The Tibetan Breeds: A Very Different Ending For One of Them

Ed. Note: In the course of writing this post, an article came to our attention that some would say was “spooky” in its timing. Here we were, writing a benign piece about an uncommon breed when a concerning article was sent our way.  If this post ends differently than where it started, now you know why. So, on to the post: 

Buddhists live in accordance with a creed that does not harm any living creatures, but Tibetan Buddhism has a special connection with dogs. When Buddha called all the animals to him, only twelve showed up, and in recognition of their loyalty, he dedicated a month to each of them in the Tibetan calendar, the dog being one of the twelve  (2006 was the most recent dog year, the next occurs on February 16, 2018 when it becomes the Earth Dog year).

Valued in Tibet as companions and guards of temples, several native dog breeds emerged from that country.  In addition to Lhasa Apsos having been bred and kept in the Potala, the palace and monastery of the Dalai Lama, His Holiness’ own dog was a Tibetan Terrier named, “Senge.”

Dalai Lama,tibetan terrier,tibetan spaniel,tibetan mastiff,lhasa apso,tibet,buddha

The Dalai Lama with his five year old Tibetan Terrier, ‘Senge,’ in India circa 1968

Before he was forced into exile, the Dalai Lama kept eight Tibetan Mastiffs to guard his summer home in Norbulinka. Two of the dogs were posted at each of the four entrances to the estate. In the 1950s, His Holiness gave a pair to President Dwight Eisenhower as a diplomatic gift (though one source writes that it was a mistake because Eisenhower had requested two Tibetan Terriers).Eisenhower gave the puppies Senator Harry Darby who raised and bred them.  Some sources say the fate of the dogs is unknown, but another source reports that Darby gave one of the dogs to the famous explorer, Lowell Thomas. It’s said that some of the Tibetan Mastiffs found in the United States today are descendants of dogs given to Dwight Eisenhower.  And here is where our story takes a turn.

What was once a status symbol in China has fallen on very hard times. The article at this link is “safe” to see in that the photos and video it includes show no graphic abuse or cruelty, but it is beyond sad to see nearly 1,000 Mastiffs that have been abandoned in Yushu prefecture since summer living like cattle in a shelter doing its best to keep them. Perhaps word could spread in the Tibetan Mastiff community about the predicament of these wondrous dogs.

Tibetan Mastiff with child painting believed to be by Tang Jiang 



4 thoughts on “The Tibetan Breeds: A Very Different Ending For One of Them”

  1. I had a granddaughter of one of the Tibetan Spaniels that Lowell Thomas bought back. Less than 300 Tibetan Spaniels were reg with AKC last year. Help us to save the breed.

    • How very special, Billie! We’d love to help you save the breed, so tell you what? Discuss with your breed colleagues having NPDD feature the Tibetan Spaniel as a Purebred of Interest. We do all the work, TS owners just need to show up and answer questions. Contact us privately for more details.

  2. Our beloved Tibetan Terrier Buddy died yesterday on April 20, 2021 . We got Buddy when he was 10 weeks old. He was a blessing, and a joy every moment of his beautiful life. Our hearts are broken , for we miss him every day.

    • Louis, we are so sorry for your loss, so recent and so raw. We share something with you that we wrote when we lost our own dog, Katie, less than a year ago. It may bring a tear, but perhaps that may be cathartic:

      There are a thousand ways to mourn a dog.

      Glancing at their favorite spot, but they’re not there. Anticipating the sound they make before dinner, but hearing instead…………….nothing.

      Accidentally squeaking their favorite toy, or rustling a bag of their favorite forbidden snack, but no one comes running;

      Making room on the bed for someone who doesn’t need it anymore. Extinguishing a nightlight put there just for her to see in the dark because where she is now, it’s dazzling;

      Listening for the bark that warns us against everything and nothing, each a disruption to The Force, and thus, worthy of notification;

      The Force, however, has been deeply disrupted by something far greater: The transition of the spirit and soul of one 30-pound black and hairy dog from her earthly binds to a new heavenly home;

      Yes, there are many ways to mourn a dog, but none as eloquent as those expressed by the dog that’s been left behind.

      He searches room to room for the buddy that has moved on. He sleeps on his pal’s favorite spots because it still smells like her. He waits, as taught, for his elder to go outside before him, but she’s not coming, and this youngster is now the oldest dog in the house. He searches our faces for some understanding of where his friend has gone, but sees instead the anguish of loss, and he doesn’t understand why.

      Seeing a dog mourn, we think, is worse than seeing it in ourselves. We are sloppy with our tears, and unpredictable with our sobs, but there is dignity and gut wrenching sadness in the mute stoicism of a dog that is suffering his own loss.

      No one knows the depth of sorrow one can have for a departed dog like another dog owner. We feel each other’s pain, and are ready to take an ice pick to the person who dares to say, “It’s just a dog.” We all know the sad truth. There is nothing to be done for it but to carry on.

      The next big hurdle will be to bring Katie home, the final insult to the sensibilities of people who loved her.

      Her remains will join the gallery of urns containing all that’s left of the other dogs we have loved and lost, though we sometimes wonder why we bother to keep them. No box, no urn, can ever contain the magnitude of who these dogs were to us. The only thing truly big enough to hold them is our ever-expanding capacity to love them, and then grieve their loss.

      There are a thousand ways to mourn a dog. The only counter balance is that there are thousands of ways to love them, as well.

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