Toby is Ten!

Happy birthday to Toby, who turned 10 today!

Four weeks old

Toby at Four weeks old

He is now officially a Shiba elder, and he celebrated his status by doing what he likes best:  nothing much at all.


Often I take the birthday dog for a ride to get a burger at a drive-through, but today I had a puppy class, and was in town already with Zora, so Toby had to forgo his birthday ride.  That’s ok:  Toby is rather….um….portly, as it is, and I didn’t think I needed to add to his quest to be World’s Largest Shiba.    He did, however, have a bully stick, and got lots of attention.   In some ways, Toby has kept his puppyish figure, and his interests have remained much the same too:


Toby then….

though these days, he takes up a lot more space:


Toby at 9.5 years old

Oh, Toby did have a slim period, but that has long since passed:

Toby and Bel in better days

Toby and Bel in better days

(Bel was a puppy in that photo, and Toby was around two years old).

Mostly, Toby seems to be returning to his youth in some ways.   As a puppy, while he didn’t exactly enjoy other dogs, he seemed to be able to tolerate being around them:


Toby and Gideon were puppies together.

But his middle years were difficult.  His friendship with Gideon went sour and Toby seemed to lose every fight he started:

Toby's Neckerchief

Toby’s war wounds

Toby's Neckerchief

Yeah, I lost, but I got this cool neckerchief…

Of course, the fight(s) with Bel were the worst, and in 2008, we nearly lost him.   The damage she did was so great, Toby’s liver began to fail.  But thanks to the best vets ever, and to Toby’s fighting spirit, my heart dog pulled through.


After 6 weeks at the vet, I brought my boy home


Wounded by still smiling!

Toby has seen a lot.  Of course, he has scars, both physically and emotionally.   Toby was very scared and reactive with other dogs ever since then–and who can blame him?  Every interaction he’d had with other dogs seemed to go very badly indeed, and in the years afterwards, Bel tried to attack him every chance she could.  Finally, it was too difficult trying to keep them separated in the house–Bel was masterful at getting through doors and knocking down dog gates.  Toby got his own room,  the sun room, which had also been his recovery room.


Toby in his room

I don’t think he minded.  He had his own chair, and privacy, and big windows, and he seemed to feel safe in his room.   He came into the rest of the house when the other dogs were outside and he slept in the living room at night, but he would happily run back to his room in the morning.   I did worry that he was lonely, as he had no dog friends, but since he’d had such bad luck with other dogs, I think he was more comfortable on his own.

There were some hard times there before Bel died.  There are always mistakes when you have to manage dogs that don’t get along, and we had some too.  Once Toby slipped outside when the others were already out, and I suddenly heard a very aggressive barking.  I ran outside and what I saw was horrible:  Toby was running towards the house, with three others dogs (Oskar, Bel and Leo) in pursuit.  But Toby isn’t fast, and Oskar knocked him down and bit him, and Toby was on his side, screaming, and Bel attacked.  I don’t know how I did it, but I managed to pull two dogs (Oskar and Bel) off Toby and shove them into the car which was the closest place for me to put them (thank god I’d left the doors unlocked!)

Toby had run, crying, back to his room and was on his chair when I got there, and Leo, sweet Leo, was rolling on his back in front of Toby, as if to say, “look, I’m harmless!” Thankfully, Toby was ok, and there was only one minor puncture wound to treat.  But I still feel guilty about that:  it was my fault, as I hadn’t locked the door to Toby’s room, and during the night the wind blew it open, so it was slightly ajar and he was able to go out.   Seeing him on the ground, with the other dogs attacking him still makes me teary:  my old fat boy, wasn’t trying to hurt anyone, but they went after him the moment they saw him.

Something did good out of this though:  after seeing Leo make appeasing gestures, I wondered if perhaps Leo and Toby could become friends.  So very slowly, over the course of year, we began to test it out.  I took them for walks together.  We let them sleep in the same room, with Leo in the crate.  Leo is the perfect dog for rehabilitating a reactive dog:  he reads other dogs well, and he is nonthreatening.   A lot of those early walks involved the two dogs not looking at each other all, or sniffing near each other, but with no eye contact.  Polite dog behavior.  Then we let Toby loose in the yard with Leo on the leash, and then the two of them loose in the yard together, where they continued to politely ignore one another.  They weren’t friends yet, but they were getting along, something which I thought was amazing progress.

And then Bel died, and the dynamics in the house changed dramatically.  The relief in the house was palpable:  Toby knew his tormenter was not there.   He started to relax.   And he and Leo became friends for real.


We’re friends, but I still get all the toys.

It was a pretty amazing change for an old dog.  They are easy together, and lately, I’ve been thrilled to see Toby even greets Leo with a polite sniff and tail wag.  They’re even comfortable enough together to chill out on the sofa together:


And perhaps the bigger miracle is this:  Toby even tolerates puppy Zora!  They’ve been loose in the yard together several times now, and while Toby will give a warning growl to get Zora to keep her distance–no puppy play for Toby!–he also doesn’t seem to be threatened by her.   I’m hoping this will continue as she gets older, too.  It would nice for Toby to have a big protector too, like Leo has with Oskar.


Polite greetings with puppy Zora in the background

So my old boy has learned some new tricks, and I think he’s happier having some friends, or at least knowing that most of the dogs he lives with will not hurt him (he still can’t get along with Oskar, but two out of three isn’t bad!)

Toby may be 10, but he’s a Shiba, so I hope he has many more years left–Shibas are relatively long lived dogs.  He’s not as healthy as he could be, as he is hypothyroid and probably is in the early stages of Cushings disease.  He has always had mild luxating patella, but his age and weight are starting to take a toll, and that leg is getting a bit worse.  And while Toby has long wanted to be the World’s Largest Shiba, I would very much like him to lose some weight, though the various diets we’ve tried haven’t taken much off.  He’s getting hard of hearing–sometimes I can call and call, and when I go in front of him and he sees me, he’s clearly startled:  he didn’t hear me.

But I love my old fat boy like crazy, and am so thankful to have had these past 10 years with him, ten years in which we both had to fight hard and struggle against enormous odds.  We’re both a bit scarred, a bit less trusting than we were ten years ago, and a bit more tired, but also wiser, and we’ve learned to value true friends and simple pleasures.



So here’s to Toby, who is 10, my first Shiba, and my favorite fat boy in all his splendor, and with all his nicknames:    Toby Toby, Toby Soprano, Pope Toby the Only, Fatboy Slim, Toblerone, Devil Dog, Bobo.  May we have many more years together, and you’ll always be my best boy.


Toby as Best Man

Merry Christmas to All…..

Leo’s first Christmas at the House of the Fox Dogs, and I think he enjoyed it!

There were lots of interesting things to look at and unwrap:


And at first, even Bel had fun–what’s in this bag?  (There were dog treats in there–a gift from my mother).


But the holidays can be stressful, too, especially when others climb all over you in a rush to get at the presents.


And then Bel starting getting a little anxious:


Leo was enjoying checking out the stockings, but Bel thought, When will it ever end?


Leo loved it!  He loves the limelight too.  Bel?  Not so much.


Handsome Oskar had to have a timeout with his presents upstairs.  Oskar doesn’t share well, and at some point he decided he should have ALL THE THINGS.


I’ll be good now, I promise!

He had taken his Himalyan chew upstairs, and was torn between coming down to be with us, and guarding his chew.


Toby had his chew and a quacking duck toy in his room.   He came in to investigate the wrapping for a bit, but decided that he would prefer to spend the holiday alone with his stuff.   We could hear him quacking his toy merrily from his room.


Toby says “Hmmm…..nothing to eat.”

Bel had been in and out several times by then, but still seemed to be anxious, and was now frozen in front of M’s chair, where she stayed for most of dinner:


Bel says “the holidays are so stressful.”

Leo decided that holidays are about eating ALL THE THINGS and decided that he was willing to eat anything and everything, including brussell sprouts and then salad:


Leo says “That looks tasty!”


