Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Very Shiba Christmas

Merry Christmas! Or Happy Holidays. Or whatever...

Things have been progressing. We have stopped feeding Tierce regular meals - he gets food for obeying commands (especially "Front!"). I have also made efforts to ignore bids for attention in favour of giving him attention when I want to and also when he comes when called. I'm hoping that regular applications of this by both Mischa and I will get him into the habit of looking on us as the source of all things good.

Lastly, I have decided that we will give the dog park a miss. Tierce has been getting bad about demanding toys (sticks, balls, broken pieces of plastic... whatever) that another dog has or is playing with. I think that it's time to give the dog park a rest and socialize him one-on-one with other dogs without toys to complicate things.

To compensate for the dog park exercise, I am taking up jogging. Tierce seems to get a lot out of running and, with my growing stamina, I hope that we will both get into great shape this new year. I've been trying several methods to encourage him to keep a steady pace. One is running in a zig-zag pattern when terrain and safety permit. This makes Tierce think and look to me for guidance. Another is stopping to play with him every so often to keep his interest and enthusiasm up.

My New Year goal (one of them) is to have Tierce used to running, screaming children. He has been socialized with all sorts of children, but is still nervous about being in the middle of a noisy horde of them. I aim to make him used to this by bringing food for him to the local schoolyard and, if I am not carted off under suspicion of being a child molester, getting the kids to feed him.

Damn, I'm tired.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Custody of injured Dover dog delayed until owner's trial

More on Buddy, the Shiba inu who chewed up his own leg. The trial will be held on January 22 next year.

This posting is late because my mother was struck by a staph infection in Burnaby this past week. Luckily she's okay - but since she is 73 and not in the best of health, it was a near thing. We got reports from my cousin James, who looked after Shassi, that Shassi insisted on lying on a sweater of Mom's and arranging it herself. Tierce started looking for me in the middle of the night so that Mischa had to put him in the crate (Mischa was letting Tierce sleep with him in the bed again, silly man) at around 12 to 3, which is the time I usually come up to bed when I'm working late.

It's funny how these dogs, who couldn't care less if you're there, seem to miss you when you've gone. Maybe they're closer to humans than we think.

Today Tierce needed a good shaking. He took offense when I insisted that he pay attention to me instead of some crows who were walking around a parking lot. A flash of the fang and BAM! he was shaken and flat on his back, screaming like he was being slowly dissolved in sulphuric acid. I didn't look around to see who might be phoning the SPCA. A much more subdued Shiba walked beside me for about five minutes before turning into his normal macho self. This is definitely not a dog for the faint of heart but I will not have a dog tell me what he will or will not do.

Speaking of macho, Tierce is starting to become possessive of toys in the dog park. I haven't brought any there because I'm not sure it's a great idea. Unfortunately Tierce starts chasing dogs who have balls and sticks in their mouths and sometimes gets really snarly when they won't give them to him. Today he was having an argument with another 8 month old dog that turned into a shouting match and we had to separate them. So I'm starting to think that I'm going to have to give the dog park a miss and socialize him one-on-one with other dogs.

Tierce's obedience is abysmal - he ignores commands that he knows I can't enforce, like coming when called. We're going back to obedience classes in the new year. I've been practicing "Front" (come) with him, but I don't see it having much effect. We're keeping at it, though. And he does listen to me more than he listens to Mischa.

Tierce is doing better with the pulling - our run today went better than last time. I think it's because I'm stopping at intervals to play with him and that keeps his interest. I'm going to try this again and see if it doesn't help him keep focussed if he knows that he is going to get time outs to play and sniff things and have fun during a run.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Shiba movie!

A Shiba movie!

Warning: serious tear-jerker, if the trailer's any indication. I so want to see this. It's based on a true story about Mari, a Shiba inu and her three puppies who were left behind when their owner was evacuated due to an earthquake.

These links brought to you courtesy of Loki's blog AKA The Misadventures of a Shiba Inu

I've got to say that I can't imagine leaving Tierce alone to fend for himself. However, people leaving dangerous situations often cannot bring their pets with them - Hurricane Katrina was an example. Another is people leaving abusive partners and not being able to find shelter that will accommodate their pets, who are then at the mercy of the abuser. This holiday season, for those of you making donations to battered women's shelters, etc. see if you can find shelters that support people with pets who need to flee unlivable situations.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

And the debacle in Dover continues...

Dover man pleads not guilty in animal cruelty case

On Oct. 30, Buddy bit his leg, resulting in a small wound. Laurion treated the small wound and wrapped it with cotton and gauze, putting duct tape around it. Two days later, Buddy chewed his foot to the bone because police say he couldn't feel it. The foot was amputated Nov. 3.

Is it just me and my silly ways or wouldn't any sane person have Elizabethan collared/muzzled the dog to make sure that he didn't chew his leg further? There's something really weird going on here. I know that some dogs can lick themselves to the point where they have red, angry sores on their legs, but not very many dogs chew their own feet off.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Oooh, shops!

I've added some more stuff to the Store... or stores. Now I'm going to have a bath and read me some Philip Pullman.

Here is your daily cute:

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Scenario: You have an older dog and a younger Shiba (8 or so months old). You buy another Shiba puppy. The older dog does not like the Shiba puppy. You decide to put the puppy up for sale (you don't like the breeder, so don't want to bring the puppy back). You're not going to go to a trainer, animal behaviourist or any other person who might have strategies to bring about a happy pack (but you've "talked to people and read").

You have had the puppy for less than a week.

This was the gist of a post on another Shiba group I occasionally participate in. My eventual response was that I didn't think much of the commitment of people who had a puppy for less than a week and didn't bother any strategies to get the older dog to accept the puppy. Her response was "... so don't tell me anything about our commitment, thanks." As of now, the entire post is deleted, seconds after I posted back.

I'm expecting a "goodbye cruel forum" post any minute. At least I might get a snarky comment on my next post. Or maybe she'll cry herself to sleep tonight.

Just about every forum has experienced a person who is shocked and insulted because someone called them on a blatantly obvious fault about the issue they are posting on. They didn't come here to get criticism! They came here for hugs and kisses and to justify whatever horribly irresponsible and careless action that they did/are doing/are about to do.

A lot of the time it's the I-think-my-dog's-pregnant-what-do-I-do? poster who is shattered to discover that the great majority of responses involve getting the dog spayed and what the hell were you thinking, allowing her to breed with no genetic tests or proof of lineage. Sometimes it's the people who are wondering whether they should beat their dog with a stick or a padded tire iron. Sometimes it's person like the above who can't understand why I would be so mean as to criticize her family's five-minutes-and-give-up attitude.

Morals of this story:

1. You are responsible for researching the breed that you want. Also, you are responsible for educating yourself concerning breeding, pack dynamics, training and troubleshooting.

2. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither was Lassie. In order to have and keep a dog, you need patience, dedication and the awareness that there are some things you can't fix or make better (i.e. some Shibas are just dog-to-dog aggressive and will never change).

3. Before introducing your tragic tale about how you just have to breed/give up/beat until it can't stand/kill your dog, take a good look at yourself. If you see yourself bursting into tears or writing a yerstoopidandmeanandugly response at any hint of criticism, confine yourself to your private journal. And by "private", I mean "not available to the public". If you post on your journal that is open to all the world, that's public.

4. Employers look you up on the web and often make judgments about hiring based on what they find. If they find FUCK YOU YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND WHY I HAD TO DEFENESTRATE MY LITTLE POOKIE, they might pass you up for that counselor's position.

5. Remember that part about research and dedication? Yeah, just checking.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Tierce VS the Spider

I forgot to post this stirring adventure that I filmed a couple of days ago.


For those of you living in non West Coast environments, snow may be just another annoying/fun/inevitable part of winter. However for us Vancouver Island peoples, it's occasion for MAJOR ISSUES. In Nanaimo, Malaspina University-College shuts down almost as soon as the first white flake dusts the Arts building. Drivers don't comprehend that a sudden dump of snow and freezing temperatures mean that they should take their foot off the gas pedal. Children are liberated from school and adults take out their pristine snow shovels and start resentfully clearing their driveways. This is Vancouver Island, not Whistler. It's not fair.

