Dogs of the Snow Country

And for Toby’s birthday, two posts in one day!

I am also a writer, mostly of poetry and nonfiction, but occasionally of fiction.  I am an avid reader of science fiction and fantasy, but have not written much in this much beloved genre.  A few years ago, though a story came to me, and I was lucky enough to get it published.  So here is my first published fantasy story, which, of course, features Nihon Ken.  It’s a long story, a novella, so is not a quick read, but I hope is an enjoyable one.  While the story is fantasy, it is clearly based on the native dogs of Japan.

And while it is not illustrated, I thought I’d include a couple of photos of the dogs that inspired by story.  The Kai Ken:

The Akitas:

And of course, the Shibas:

And here is my story, with a huge thank you to the editors at Black Denim Literary Review who published it:  “Dogs of the Snow Country.” 

Toby is 12!

Happy birthday to my best boy, Toby, who turned 12 today!

He’s gone from this:

Four weeks old

Four weeks old

to this:

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What doesn’t change is his interests, which include food and riding in the car!  So for his birthday, I picked him and put him in the car (he can’t jump into the car on his own anymore, though he feels being lifted is very undignified!) and we went out for a birthday jaunt.

He had a birthday cheeseburger, which he enjoyed:

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He decided, however, that a true Shiba servant (ie. me) should help him get to the good parts:

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Ok, that looks better:
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What big teeth you have:

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The bread wasn’t that great, but in the end, he decided to eat that too:

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We also went for a short walk in town today, which he enjoyed at first, but then he decided he was done with his walk, and we still had to get back, so I think our walk went a bit longer than he enjoyed (it was still under a mile, but Toby is still having some trouble in his leg).

Toby’s 11th year was eventful.  Toby has severe luxating patella in one leg, and it’s not great in the other either.   Most of last spring, he was hopping on three legs.   I had plans for treatment, but due to an unrelated family emergency, ended up not having the money for his treatment.  But thanks to fabulous friends and readers of this blog, we were able to raise enough money to help Toby.   A huge THANK YOU to all of you who contributed to the fund!

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Toby says THANK YOU!!!

My regular vet was reluctant to do surgery on an 11 year old dog, so we went with a well recommended non-surgical approach called prolotherapy. (this is not my vet, but the description of prolotherapy was a good one).  Toby had several different treatments, from July into the fall.  It was wonderfully successful at first, but during the summer, Toby got in a fight with Leo and got hurt fairly badly.  This set back resulted in more damage to his knee, and though we did more treatments, he still has not fully recovered and is still limping.  If we could do more, I do believe we’d have more success, but due to limited funds (and another dog, Zora, who did have knee surgery in December for the same issue), we’ve been unable to continue, so Toby is still limping, though it is getting better.  I’m hoping to continue treatment sometime this spring.

During his recovery, he had daily short walks:

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And other low impact activities:

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(For anyone who goes through knee problems with their dogs, do investigate the non-surgical options.  Though we had a setback and not quite the results we wanted, I do think it was effective.  It’s not cheaper than surgery–or at least wasn’t cheaper than the old school knee repair my regular vet does–your mileage may vary depending on location–so explore all your options and consult with multiple vets!)

So now, Toby is 12. He is truly a Shiba elder now.   He is my familiar, my best boy, my heart dog.  He has been with me through some very difficult times, both for him and for me, and he is always there, in his undemonstrative Shiba way.   He’s given up hunting, and doesn’t do much of a Shiba 500 anymore.  He doesn’t even really jump up on the sofa anymore–but he enjoys his kuranda bed with his soft sheepskin on it.  He sleeps a lot.  He’s got cataracts, though he can still see except for in low light, and he can’t hear well, but he’s sharp as ever mentally and he enjoys his short walks, though they are slower these days.   I hope we have more years together to come.  I love my Toby!

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Want to help celebrate Toby’s birthday?  How about through supporting Shiba rescue?  There are many Shiba elders in need of homes.  Shiba elders are fantastic!  They’re usually pretty calm couch potatoes (though may be grumpy with other dogs or perhaps, like Toby, not tolerate other dogs at all anymore) and would make great companions who are past the crazy puppy stage.   If you can, consider adopting a Shiba elder in need.  I’ve included a couple of rescues, below, that tend to have Shiba elders that need homes.  Or if you can’t adopt, perhaps you can donate to a rescue that helps elders.  I’ve included some that I’ve supported, and also included the national list.

Northwest Shibas 4life
Tristate Shiba Rescue

Midwest Shiba Inu Rescue

Shiba Inu Rescue of Texas

Or check out the list of National Shiba rescues here:  Shiba rescue in the US

Happy birthday, Toby!


Toby, from a few years back.