Leo says “Lettuce! My favorite!”


“Hey, what about me?”

Overall, Bel was less than thrilled with the holiday.  Either that, or she was just stuck:


Oh god, is it STILL Christmas?

But the rest of us had a lovely day.   And we wish you all wonderful holidays, and peace, blessings, and abundance in the new year!


Toby’s State of the Shiba Address

Toby here.  I haven’t checked in for awhile, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading and thinking.  I have.

And a lot of what I’ve seen distresses me.

The state of the Shiba is not good.

I have to admit that even I, in all my magnificence, have had some better times.  I got bit by the little crazy bitch dog Bel way back in the spring, and my fur still hasn’t grown back, so while I’m still a very handsome Shiba of course, I have looked better.  And I also have to admit that it may be time to rethink my goal to be the world’s largest Shiba.  All this weight is making it hard for me to run around, and I’m not even enjoying my walks that much these days.   I think I may have to leave the World’s Largest Shiba to someone younger, with more stamina.   I am not only magnificent, but I am magnanimous, and am willing to pass the title on to someone else.   And don’t tell my person, but I don’t actually mind my “spa diet” she feeds me of fish and veggies.  I was also getting too big for the sofa (but I’ve lost some weight since then):


But my real concern is not with me.  I’m concerned for the state of the Shiba in general.  Those of you who know me, know that years ago, when I was a young, innocent puppy, I wanted to send to Japan for more Shibas.  Well, of course, that went bad wrong with Bel, but she wasn’t from Japan anyway.  These days, I think the Shiba might be too popular.

Because too many are coming from places like where the little crazy girl came from.

I’d heard my human talking about mills before, and saying the “squirrely girl” as She calls her, came from a mill.

I didn’t know what that was, so I decided to look it up, and I read some terrible things.    Some of these Shibas never get out of their tiny cages.  They don’t know what it’s like to walk on the ground, even, and they certainly don’t get to lay on the sofa or have their own nice chairs like I do.  They don’t even have names–they just have numbers.  I read how some Shibas were injured because they left a bunch of Shibas in one cage and they fought with each other.   This shook me up, because I know what it is to be scared of other dogs.  I don’t like to be around any other dogs because of how Bel has hurt me, and it scared me just to think of being locked up in a cage with other Shibas!

I know my human gets very frustrated, because I hear her talking to her friend (the one with the tasty looking birds), about how some people try to justify their puppy mill purchases.  She says even after hearing about how unhealthy these dogs can be, and how badly the dogs are treated, they don’t care, which I find that hard to believe.  No one who loved Shibas would want to support a place that is so cruel to Shibas, would they?

Well, I think if people just knew about these places, they would not buy from them.  So here’s some things I read:

ShibaScout Rescue on the mills

TriState Shiba Rescue at the dog auctions

Those two are rescue organizations, by the way, and if you have any extra money after making sure your dogs get lots of food and toys for Christmas, you should send some money there!

I also found this blog about puppy mills, (by someone who has a Shiba and a funny looking non-Japanese Shiba with short hair.  My human says that other dog is NOT a Shiba, but a Basenji, whatever that is, but I just don’t believe that):

Shibasenji on puppy mills

And of course, I live with one of these dogs from one of those places.  And she’s crazy, and she nearly killed me, and she’s sick a lot of the time!  When I said I wanted more Shibas, I never thought my human would get a Shiba who would almost kill me.  And I never thought humans would be so cruel as to treat other Shibas so badly.

It makes me sad.


Toby says NO MORE mills!

On a lighter note, though, the human got this other dog that she says came from Japan.  Or his parents did or something like that.  (My father came from Japan too, of course, and he is very handsome indeed, like me!).   I don’t hate this dog, because when the other dogs tried to attack me, he didn’t.  I don’t like him, but I don’t hate him.  But he is by far the ugliest Shiba I have ever seen in my life:


His tail does not curl at all, and he’s too long, and he has funny stripey fur.  The human says he is a Kai Ken, whatever that is, but like I told you, I don’t believe everything she says.   Next time I am at the other human’s house, I’ll take a quick peek in her dog book and see if I see such a thing.

Ok, that’s my State of the Shiba address.  Toby out!

In Memory of Gideon, Who Left Us Too Soon

“She…buried that old dog Gideon…”

 –Emmylou Harris, “Red Dirt Girl”

I said there were some changes I would have to report on, and we’ll start with the saddest one first.  Gideon, my friend M’s German Shepherd Dog, had to be put to sleep. He was only 8 years old, so unlike the song he was named after, he was not an old dog.   It’s a pretty sad story,  and it has a cautionary note, because of why he died.  Note to everyone:  be very, very careful about what kind of landscaping materials you use in your yard.

But let’s start with the happier things.  Gideon was a lovely dog, and he was born just 25 days earlier than Toby.  I picked up in Dallas from his breeder–she delivered him to the airport, and I carried him on the plane and brought him home.   He also went with us to pick up Toby from his breeder in Colorado, so they were puppies together, though true to form, Toby, at 7 weeks of age, took one look at Gideon and decided he did not like him much at all.   They tolerated each other for a while:

Puppies together

Though eventually, they had a fight and could not be together anymore, as is the case with Toby and almost every other dog he’s met.

Gideon was a sable German Shepherd (which according to one dumb comment, meant that he’d “be all black when he grew up” which is of course not what it meant it all!)  He was from a great breeder who does not appear to be breeding anymore, but he was from Czech working lines, and was larger than typical “AKC” type GSDs, and did not have a sloping back.  She raw fed all her dogs too, and a lot of them went into Schutzhund or Personal Protection Dog training.

Gideon, however, was a sweet, silly boy, who would not hurt anyone (even his fight with Toby happened because Toby pushed and pushed him).   He got  along with the birds, and he was a good foster-father to M’s border terrier, Truman.  Except for Toby, all my dogs were friends with him as well.

One of my favorite stories about Gideon is something M. told me:  one day she heard him making a sound to alert her that something was not right.  She came in to find that he was herding something very carefully between his paws, like he’d done on occasion with the birds.  It was a mouse.  A wild mouse that had gotten in the house, and Gideon had a look on his face like, I guess this is a new pet, so I better be careful with it!  That was typical Gideon behavior!

Gideon’s passing was both unexpected and really stressful.  He seemed ill, and because our regular vets were out of town,  M took him to another vet.  I went with her that first visit, and to say there were incompetent would be putting it mildly.  The vet had a list of things she needed to give him (a wormer, something for the diarrhea he didn’t have) before she even examined him, because she’d heard “raw food diet” and made assumptions.  They eventually “diagnosed” him with a UTI and sent him home.  He didn’t get better, and we noticed he looked disturbingly bloated.

He was.  Because his abdomen was filling up with blood.  Once M. got him to our regular vets, they were able to come up with a diagnosis, which, quoting M, was:  “He has a stomach 1/2 full of rocks, stomach lining torn, battered bladder wall, rocks in his intestines, and blood and pus (peritonitis) surrounding his intestines and most of his organs–and that’s just some of it.”   And yes, it was something he ate, but it was not his raw chicken:  Gideon had been eating the lava rocks used for landscaping in the backyard.  It was these lava rocks that killed him.  He was diagnosed on Friday, and on the following Monday, we had to make that last trip to the vet with him.  It was utterly heartbreaking, and everyone cried, including our vets.

(Cautionary note:  lava rocks are very abrasive and if ingested, can kill dogs.  Gideon was a poop eater–he was probably eating the rocks with feces on them.  But any dog might find them appealing to chew.  Also, another popular landscaping mulch is made from cocoa, also deadly to dogs.  Please be super careful about what you use in your yard, if you have dogs.  You never know what they’ll eat.)

Gideon, of the many names:  Sensitivity Wolf, Pencil Toes, Gideon Xmayal, Very Large Array, you are sorely missed.