I had to work. Since I bicycle everywhere, I am at somewhat of a disadvantage when it snows so deeply that my tires won't bite anything. So my boyfriend drove me to work. Some hours into showing yet another eager customer towards the doggy coat racks, my boyfriend phones me. Tierce had refused to come in and was bouncing out in the snow.

Tierce stayed out there for five hours. Mischa threw snowballs at him, which he chased and ate. He ran up and down the compost heap until he wore his own track. Then he chased himself around the yard... again.

When Mischa drove me home, having finally persuaded Tierce to delight in the comforts of the house, I immediately dug my cross-country skis out of the closet, attached Tierce to my waist belt and headed outdoors. We went down the road and back. I am afraid that Tierce's sole skijoring moments were confined to random lunges towards the deep, fluffy snow on the lawns that we passed. I guess that he needs more lessons on how to be a good sled dog. He did pull my creatively snowified boogie board up the hill, though.

It wouldn't work by itself, so I had to duct tape some garbage bags to it. Tierce seemed to have a good time running beside it as I whipped down the hill and using his harness to pull me off balance. I think that it's gonna be a few more months before he starts channelling Yukon King.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Keep your $#*^@ dogs under #*(&@! control

Yes, I'm talking to you, oh pornstached owner of the two Keeshonden that were barrelling down the trails of the Participark at 11 AM yesterday.

The Participark is a chunk of forest with clearly-defined running/walking trails, less clearly defined cowpaths and "fitness stations". It's also right across the road from the SPCA, but the SPCA dogs are always exercised on-lead and the walkers are instructed to pull off the trail at the approach of another dog. Of course, most of the people who walk/run with their dogs either have dogs on lead or dogs with reliable recalls.

I was out running (or trying to run) with Tierce. This was a process involving a lot of pulling on the lead, as Mr. Puppy has not comprehended the wisdom of keeping me in his sights so he knows when I'm going to turn or stop. We are working on this, but not for a day or two, as I managed to roll my left ankle a couple of times. So much for athleticism.

I've got my tunes in, because I'm running on the right side of a trail in a public park and my dog is securely attached to me. Simple, right? Wrong. Wrong-o. I was not prepared for the two gray-and-black bullets that shot towards us as we turned a corner. Not knowing what their intentions were, I scooped Tierce up as the owner strolled past. As he came towards us, he gave me that aren't-you-glad-to-meet-my-wonderful-dogs smile and cheerfully said, "They're okay."

They're okay?

Did he wait until I was close enough for him to inquire as to whether my dog was aggressive, fearful, stressed, injured, nervous when two bigger dogs reenact the running of the bulls in Madrid, or even whether I had some sort of philosophical objection to his dogs coming near me?

The answer is, of course, no. He did not. He, along with a whole host of other dog owners who should be beaten with canes and pilloried, cheerfully assumed that because he knew that his dogs were "okay", that I should assume likewise and that my dog should accept their abrupt intrusion into his personal space with equanimity.

The truth is that I love just about every dog I meet and Tierce is friendly towards other dogs. However, that doesn't mean that people should feel entitled to allow their dogs to run up to strangers without a specific invitation. If the gentleman had asked, I would have been happy to stop and have Tierce meet him and his dogs. However the blithe assumption that my dog and I were automatically overjoyed to make his dogs' abrupt acquaintance made me furious.

I think that instead of giving a ghastly grin as you pull your friendly/nervous/snarling/terrified dog away from a loose dog, that you should treat this like the invasion of personal space that it is. Tell these people exactly what they are doing wrong and why you are not simply thrilled that their dogs are jumping all over you and your dog.

In my case, I said only, "You don't know if my dog is 'okay'!" and swept on. Maybe next time I'll take the time to enumerate the many ways that an uncontrolled dog running up to a strange dog and its owner can result in multiple lawsuits.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

More on the Dover Shiba case

Man charged with animal cruelty in Dover denies wrongdoing

I am wondering if he's as big a moron as the last article would indicate. However, most vets don't charge one for animal cruelty for a lick sore, so I'll be interested in how this develops.

(Hit by a car? Just another one for the files of "don't let your Shiba outside without a lead")

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Tales from the dog park

It's been raining today - the one thing I hate about Vancouver Island (besides being prime breeding grounds for fleas and ticks). However, last Wednesday it was quite clear, with only a hint of the dark shroud that veiled the land today. So we went to the dog park.

Dog parks are a society unto themselves. There is an ebb and flow to the park as dogs enter and leave. On Wednesday, I witnessed an altercation that sprang up when a group of three people brought a leashed German Shepherd dog into the dog park. The Shepherd promptly got mobbed and (still on the leash) exhibited symptoms of fear and nervousness in the situation. The owner (I assume) let her loose and she ran out into the park. One dog in the resident pack mobbed the Shepherd while the others circled around, occasionally barking or nipping at her.

The dog mobbing the Shepherd was a dominant female, which could account why she kept grabbing at the Shepherd's neck and trying to force her to the ground. The Shepherd wasn't having any of it and was trying to get away. After a couple of minutes, it looked like the Shepherd was getting the worst of it, so people started walking purposefully towards the pack.

As we all did so (I was watching Tierce, who was circling all of this and getting underfoot), the owner collected his Shepherd, kicked the dominant female away and retreated to the gate. He was then accosted verbally by the dominant dog's owner who told him in no uncertain terms not to kick her dog.

"Your dog was biting my dog!" he accused.

Further words were exchanged, whereupon the trio walked on, muttering angrily amongst themselves.

The whole incident caught me because of the experiences I have had here at the dog park. Tierce, being a dominant, open, male, adolescent Shiba has had more than his share of mobbing in the park. However, I have never felt the need to leave the park because of it. I have been warned by people whose business it is to know that dog parks can be precarious places, especially for Shibas who can take being mobbed badly. Be that as it may, I have not yet had an experience at the park where I felt that my dog was being mobbed and that the other owner(s) weren't doing enough about it.

Just lucky? Could be. Since Tierce is a little asshole of a dog who is just as annoying to some of the dogs at the dog park as he is at home, you would think that by now his canine karma would be used up for the next seven years or so.

Maybe it's just that I have made a decision, knowing what I do of dogs and dog parks and decided that there was a certain limit that I would go to before I interfered.

I will interfere if:

Tierce is exhibiting signs of stress - vocalizing is a sign

Tierce has been mobbed for a few minutes without pause

Tierce is mobbing another dog who is not appearing to give as good as he gets or is constantly being prevented from getting away by Tierce or another dog

Tierce is jumping up or otherwise behaving in a manner that interferes with other people at the dog park

What is interference? Mostly, it's trying to catch the little brat and pick him up for a while to let things cool down. Sometimes this is all one needs for the dogs to focus on something else. Sometimes it's taking a dog out of the game by holding onto his collar. Sometimes it's being done for the day and leaving to come back another time. Dogs are like people in that stress from other areas than the dog park can affect their temperament and reactions in the dog park.

I have found that most of the owners have gauged their dogs' temperaments and behaviour well when it comes to this. The majority of us are reluctant to interfere unless there is a serious fight. The dogs are here to socialize. Sometimes mobbing and snarling and snapping are a way for a dog to learn other dogs' limits.

I don't let Tierce be bullied constantly, but I think that him learning that he isn't top dog is a valuable life lesson that will keep him less likely to assert himself negatively towards another dog later on. Shassi learned that particular life lesson from Kena and Buddi, but I wonder if she would be as intolerant of other dogs if she had had the dog park experience that Tierce is having now.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Clever Paws

Research indicates dogs have some ability to read minds

The title is misleading. What the article is actually about is a psychology student's research into whether dogs take the thoughts and feelings of others into account.

You know, I'd love to find evidence that Tierce isn't just the Shiba genius I've always known him to be, but a SUPER-genius. Michelle Maginnity's research, according to this article, seems to base a dog's perceptions on what a person knows instead of the cues they give off when they know something.
Michelle said a range of scenarios were tested, for example, one person watched food being hidden while the other covered their eyes, and in each test the dogs showed a preference for the person who they believed knew where the food was.

