nothing against female flat-faced skinny cats, but they just ain’t my cup of tea. When I met him, and found he was anything but, I was ecstatic. Big-boned and right about the same size as my beloved Blue (who died a bit over seven years ago).

Leo, dear Leo, is coming-up on seven years old. My ex-wife and I had been babysitting Leo’s mother (who was pregnant with Leo at the time) whilst Blue was dying of cancer. I’ve always been a big dog person, but the ex liked Leo’s mom a lot, so I agreed to get him. His name comes from Leo the Lion. ShihTzu means “Lion Dog” in Chinese, so the lion reference was fitting. There have been some wonderful animals in my life over the years, but Leo is at the top of the list. Just a truly wonderful soul.

Their friendship has grown over their time together into what you see below. They also take turns chasing each other through the house. (Leo’s had this trip lately about wanting to “dominate” the cat, to which Xiao Mao has politely reminded him that retractable claws are there for a reason.)

In any event, I feel extremely fortunate to be sharing the apartment with my wife and the two boys.

btw,  it looks like a third cat might be joining us next week… more if it happens.

*his formal name is Mao Zhu Xi, which mean Chairman Cat, and is, of course, a play on Mao (translates to “feather”), which has the same pinyin but a different tone.


Here’s a photo I snapped of Leo:


His hair is getting quite long. We let it grow-out during the winter months, and then shave him when it is reasonably warm outside. Probably will do so toward the middle of next month. I’ll post before and after pictures at that time. The transformation is startling.

I got Leo right after my Cat Blue died, but before I learned that my (then) marriage would be ending. We actually were babysitting Leo’s mother (Tootsie) when Blue was sick with cancer. Folks who’ve known me for a while have some idea about what I thought about that cat, and how hard that was. Wow.

Anyway, as things progressed the way they did, and I decided to move to Beijing, it was only natural that little lion come with me. So, I brought him on the plane (business class, upper deck) with me. He was a hit. Once we landed, a workaround was employed to avoid the mandatory 30-day quarantine. He arrived to my apartment the following day.

Leo has been to Xi’an and back by train. That was an interesting trip, which I might write about in another posting.

And, of course, there was his legendary trip to the Summer Palace.

Leo is only ABC (American Born Chinese) that I know that has relocated back to China. I mean, not on a temporary assignment or anything.

I’m an ABA (American Born Armenian/Asian — take your pick). Although I’m second generation Silicon Valley, my Grandfather David emigrated to the US from Armenia as a young child.

Well, okay, now that it seems this post can go anywhere… I’ll stop here.