In memory of Gideon, GSD extraordinaire, I am reposting Toby and Gideon’s correspondence from 2007.  This was probably the last time Toby and Gideon got to spend any time together, after they got in a fight (instigated by a certain Shiba….and not Bel, though she did jump right in).

Gidion, you weren’t a good writer.  But you were a wonderful dog, and even Toby misses you (if only a little).

email one:

Gideon here. The Lade who lives here says I need to right to u. She says u got hurt real bad when I bit u the other nite. She says I o u an apology. So here it is.

I’m sorry. The Lade has a bird–u no her, Rube is her name–and sometiems she says Sweet Bird Sweet Bird over and over. Both the Lade and the bird say this Sweet Bird Sweet Bird. Anyways, lately the Lade and that other Lade who lives with u r talking about how sweet u r. So when u came over I thought that meant u’d want to play with me. But the Lade I live with talked to me and said Sweet doesn’t mean Play. Sweet means Bite. Like the bird would bite if I tried to play with her, just like u bit or wanted to bite but I bit first.

I know it’s not much. The Lade made me do it, right this when I don’t really feel so sorry because u’ve never been Sweet to me, u’ve always been meen. Mostly I’m sorry because the Lade says I’m costing her more munny than she has right now, but she’s glad u’re okay. She says I can’t see u again.

Little Jezebel was here, and she didn’t get any popcorn or other sheebs, so maybe that’ll make u feel better.

That was the first one.

Then he sent number two:

I forgot to tell u. Last nite some humans came over to have “inappropriate touching.” I didn’t see the humans touch that way, but Little Jezebel got inappropriately touched, I’m sure of it. The Lade I live with had Jezebel up on her lap and was rubbing and rubbing the Little’s chest and belly, and the Little didn’t look happe. Then later this boy named Jonathan tried the same thing and Little wasn’t having none of it. And when I tried to play with the Little, the boy named Jonathan got mad at me and shooed me away. Everybody’s mad at me cuz of what I did to u. So there. But at least u didn’t get inappropriately touched. And the Little didn’t get any good snacks. The humans were eating these teeny cupcakey things and Little got hold of two of the cupcake papers and ate them even tho they didn’t have cupcakes in them. U didn’t miss nothing. I would have liked to be inappropriately touched, I have just the chest for it, but no 1 loves me, they love u. I don’t no y. U’re a meenie sheeb. But I’m really sorry u’re hurt. I’d hate it too if I had to wear a necker chief and have a Lade stick a syringe in my draino.
P.S. Y do u like to right? I hate to right. It’s hard.

Then this, because he is too stupid to figure out I might not want to reply to him:

I hate righting. I don’t no y u and the Lades like it so much. I keep pacing back in here to check email and see if u’ve written me and u havent. U r a meenie. Either that or u feel really bad and can’t even get up to check your email, but I don’t believe that. ANyways, the Lade says sheeb isn’t right, she says Sheepa Sheepa Sheepa, those other dogs r Sheepas. Now I really don’t no y u care so much about loosing a little fur if u’re a Sheepa u’d get sheered anyways. Please right back to me and tell me we’re okay Tobe and then I’ll leave u alone for all time.

Then this, which I was finally forced to respond to:

Tobe, I’m mad at u still. The Lade told me I hurt u, but it’s nothing like the way I hurt. I’ve ritten and ritten and nothing. Nothing nothing nothing. If u can’t right back now surely u could make that Little or the Lade u live with right back. U no I’m sensitive, u no I’m the sensitivitewoof. I’ve been pacing and pacing and annoying the Lade here who’s trying to right, I don’t no y cuz it’s so boring and her paws are almost the size of mine. She tells me settle down. She tells me be patient. She puts me in a down stay and when that doesn’t work she puts me outside. I go outside and bark and bark and try to tell all the dogs to carre a message to u that u need to right back or at least bark back your message. To no a veil. It’s just footile. Tobe if I can’t never see u again u could at least tell me u’re all right. Stooped sheepas. The lot of u lack all German concern. Couldn’t u just once suck it up and right back? Or maybe tell Kite the other German dog who’s coming to live with us in March for a little wiles to right me and tell me how u r. At least he’s got morals. Some 1 needs them in your house.

So here was my response:


SHE tells me I must write back to you, even though I
don’t want to. I don’t see why I should. I see no
apology here, just lots of insults, and besides that,
you can’t spell and you write badly.

I can’t believe we are the same age, though of course
you are of such an inferior breed I suppose I
shouldn’t be surprised. Even the German who lives
with me–Kai, no Kite–is smarter, though. Now I
really understand why the humans call you a galoot,
which is a human word for really really stupid.

Yes, I am hurt. I have to wear a neckerchief, which
is actually quite dashing, and lets me stand out from
inferior dogs. I think of it as a badge of honor of
my war wounds, for these are what these are. And this
war is not over. While I admit that this is a defeat,
I do not feel ashamed, because I still fought bravely
and hard against you, and if I was your size, well,
I’d already rule the world, opposable thumbs or no.
Not that you know what that means. In fact, I doubt
you will understand any of this. Get your human to
explain it to you. She is smart, even if she does
have bad taste in dogs. Well, I suppose that golden
dog is ok, though something is seriously wrong with
his ears.

Gideon, you should recall that after the fight I put
you in your place–a down stay. You should recall
that I would not have stopped fighting had the humans
not stopped us, and no doubt I would have eventually
got the best of you. And I am unimpressed with your
“pain.” You show no pride whatsover. I am a stoic
little dog–er, big dog–and I went to the horrible
place and had shots and had things poked in me, and I
fell asleep there and woke up in pain, and I never
once complained.

but of course, I knew you were an inferior dog from
the moment I met you and had to take your chicken from
you. Just because you are larger and can occasionally
get the better of me from sheer size–well, that is

I have nothing more to say. this was simply one
skirmish in a longer war, and I have scars to prove my
dedication to the Shiba–not sheepa you idiot–cause.

Death before Dishonor,


Then I had to write again, even though I didn’t want to:


One more here too, though don’t mistake this for me
liking you.

I am interested in what happened to the little Shiba
bitch. She came back smellng of chocolate, and she
looked very happy, and went waltzing around the house
(waltzing is a human term for leaping and jumping,
which of course you wouldn’t know. I am stunned that
one dog could be so ignorant. What do you DO all day
while your human is gone? Obviously you don’t use
your time wisely, as I do, by studying and learnign
about human technology).

She did not say she had been touched inappropriately,
but she likes to be petted more than most dogs. That
is because she is a bitch.

And I must remind you, she is MINE. My bitch. I may
not always like her, but she is still a Shiba and
still MINE. Stay away from her.

Of course Jonathon pushed you away, and of course the
humans are mad at you. They love me. They are MINE.
Even your human liked me best–she recognized me
immediately as a REAL puppy.

And writing is not that hard if you apply yourself.
Of course you wouldn’t understand that. And of course
you don’t have lovely little paws like me.

I am going to continue to study human technology,
something YOU won’t do. Eventually I am sure I will
learn how to drive one of the human moving boxes, the
things they call cars. And when I do, I will come
down and bite you.

I want to bite you more than the grey bird.


After that, I got this, which I never responded to, because really, why bother?
Sheepa in u, haha!
The Lade walzed me in here to check the email but nothing. Nothing and nothing. She told me her email’s been bad latele cuz she’s getting things late, but I don’t no what that meens. Anyways, it took hours b4 your reply got here. I’m still thinking what I want to say. U’re crool. Not cool. Crool. Don’t go thinking Britney Spaniel Spears shaved her haed just cuz u did. ANyways, I spent all day watching the Lade tiperight. It’s hard. She hardle moves her paws, just her claws, and I can’t do that yet.
P.S. Is Snoopy your righter hero?

Gideon 1-1-04 to 8-17-12 RIP sweet boy!

Happy Birthday, Toby!

Today Toby is 8!

In honor of his birthday, I thought it might be time for a Toby retrospective.  Toby, this is your life!