Toby in Need

I haven’t updated this for awhile, but now, Toby is in need, and it’s time to do it.  If you follow the link to the fundraiser, you’ll see more details of the family crisis we’ve fallen into.  Basically, Toby has always had luxating patellas in both knees, but this spring, it got much worse in the right leg, and at some point, he tore the ACL too.   Now we’ve been through this with Jezebel (now happily hunting beyond the rainbow bridge) and so I’m familiar with both injury and the possibilities for recovery:  it’s a slow process, but it does work.

Here at the House of the Fox Dogs, we normally have money set aside for vet bills. Unfortunately, this is not the case now, for a couple of reasons. We quickly spent a lot of money on consultations, first of all (nearly $500 so far). This is what the vets told us. One highly recommended vet has a nonsurgical method that will cost us approximately $1200. Our regular vet can do the old fashioned surgery (like she did for Bel) for $1800-$2000. Or a third vet, an orthopedic surgeon, will do the “new” surgery on Toby for approximately $5000.

Toby on his 11th birthday

Toby on his 11th birthday

It would never be easy for us to raise this money, but normally, the two less expensive options would be within reach, and I wouldn’t have to ask for help. Unfortunately, just a few weeks ago, I had a family emergency with my mother in Alaska, and have spent quite a bit of money, already going back and forth trying to help her. I also discovered she had incurred debt in my name that needs to be paid off. This emergency has already stretched our family resources as far as they can be stretched and beyond. So I’m finding myself in the difficult situation of asking for help. The fundraiser link is here:

I’m hoping to cover Toby’s health care first, and if there is more money left, then I’ll pay down the debt. And if there is any money left beyond those things, I will donate the rest to Shiba rescue. If you can help–be it through donating, or sending encouraging words, or through boosting the signal–we appreciate it!

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Toby at the vet, getting the bad news about his leg.


Toby is 11. He is happy and relatively healthy for an 11 year old. He’s sort of deaf, though he won’t admit it, and is starting to develop cataracts. But he is mentally as sharp as ever, and still quite interested in life. He’s a Shiba, and could easily live to 16, 17, or 18. Without some treatment soon for his leg, however, he’s likely to injure the other leg as well, and if he can’t walk….well, you can see this would shorten his life (and break his person’s heart). With treatment, he’ll be able to use the leg again, and enjoy the rest of years pain free.

Toby says thank you for your support!

Toby says thank you for your support!

Oskar’s Video Debut

I was out of town recently, and when I was away, I got a text message from my husband with a you-tube link in it.  I didn’t check it out right away, because I didn’t particularly want to watch a video on my phone, but after some coaxing from the husband, I finally watched it.


What was it?  Oskar playing!



It’s mostly just the boys playing tug,  but if you check in at about 1:45, you’ll see special guest star and audience member……Toby, who was watching from the sunroom.


Otherwise, things have been quiet at the House of the Fox Dogs.  Bel is holding steady, not getting better or worse.  She still stalks Toby through the window, but we’re holding off making any decisions about her for now.  She’s not likely to get better; we know that.  But more on that in another post.


Toby is enjoying his spa regime of fish and veggies and afternoon walks.  Oskar is too hot in this weather, and is sleeping outside on the deck at night.  Things are, for the moment, quiet.



Bel is better….

This one will be quick, and picture-less, I’m afraid. But still good news: Bel is feeling better. Bel is feeling MUCH better.   So much so that she is finding her continued confinement in Oskar’s big cage to be a sore injustice, and she lets me know by whining, barking and scratching at it.

She went to the vet yesterday and had the rest of her stitches out, and the vet agreed that her knee has healed well. It works well–it’s tight, but not too tight, and she’s walking on it. And as if to demonstrate how much better she feels, Bel hopped up onto the chair in the exam room. Right after we had the talk about how she shouldn’t be doing a lot of leaping and jumping. Sigh.

She’s also eating just fine on her own again, and the vet told me I did everything right in terms of treating her as if her liver were damaged. We did discuss the meds, and I wasn’t happy that this happened to Bel, but I also came away with the understanding that there were a limited amount of choices in treatment.

Bel had lost a pound from her illness, but otherwise is in good shape. We discussed what she could and couldn’t do: she could have her cone off, but she shouldn’t run or be allowed off leash. No jumping on or off furniture, etc. So I brought her home, put her in the little fenced in area that serves as a dog run, and went in to let Toby out. Which I did, and suddenly noticed TWO Shibas in the yard, both running–one rather fat one running to me, and another thin little Shiba chasing him.

Yep, Bel had gotten out of the fenced area. I suspect she got out by climbing over the fence then JUMPING down. And now she was RUNNING, running, running, just like she wasn’t supposed to do.

