Friday, May 18, 2012

How it all began.

Years ago I was in search of a small dog with a BIG attitude. I have never really been a fan of the small dog breads. They are alright, but to me, dogs are supposed to fill a large role within a family. One role being a guardian and a protector. While small dogs generally make nice house alarms they don't generally make very good protectors against what ever evils your loved ones may face. But in that point in my life, I had no choice but to find a dog that was small in size, very cat like, quiet, and yet filled that gap that I had in my heart reserved only for a big dog.

Like a lot of people I had always been in love with the wolf. Everything about the wolf I felt a familiarity with.
But wolves were not small, nor were they suitable to have as a house pet around small children.
I have cared for many dogs in my life both big and small because I often find myself as a foster parent or a final care taker for a retired K-9. But out of all of them my favorite and the one I came to call my "guardian angels" was the Shiba Inu.

These little dogs are the smallest of the six original and distinct Japanese breeds of dog. But don't let their small size fool you. The Shiba Inu was originally bred for hunting small wild game, boar and even bear. They are fearless, strong, brave agile and most of all lightning fast. Though they are also one of the most intelligent dogs accepted in the AKC and CKC rings. They tend to only respect those who respect them and show strong leadership.

Most people think the Shiba Inu resembles a fox, though they are actually descendants of the Miniature Japanese Gray Wolves called the Shamainu and the Honshu wolf. The Shamainu was the worlds smallest wolf, it measured 2 feet 9 inches in length and it had a dog like tail that measured 12 inches and stood only 14 inches tall at the shoulder. While most wolves are tall with long legs the Shamainu was short with very short legs appearing more like a dog than a wolf.

An extension of this semantic affinity of the wolf with the dog is the image (in myth and legend) as a protector of mankind -- a sort of banken (watchdog) in the mountains. This watchdog role appears in the benign okuri-okami (sending wolf) stories. "When someone is walking along mountain roads at night sometimes a wolf follows without doing anything. On nearing the house the wolf disappears." Sometimes the ubiquitous okuri-okami tales also mention the danger of looking back or falling over while being followed by the wolf, acts that may invite the wolf to attack....Nonetheless, what is usually stressed is that the wolf's purpose is not to prey but to protect, to see the lonely human being safely home through the dangerous night-time mountains....Even today many villagers claim to have had such experiences in their youth.
Though the Shamainu was small more of a guardian of the people he was also greatly feared by the aboriginal Japanese people. They called him the "Howling God" because he often howled for hours from the hilltops and mountains. Japanese often displayed charms on their doors and windows to ward off this mysterious Mountain Dog.
Sadly for the Shamainu, this obsessional fear would be detrimental to their survival and led to their downfall. Shamainu's were hunted and trapped persistently for their skins; they were also offered for sale to gluttonous Europeans. Eventually in 1905 the last Shamainu was killed near Washikaguchi in Honshu and it's skin was presented to a European traveller named Malcolm P. Anderson. That was the last the world saw of the "Howling God"
Later though skeletal remains of a small dog with a curled tail were discovered by an archaeologist. Many Japanese scholars have expressed the opinion that pure-bred specimen of the breed previously called the Shamainu is now known as the Shiba Inu.
Despite its official status the Shiba Inu found the wolf at its back door again in this century. During the last desperate days of World War II food was so scarce in Japan that those animals which managed to avoid starving to death were eaten. By the end of the war dogs were virtually nonexistent in urban areas. Fortunately the few shiba’s remaining in the outlying districts was relatively “purebred.” These dogs were used to populate the breeding program set up to resurrect the breed. That effort - along with most of Japan’s canine population - was decimated by raging distemper epidemic in 1959, and Japanese dog fanciers were forced to begin another period of reconstruction.
The first Shiba inus brought to the United States may have been imported by servicemen returning from tours of duty in Japan. Absent any records of previous importations, however, the first officially recorded Shiba arrived in this country in 1954 with an armed forces family. Although the shiba’s stuffed-toy appeal was undeniable, any notion of registering the breed with the American Kennel Club (AKC) came a cropper because the AKC did not honor registrations issued by the JKC. Thus Americans did not import Shiba inus with any serious thought of breeding them until the late 1970s. Finally in April 1992 the AKC added JKC to its primary list of foreign dog-registry organizations, and interest in the breed skyrocketed. In 1993, on the eve of the year of the dog in Japan, the Shiba Inu became eligible to compete in regular classes at AKC shows.
The Japanese have three words to describe the Shiba temperament. The first is "kan-i" which is bravery and boldness combined with composure and mental strength. The opposite side of "kan-i" is "ryosei" which means good nature with a gentle disposition. One cannot exist without the other. The charming side of the Shiba is "sobuku" which is artlessness with a refined and open spirit. They combine to make a personality that Shiba owners can only describe as "irresistible."

If a Shiba could only utter one word, it would probably be "mine."
It is "mine" food
"mine" water
"mine" toys
"mine" sofa
"mine" crate
"mine" car
"mine" owner
and "mine" world.
Sharing is a concept he feels others should practice.
"Macho stud muffin" has been used to describe the male Shiba. The body may look "muffin," but the mind is all "macho stud." The Shiba takes the "spirited boldness part of his temperament quite seriously. Most Shiba owners learn to deal with the difficult aspects of the dog's temperament to enjoy the delightful ones. With "sobuku" the Shiba sets his hook into the heart. This is "artlessness" with squinty eyes, airplaned ears, and a vibrating tail. It is "charm" standing in your lap, washing your ears, and "dignity" plus "refinement" born of the knowledge of superiority. Shiba’s “love to live and live to love”
Though it wasn't the Shiba Inus wolfish bloodline, godlike attitude, or cat-like mannerisms alone that won my heart. Those were just some of the qualities I took into consideration when I adopted my first Shiba Inu; Prince Tsunami Darkfire.