Four weeks old

This may be the cheeriest he ever looked, and honestly, we’ve debated…is that really Toby?  Did he ever look that innocent?  (That was a picture the breeder sent).

Toby quickly developed the typical grumpy-buns Shiba puppy face:

Puppies together

Or maybe he just thought, what am I doing here with this Not-a-Shiba?

Of course, Toby’s interests and hobbies developed early:

And you may also notice, when you look at later photos, that his overall shape has not changed much either!

Well, that’s not entirely true.  Toby did have a svelte phase as a young dog, and he even had a phase when he got along with Bel (before she went all psycho on him):

(And wasn’t Bel a pretty puppy?  Shhh…don’t let Toby hear me say that.  This is really all about him, after all!)

Some of you will remember that when Toby first came to live with me, he was very concerned about the fact that there were not enough Shibas around, and he felt the need to call to Japan for some more.  He was initially at least sort of happy to have another Shiba in the house, though he knew all along that Bel was not from Japan, but from Nebraska, which in his mind, explained a lot about her.  I’m sure he would like me to say that he quickly got over the idea that there should be more Shibas, and now he believes that there are entirely too many dogs in the house.  And possibly in the world.  Because of course, he should be the ONLY one.

Soon Toby entered into the darker days of his misspent youth.  There was a lot of fighting.   Many of these fights he started.   Unfortunately, he didn’t win any of them, unless by winning we mean who got the most scars and vet visits.  There was the battle between Toby and Gideon that ended their friendship.  Toby started that, of course, and while Gideon would forgive and forget to this day, Toby has a very long memory indeed.

This was not the first time, nor the last, that Toby got an “outfit” from the vet to cover the wounds he had from a fight.  This was, perhaps, the most dashing of his outfits!

Then there were many “Very Large Array” outfits, in which Toby imitated a giant satellite dish:

And here’s what he looked like after coming very, very close to losing his life to Bel’s murderous attack:

It was quite an outfit, but as you can see, Toby still kept his spirits up, with the help of some Liberty Ale.  Oh wait, I guess I drank that!  This picture, by the way, was after he finally got to come home from his five-week stay at the vet.  We really did almost lose him, but as my vet sometimes jokes now “only the good die young” and we all know Toby is NOT a good boy!

Of course, Toby has had some other types of outfits too.  Not all of them were medically necessary.  The Toby Soprano look, for example:

Or  Toby as the Great Pumpkin:

Of course, Toby looks good in everything, and he knows it.  Even a sweater with the tag on it just accentuates his rugged good looks!  (And he really does prance around whenever he wears something).

After the attack by Bel, Toby never really did tolerate any other dogs again, and he still doesn’t.  In his life, he only had one true dog friend, and that was Kai, his foster father.  This is a picture of them together, not too many months before we lost Kai to cancer:

Yes, Toby has faced many challenges in his eight years, including baths:

Toby says "I hate this"

But he is always magnificent:

Even if, like so many of us, he’s grown a bit more plush with the years.

After all, he still has his same hobbies–foraging, sleeping, foraging some more.

Happy birthday Toby!  You’ll always be the dog closest to my heart.   I hope we have another 8 years together, and you become the old crotchety Shiba we all know you’re destined to become.

PS.  Toby was watching TV tonight, and has been inspired to write a “State of the Shiba” post.   Stay tuned for that!

Toby’s Still Acting (Out)

A Photo Essay

Apparently, Toby has found his acting career so compelling that he wants to continue it.  And apparently, he has decided I am the perfect audience for this, because according to my husband, Toby does not do nearly so much paddling and howling when I am not home.  He saves that pleasant behavior for me!  I’m his chosen audience, apparently.

However, he does have another, very rapt audience.   We have blocked off the area behind the sofa, so Oskar can’t get over to the sliding glass door where Toby is, but Oskar was so entranced by Toby’s “performance” that he got on the sofa to watch:

But then he decided he needed to get a bit closer:

Oskar has seen Bel and Toby lay on the back of the sofa, so I think he decided he might want to try that, but of course, it’s quite different when a 110 pound Akita tries it!  When the sofa looked like it was going to flip over, U. called Oskar to get off the sofa, and since Oskar’s a good boy, he obliged.  But on the way down, something caught his attention:

That’s when we discovered that there was another member of the audience:

(blurry photo--it was an Oskar action shot!)

Bel was watching too!

Toby should be delighted that he has such an attentive audience for his daily acting, but he seems not to be.  He wants ME to pay attention to his acting.

And I feel I’ve had enough.

So after some useful input from the Shiba forum, I realized I missed some obvious solutions to Toby’s situation.  First, yes, it probably is a kind of separation anxiety.  He’s used to me being home a lot of the time, and even if I’m not in the room with him, he knows I’m here.  But this fall, I’m busy with work and classes I’m taking, and I home a lot less than usual.   Toby feels neglected.

Someone suggested I try a thundershirt on him, and I thought, what a brilliant idea (and then, why didn’t I think of that?)  So I got out Bel’s thundershirt and tried to put it on him, but Toby is a bit, well, more substantial than Bel, so it would not fit around his girth.   Then I got some suggestions for substitutes.  I decided to try these, first just with a t-shirt.  I found a smallish one of mine and put it on him, but obviously it was not small enough:

Toby Soprano

While he looked rather dashing in it, it had absolutely none of the swaddling effect necessary to calm anxiety.  I’d also been directed to a good link to a blog that talked about anxiety wraps for dogs*  (see below), so I decided I could easily make one out of an old boxing hand-wrap:

This was slightly more successful:  it did at least fit tightly, and Toby was intrigued with the process.  I don’t think I wrapped it quite right (and there was rather a lot of material to use), but Toby seemed pleased with his new look:

Toby says "I look good!"

Toby dreams of his boxing debut

And he was actually calm for, oh, about 15 minutes.

Deep sigh.

 I’ll have to try wrapping him up in a different way, perhaps with more across the chest.  Probably tomorrow, as I’m sure he’ll be back at it soon.

*Here’s a link for the blog that has the home made  anxiety wraps for dogs:   The Peaceful Dog

Bonus Photos:

A couple of weekends ago, we cleaned the chimneys.  Bel got into the soot:

Bel's a little chimney sweep

And so did Toby, which is why his chest still looks a little grey in his “Toby Soprano” photo.  But here’s what he did look like:

Both Shibas need a bath!

Toby Introduces the Director’s Cut

Toby here.   I haven’t been able to post lately, because SHE keeps me locked up in my room.  I like my room–of course a Shiba of my stature should have his own room–but it also means I get less time to sneak up to a computer and write or surf the internet.  (I’m not really entirely sure what surfing is.  It might involve water.  I don’t like water, and I don’t understand why anyone would put a computer in the water. Or anything in the water.   But whatever. )

But I did manage to catch up with some things online, recently, and I have to admit, that I’m disturbed.   First, I discovered a video.  It featured the giant grey dog that is not a Shiba.  Frankly, it was pretty stupid.  He’s pretty stupid. He just runs and runs and hops around like a giant, stupid puppy, and I don’t know why SHE wanted him in the first place or why SHE keeps him.     One day SHE let him in the house when I was in the house, and he bit me!  On the foot!  Then SHE dragged him out, no doubt because SHE was afraid I’d hurt him.  I would have have too!  He’s just lucky he got out before I could get to him.

Anyway, there is a video, and he is in it.  But here is what is really important for you to know about this video:  I AM IN IT!  And I am, of course, the best part of the video of all!   I decided to improve the video, so I cut out everything that wasn’t important, so now you can see the video as it was meant to be seen:  Watch ME!   I like to call this the Directors Cut.  Did you see how magnificent I was?  Did you see how good my acting was?  Did you see my wonderful profile and my powerful stage presence?  Of course you did!