Toby, of course, still remembers how badly she hurt him, so he ran right to me and into the house. Bel, as usual, had no intentions of coming to me and having her newly found freedom curtailed, so I had to use Toby as “bait.” I took him out on the leash, and Bel danced around him, and when he peed, of course she couldn’t resist peeing over his mark, and in that vulnerable moment, I was able to grab her and put her in the house.

She didn’t seem to hurt herself, but the running and jumping is strictly verboten, so she’s back to short, leashed, potty breaks for now.  And she’s not pleased with that.  When I let her out of the crate earlier tonight, she immediately RAN out and then ran upstairs.  (Climbing stairs, another thing she’s not supposed to do).  Oh, Bel.

In other news, if you want to read a funny blog about why positive reinforcement is a good thing, and why you should be careful about what you say to your pets, check out this entry from Morning with Birds.  It also tells the story of how we think Bel developed multiple personalities!

Toby’s War Wounds

Toby wanted photos documenting his big fight, so here they are.

The photos of Toby’s neckerchief are below, and here are photos of his war wounds:

And one more of him back in action, for anyone that might be worried that he was permanently injured:

Toby’s back to stealing food off the counter–all is well in his world.

Toby’s Neckerchief

Apparently Toby wants me to post pictures of him in his neckerchief, which he seems to think made him very handsome.

Of course it did. He’s a handsome dog.

But he looked a little funny too. So I decided to include a few photos of Toby with his battle wounds.

I was very worried about him after the fight. Apparently Gideon’s canines sunk in just a tiny bit from Toby’s ear, and if he had gotten the place he was close to, Toby would have lost all sense of balance, maybe forever. As the vet said, yes, Toby is a scrapper, but he could have died. Or, in other circumstances, killed another dog.

Yes, indeed, Toby likes to fight.

Here are photos of Toby in his neckerchief, then him and Bel investigating it when he finally got it off.

Bel and Me

Toby is currently out of commission due to a fight with Gideon, but he has A LOT to say, and will be back soon.

Kai wants to post too, though he needs a long time to think about what he will say, and he wants to make sure it is allowed. He is, after all, a good German dog.

Bel loves writing, but is too distracted right now to post, though she asked for me to add this picture of her and me together. She doesn’t much care that I’m in it, but she is excited that she is.

Bel and me.

That’s all for now, but more soon, from me and the canine crazies.

More from Toby’s “The Plush Life”


Toby here. I have not been able to post new entries in my Shiba autobiography , “The Plush Life” because, frankly, I’ve slipped into something of a funk this summer.

My summer started off ok. The human took me to Taos, which was fine except the other Shiba had to go too, and that dampened my enthusiasm for the trip some. When I was known as Pope Toby the Only, which was a fitting title for me, only I got to go places, which was also fitting. Now The Little Jezebel, or TLJ as I will now call her, gets to go everywhere, and sometimes I have to stay home. Life is certainly not fair. Another example: there were many many tasty looking prairie dogs at the Sagebrush Inn at Taos. But whould the Human (also referred to as She or Her) let me chase them? No.

And once she took me to her creative writing class. I thought I was going to show off my superb writing skills, but as it turned out, She just tied me to a chair, without proper introductions, and didn’t even let me do the writing exercise which was to write a rant. I had things to rant about: the unfairness of leashes, my inability to chase the prairie dogs or the cats at the hotel, and most of all, how generally misunderstood I am.

Take body image, for example, which is what has cast me into this funk. I’ve always been plush, ever since I was a very small puppy, hence the name of my autobiography. I’ve always had a lot of fur. Most Shibas do (though TLJ does not, but just between us, she’s not very well-bred). I’m hardly fat, but I am plush. Yet periodically SHE looks at me and says, Toby’s getting plush. And she laughs. She’s not even using the word correctly–she means I’m fat! How do you think that makes me feel? This spring, She told her friend Marisa that I was so “plush” that she was going to feed me less. I practically starved, and then of course when I “blew my coat” (which we Shibas do twice a year–in lesser dogs it’s called shedding), She suddenly noticed I was thin. Well, I could have told Her that!

Now She’s concerned about my “plushness” again. She’s barely feeding me enough to keep me alive. She keeps poking at me and grabbing the fur around my neck. Her friend, who is usually kinder than her, came over and laughed at my butt. And here’s the worst part: the other day, she dragged out a scale and tried to wiegh me! I ran of course. Not only do I not want to be weighed, I don’t like being picked up. I’d pretty much forgotten about this cruelty, but this morning, as I was trying to forgive and forget by giving HER a kind greeting (ok, I was also trying to get her toast, but I’m starving I tell you!), she snatched me up and tried to get me to the scale again! Luckily, I managed to get away, and I ran and hid behind the couch. I ask you, how would this make YOU feel? It’s true I’ve filled out a little, but I’m two and half now, and I’ve always been a generously sized Shiba.

