by Carie Broecker
Most mornings you will find Shih Tzu’s, Ping, Billie, Pip, and Holly, romping on Spanish Bay beach in Pebble Beach, California. Ping, most likely, will be chasing her ball while romping on the foggy seashore, which in and of itself is a miracle. Ping was born blind and lived the first four years of her life in neglectful conditions being used as a “breeding machine.”
Anyone who comes across Ann and Norman Bikales and their furry family would never guess the suffering their dogs had endured. You might assume they purchased these four beautiful Shih Tzus from a breeder, but these four purebred dogs all came from rescue groups.
Ann and Norman adopted their first dog in1976 and have been adopting dogs ever since. For them, adoption is the only way. Ann says that she knows bred dogs will find homes so she does not worry about them. For her, adopting a homeless animal is satisfying to her soul.
The Bikales family already had three dogs before adopting Ping, their newest member. Why did they decide to add a fourth dog? Something happened in Ann’s life that moved her to want to give one more dog a home.
Eight years ago, Ann was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. She went through treatment for the cancer and continued to have annual follow-ups to be sure the cancer had not returned. In February of this year, the radiologist thought he saw a small lesion in the thyroid bed, which he could not rule out as cancer. On March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day, a bone scan showed that all was clear and no further scans would be necessary. In that moment, Ann’s immediate thought was to pass the blessing along. For her, that meant giving another dog a home. She went directly from the scanning table to San Jose to find a dog in need.
Ann and Norman had already adopted several of their dogs from Loree Levy-Schwartz, the director of Toy Breed Rescue and coordinator for Bay Area Shih Tzu rescue. Loree has been rescuing toy breed dogs since 1978. According to Ann, Loree is one of the most open-hearted, kind, generous and dedicated people she knows.
Ann and Norman met several dogs before Loree finally brought out Ping. Ann immediately connected with Ping, whose name means “peace” in Chinese. As a child, one of Ann’s favorite books was The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack. The book tells the story of a tiny duckling named Ping who gets lost on the Yangtze River and spends the day searching for his family. Ann felt it was kismet that the little dog in her arms was named Ping.
Ping was a tiny, emaciated, four-year-old Shih Tzu who had come from a neglectful situation. She was also blind, having been born with congenital cataracts. Ping and her mother were brought from the Contra Costa County Shelter to Loree's. They had been dropped off by a woman who said she could no longer care for them. They were both in terrible condition. Ping had been bred many times in her short life. Ping’s mom, the weaker of the two, underwent surgery to remove several mammary tumors. Sadly, the tumors came back within a couple of months and this time the cancer had spread, and she passed away. Without her mother, Ping became very depressed.
Holding Ping in her arms, Ann fell in love. She knew with every fiber of her being that this was the dog for her. This was the dog that needed her the most; the dog that she could pass her blessing onto. Ann and Norman made the decision to adopt Ping and brought her home to meet the rest of their dogs.
Just as Ann and Norm had readily invited Ping into their hearts, their dogs quickly accepted little Ping into their doggie pack.
Even though she could not see more than shadows due to her cataracts, Ping loved to play with her squeaky ball. She could fetch the ball even though she couldn’t see it clearly. She could only see shadows and relied mainly on her sense of smell to locate the ball.
Norm and Ann nursed Ping back to health with vet care, proper nutrition and lots of TLC. It did not take long for her to gain weight, come out of her depression, and develop into a healthy, happy little dog.
Ann took Ping to Dr. Ann Gratzek, a veterinary opthamology specialist, and was delighted to learn that Ping was a candidate for surgery that could restore her vision. The surgery was expensive by anyone’s standards, but Ann and Norman did not hesitate to do everything possible to improve Ping’s life and her health.
Ping’s surgery involved removal of the cloudy lens, which was replaced with an artificial lens. The surgery was a success, and the same evening after her surgery Ping could see. Imagine seeing clearly for the first time in almost five years!
Ping now loves playing fetch with her ball more than ever, romping on the beach, and looking lovingly into the eyes of her mom and dad while she counts her blessings.
Loree Levy-Schwartz runs Toy Breed Rescue and Bay Area Shih Tzu Rescue in San Jose, California. More information about her foundation can be found at www.schwartzfamilyfoundation.org.