Toby's magnificent profile

When I get to come in the house, I like to watch that part, because, damned, I look impressive, so much more interesting and regal than that stupid grey dog!  Anyway, I decided that I would like to be in more movies, so I started checking out more film related things.   I decided I should win an award for how good I am in that movie.   I thought I deserved an Academy Award for my performance!  I’m like Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now–I steal the show with my brilliance!  The problem is, I don’t want to be a Best Supporting Actor.  I want to be Best Actor (in the world).

So I decided to start acting more so I could get my own movie.    Everyday I tried out my acting.  Recently,  I have been acting distressed.  Every day I scratch frantically on the sliding glass door and howl.  I cry.  I whine.  I howl some more.    I’m ACTING!  I’m preparing for my starring role in a movie in which a brilliant, but misunderstood dog is unjustly locked up.  I haven’t quite figured out the rest of the plot, yet, but of course the brilliant dog should get much more recognition (and food) then he does, but I’ll work on the rest of the plot later.  Right now I’m preparing myself for my role!  But SHE doesn’t seem to recognize my brilliance at all!  SHE keeps telling me to stop it, and she does not give me treats or let me in the house after my performance.  Mostly SHE just ignores me when I’m acting. I am deeply disturbed that my brilliance has gone unrecognized.   It is terribly unjust!

Then something even more horrible happened.  I was working on my acting, and thinking about my Academy Award Acceptance Speech.  I was thinking how I would look in a bow tie, and wondering how much filet mignon I could eat when I won my award. I wondered how I could let them know that I want my filet raw.   I was trying to figure out when I was likely to hear about my nomination, and then I discovered something terrible:  if you win an Academy Award they give you….an OSKAR!  The horror!  The horror!  How could that be?  How cruel is that:  my video debut was already overshadowed by that big grey dog, and then….if I finally got the recognition I deserve for my acting I’d get….another one of him??? Another OSKAR??  This is the worst thing ever!  Apparently, first they give you the Oskar (a big grey dog) and then they give you some stupid little statue that doesn’t even look like it would be fun to chew on.  There was no mention of any food at all!  I was terribly disappointed.

I don’t know how I feel about continuing my acting career.  I know I’m brilliant, of course, but I don’t want any more Oskars!  One is more than enough!  One is too many!

So I may have to give up my acting career.  Anyway, it seems like everything good has already been done before.   For example, I had another idea about a movie, in which a bold and intrepid Shiba runs around, taking what he wants and eating anything he finds.  Even snakes!  (yes I saw the pictures of the little bitch with the snake, but I want you to know I killed a snake before too!  I did it first!) I’d run around seizing things by the throat!  A Shiba rampage!  Then I discovered this movie, and realized it had exactly the same plot as what I wanted in my movie, except it features the ugliest dog in the world:

I think they should take that creature out and put me in it.  Just replace “honey badger” with Toby:   Toby don’t care!  Toby just takes what he wants!  Toby’s badass!  That’s me!  I’m the most fearless animal!  Nothing gets in my way if I’m hungry!  I just take what I want!

I’m going to have stop working on acting distressed and start working on my stealing and snatching, I think.

I don’t know about my acting career.  Maybe I’ll concentrate on directing.   Maybe I’ll continue acting but not worry about the award.  Toby don’t care about no Oskar!  Toby don’t need no stinkin’ Oskar!

Damn, I’m good!

Keeping Toby Safe (Plus Shibas, Snakes and Spiders! Oh My!)

Keeping Toby safe is not an easy thing.

Because he insists on doing things that are not safe.

And sometimes, I help that along.

This is a story of how difficult managing reactive dogs can be, because any mistake–and there will always be mistakes–can be dangerous.

Today’s mistake was relatively minor, thankfully.  Though it could have been very very bad.

The first lesson of managing reactive dogs is this:  Always stick to the routine.  A set routine means mistakes are not as easy to make.  Our routine involves making sure doors are always closed and latched, and dog gates are also latched  in place.   It means double checking to make sure we know where all dogs are before letting a dog in or out.  And it means having a schedule.

Toby’s schedule is like this:  he is in his room most of the day.  He goes for a walk most days with me to the mail boxes and a bit beyond.  He is let outside to run around in the yard several times a day.  He has dinner at around 8, and because Toby is a creature of routine too, he likes to go out and poop right after dinner, though he usually doesn’t stay out long (his door is always open when he’s outside, and most of the time, he goes back in his room relatively quickly).  Bel and Oskar go to bed at around 11, Oskar upstairs, and Bel  in Oskar’s big cage in the living room.  Toby comes in then, to spend some quality time with me (which mostly involves him sitting on the back of the sofa watching me read).  He gets to sleep where ever he wants downstairs, and in the morning goes out, then back to his room, before U. leaves for work.

Welcome to my room.

Toby seems content with this schedule.

So today, I broke the routine.  I let Bel and Oskar out, made coffee, heard Toby scratching at the sliding glass door to come in from his room, and thought, why not, even though I never let him in at this time of day.  Today I did.  He settled on the back of the sofa. I had more coffee, got ready for my day.

A few hours later, as I was getting ready to go to work, I thought, well, Oskar’s at the door, and I need to get him and Bel in so I can leave, so I opened the door and let him in.  He ambled in, then froze in the living room.

Because of course, Toby was still in.  I’d forgotten, because that’s not the routine.

Oskar approached Toby on the sofa, and I was right behind him, but before I could intervene, Oskar was sniffing Toby.  I could tell he was anxious:  his ears were forward and his body was stiff, but he wasn’t growling or snarling.  Until Toby went into full Toby cave troll mode:  snarling and snapping.  Then everything happened very quickly.  Did Toby bite Oskar?  I don’t know, but he was close if he didn’t.  I went to grab Oskar’s collar, and Toby jumped off the back of the sofa still snarling, and I did see Oskar bite Toby’s leg.   I grabbed Oskar.  Toby jumped off the sofa.

Then we were stuck.  I was holding a 110 pound Akita who refused to move.  Toby was a safe distance away.  I started to pull Oskar to another room, and yelled at Toby to go in his crate, but of course, the little cave troll would not back down, so instead of going away from us, he came forward again, growling.  Oskar pulled towards Toby, but thankfully, Oskar is biddable and was unsure of the situation; he was looking to me for guidance, so I was able to pull him into the other room.

Toby was holding up one paw and limping.  After a quick examination, though, I found no puncture wounds at all, though there was a bit of saliva on his leg.  Still, Toby was limping and carrying the paw, so I ended up missing my class as I waited to see if he would need a vet visit.  Answer, no.  As soon as I stopped paying attention to him (to check on Oskar who also had no wounds), Toby stopped limping.  He was fine.  He’s just a drama queen, like all Shibas.

In fact, the only one injured was me:  Oskar stepped on my foot and his toenail scratched me deeply enough to draw blood.  And I also seem to be the only one shaken up by this.  Oskar was puzzled, and a bit excited, but calmed down quickly.  Toby seemed totally unfazed by the whole thing, though he did puff out his chest a bit.  He thinks he’s a bad ass.

Ruler of all he surveys

I’m aware this could have been a disaster.  If Bel had come into too.  If Oskar were dog aggressive, or not so soft-mouthed.  (Oskar was clearly warning Toby, not trying to hurt him).   Frankly, it scared the hell out of me, especially because there was no one to blame but myself.  I broke the routine.  And then I forgot.  And I risked my dog’s safety because of it.

But Toby is a hard dog to keep safe.  That’s not making light of my mistakes; it’s just a fact.  Once I had talked to a dog psychic about Toby and Bel (it was interesting, if not my best use of money).  She said she didn’t think Toby would live a long life because he was such a daredevil and always putting himself in dangerous situations.  (She also said Bel would soon find a home with a blonde woman in the mountains.  Well, Bel does–still–live in the mountains, but none of us are blonde).    There is some truth to this.  Toby is fearless*.  In pretty stupid ways.