"What this showed was that the dogs were able to take the perspective of the humans involved in the experiment, and attribute states of knowledge to those people," Michelle said.
If the scenarios were all like this, then I am of the opinion that Maginnity is making the Clever Hans mistake.

Clever Hans was an Arabian stallion owned by Mr. Wilhelm von Osten, a math teacher. When von Osten started exhibiting Hans in 1891, Hans could apparently do mathematical problems, read and spell. Conventional testing failed to reveal any trickery or interference. The Hans Commission was formed to study Hans, which lead to Oskar Pfungst, a psychiatrist, being invited in to test Hans. Pfungst found out that Hans could only answer a question correctly if the questioner knew the answer. Hans also needed a close, clear view of the questioner to give correct answer. Subtle, unintentional body language was giving Hans his answers, not human-like intelligence or mind-reading.

What this article is ignoring (and I hope Maginnity isn't) is that dogs can read extremely subtle changes in both scent and body language. Dogs have long been used to track people and animals; nowadays they are used to detect bombs and even cancer. The study mentioned found that dogs preferred the people who knew where the food was. Was it because they could "take the perspective of the humans involved in the experiment, and attribute states of knowledge to those people" or because they associated some scent or body language with getting food?

It might be worth mentioning that von Osten also tried teaching mathematics to a bear and a cat. The bear got pissed off and the cat just didn't care. I'm thinking that a Shiba would fall between these two extremes. Shibas do have exceptional mathematical ability, however. Tierce, upon being shown three treats and given two, will still sniff out the third treat. Wait, did I say "sniff"?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

It looks like a little fox!

Pictures of a Shiba meeting two foxes. Does it really look like a little fox now?

Shibas and death

A friend of mine died on October 29th this year. It was a big shock to all of her friends. Myrranda, as I knew her, was a joyous, vibrant woman who will be greatly missed by many. The memorial was held on Saturday, November 3rd.

What does this have to do with Shibas? Nothing... and everything. I had decided to put together a "memorial book" chronicling all the emails, Livejournal posts, Facebook entries and personal messages. During the hellish days between the 29th and the 3rd, I was glued to the computer. The only thing that got me outside to remember that there was something other than a big gaping hole left by Myrranda's passing was Tierce.

There is something to be said for having a Shiba around when grief strikes. They aren't dogs that let one wallow in grief. They insist that life go on - well, at least the life where they get fed regularly, walked every day and given attention when they so desire.

This is interpreted as cold-hearted, no doubt, by people who think that a dog's sole purpose during a time of mourning is resting its head on its master's knee and looking up at him soulfully. These people are more suited to an aged Golden Retriever, who is generally deliriously happy doing just that.

But a Shiba snaps you out of depression with his antics, rattles your cage by refusing to come when called - even during a period of intense mourning - and generally wakes you up to the fact that there is a world out there beyond the blackness of grief. I found that, while I neglected my workout schedule, I did not neglect to take Tierce for a walk or to the dog park. He teased many a smile out of me that would have otherwise have stayed hidden.

Whether he is running joyfully in the dog park or sneaking something forbidden off the table in the hopes of you chasing him, a Shiba is showing you the way out. Not out of sorrow for your loss, but rather out of the hopelessness and helplessness that a death - especially a sudden one - can bring.

Remember, there is a world out there and it can be beautiful. Celebrate the passing of your loved ones by enjoying the good things that the world has to offer and by trying to make the bad things better.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Not doing much this year - the death of one of my friends tends to douse festive joy... but here's a picture of Tierce and Shassi at the dog park. Happy Halloween, everybody.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Oh, I want!

Robotic Shiba Nintendog

I want it, but I can't find anything relating to it online! Still looking... will post if I find somewhere you can order it or that tells where you can buy it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Reverse snobbery

You know what I fucking hate? The idea that buying a purebred dog, even if it's bred by a responsible breeder who screens, tests, trains and educates, is killing innocent pound puppies. I get it on the bulletin boards I'm on and casual comments elsewhere.

"Don't buy from a breeder - adopt!"

"All breeders are causing this pet overpopulation!"

"Rescue - don't breed!"

"How could you get a dog from a breeder when there are so many already needing homes?"

It used to be that purebred dog owners were the snobs, parading their fancy dogs in front of the lesser mongrels and mongrel-owners. Now it seems that everyone who ever plucked a dog out of the pound or SPCA deserves the Nobel Prize while people with the temerity to pick a dog whose background and breeding is likely to suit their lifestyle and goals should hang their heads in shame. At the very least, they should be proclaiming their intention to rescue "next time", to make up for the terrible sin they made in the deliberate purchase of a delibrately bred dog.

Never mind that some breeders are nearly obsessive-compulsive about their breedings. Forget the fact that some of these people spend thousands of dollars to test their dogs clear of genetic disorders and demand that the dogs they breed to have the same tests proving that they are not afflicted. Ignore the part where these people never make money off of these dogs, because they are spending it all on the continued health and welfare of the animals that they breed.

While I agree that irresponsible breeders are causing the current overpopulation of dogs, I hardly think that ALL breeders are guilty of this sin. I have yet to see a dog from a reputable breeder in the adoption circuit for the simple reason that they screen owners and demand first refusal if the owner cannot or will not keep the dog. The people who buy from these breeders are not just looking for BreedX; they are looking for a member of BreedX that is less likely to fall prey to genetic disorders or develop weird temperament problems.

Rescue and adoption are terrific ways to get a pet. But they aren't perfect. There are a lot of happy endings in the rescue world, but there are also a lot of horror stories too. You can't save them all and sometimes when you try, you end up hurting more than you bargained for. Pain that all the fuzzy bunnies and rainbows that rescue/adopter enthusiasts throw at you can't alleviate. Shibas are not a forgiving breed when it comes to neglect or abuse - you can end up with a dog who fear-bites or goes catatonic when faced with routine family life.

I'm not saying that people should not rescue dogs. I think that it's a noble and responsible choice, especially for someone who has the time and knowledge to work past the quirks that a dog - especially a Shiba - can have acquired during a hard-knock life. And it is very often successful - there are many stories of successful adoptions and happy lives.

But it isn't the answer for everybody. And if I decide to go a route which I believe will bring both me and the dog I introduce into my life the least pain and most happiness, I'm not going to feel guilty or responsible for someone else's choice to breed irresponsibly.

Don't Call Me A Pimp

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Murderous puppy, take #2

Mischa's in the hospital, a souvenir of the dialysis-line-chewing incident. He is expected to make a full recovery. Tierce is, of course, blithely unaware that he was almost the instrument of one of his people's death. He just knows that Mischa is gone and that I have been behaving very oddly lately.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Signs that your Shiba is entering puberty...

Takes your Joy of Sex book off the shelf and energetically starts to tear off the cover. Gets yelled at by boyfriend. Looks abashed. Boyfriend returns to couch and Shiba returns to the bookshelf.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Shiba gets tossed back into the ex-pen.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

It's like having the canine version of Gregory House, M.D. living with you.

My boyfriend is okay. Those of you who read my last entry will remember that I was a little concerned for his well-being, since Tierce chewed through his dialysis tube. Lovely morning, that.

This is typical for a puppy and, since neither of us caught him in the act, we can't give him the correction/beating/near-death-experience that our first inclinations were upon discovering the mangled plastic. He will, however, be confined to the crate upon our retiring to bed.

More on this later...

Sunday, September 30, 2007

My Shiba tried to murder my boyfriend.

My boyfriend, Mischa, is on dialysis. Long, sordid tale. Lately, we had been allowing Tierce to sleep with us on the bed. This, as the events of this morning proved, was a mistake.

At 4:30 AM, Mischa and I were awakened by his dialysis machine's alarm.

"No. Oh, no," he said.

"What?" I mumbled, struggling with the weight of a sleeping puppy that pinned the blankets down around me.

"Tierce chewed on the line."


He immediately went downstairs and did a twin bag (for those of you uninitiated into the joys of terminal kidney failure, this means a bag of saline solution pumped out/into the abdominal cavity) to try and flush any bacteria out of his system. Then another. Right now he's on his third and is snoring on the couch while I chronicle these events and wonder if he's going to have to be helicoptered to the kidney care clinic in Victoria later this morning... or afternoon... or evening.

