The Gompa Lhasa Apso story is not such an easy story to
tell. Why? Because it is not just one story; it is
made up of many.
More than fifty people in seven countries over
twenty-five years are part of the story. Most of them
had no idea that they were going to play a part, until
they did. And no one knew what the final outcome would
be for the dogs along the way. They just got involved
because something moved them to do so. The dogs moved
Take any one of these people out of the story and the
Gompa Lhasa Apsos that exist today, and the Gompa Lhasa
Apso Preservation Program Trust that strives to keep
them in existence would not be here.
story really starts thousands of years ago when the
little hairy dogs came to live in Tibetan monasteries
where they were bred and cared for by the monks. These
little dogs had a big job to let the monks know if an
intruder was near.
The monasteries, high in the mountains were very cold in
the winter and had many steps for the little dogs to
climb. So they developed a very warm coat, and an ease
with traversing steps (and hills and couches and beds
and a great fondness for high places.
We know very little about how they lived with the
monks. Where did they sleep in the monasteries? What
exactly did they eat? Were all the monks involved in
raising them or were there certain monks who were drawn
to them and became their care takers?
We have heard, as have many people, stories about how
they were taught to sit quietly for many hours while the
monks meditated and were taught in the large communal
teaching room called a Gompa. But much of their lives
in the monasteries remains a mystery.
We have heard that the lore in Tibet is that if a monk
cannot reincarnate as a person, he will choose to return
as a monastery dog.
is the saddest of stories and it is still being
written. The Tibetans have suffered more than can be
told here. They have lost their country, lost their
monasteries, are losing their culture and they have
lost their little monastery dogs. When the Chinese
invaded in the 1950s they raided the monasteries and
killed the monks and they killed the little dogs.
Only a few monks and a few little dogs survived. Tears
for a lifetime come from this story.
the 1970s a then young Canadian man was traveling in
Afghanistan and Nepal. His is another long and complex
story all of its own. For the purposes of this story;
the man returned from his journey with artifacts and
with dogs. He brought back Tibetan Mastiffs, Ranpur
Hounds, Himalayan Sheepdogs and the little monastery
dogs. For twenty-some years this man lived with his
dogs. What happened to most of these dogs is a mystery.
Charlottesville, Virginia 1990s
During this time an extraordinary woman, a mother of two
and a fine art restoration master met a Tibetan Lama and
he became her spiritual teacher. He created a sangha
and with the help of the members built a beautiful,
peaceful and very special Tibetan Buddhist center.
People came to hear his teachings and the sangha grew.
Then one day the Lama told his friend, the extraordinary
woman, that he wanted a dog, not just any dog. He wanted
a Lhasa Apso and asked her if she would find out about
them, and she did. One thing led to another and she
traveled to meet the Canadian man and returned with
dogs, one for the Lama, two for herself and two the
Canadian man asked her to sell.
In 2000 came a call from the man in Canada to the woman
in Charlottesville. He told her he could no longer care
for his dogs and he feared the worst. Would she come
and get his dogs, he asked and she did. She and her
dear friend drove from Charlottesville to the Canadian
border in their station wagon (not a new model mind you)
to save his dogs. In fact, it took two trips (20 hours
each), months apart, because they rescued eighteen
a total of 23 had crossed the border in a
little over a year.
Where does one house so many little dogs, particularly
when one is not a breeder and does not have land?
Appear two friends, fellow students of the Tibetan Lama,
with plenty of land. The dogs are delivered there.
A UNIQUE SOLUTION
But now what? The farm was not the answer long term.
Certainly not. No one in this part of the story is a
breeder, by the way. Certainly not. No, these are
people who were moved to care for the dogs and they
did. So the woman thought. She thought about how could
she keep the dogs together but have them live with
people in their homes and be loved and cared for
properly. And she came up with an idea she decided
that she would create a Kennel Without Walls. So
now, all the dogs live with wonderful, caring, many very
spiritual people and she was very relieved.
But sometimes our success create new challenges and
so, as puppies were born and new homes needed to be
found, the woman decided that she needed help.
was a special Madame with a love for Lhasa Apsos. But
what she was most passionate about is seeing them
returned to being as they were long ago in Tibet. She
feared that modern breeding practices, breeding for the
show ring created a dog that no longer truly represents
what has been lost. She developed a beautiful,
educational website to spread her message.