He always goes for other dogs immediately.  He is always on the offense, and that offense is pretty, well, offensive!  His reaction to another dog is always snarling snapping growling….imagine the Tasmanian Devil cartoon and you have Toby.  (Or a imagine a cave troll–Toby’s favorite thing is to menace other dogs from behind something or from a crate).  He doesn’t care how big the other dog is–he’s going to immediately launch an attack.  He usually won’t bite unless the dog gets too close, as Oskar did, but he sure makes a lot of noise.  And if he manages to avoid a fight, as he did today, he’s usually pretty eager to jump right back in and get it started again.

But it’s not only that.  After the incident today, I took Toby for his walk, because it looked like his leg was ok.  It was.  He pranced and whiffled with excitement, as usual.  But here’s more of his “dangerous” behavior:  every time a car passed, I try to pull him over to the side of the road and get him out of the way.  And every time, he tried to bolt out into the road.  Or he just froze in the middle of the road, and I had to drag him out of the way.  This is not new behavior; he’s always done it.

But today I kept thinking about how much time is spent keeping Toby safe:  keeping him away from the other dogs.  Keeping him away from strange dogs as we go for walks.  Keeping him out of traffic.  And he doesn’t make it easy, you know?  I was cleaning out his room the other day and found a big spider (which I later caught and put outside).  He tries to catch the spiders in his mouth.  Not a good idea, Toby!

This spider was in Toby's room before I caught it and put it outside

When he was a young dog, he used to climb up on the roof, and I finally had to put up a railing on the deck so he couldn’t get up there anymore.   One of his first interactions with an adult dog was him snarling and snapping into the face of an adult Rottie.  Toby was 7 weeks old, and thankfully, the rottie just melted and licked him.  She was charmed.

Toby, you are a daredevil.  But you’ve never had very good judgement.

On a more serious note, I know that the real way to keep Toby safe is not to keep him at all, but to rehome him.  When I talk about the difficulties of managing my reactive pack, I know that it is easiest to rehome the best behaved dog, and Toby would be a wonderful only dog.  He’s smart, and he’s great with people.  He’s sweet (with people) and doesn’t need or demand a lot of attention or exercise.    And of my three, he’s the one that doesn’t get along with the others.  Bel may be crazy, but she and Oskar are mostly fine together.

But…Toby.  I can’t give up my Toby.  Perhaps that’s selfish.  Perhaps I don’t have very good judgement either.

So I’ll keep trying to keep Toby safe.  He won’t cooperate.  But I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, trying to do it better.  Managing dogs that want to kill one another is not easy.  I can’t really recommend it to anyone, though it is possible, if you’re vigilant.  I’ll keep working to keep Toby safe, so I have  many more years of joy and aggravation with him.

And I’ll try to remember this lesson:  never break the routine!

Toby chillin' in his chair

* Toby is not really fearless.  I’m very aware that he is actually a cautious, somewhat fearful dog, who masks his fear of other dogs with instant aggression:  I’m going to get them before they get me!  Many reactive dogs are also fearful dogs.

Bel’s Hunt

This part could probably be called “keeping Bel safe” because this was kind of scary too.  While Bel won this round of Shiba vs. Snake Deathmatch, I don’t like these encounters  because I’m fairly certain Bel doesn’t know the difference between a rattlesnake and a rat snake, and I worry that one day she will try this with a poisonous snake and get bit.  But as is often the case, Bel finds the snakes before I can rescue them.

I had already rescued this particular snake moe than once.  Bel had cornered it a few weeks earlier, but I managed to get her and Oskar in on that day, and the snake went free.  Another day,  U. asked me why scrub jays were gathered down around the propane tank.  Indeed there was a little gang of  jays circling something.  The something was a largish snake (maybe 3 and half feet long?), probably a gopher snake.  They were trying to peck at it, but it kept striking at them and hissing.   The snake was in between the propane tank and the dog’s water….and it was a very hot, dry day, and my theory was it had gone to get some water and found its way home blocked by angry birds.  So I got out the broom, let the snake coil around the handle, and carried it carefully over to a big rock with a hole under it, where I’ve seen this snake before, and let it go.

I like the snakes.  They eat mice and rats, and we can always use that.  They don’t hurt anything.  I felt ok about saving that snake. Twice.

But I couldn’t save it the third time.

I was inside and heard Oskar barking.  His bark was his soft “woof” which he does when he’s either excited or concerned about something.  He does it when Bel has something to eat he doesn’t.  Or when she’s into something:  he did it when she got the cookie container off the counter last week and ate all the dog cookies.  Oskar’s a tatttle-tale.

So I heard his bark, then heard Bel snarl like she does when she is frustrated.  Sometimes that leads to her biting whatever dog is near her, so I ran out to intervene.

She had the snake.

Bel has a snake!

I couldn’t save it:  by the time I got out there, Bel had bit the snake on the neck and was whipping the body around so quickly it was clear she’d already seriously injured it.

Mortally wounded

I wish I could have gotten a video; it’s pretty interesting to see Bel in hunting mode, and this is not the first time I’ve seen her kill a snake.  She goes in for quick sharp bites at the neck, and she leaps back after she bites, out of striking range (not that this poor thing could even strike by the time I saw it).  She does the snake-whip routine, shaking the snake fiercely, then letting it go, so it flew across the yard.  Then she caught it again and carried it over to the driveway.

Bel with snake

Bel bites near the head

She finished off the snake pretty quickly.

Bel has quite a strong prey drive, and is so motivated and fast I think she could have made a good working dog if she didn’t have so many other problems.

And what did Oskar do while all this was going on?  Other than alert me  (“Hey, mom, she’s got something!  Come see!”) Oskar didn’t do a whole lot.  He sniffed the snake once, but he was not at all interested in it.   He does have a prey drive–he took out a family of bunnies earlier this summer–but I think he is (rightly) cautious about the snakes, and he kept his distance.

As for Bel, I let her have her snake for awhile, and then managed to get it away from her when she went for a drink of water.  While I’m sad we lost one of our resident harmless snakes*, it sure was interesting to see Bel in action!

Proud Hunter

In any case, poor snake.  Another warning:  Snakes, stay away from the Shibas!

* I’m not sure what type of snake it was.  From my field guide, it looks to be either a gopher snake or a glossy snake.  I’ve  rescued snakes like this before that did hiss very loudly and strike, which makes me think it was a gopher snake, but this one wasn’t nearly as loud, so I’m not sure if it was the same kind of snake or another kind.  It does look a lot like this gopher snake.  It is probably not a glossy snake, though it looks somewhat like the darker version of this one, as it looks like glossy snakes tend to be nocturnal and also tend to live below 6000 feet (House of the Fox Dogs is near 7200 feet in elevation).

Bel’s Birthday: the Bitter and the Sweet

Today is Bel’s birthday.  She’s 6 years old.  Forgive me if I have a hard time mustering up some enthusiasm for this event, but I might as well admit it, as much as I love Bel, she’s often a hard dog to like.

Bel:  A Retrospective

It seems an apt time for a review of Bel’s life so far.  I got her when she was nearly four months old from a place I now recognize as a puppy mill.  I’ve talked about this in other posts, so we won’t go over her early life, but besides being not particularly well-bred, Bel was not socialized much as a pup.  I didn’t help things much when I got her:  she was fearful and I was busy, and I didn’t even take her to the puppy classes that I took the other dogs to.  I thought her being with my dogs and my friend’s dogs was enough.  It wasn’t.

Bel as a puppy

It might not have made a great deal of difference in her behavior:  she has a number of health problems and a fearful temperament.  Maybe I could have made things better with more socialization–certainly I know now it would have been worth the effort.  But I doubt it would have fixed her.

In 2008, when she was not quite three, she had a series of minor squabbles with Toby which ended in her suddenly attacking him at the door.  I couldn’t get her off him.  When I did, finally, manage to separate them, Toby was seriously injured.  He nearly died, and was at the vet for 6 weeks.  At that point, I decided to try to rehome her, and went through Shiba rescue, but honestly, who wants a dog who is that reactive, and who is also afraid of people?  A couple of people inquired about her.  Some even came to see her (she hid).   After six months of having her listed with rescue groups, I decided to just keep her, as I was used to keeping them separated by then.  That’s how it’s been ever since:  Bel and Toby are almost never together.