For those of you on the edges of your seats, yes Tierce is alive and well and unkicked/beaten/strangled.

Moral of the story: Crate your puppy at night.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Friday, August 31, 2007


I am remiss; on August 27th, it was Shassi's 14th birthday. Happy Birthday, Shassi! And here's me playing with Photoshop...

Monday, August 6, 2007

Travelling Tierce

Last week's tragedies are, blessedly, water under the bridge. Tierce's limp is well-nigh gone and he seems to have forgotten all about the evils of wasps.

We went up to Port Alberni on the bicycle last Friday together. I have rigged up the trailer to carry him safely with the help of a VestHarness attached to a coupler that snaps on to the D-rings inside the trailer. He was a very good puppy for the trip!

He did get overwhelmed by all the kids at the SCA event that we went to. My boyfriend had brought his crate and ex-pen up in the car, so he had a secure place to stay when things just got too much.

I loved having Tierce at the event, but dogs require a LOT of care at SCA events (or any event that people go to in the high summer).

- frequent visits to fresh, clean water
- appropriate food and limiting the amount of "junk"
- ready access to shade
- SUPERVISION, especially when the event features a lot of kids running around
- a cool, private place to escape to when Puppy needs to unwind.
- Constant control. A dog should never be running loose at an event. Period.

We had one problem with a MinPin running up to Tierce and attacking him. Not that I was worried about Tierce, but I certainly didn't want him associating dogs running up to him with pain and aggression. People who coddle their little dogs really piss me off because then the little guys think they own the world and become hell on four legs. Luckily, the little dog was mostly kept on a lead for the rest of the event (but still managed to break free twice) and we mostly didn't have any further problems. The Bearded Collie who also attended was a 5 year old female who had no patience with puppy antics and, although she was polite, she made it clear that she was not to be pawed about. Which is good, since Tierce needs to be taught not to be rude.

Tierce passed his puppy preschool with flying colours :) We're going to enter him in the next class in September.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Not a happy camper

On the evening of July 30th, 2007, the air was rent by shrieking. Tierce had been running around the yard on his last run of the night. We didn't see exactly what happened, as he was at the other end of the yard and it was dark out, but he came limping towards us, favouring his right front leg. Examination proved that he had no cuts or abrasions, no painful areas and that he had a full range of motion. We put him to bed immediately in his crate.

In the morning, he was still lame and in pain, so I called the vet and received the instruction to watch him for the next day or so and to bring him in if he was not improving. He improved rapidly, which leads us to believe that he wrenched his shoulder and pulled a muscle. We are keeping him quiet.

However, on a sedate visit to the yard to perform his ablutions, the air was once again filled with shrieks and screams. A wailing puppy with a bump on his nose and a couple angry wasps trying to burrow into his fur to sting him lay crying on the ground. I ran to him and killed the insects, but his nose is puffy. He is going to spend another quiet day, even a quiet week, inside his ex-pen.

Oh, and his latest trick - learned during his injury - is jumping to the top of the ex-pen and levering himself over. Now I have to roof it with a tarp. Yay.

I feel more sympathy with mothers of toddlers now than I ever have before.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

She's still here

Yesterday, everybody but Tierce was at Mom's, sorting stuff for the Garage Sale that was to free us of the junk that we have moved from basement to basement for the last 25 years or so.

Near the end of the sorting, I let Shassi out into the yard where she peed and briskly trotted around, sniffing at things and looking offended when her feet led her into a ball or a clump of grass that her eyes didn’t warn her about. My aunt was nervous for fear that she would wander out the other side of the house and go out into the street. Which she tried. I went around the other side of the house and met her at the gate.

She was not pleased when I carried her back up to the porch and set her down within its confines. I was wistfully remembering her when she was younger and the gleam in her eyes when she was caught after leading us a merry chase. Wasn’t that fun, the eyes used to say. They used to be brown, but are cloudy, now, and barely register anything besides light and dark.

She is kept from the yard and the street there by two plastic panels that are held in place by strategically placed pots of flowers. Unfortunately the one out to the street was not closed all the way and before I realized it, Herself trotted purposefully through.

I ran after her, blessing the near-14 years that made her unwilling to go past a brisk trot. She broke into a gallop when she realized how close I was, but I grabbed her before she really took off. Back to the porch we went. The gate was pulled fully across and a bunch of pansies kept it from going anywhere.

Undaunted, Shassi again headed towards it. With a hard shove of her nose, she pushed the gate aside and again briskly trotted towards the street. Again, I ran out to grab her and piled three more flower pots against the panel.

Just before she bowed to the forces against her, she glanced up at me and in her cloudy eyes I saw a familiar gleam.

Old for sure, but not dead yet.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Paddler Puppy

Tierce went kayaking for the first time today. He did very well! Didn't jump out of the boat and didn't capsize us. This is good.

The first stop was at the local kayak store to outfit Tierce with a PFD. He was NOT impressed. However after a good sulk, he accepted the PFD with bad grace, kicking up his hind legs and chewing on the tabs when he thought I wasn't looking.

We went to Westwood Lake, a popular recreation spot in Nanaimo. Fortunately, due to clouding over, there were not a lot of people there and the lake was nearly empty.

I first put Tierce in the cockpit, but found that this was impracticable, because his head was in the way of the paddle. We then tried putting him in the front hatch, which was much more successful. As you can see, I risked my camera cell phone to bring readers pictorial evidence of Tierce's exploits.
He didn't try to get out of the hatch, although he was a bit ill at ease. Next time, I'll make a more comfortable bed for him in the front hatch so that he can lie or sit in comfort. I also want to design some kind of cover that allows him to pop up to breathe and look around, but minimizes rain and water entry. I was thinking of some kind of "hood" that he could stick his head through. I also need to arrange a way that he can have adequate access to water during a long kayak trip. I was toying with the idea of affixing, somehow, one of those no-spill covered water bowls to the inside or outside of the hatch. If it was outside, I could always arrange a system where I could pull back an elasticized cover so that Tierce could take a drink without leaving it open for seawater or dirt to get in. I can even pack supplies around the opening so that the hatch is still carrying supplies while accommodating a Shiba.

My biggest fear is capsizing and having Tierce trapped in or under the boat. I'm thinking that I'm going to have to arrange a wet-exit/panic cord that clips to my PFD to rip the cover off the front hatch and let Tierce swim free of the kayak. His PFD is also going to be attached to my PFD in case of capsizing or a sudden urge to battle killer whales. In the event of his being trapped, I could follow the line to his PFD.

I'm hoping that Tierce learns to like kayaking and seeing new places, because I want to take him on kayak tours with Mischa and I and friends of ours. Here's hoping! If I get him used to the kayak at Westwood Lake and other safer places to paddle, he should soon be accustomed enough to handle sea kayaking without too much trouble.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Shassi - AKA The Misanthropic Shiba

On October 22nd, 1993, I brought Shassi home. She had been born on August 27th, 1993. Now, it's two months shy of her 14th birthday.

I see her growing more vague now. She's nearly blind and at least partly deaf. (We don't know how deaf; since she's never listened to a thing I said in her entire life). She has progressed from giving other dogs the evil eye to trembling violently if she encounters one. She has her little routine with my mother and aunt and spends most of her time sleeping now. She needs some help in and out of the car.

It's funny how a dog's life can mark an era in a human's. I got Shassi when I was 16 - an awkward, self-hating, undersocialized 16. Now I'm three months shy of my 30th birthday. Well, I'm a bit more socialized at least. During Shassi's tenure, I graduated high school - back when it still meant something, left home, started The Misanthropic Shiba, graduated from college, joined the military, left the military and returned to Nanaimo.

Shassi, ever since she toddled into my life, has always been her own dog. At first, it was startling and almost offensive. Dogs were supposed to come when they were bloody well called, dammit! They were supposed to at least pretend some regard for you past the thirteen seconds that it took to ascertain that you hadn't brought any meat or cheese home from the store. They weren't supposed to be the catalyst for the most absurd events that cling to the memory of one's growing up.