Tsunami was a black and white Shiba Inu who was already two years old when I had adopted him from his first family because they feared the worst would happen when they simply could not convenience him that he was no match for their six year old Great Dane. He loved camping, hiking, (though he hated water) and simply being with his family. I had done extensive research for over a year before deciding on the Shiba Inu for my family it was just a matter of finding the "right" one. I had put letters out to all of the adoption centers and posted many wanted adds and it didn't take but maybe two months before his mother contacted me desperate to find a loving home for her little boy. She was heartbroken that she had to give him up but knew it was in his best interest. I drove three states away to meet Tsunami and his family and fell in love with him the second I laid eyes on him. Though he wasn't so sure about me he knew something was wrong and seemed very depressed.
Like the wolf the Shiba is very loyal to his family and takes it hard when being moved around. I knew this from extensive research so his mother and I went ahead with the adoption hoping that with time, love, patience and stability he would warm up to me. The drive home and following few months were heart breaking. He would hardly eat and would never play, or even show any interest in going outside. I had hand fed him every day because he simply had no spirit or care to go to his food. Eventually one day when I was sitting on the floor beside him feeding him his dog food piece by piece he laid his head in my lap and looked up at me with his Japanese eyes filled with sadness. I held him and cried and made him the promise I'd never leave his side. He sniffed my face and slowly licked my tears away and from that day he too never left my side.
Two years later though after he and I both were secure in our bond and I had suffered though my horrible divorce he and I had taken on fostering other dogs so that they would have a second chance at life as he did. Together we had cared for and found homes for more than a dozen dogs and were happy doing so. But than one day we received a called from one of the shelters who asked us if we could take in an Akita Chow mix we were ecstatic.
Shiba Inu's are also know to be miniature Akita's. On the drive there we talked about the possibility of adopting this Akita for whom had spent his entire life passed around from shelter to shelter and foster home to foster home. I simply could not understand when I saw him why anyone would not fall in love with this handsome creature. I entered his pin and sat with him for awhile before deciding to take him out where he and Tsunami played for hours. We took him home that night and found he was simply too big to keep in the house so I moved him to my fenced in back yard. Months had passed and all was well though by adopting the Akita for whom we came to call "Cub" because he looked like a black bear cub we had decided we simply could not foster any more dogs.
We were a happy family that loved to romp in the back yard and cuddle on the couch watching movies together until one dreadful day I had went to the back yard to feed Cub. Normally I poured his food in the house and took it out to him but on this day I was in a hurry for a business meeting and left my mind elsewhere. I grabbed the bag of dog food and went to his bowl and began to pour his food where he forced his massive black head in the way. I always fed my dogs separate so that there was never any chance of fighting over food as some dogs do. So I had always made Tsunami stay in the house while I fed Cub. Fearless and trusting of my dog I had bent over and pushed Cub back away from his food bowl and he attacked knocking me to the ground. Tsunami watched the entire event from the kitchen window and had leapt through the glass, screen and the screen of the outside porch and lunged at Cubs throat knocking him away from me. I laid there unable to move with several gashing wounds and broken bones as my two boys fought for death. I awoke later Tsunami had won the fight and had dragged his broken body to my side and laid his head upon my breast. At that moment I knew it was Tsunami that had given me the second chance at life.
Years have passed and Tsunami has passed on and though it took me many years to find it in my heart to love another, three years ago my dearest Raven decided the best mothers day gift he could give me was another little guardian angel. We named him Tien'kou which means Celestial/Heavenly Dog. He is red and white and comes from three generation of show dogs. But our little Tien'kou is much more than a show dog to us. He is our third son.

In addition to our Tien'kou on Friday November 7th 2008 the same day we buried our beloved cat Chimera our long time prayers were answered and we adopted "Roxy". A Red AKC Shiba Inu that is just two months younger than Tien'kou. We have always wanted a female Shiba to adopt and become playmate not only for the kids but for Tien'kou as well. The fact that she came to us the same day our cat passed away made it seem more like she was an angel sent from heaven to help sooth our pain. Though the name "Roxy" didn't seem to fit her nor or family and we come to call her Asa A.K.A. "Asha" which is "Morning", "Dawn" or "New beginning" in Japanese.
Asha to my surprise has become "mommies little shadow". Both of my mates say she is the K-9 version of myself. I guess they always have said that dogs resemble their owners, who would ever expect that would go for personality as well? She is very stubborn yet loving and dominate. The vet has suggested we get her spayed. But before that happens we plan on allowing Asa to become a mommy just once and we will keep at least one pup.
Shiba Inu's usually only have three pups to a litter any less than that we will keep any more than that I shall endeavor to find suitable parents. Adoption fees usually range between $500 - $2500 for a Shiba Inu depending on male or female, color and show quality. However, I care nothing for the money. Only that they are loved and cared for. If you or someone you know may be interested in a shiba inu puppy please contact me and we can discuss an adoption.

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