In the fall of 2009, she was attacked by coyotes (through the fence)  and bitten badly on the head and neck.  She had some eye damage, which healed, and who knows what else happened in her little brain.  She’s never been a particularly predictable dog, and this didn’t help.

Bel after the coyote attack

Bel after the coyote attack

After that she started to have a lot of “episodes” for lack of a better word, in which she would run and run along the fence, eyes blank, sometimes not recognizing me.  She’d done this on occasion before, but it got much more frequent after the attack.

In late 2010, she had a full on seizure.  The first I’d seen, but my vet and I suspect her “episodes” might be petit mal type seizures, which include periods when she “blanks out” in the house, for 30 seconds to a minute, and when she comes back she is fearful and confused.  Her crazed running outside seems almost like a fugue state.  Also in December of 2010, her luxating patella required surgery and she shredded her ACL, which readers of this blog know she had surgery for in March of this year.

She’s not been an easy dog.   She’s almost feral.  She is afraid of most people–sometimes even us.  She doesn’t come when called.  She runs away instead, and now can’t even be off leash in the main yard because she’ll hide out there and won’t come in, or she’ll run and run like a crazy thing til she does further damage to her legs (she’s already reinjured the leg we did surgery on, though luckily it doesn’t appear she tore the ACL again).

But before she attacked Toby?  It used to be lovely to watch them together….the way she followed him and watched his every move.  She taught him how to play–he never played before she came to live with us.  They used to run alongside one another in the yard, shoulder to shoulder, like a team, and they’d turn their heads at the same time as if they were one unit.  She was still fearful in those days, but she was funny and sweet too.  And then she wasn’t.

Toby and Bel in better days

Bel Today:

Bel can be very sweet.   She can be a charming, silly dog.  She likes to be petted, and she indicates this by standing up on her hind legs, and placing one paw gently on my arm to get my attention.  If I don’t pet her, she paws me a bit more.  She likes to have her chest rubbed, and she turns her head away as I do this, and leaves her paw resting on me to remind me that this is my duty–to pet her.  She is playful and she likes to steal things.  She taught me to always keep the bathroom door closed, because if it’s open, she’ll find the toilet paper roll, no matter where it is, and steal it and drag toilet paper banners all over the house.  She is smart, and loves clicker training, and took to it faster than any of the other dogs.

This spring, she’s been injured, so some of the things she enjoys (running, twirling, leaping, and hunting birds) haven’t been possible.  I have to keep her on the leash.  She’s been pretty mellow overall.  She was off phenobarbital for awhile (because of the liver problems she had in the spring), but she started getting fearful again.  She developed a fear of thunder last year, and now she’s added fear of wind to that.  A couple of weeks ago, she started to get fearful as it got dark.  Not full dark, but at dusk.  Every night as it gets dark, she starts to panic.  Her fearful behavior is the same for all these things:  she paces and pants.  Her tail is dropped.  She tries frantically to get outside.  Then she tries to climb up on me.  She wants to climb up on my neck like a dog scarf.

Bel doing her fox stole imitation (she wasn't in full on panic here)

After a few weeks of this, I put her back on the phenobarbital.  She wasn’t having seizures per se, but her behavior was erratic, and she was having brief “blank” periods again, so I thought it would help regulate her behavior, and it seems to have done that.  She was calmer.   So much so that I got complacent.

Bel and Toby:  A(nother)  Scary Incident

Since she has to be on the leash all the time (to keep her from further injuring the leg she had surgery on), sometimes I take her out in the yard when Toby is loose. (This gives Toby the freedom to interact with her or not as he chooses). Lately, they’ve been playing together, and even doing something they used to do when they were young and got along: they walk along shoulder to shoulder, like a little Shiba team.  She’s on the leash, and Toby comes up and initiates play, or walks closely to her.  They’ve been fine.

Sometimes I even walk them to the mailbox together, sometimes on separate leashes, and sometimes on a leash coupler.   I decided to do it on Monday.  I was overly optimistic: I thought maybe they were going to get along now that they are a bit older, calmer.  I’d heard of that happening with feuding dogs.

So I leashed them up with the coupler and walked down to the mailbox. On the way I saw someone jogging with an Anatolian shepherd and I thought, this is a bad idea. Seeing another dog may be too much for them.   By then it was too late. They saw the other dog, and both growled at it, and once Toby growled, Bel turned on him and they started fighting. Of course I could hardly separate them because of the stupid leash coupler. Bel grabbed him by the scruff and would not let go.   Then Toby slipped his collar (probably the only time this is a good thing) when she let go a bit because I pulled her by her back legs.  I usually leave their buckle collars on and put a martingale collar on to walk them, and thank god I’d done this, because I was able to grab Toby by his other collar.

Then I had two dogs, one leash, both dogs still snarling at each other.   Each time Toby growled, Bel went berserk again; I could barely keep them apart.   I managed, somehow, to get them to our fence, tied Bel to it, and took Toby around to the gate then into the house. Luckily he’s got a ton of hair and a roll of fat on his neck, and was not badly hurt.  There was no blood, but he was so scared! He ran in the house and hid, and wouldn’t come out from under the table for almost three hours, and he was panting with stress, poor boy.   And I felt awful.


There are some things I learned from this:

  1. NEVER become complacent with reactive dogs, and never underestimate what they can do.  Both Shibas have a low threshold for stimulation, and the excitement of a walk together was probably enough to be dangerous, but seeing another dog sent Bel over the edge.
  2. Leash couplers are a bad idea for reactive dogs, possibly for any dogs.  They simply don’t have enough room to get away from one another, and if there is a fight, as I experienced, then it’s hard for the person handling the dogs to get them separated.
  3. Know how to separate fighting dogs.  The first things to try would simply be noise to startle them, or try to get something in between them (even the mail, as someone suggested!).  Water is another good thing to use–spray them with a hose or dump water on them if needed (this has never worked for me to get Bel off Toby, but it will work for some people).  The wheelbarrow move, which I used, is something to be tried if other things don’t work.  Grab the dog’s back legs and lift them off the ground–they lose their balance and in theory, will let go (which did work for Bel).  One person who told me about this found some information about it on the Leerburg GSD site*, and this site suggests holding the dog’s back legs and moving in a circle so the dog can’t snap back and bite you.  It’s worth a try.  Some people have said it could be bad for a dog with a luxating patella, like Bel.  I agree.  But I also knew this was a matter of life and death:  she would kill Toby if she could.  I’d rather risk the injury than lose a dog.  Don’t do what I stupidly did out of panic, which was to try to separate them by pulling on their collars.  They simply got more agitated, and I was lucky I wasn’t bitten.  (You just don’t think about these things, in the heat of the moment,  though).
  4. Bel is crazy and can’t be trusted.
  5. I did a very stupid thing, and it was a stupid thing that put Toby’s life at risk.
The Aftermath 

As I said, Toby spent the rest of the afternoon and evening really spooked and I can’t even begin to tell you how bad I feel about this.  He trusts me to keep him safe, and I failed him.  Everytime he looked at me, I felt awful.  I know this incident reinforced his reactivity:  for him other dogs are dangerous, and therefore he needs to react as if his life is threatened every time he sees another dog:  he needs to go on the offense.  Or so he thinks, and it’s not an unreasonable supposition on his part.

Bel was fine, of course, but hyped up like crazy.  I took her into the vet that afternoon for her regularly scheduled appointment, and she could not settle down (she still hasn’t.  She’s still hyperactive, and she “stalks” Toby from inside the house when she sees him outside, and she’s tried to force herself into his room.  It’s scary).