We got used to it, even to the point of dragging out the latest Shassi story whenever someone wanted to know if anything interesting had gone on in our lives. Shassi was the dog that everyone gravitated to, proving once again that people are attracted to beings that couldn't care less if everyone around them lived or died. Kena and Buddi, the elder dogs of the pack, were perfectly happy being petted and made much of, and I daresay they got their fill. But Shassi was special. A dog unto herself.

I wish I was more like her. Not to the point where I say, "To hell with everyone!" and live only for my immediate gain. But to the point where I can forgive myself and think well of myself even if I've made mistakes or done something stupid or thoughtless or careless. The ability to take note of a situation, take the lessons to heart and move on is something that my dog possesses that I really wish I did.

But I'm only 29 and I have time. Shassi is nearly 14 and her sun is setting. I believe that she has a year or so left; perhaps even two or three. But it won't be long, in the terms of a human lifespan.

Shassi, dog of my childhood, I love you. For your sake and the sake of all the dogs who I was privileged to share my life with, I wish - I hope - that there is a better beyond where we will meet again.

Monday, June 18, 2007

A wiser puppy

Tierce has settled down some now. He is mouthing a lot less and his tantrums have slowly dwindled. This is good. He is walking a lot better onlead now - actually trotting and moving ahead! Puppy class will commence on the 24th - for us humans!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Tierce Temper Tantrums

Well, Mischa and I finally experienced what Mom went through last weekend. Tierce was lying in Mischa's arms and decided he needed to get out of them NOW! When thwarted, he started baring his teeth and snarling and twisting to get free.

Mischa shook him by the scruff of the neck and held him down. He wasn't hurting Tierce, but the cacophony of wails and screams would have had one believe that the dog was slowly being roasted over an open fire. Then Mischa carried him over to the ex-pen and dumped him in. Silence. A slightly bewildered puppy stared at us through the wire. I picked him up and cradled him. Nothing.

I had previously emailed both Tierce's breeder and Shassi's breeder about what Mom went through. Apparently it's not unheard of, especially when the Shiba is a little alpha male. Tierce did the equivalent of a three-year-old human screaming thrashing and kicking at anyone and everyone.

BUT... and this is a big but...

Mom still has that deep scratch. We're going to be watching Mr. Tierce very carefully for signs of another temper tantrum and responding to them accordingly. This kind of thing has the potential to get out of hand VERY quickly.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Troubles with Tierce

Tierce bit my mother the other day. It's a one-and-a-half inch long scratch that has a tiny bruise purpling in on one end. This is not good. Some people might think that he's 'only a puppy', but this kind of behaviour has to be stopped RIGHT NOW.

Mischa and I had come back from SCA camping (we had figured that since he only had his second shot, he should wait until his third to come camping with us) to find a note to this effect in the kitchen. Upon reading this, I phoned her and she came over. She had had extreme difficulties from the start; Tierce did not like his harness, did not like his leash and was extremely aggressive. She said that he snarled and growled "like a big dog" and that he snapped at her when she had tried to put his harness on.

I got her to put the harness on him again and he was showing his teeth towards her. I took him and gave him a big shake. He yelped and after that, Mom didn't have a problem putting anything on him.

The thing is, that while Tierce is mouthy and a brat, he has never exhibited these signs of aggression towards us. He doesn't like his harness that much, or his lead, but has never snarled, growled or threatened in any way. We have been correcting him for his mouthiness and thought that we had that part covered. Apparently not. I am worried, because I want to socialize him and a biting puppy is not something that most people want to pet.

1. Mom is going to come over to see how I handle Tierce. We are going to involve her in his obedience training and practice putting the harness/lead on and off him.

2. This dog is going to get socialized. I'm going to start taking him downtown and wherever there is a lot of people and stuff going on. The vet says it's okay if we stay away from heavily canine-trafficked areas.

3. I'm going to enrol him in obedience classes as soon as possible. Puppy classes have already been and gone at the kennel club, but if I can get some somewhere else, I'm there.

4. He is never going to get away with anything remotely resembling dominance aggression. I'm going to load a tiny spray bottle with Bitter Apple to spray in his mouth. It's quicker than having everybody cover their arms and hands in the stuff.

5. While there is no excuse for this behaviour, I am probably going to get my Tierce-walker friend to take care of him on the weekends I'm away. He has had no problem with Tierce so far, so he's a better choice. We'll just have to work around his work schedule.

I am very upset with this. Tierce is a pushy, dominant puppy with the potential to go seriously wrong if he is not brought up short. Dominance in a young puppy is never to be ignored or laughed off. It's a serious matter that needs immediate attention.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Dogdammit, you get up early!

It's O-Dark-Thirty in the morning and Tierce is whining to get up. Here are the steps, in order:

1. Check the time in exhausted disbelief.
2. Open the crate door.
3. Shamble out of bed, sleepily avoiding the puppy now frisking and gnawing at my ankles.
4. Locate housecoat, Crocs and put on same, still avoiding frisking puppy.
5. Go downstairs to let puppy out.
6. Go back upstairs to the third-from-last step where puppy is stuck, having used up all his courage in getting down the top two steps.
7. Put puppy on ground in front of door.
8. Re-orient puppy, who has decided that a grease stain on the kitchen tile is more fascinating than the pee threatening to dribble from his nether regions at any given second.
9. Watch puppy charge out of door, trip over the only stick in the yard, and come up to stand stiff-legged for six seconds. This is the Holy Grail of dog ownership. The dog has peed outside.
10. Watch eagle-eyed as puppy tears around yard to see where he squats to poop so you can pick it up before he smears it across the yard and himself. He invariably picks the spot around the house or behind the bush, causing you to trudge across the damp lawn to make sure he's done the job.
11. Play puppy keep-away as you attempt to catch the little darling who decides he doesn't want his breakfast as much as this lovely game of chase.
12. Catch puppy.
13. Bring puppy inside and hand feed him his breakfast in my arms. This reinforces the dominant position I'm supposed to have with this dog.
14. Put the rest of his breakfast in his dish and refill his water dish.
15. Collapse on the couch beside the ex-pen and fall asleep, dreaming blissfully of the day that Tierce can hold it for eight hours or learn to flush the toilet.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Boss puppy? I don't think so!

Tierce is a very dominant puppy. He doesn't like to be held on his back and mouths a lot. We're in the process of teaching him that humans don't make good chew toys. Also, that ALL humans don't make good chew toys!

I find that people either are too concerned with disciplining someone else's dog or think it's cute that a puppy is gnawing on them. I think that this is a behaviour that needs to be nipped in the bud. I believe that puppy biting can lead to adult biting, because the puppy has been lead to believe that it's okay for him to bite people. No matter how gently the pup is mouthing, it's still a dominance behaviour. Basically the dog isn't respecting your boundaries as a pack member and that has to be stopped.

I use scruff shakes as my main method of negative reinforcement. It triggers an ingrained response, as that's where a bitch would grab her puppies to carry them. It's also one of the main points for a dominant dog asserting his/her status to grab. I also tap him on the nose when he starts biting at my hands. He doesn't like that very much! However, I don't want negative reinforcement to be my main method of dealing with this.

One of the things I'm trying is feeding Tierce his breakfast while he's on his back, one kibble at a time. Since he only eats a handful at each meal, this isn't too time-consuming. He was a lot better once he figured out that relaxing on his back meant that he got breakfast! I think I'm going to continue this and see how it goes. I also try to carry him around on his back, like a human infant, several times a day.

Once Tierce is fully immunized, I'd like to start him on a "stranger feeding plan". Basically this means that I take his breakfast/lunch/dinner with us on a walk and give it to people, especially children, who want to feed the puppy. This way he associates all strangers with food and good times. Also, he'll get reinforcement for obeying commands from other people = submission. Tierce isn't going to be allowed off lead in an unfenced area and he's not a protection dog. Therefore, I think that encouraging him to obey commands given by other people is a good step to showing him his place as a subordinate to all humans.

I've also got him a beef chewie that he likes very much. I plan to get more, and maybe some of the bigger bones. He has a stick (see picture) that he is very fond of. I think providing outlets for chewing may also help. Tierce is a puppy, after all, and puppies need to chew a lot!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Real men snuggle puppies

It's a natural thing for a woman to want a man with nurturing qualities. Makes it less likely that they'll kill their offspring or leave the area without a child support cheque being mailed regularly. I, being a childfree dog obsessive, don't need a nurturing man for those reasons, but the sight of a thoroughly masculine, 100% straight-and-narrow guy cuddling a puppy does make my insides melt.

