Odie the Shih-Poo brings happiness and love to his humans

Loyal and loving, Odie also enjoys being the centre of attention. — Sheela Kanagasabai

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My pet, Odie Valentino, was born on July 7,2013, to a Shih Tzu mum and a Miniature Poodle dad. What an odd combination, you may think, but the Shih-Poo breed is irrefutably considered the cuddliest and most adorable cross breed designer dog in the pet market today.

Described by the breeder as cute, affectionate, friendly, and highly adaptable to condo living, Odie was our obvious choice.

At seven weeks, he was already potty trained and responded to the name we had chosen for him.

Odie Valentino was named after a character in Garfield the comic strip and cartoon show. He is the lovable, yellow-furred, brown-eared Beagle who is Garfield's best friend (and usual victim).

As we were selecting from a litter of four newborn puppies, Odie stood out for the white mark over his forehead. We observed that he possessed a determined and strong character while sniffling out his new family with pricked ears and earnest wobbly steps.

My late mum christened him with his last name, Valentino, which means strong and healthy. And so our courageous pup became part of a family of four female co-owners of different ages.

So began my new life as a dog person.

Odie is extremely smart and alert, even as a young pup, and it was easy for all of us to train him. Considered to be loyal, loving and affectionate, Odie enjoys the attention and loves being taught new tricks. Just as he is easily trainable, like many small dogs of this breed, he tends to act stubborn at times.

Odie hates the tone of strict and authoritative language and can sometimes ignore the hand that feeds him. But if you ever were to live in a dogs’ world and master the canine tongue, you would be pretty good at understanding what they are saying. You can tell a nervous yip from a menacing growl, a bark that says hello from a bark that says "I cannot find nor reach my ball". You can read the body language that says happy, sad, tired, scared (especially during a thunderstorm) and finally that which says "please, please, please play with me right now!".

As a long-haired dog, his fur needs grooming every two months. Otherwise, you can be sure that his mop of fur around his face, button brown eyes, short nose, hanging ears and barrel-shaped torso will make him resemble a fat lamb with tangled fleece. After his main meal, he would definitely demand a fair amount of ball time as part of his daily exercise routine which helps to manage his weight. Then he is a happy pup, dozing on the cool floor or taking in the view from our breezy balcony.

And while Shih-Poos have never functioned as guard dogs, Odie’s vigilance, superior sense of smell and hearing have been effective in alerting the family to the presence of strange faces or noises.

No matter the time of day, our pooch waits in anticipation by the door for the sound of keys and barks away in excitement, as my adult children arrive home from a work day. They are greeted by the most excited tail wagging and pouncing of an energised pooch. Odie’s clockwork sense of timing is so instinctive, and he knows the hurried routines and habits of our combined daily lives.

His love for us grew as did our love for him, and he understands us all. He miraculously knows when you are not feeling good and allows you to smother him with love and snuggles.

Odie is the apple of his family's eye.Odie is the apple of his family's eye.

After living with us for this long, our pooch has learnt to recognise voice tones and actions that notify him he has done something wrong. Then he will obediently go into his cage without even wanting to come out – till it reaches a point where you start feeling bad for putting him in his place. The children secretly think their dog is the master of reverse psychology and we love every bit of it.

I cannot imagine life without Odie, and just hope the inevitable is not for another few more dog years. That unbridled happiness and unconditional love makes me suffer separation anxiety whenever I take short breaks away from my pet. I really enjoy my quiet alone time with Odie while I watch my favourite TV shows or do my daily reading.

He understands every single word I say, even when I sound illogical.

I firmly believe having a dog has made me a calmer person. The bond between a human and their much-loved pet is able to smoothen out most of what life throws our way.

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