I told my vet what happened as she was examining Bel’s leg.  And my vet told me this:  they had a fox terrier who was very like Bel, and though their dogs had had several fights (none with big injuries) they still let her interact with the other dogs, because they misjudged how bad the situation was.  One day they left the terrier bitch and another male in the car briefly while they ran errands.  When they came back, she’d killed the other dog.

I was astounded, and heartbroken.  Both my vet and I were petting Bel at that time, who was sitting on the chair like a little princess, acting as sweet as can be.  My vet said “So I understand about dogs like Bel.  And I’d understand, with all her health issues and her craziness, if you decided she was too much to deal with and decided it was too much to put your other dogs at risk with having her in the house.  I’d understand, and wouldn’t blame you.”

We didn’t say anything for a moment, though of course, Bel’s life hung there, for a moment, in the balance.  I asked my vet what happened with the Fox terrier bitch.  “Oh, that was five years ago,” she said.  “She’s 9 now, and still evil as can be to other dogs.  We just keep her separated from the others, and they know not even to get near her crate.”

 We both looked at Bel.  “You’ve been managing all this time with her, and you’ve done a good job.  Be careful, and don’t beat yourself up for a mistake.”

I brought Bel home.

This is hard to say, but  it is the truth:  there days I really do think of giving up.  I think about how she’s only 6 years old–barely middle-aged for a Shiba, and I think of the mistakes and near misses that occur at least once a year, and I wonder if I’m selfishly putting Toby’s life in danger by keeping her.  I think about her seemingly endless health problems, both mental and physical.  I wonder if life is ok for her, as fearful as she is, and as limited as she in activities lately–she can’t even get out and run and play now, as it risks more damage to the leg she had surgery on.  She has LP on the other back leg too, and her constant carrying of the leg she had surgery on simply puts stress on her other back leg–eventually she may not be able to walk on either leg.

But I’m not ready to give up on her.  Giving up means one thing:  euthanasia.  She’s not a dog I could, in good conscience, rehome. Right now, I can live with her, even though, to be honest, she scares me.  I don’t know what goes through her head when she looks at Toby, but I know it’s like a switch is flipped, and she’s homicidal.  She’s never shown a bit of aggression toward a person, but she’s so unpredictable.  I’m not really afraid for that, though. I’m afraid of her unpredictability with other dogs, and though she’s only done this to Toby, how do I know she won’t turn it on Oskar someday?  Or some other dog?  I don’t.

But then there’s Bel.  Sweet little Bel, who comes to me when she’s scared.  The little girl dog who lays against me on the sofa as I read.   This silly, beautiful, fucked up little dog, who also trusts me, who is lucky to have someone like me who doesn’t give up easily.   And I know there may come a time when it is all too much, and her bad health and bad temperament overwhelms everything else.  If she every hurt another dog badly again, yes, I think it would be time.  But this is not that time, not yet.  I’ll keep going, keep the dogs separate, be more careful.    And I’ll keep enjoying the good days, and hope for more of them.

Happy birthday to Bel, my little crazy girl.  I hope there are better days ahead for us all.

Bel's a bad girl! (But this kind of bad is just cute!)

*Re: the Leerburg site.  I agree with almost none of this breeder/trainer’s philosopy, but I do think his method of separating fighting dogs is a good one, and so I mention it here.  Google the article if  interested.

And now, a Message from Toby

Toby here. I haven’t had much internet time lately because SHE has that giant grey NOT-a-Shiba in the house all the time, and while I’m pretty comfortable in my room, She has not given me a computer of my own yet. But I do sneak online sometimes when She is asleep, which is how I came across this:




This is Japan.  This is the bad place.  I’m not sure what it is called, but a bad thing happened there after the earthquake and the giant wave, and then, as far as I can see, everyone had to leave, but not all the Shibas went with their people.  I don’t know why, except I do know that sometimes, well, we Shibas don’t listen that well, and so perhaps the people couldn’t catch the Shibas, or something like that, because I know no one would willing leave a Shiba behind! (Actually, She told me that the people didn’t know they would not be allowed to go back to get their pets.  I find it hard to believe any humans would be so cruel as not let people get their animal family members, but She says it is true!) Now the Shibas are running around the bad place!  I became very concerned about this, because of course, how could these Shibas be Fed Appropriate Things if they were alone!  They might not be fed anything at all, which is something so horrific I can’t even really think of it.

I became so concerned that I told Her I wanted to send part of my dinner to  Japan.  Like maybe the fatty part of the chicken that I don’t like.  Or the green beans.  Or maybe the dead, dried up mouse I found the other day.  I could do without those.  She told me that She didn’t think that sending part of my dinner–especially the parts I don’t like–to Japan would be helpful, and that if I really cared, I would be willing to do more.

I hate to admit it, but She’s right.  Sometimes the humans are, though usually not (I think this was a human thing that caused the bad thing in the first place.  Humans are particularly stupid about doing bad things that involve machines).  I decided to do more research, and write this post.  It seemed more helpful then sending my dinner to Japan.

This has all made me think more about my group F(eed) A(ppropriate) T(hings) to Shibas.  She thinks I have abandoned FAT Shibas because I have been on a diet and am now a svelte Shiba.   That shows how little She knows!  I do feel much better, and I am looking even better than usual these days, and I like the diet (which I guess is a word that means I eat different appropriate things?), well, at least I like the fish part a lot, and the green beans aren’t that great but I get a lot of them, and I like the pumpkin too, and I have a lot more energy and can run around more and even sometimes play.  I don’t really get why She thinks now that I’m on a diet I would abandon FAT Shibas, but I’m not doing it!

So I did more research, with some help from my human.  I found this:   Some people went in and caught some of the Shibas in the bad place!  (I guess not all humans are stupid!) Of course, being Shibas, they were not easy to catch, but here is the video:




There is even a cat there, and the poor Shibas are so hungry, they don’t even go after it, like I’m sure I would if I were there!  I am glad to see these Shibas are being Fed Appropriate Things, and are being rescued!  I don’t think they were able to rescue all the Sheebs, but they caught some of them.  If I were there, I would have jumped right in the car with the people!  My human said it has been hard because it is illegal for people to go into that area and so no one is feeding the animals and they are starving.  I don’t think that’s right, and I don’t see how it could be illegal to help Sheebs and other animals.  But I don’t really know what illegal means anyway.  I do read, but some human things just don’t make sense to me.

Here is another video, in English, that explains the situation.  My human says if you only have time to watch one video, watch this one from the rescue group JEARS:




We also  found this which shows some of the rescued dogs.  I don’t know if they are actually Shibas, but they still needed help:

dogs wearing Geiger counters

My human said some people having been going in where the bad thing happened and helping the animals even though it’s not legal.  I think that’s a good thing!  I wondered what those dogs were wearing (I had to wear a head cone once. And a neckerchief.   They didn’t look like that though)  She said they are wearing giger counters.  I don’t what that is.  Something to count with I guess.  Not the same thing as the counters I jump up on sometimes to forage for food.  Maybe gigers are something to eat, so they are counting them?  Anyway, they don’t look too bad wearing them, but I like my neckerchief better than those counters.

My human said that if I wanted to help other Shibas, maybe I could write this post, so people would remember there are still a lot of animals (and people) in need in Japan, and that people should donate money to help.

Here are some places that are helping animals in Japan:

Animal Rescue Kansai (ARK)

Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support (JEARS)

Animal Miracle Network (has a guide for sending out needed items)

World Vets

My human is going to donate to JEARS.  Even $5 would help, so please give what you can.

Because it’s been 52 days since people have been allowed to go into the area.  Some Shibas and other animals may have already starved, and others will.   Please help groups that are trying to go into Feed Appropriate Things to these animals.

Because foraging is fun as a hobby, but I wouldn’t like to have to try stay alive like that, and I don’t like to think of any animals starving to death.  And you probably don’t either.

*note:  here’s a quick link to JEARS FB page, which has fast way to send a message to the government in Japan, asking them to allow rescue groups into the exclusion zone.

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