Cute overload is kind of like radiation poisoning, but less painful.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Anautuk's Game Of Tierce

Anautuk's Game Of Tierce... or that's how Bravewolf is hoping it'll be registered! I am an 8 week old Shiba Inu puppy who just joined the household. Right now I'm in PRISON! It's spelled E-X-P-E-N and it's where I stay when Bravewolf isn't watching me all the time! I don't know why she doesn't want me exploring the house - there are all these tasty cords and pieces of furniture lying around!

I took my first day of collar and lead very well - although I kept scratching at the collar! I'm not expected to follow the lead or anything like that; I just need to know how they feel for later. If I'm going somewhere Bravewolf doesn't want me to go, she just picks me up. I am very good about sitting for treats, even at just 8 weeks old. I don't know what the word "Sit!" means, but I know that when my bottom hits the ground, I get something yummy!

I come from a long line of champion show dogs, but I'm not planning on being one. Instead, Bravewolf and I are going to try out obedience and agility. When I'm older and can be fitted for a lifejacket, she's going to train me to sit quietly in the kayak when she and Mischa go paddling. Mischa is Bravewolf's boyfriend. He is very big and I have to look waaay up to see him!

I visited Bravewolf's Mom today because Bravewolf needed a tarp to put in my ex-pen. I met Shassi, the Misanthropic Shiba from a distance because she's nearly 14 years old and pretty crochety these days. Bravewolf is going to introduce us slowly and hopes that we will get along well enough for Shassi to teach me my manners. What are manners?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Don't Call Me A Pimp

Excellent article that deserves frequent reposting:

Don't Call Me A Pimp

by Margaret Anne Cleek

(From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 1993.)

When I lived in Detroit, I had a close friend who was a state welfare fraud investigator. To hear him tell it, every welfare mom was living it up on the dole, thought she had a right to have the government provide for every child she had, and had a man stashed away who lived off her check. His solution was to cut off the freeloading and make these people work for a living. He dehumanized all people on welfare, calling them the "scum de la scum," and always expected the worst of them.

Why did he think all welfare recipients were ripping off the system? The system abusers were the only people he ever saw. His perception of the situation was distorted because his sample did not accurately reflect the population of welfare recipients. His contempt for the people and the system left him unable to understand the complexity of the issues and solutions. But as he saw it, he was in the front lines and therefore he knew what needed to be done.

The perceptual distortion my friend experienced occurs in many occupations. I would suggest that humane work is one of them. Humane workers mostly see abused, neglected, or abandoned animals, and encounter a disproportionate number of abusive and negligent people. Their world often divides into two groups: us, the rescuers, and them, the reason animals need to be rescued, with little or no in-between. Animal protection activists may likewise suffer from perceptual distortion, because of the frequent use of worst cases along with exaggerated rhetoric in fundraising appeals.

Because people in animal protection mostly see and hear about irresponsible pet owners, they come to believe that all pet owners other than themselves are unfit to keep animals. Because they see hundreds or even thousands of unwanted and surplus animals, they believe all breeding should be stopped. Because most of the purebreds they see have been rejected by someone due to poor health or behavior, they come to believe that all purebred breeders are producing animals with horrendous defects.

Just as some law enforcement officers become so discouraged and frustrated that they resort to administering "street justice," demoralized and despairing rescuers may come to hate and dehumanize the people they hold accountable. Their anger is sometimes displaced toward readily available targets rather than toward those who are actually responsible, who may be harder to deal with.

The cost is heavy in the struggle against pet overpopulation. Humane groups increasingly focus their energies on lobbying in support of sweeping anti-breeding ordinances, which have little chance of passage in most jurisdictions and less chance of effective enforcement even if adopted. Dog and cat fanciers, many of them long involved in animal protection themselves, respond with costly public relations efforts and counter-offensives against some of the very humane groups they once supported.

Meanwhile, budget-conscious governments are reducing funding of neutering programs despite their record of success, and slashing animal control budgets to where many animal control departments are forced to euthanize more strays, sooner, with no money at all left over for humane education­­including spreading the word about the need for neutering.

I am not immune to perceptual distortion myself, based on my experience as a purebred dog fancier in a community which recently considered (and rejected) a stringent anti-breeding ordinance. I have responded to personal abuse with perhaps overbroad characterizations of those who attacked me, possibly adding to the animosity that increasingly divides the humane community. But my reality was that all my life I have been an animal person. If not for the pre-feminism sexist career counseling I received, I would have become a veterinarian. Animals, especially dogs, are not a business to me, nor a hobby. They are an integral part of my life. They have been my lifeline in times of desperate unhappiness. I have spent a lifetime learning about dogs, and have always acted for their welfare.

One night I went to bed secure in my persona as an animal person. The next morning, in a Kafkaesque transformation, I woke up in the uniform of the enemy with a "kick me" sign on my butt. I had been defined as "the pet overpopulation problem" by people who didn't know anything about what I and others like me did. A woman with a great salary from an animal rights organization with a million-dollar-plus budget was considered an impartial voice for animals, but I, who have never shown a dime's profit from animals, was defined as a money-driven special interest. The director of an animal shelter that releases thousands of unaltered animals every year was trying to pass laws to control me­­although in twelve years as a breeder I have never sold an animal who subsequently sired or whelped a litter. When his abysmally low redemption rate on neutering deposits was pointed out to him, he mentioned, without providing any empiric evidence to support his position, that the animals were being fixed and that people were leaving the deposits as donations. At the same time, he scoffed at the neutering contracts required by responsible breeders, calling even one unaltered animal "a time bomb."

Supporters of the breeding ordinance got away with claiming 20 million surplus animals are euthanized each year, more than three times the actual number shown by current pound and shelter surveys; that purebreds universally suffer from serious health problems; that breeders kill puppies who don't conform to artificial standards of perfection; that breeders who care about animals support breeding bans; that the overwhelming majority of animals at shelters are healthy and adoptable; and that pet overpopulation is fast getting worse, though the hard evidence from around the U.S. indicates exactly the opposite.

When I took the time to research the issues and present some alternative approaches based on the available data, my work was rejected out of hand by the breeding ordinance backers because I am (cringe) a breeder.

In fact, some animal protection activists­­not all­­are money-and-power-driven control freaks who don't like either people or animals very much. And some breeders, though unfortunately not all, are highly ethical individuals who care deeply for animals and consistently act in the best interests of all animals. No one camp has a monopoly on the good guys and the bad guys.

According to an American Kennel Club membership survey, most breeders are concerned with animal welfare, and consider pet overpopulation, puppy mills, and backyard breeders to be problems deserving prompt and serious attention.

Groups in conflict often overcome differences when they work together to achieve a common goal. Animal welfare and reducing the euthanasia count in shelters can be that goal for humane advocates and fancier/breeders­­if humane advocates are willing to involve us as part of the solution, instead of defining us as part of the problem.

Ethical breeding

Let me tell you something about us. Reputable fancier/breeders, of whom there are tens of thousands, have quality breeding stock which is tested clear for genetic disease and is of sound temperament. Husbandry is not, as yet, an exact science. We cannot produce defect-free animals, but we make ethical decisions, and do the best we can. Breeding by reputable fancier/breeders is done to improve the quality of the breed. Many of us breed only when we wish to keep an animal to exhibit or to add an animal to our breeding program. Some fanciers are reputed for producing quality animals. Newcomers who wish to show or add to their own breeding programs purchase animals from them. Such established breeders may produce several litters per year (not from the same mothers), but will have long waiting lists for the offspring.

Fancier/breeders may have thousands of dollars or even tens of thousands of dollars invested in breeding programs and individual dogs. We do not casually give away our bloodlines. We are careful about who gets our stock, as we do not want our valuable bloodlines to fall into the hands of backyard would-be commercial breeders. Our champion studs are not offered to service animals who are not of championship quality, for the same reason.