Passion runs throughout this story. Lots of people with
lots of passions. But all having one passion in common
the little dogs.
Raised on a farm in Nebraska with a mother who was a dog
breeder, and now living with her family at 9,000 feet
above sea level in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, is a
woman who had become a breeder herself. With more than
80 championship dogs, the Lhasa Apso had been her
passion. But like many stories, along with triumph came
terrible tragedy, and lifes greatest test to find the
path to a new beginning.
After many years of having a highly successful breeding
program, horror struck. Puppies dying of a terrible
genetic disease Renal Dysplasia. Heartbreak, pain,
What to do? There could only be one answer to learn
why this happened. Learn how to prevent it from
happening in the future, if that is even possible. And
very importantly, tell others what she has learned so
that all breeders and their dogs can benefit from her
tragedy. And that is what she did. She studied canine
genetics and became a field researcher. She wrote
articles on what she had learned and she posted them for
all to see.
One day she learned the Gompa Lhasa Apsos moved to
Virginia and were in need of help. Thinking the Madame
in France might be able to get her an introduction to
the woman in Virginia through the man in Canada, she
contacted the Madame. One thing led to another and ten
Gompa Lhasa Apsos were delivered to her doorstep August
In a place where so very many stories have come lived a
woman of tremendous intelligence and a very big heart.
Brave, adventurous, independent and a fiercely loyal
friend, she came to have a special little dog. Her
friend, from Pennsylvania, had been at the retreat in
Virginia and had heard of the little monastery dogs in
Virginia. Two puppies were available and she was going
to adopt one. She asked her friend in Concord if she
would like to adopt one as well.
With her big heart and adventuresome spirit, the woman
in Concord, who had never lived with a dog in her life,
One day, the woman from Concord was in a local grooming
shop having just picked up her little dog, named
Domchung (Little Bear). She had just paid for the
services and was carrying Dom out of the store when
another woman was coming towards them.
This woman was coming into the store to get supplies for
her Labrador retriever named Zeke . She was deeply
bonded with her dog and feared the impending loss of his
life-long buddy, a big gentle black Labrador retriever
name Boomer. Boomer was quite a bit older than her dog
and she knew that some day he would not be with them any
longer. She was starting to think about getting another
dog so that her dog would not suffer too terribly when
he lost his best friend.
As she walked towards the store she noticed a woman in
the doorway with a little dog under her arm. They made
pleasantries as they passed, her entering the shop, the
other woman leaving. And then something made her turn
around and walk out of the store to find the woman with
the little dog.
This part of the story gets rather long so, suffice it
to say, that from this brief encounter Gabriel (Ponya in
Tibetan, which means Angel) now lives with Zeke.
One day Gabriel became ill and his illness lasted for a
very long and frightening week. For five days he did
not respond to treatments by a very smart, very
kind-hearted veterinarian. He did not eat or drink and
could not stand by himself for six days. Finally, late
on the sixth day he started to responded. It took two
more weeks for him to fully recover.
Between the tears, she made calls to see if the other
dogs from his litter had problems. They did not. This
call led to several others and to the man in Canada,
from whom she heard another story
In July of 2004 the woman from Massachusetts - herself a
master in project management - the master art restorer,
rescuer of twenty-five dogs and inventor of the Kennel
Without Walls program from Virginia, and the master
breeder and canine Renal Dysplasia expert in Colorado
all spoke together on the phone for the first time.
This was the start of the Gompa Lhasa Apso Preservation
Program (and Trust) but of course, none of them knew
that at the time.
In late 2004 as the Gompa Lhasa Apso Preservation
Program began to take a more solid shape the three women
were fortunate to be joined by a fourth; a vivacious,
curious and dedicated Coloradoan with years of Lhasa
Apso rescue experience.
Since then, the team has established a structure for the
Program, including weekly conference calls, developed a
database containing detailed records of the dogs
including health characteristics, met in Virginia to DNA
swab, micro-chip and record information from 30 dogs,
built this website and twice presented a group of the
Gompa dogs once at the national specialty show of the
American Lhasa Apso Club in St. Louis, Missouri and at a
regional specialty show in Greeley, Colorado.
So that is the story, such as it is. In fact, it
continues to unfold and evolve as many stories do.
We wish you the joy and happiness that comes with loving
and caring for another sentient being.