Some breeders who exhibit and are members of the fancy try to cover their expenses by producing litters for sale on the pet market. Some sell females on "puppy back" or "kitten back" contracts, requiring the purchaser to breed the animal and give one or more of the offspring back to the breeder. Co-ownership and animal-back contracts are in my opinion ethical in special instances, but I feel that someone who breeds many litters and sells the majority of the females on such terms is essentially a puppy mill (or the feline equivalent). Most fanciers frown on such tactics. I don't think there is anything wrong with trying to make back pet-related expenses, but the choices made when money is the motive differ from those made with the welfare of the breed in mind. Animal-back is not, in my opinion, in the best interest of the animals when practiced on a large scale.

Many people not familiar with the dog fancy believe that fanciers think of their dogs as commodities and that they have no "doggie quality of life." It is true that some dogs are maintained during their show careers in conditions more conducive to coat quality than life quality, but this is not true for the majority of our dogs. Most of us maintain our homes for the comfort, happiness, and security of our dogs. Many show dogs are members of the family, and may arrive at a show after spending the night on their owners' bed.

Show dogs generally receive excellent nutrition and veterinary care because of the owner's concern for their welfare and condition. Many retired show dogs live out the rest of their lives in their original homes, lording over the up-and-coming youngsters. Some are neutered and placed in homes as pets where they can enjoy the status of being an only dog.

Dogs who may not meet the breeders' requirements in terms of structure, marking, coat quality, dentition, and so forth are sold or placed in homes. While a responsible breeder will euthanize a pup with a deformity affecting the quality of his or her life, such as a cleft palate, destruction of animals for minor cosmetic flaws is not standard practice. Fancier/breeders are not to be confused with performance breeders who may produce and destroy puppies en masse in search of the fastest greyhounds, strongest sled dogs, and smartest hunting dogs. There is a market for dogs of most breeds who are neither candidates for the show ring, nor potential performance champions, if they have been adequately socialized. Socializing pups, which performance breeders may neglect, is an essential part of the fancier/breeder's regimen, and while the performance breeder's "culls" may only get in the way of his training routine, pups who aren't potential show dogs still have a role in acclimating their siblings to a family atmosphere. They have value, in other words, that isn't exclusively related to their sale price.

I am proud to sell one of my pups to a good home; what more could I ask for a pup than to become a valued member of a family?

Pets are often sold on neutering contracts, so that the buyers do not acquire breeding rights. Recently the American Kennel Club has made it possible for breeders to specify on the registration form that a specific dog is not sold for breeding. Such dogs are registerable, but their offspring are not. This is called limited registration. Concerned breeders applaud this development. The once accepted norm at AKC, that the papers had to go with the dog, and that any offspring of registered parents were registerable, created a lot of the problems we have today.

As I have argued elsewhere, I would like to see it become a requirement that all pups have limited registration, and that this be changed only when the owner has met minimum requirements for knowledge of the breed, and the dog has met some criteria of genetic health. Certainly all dogs sold at pet shops should be sold with limited registration­­but I suspect the pet industry would fight such a requirement tooth-and-nail. It should be noted that unscrupulous people could still breed limited registration or unregistered dogs, as they do now, and offer them for sale as "guaranteed full-blooded." My recommendation is not a perfect solution to backyard breeding industry, just one means of putting a crimp in it while insuring the integrity of registration.

For reputable breeders, the commitment to the buyer extends beyond the sale. The first year of a pup's life is generally hell on the owner. The breeder gives advice and assures the owner that it will get better, insuring that the pup doesn't become a shelter statistic before completing housebreaking. Reputable breeders take back animals who cannot be kept by their owners and re-place them in suitable homes. These animals are not "surplus." There are, unfortunately, some people who own one or more registered purebred dogs, usually of inferior stock, and sell their offspring as "AKC registered." Their commitment to the buyer ends at the point of sale, and they do not require buyers to neuter the dogs. Such backyard breeders are not generally willing or able to take back dogs who can no longer be kept by the buyer.

"Backyard" is an attitude and condition, not a place. Reputable fanciers may keep and breed animals in their yards, but not be "backyard breeders." My definition of a "backyard breeder" is someone who breeds dogs only for the purpose of making money. Any registered dog will do, and temperament and health are not considered. Many of these dogs are barely recognizable as the breed they represent. Corners are cut whenever possible; vaccinations may be omitted, or the dogs may receive low quality food. The pups are not properly socialized, and any buyer with the money will do.

I don't want to give the impression that I think any breeder who doesn't show dogs is a "backyard breeder." But a reputable breeder must do something with a dog other than mate him or her, and must accept responsibility for the pups he or she produces.

I also consider the "just one litter" breeder to be a backyard breeder. Regardless of motivation, and even if the pups are properly socialized, people should not be producing pups for sale without the commitment and experience to do so properly. Many of the "just one litter" breeders are surprised to learn there is no market for their pups.

Members of the humane community need to know that while backyard and "just one litter" breeders are collectively responsible for a great many pups, most of them if asked would claim they are not breeders. I have called such individuals and told them they had bred an animal turned in to rescue, and that they needed to take responsibility for the animal­­with little expectation that they would, but at least I could bust their chops a little. These people were incredulous that I called them breeders. They had a dog who had pups; they weren't breeders.

One of our rescue workers calls people who place newspaper ads for our breed, urging them to carefully place their puppies and informing them that when a dog comes into rescue we try to identify the breeder and return the dog. Again, these people say they aren't breeders. They couldn't be expected to take back a dog­­where would they put it?

When humane advocates talk of breeding bans and permits, these people don't think you mean them. Most would continue to do their thing, oblivious to the legislation, or pay one unaltered license fee and produce a litter or two before spaying their bitch. Remember, they are not breeders; they just have a dog who has pups.

There are large-scale out-of-state commercial breeders and/or puppy mill operations that supply pet stores. They do not require neutering, nor do they take back dogs. I am informed that pet shops sometimes tell buyers they can breed their acquisitions to make back the purchase price. Now that the public is getting the word that pet shops are not the best place to purchase a dog, though, some commercial breeders are selling through private individuals, who receive shipments and sell "home-raised" pups on commission. They may even claim to be doing "placement" of puppies "rescued" from puppy mills. They use the rhetoric of animal protection to help them collect big "adoption fees." And they too are not breeders.

Breeding vs. overpopulation

Commercial puppy production is big business. The fancier/breeder's puppy production is a drop in the bucket compared to the commercial kennel's proudction. Yet breeding bans and permit systems generally affect us while leaving the commercial breeders untouched. Indeed some proposed forms of breeding regulation would insure that commercial kennels would become the only source of purebred pups. And shelters would only have the unsocialized offspring of the urban strays turned out by the irresponsibles. I would hate to see this happen.

Some humane activists would cheer the demise of the purebred. I think this is naive. There is a tendency to over-romanticize the mutt. Purebreds give assurance of type and temperament, helping people pick the right dog for their lifestyle and conditions. When organizations such as the Humane Society of the U.S. push shelter adoptions by advancing the "one size fits all" theory, they do both dogs and people a disservice. People should not be forced to accept animals of unknown genetic background. Random-bred dogs may have inherited a predisposition toward dangerous or undesireable behavior. Some mixes are inherently dangerous, e.g. a large guarding breed crossed with a highly reactive herding breed. The position that all pups are created equal and if we love them they will turn out right simply is not true. Dogs provide a strong argument for behavioral genetics. Despite Barbara Woodhouse's often quoted statement that there are no bad dogs, only bad owners, there are bad dogs. Aggression toward humans and/or other animals, fear-biting, shyness, and so forth are inheritable characteristics, which responsible breeders strive to keep out of their breeding stock.

I believe animal shelters have a responsibility to protect the public from potentially dangerous and otherwise unsuitable animals­­not least because urging the adoption of these animals can result in even greater numbers of homeless animals. Some pups offered by shelters have literally been dragged out of dens after their homeless mother has been captured, and have had no socialization. The risk that they may never be acceptably socialized is exascerbated when we are dealing with an adult animal of unknown behavioral background. As a dog expert, I would advise any family unfamiliar with dogs against adopting a large dog of unknown background if they have small children. Adopting an adult dog is not the problem-free experience that many shelter workers suggest. It is possible that the dog is at the shelter because of behavioral problems, and further problems such as illness and aggression toward other dogs may result from the shelter experience. In any case, the dog will be confused and stressed by his or her rapidly changing circumstances, perhaps requiring more care and understanding than a pup.

Shelter dog adoption is appropriate for the very special people who understand what they may have to cope with, and have the necessary emotional and physical resources. But many people who perhaps could not successfully socialize a shelter animal nonetheless make very good dog owners if they are able to purchase the particular sort of dog who best suits their requirements, with follow-up help provided by the breeder.

As a dog fancier, I strive not only to promote dogs, but also to produce the "better bred" dog. And I try to tactfully educate those who think dog breeding only requires finding two dogs of the same breed and the opposite sex and getting them together.

As a responsible breeder, I refuse to accept reponsibility for creating pet overpopulation. And I do not buy the illogical argument that the birth of a healthy, wanted purebred litter displaces shelter animals. If you raise two happy, healthy children who are much loved and cared for, are you responsible for a battered child in the home of a substance abuser and a child in the Third World who is forced into slave labor or who sleeps on the street? You may wish to help those children, too, but the care you provide to your own takes nothing away from them.

While I do not accept blame for pet overpopulation, I would like to accept some responsibility for providing solutions. I have ideas to offer, and would like to open communication. But before we talk, could you please take those "All Breeders are PIMPS" bumper stickers off your car?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Dogs: Not to the manner born

Written by Denise Flaim (Animal House)

Dogs: Not to the manner born

Dogs gone wild.

Everywhere I go these days, it seems I encounter canines in need of boot camp. It's not their fault, of course: Getting a sound foundation in puppyhood is paramount if your dog is to be a well-adjusted canine citizen.

So, in the spirit of self-improvement, here is my list of

10 puppy musts:

1. Require pedicures. Many dogs don't like having their nails cut with a clipper or ground with a Dremel. But puppies need to understand that nail care will happen, whether they like it or not. Firm, gentle handling; slow, steady exposure; copious amounts of treats; and persistence will ultimately yield success. If you do not establish this groundwork during puppyhood, you will end up with a dog who does not tolerate having his feet handled, or worse. There's nothing more pathetic than a dog so foot-phobic that he must be sedated by a vet for his monthly nail clipping.

2. Teach bite inhibition. Puppies do a tremendous alligator impersonation, especially when they are teething. If you don't teach your puppy what is acceptable mouth pressure, you'll pay the price later. Discourage nipping and hard pressure, but let your puppy mouth you lightly to teach control and bite inhibition. (You also need to teach him that when you say stop, no matter how gentle his mouthing, no means no.)

3. Splurge on socialization. Puppies are impressionable, particularly up until they hit the 16-week mark. Before then, they should be introduced to as many new stimuli as possible - different breeds of dogs and other animals; people of all ages, sizes and colors; and different sounds and experiences, from ambulance sirens to blaring radios. Since vaccinations are often not complete before this period, don't take your pup to places where lots of dogs congregate. But don't keep him in an ivory tower, either.

4. Don't be a wimp. If you project fear, nervousness or hesitation in your daily dealings, your dogs might very well decide you are too much of a wuss to handle the great, big, bad world, and might take matters into their own hands. At best, this can lead to inappropriate guarding or protective behavior. At worst, it can lead to a dog that is so maladjusted it must be moved to a new home or even euthanized. Dogs are like kids: They need boundaries and a strong sense that their parents are in charge. For your sake - and your dog's - grow a spine!

5. Don't be an ogre, either. Many breeds do not respond well to overly harsh or heavy-handed training methods. And while most dogs will accept a correction if it is fair and reasonable, excessive or unnecessary punishment can ruin a perfectly good dog's character. Instead, positive reinforcement should be your preferred training method. You really do get more with honey (or Milk-Bones) than vinegar.

6. Instill leash manners. I didn't want that femur in its socket, anyway. Very early on, puppies need to learn that they must walk with you, not pull to get their way. If they do strain against the leash, "make like a tree" and stop until they restore some slack. This is time- consuming at first, but it will reap dividends when you are able to control your 100-pound dog. For difficult cases, consider a head halter such as a Gentle Leader.

7. Remember, it is a dog. Dogs are child substitutes, but they don't appreciate being treated like mini-humans. Do not feel guilty about normal and reasonable actions, such as crating your dog or cutting its portions if it is getting too chubby. Dogs without boundaries are a disaster waiting to happen. "Dog whisperer" Cesar Millan has made an entire career out of people who have blurred the species barrier, much to their dogs' detriment.

8. Avoid the porker syndrome. Dogs don't have the emotional attachment to food that we do. You must have the self-control to say "no," even when your pup's eyes are pleading "yes." Excess weight is profoundly unhealthy, and can trigger orthopedic problems. If you don't know if your dog is fat, go to any gathering of experienced dog people - a dog show, an agility trial - and ask. They'll be happy to tell you.

9. Address problems before they become crises. Barking at strangers, lunging at other dogs, jumping up, growling over the food bowl, nipping at heels - no matter what the behavioral problem, dealing with it early is the key to success. Don't wait until it becomes a habit.

10. Take responsibility. Your dog didn't ask to be owned by you. It's your obligation to learn how to be the best owner you can be. Read books, talk to dog-savvy friends, enroll in training classes. What you learn along the way will benefit not just this dog, but each one that comes after.

Email: denise.flaim@newsday.com

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Drug dog!

Scroll down for info on "Tengu", a drug detecting Shiba

Man kicks Shiba

Police: 'Volatile' man, denied beer, kicks little dog

By Julie Manganis , Staff writer
Salem News

SALEM - A Salem man in a snit over being kicked out of a convenience store apparently took out his anger on a little red dog being walked on Derby Street on Monday evening and now faces animal cruelty charges.

Dr. Carol Naranjo, a local surgeon, was walking along Derby Street with Saki, a 10-year-old Shiba Inu, just after 6 p.m. when she saw a tall, blond man - later identified as Lucas Pierce - coming toward her.

Suddenly, the man veered toward her and Saki and without any provocation, delivered a swift kick to the dog's belly, Naranjo said.

"That dog never cries over anything, but she let out a yelp," Naranjo said. "I was just horrified."

More than horrified, she said. "I was furious. I think it's probably lucky for both him and me that I was tethered to the dog."

As Pierce, 31, of 75 Columbus Ave., ran off, Saki, who weighs no more than 20 pounds, cowered near the side of a parked car.

Thankfully, there were a few other people out walking their dogs who gave police a detailed description, Salem police Lt. Conrad Prosniewski said. Police caught up with Pierce downtown.

Police had already been on the lookout for Pierce after a disturbance at Wallyo's Market on Essex Street, where store employees had refused to sell him a 12-pack of beer because they believed he was drunk. Pierce repeatedly punched the door, the report said.

"He's a volatile person who does seem to have a problem with alcohol," Prosniewski told Salem District Court Judge Robert Cornetta. Prosniewski pointed to Pierce's record, which includes prior charges of assaultive behavior and malicious destruction of property.

Christopher Beares, a lawyer appointed to represent Pierce at his arraignment, said his client told him he was attacked by a dog as a child, leaving him with a "lifelong fear of dogs."

He told Beares he believed he was about to be attacked by the dog.

Prosniewski spoke up.

"For the record, the Shiba Inu is a very, very small dog," Prosniewski said.

"A dog is a dog," Beares responded. He entered a plea of not guilty for Lucas.

Naranjo called the idea that her dog would attack anyone "ridiculous." Saki never makes eye contact with humans and has never bitten anyone, Naranjo said. The assault on her dog, she said, was entirely unprovoked.

"You kind of shudder," Naranjo said. "It's just so random."

Saki seems to be OK. Her owner said she is grateful that at least Pierce didn't kick the dog on her left side, where the spleen is located.

Cornetta ordered Pierce, if he makes his $1,000 bail, to stay at least 25 feet from "any domesticated animals or pets."

He is due back in court on May 16.

All Shibas! All the time!

Yeah, I figured I might as well have a blog that devotes itself to Shibas, dogs and dog related activity where I am currently residing (Nanaimo and Vancouver Island)