Doesn’t She know the damage this does to my self-esteem? I’m sure I have a distorted body image now, and its all HER fault. And that little bitch Jezebel, who is sleek as can be, because she’s a puppy and doesn’t even have the proper thick Shiba coat. And I can tell you, that dog isn’t that small either–I know! She latches onto my neck and hangs, and I can tell you that she’s much heavier than she looks. In fact, I suspect that rolls around my neck are caused by loosening of the skin from her latching on and pulling!

I’m sorry to whine about all this, but my life is hard. I hope someone out there will take pity on me. I’m willing to accept all food donations. (Hint: I really like Kobe beef–part of my heritage you know).


The Plush Life (or Toby is Not a Good Boy!)

The Plush Life, Installment One and Two (Toby’s blog)

Being an “as told to” life story of Tobias Thaddeous Sunfox (aka Toby Toby, or Pope Toby the Only). It has recently been brought to my attention by M. that Toby has long wanted to write his own memoir. In fact, he asked to audit her creative nonfiction class in the fall, but sadly, dogs aren’t allowed to take classes at UNM. In addition, because he has paws instead of hands, he finds writing difficult (should you know him, please don’t mention this to him. He’s very sensitive).

Toby here. Or you can call me His Excellency, Pope Toby the Only. Mister or Sir also works.

I was born from Japanese born Shibas in Westminster Colorado in a very exclusive kennel, where I lived briefly until being purchased by HER. She is a fine mistress, but a bit slow to understand that my wishes should be immediately acted upon–can you believe she tried to make me WALK as a puppy? When I clearly should have been carried? In those early days, things improved once she got a purse to put me in which you can see in her profile photo. Those were good days–I was seven weeks old, and was treated in a manner appropriate to my station.

Though my life is endless fascinating–so much so that I spend much of my day on the couch thinking about it–I’ll only regale you with two stories, because SHE doesn’t seem interested in transcribing everything I have to say.

Favorite Memory One: In which Toby escapes into Wild Oats.

What can I say? I’d been to school with HER, and found it very very boring. Uninteresting humans talk, talk, talking, and looking at boring pieces of paper with black marks on them. I tried to get in the trash, but she wouldn’t let me. She also wouldn’t let me kill any ducks at that scummy little pond mid-campus. So boring! Finally, we left, but then SHE tried to leave me in the car while she went to do something else. So I did the thing any smart dog would do: I jumped out of the car to explore. But the place was a little scary–and remember, I was just a pup of about 10 mos. old then–not nearly as brave as I am now. It was all hot black pavement and cars. I ran around for awhile, while SHE ran after me, screaming out me. I found that very undignified for a dog of my stature, so as soon as I saw an open door, I ran through it.

I’d found nirvana.

Inside, it was all cool air, and a myriad of smells, all of them food related. And food is my favorite thing in the world. I trotted past tall islands of what smelled like vegetables (not my favorite so I left those alone), leaping out of the way of the humans who seemed surprised to see me there. I loped down an aisle of colored boxes–I stopped to sniff, but mostly what I got was cardboard and a vague smell of sweetened grain. Still, I was convinced there were good things to be had here–didn’t my human usually return from these places with bags full of tempting delights? Sometimes even with meat!

I could hear HER behind me, alternately pleading, yelling, calling, but I was not to be swayed. I fully intended to find the true treasures. Unfortunately, I became distracted by an alluring smell: peanuts! I made my way over to some bins which were thoughtfully placed right at dog level, and lo and behold, there were peanuts on the ground, which I stopped to eat. Then I pawed at the containers a bit, because I could see they were full of nuts, if only I had enough time to figure out how to get them open. That’s when SHE grabbed me from behind (I’ve always become a little distracted by food) and carried me out of the store. SHE was embarrassed, but it has remained one of my fondest memories. I dream of going back. I’ve heard there is another store like it with a similiar name: Wild Foods? Whole Oats? Anyway, I’ve heard stories of very large, low cheese counters. I’m planning an invasion.

Favorite Memory Two: Toby instigates very bad behavior

This was hard to choose (SHE is only letting me choose two things to include). Should it be about my hunting exploits? The snakes, rats, mice, birds, bats I’ve caught? The time SHE was very unreasonable and wouldn’t let me bring the nice dove’s head into the house so I could save it for a snack? The trauma of having my plush winter coat mistaken for fatness? Or my trauma at having HER bring another Shiba into our household? (As for Jezebel, the less said the better. Sure she’s fun to play with and she’s kind of cute, but she chases a stupid red light that isn’t even there. It’s a CAT toy. ‘Nuff said).

I think it will be this story, because it shows how devious I can be. And there are pictures.

So I was hunting, as I’m wont to do. On the trail of a big squirrel which I chased under a car. I was very pleased, ready to pounce and give it the killing shake. Only it disappeared. Where did it go? I could still hear it and smell it, but couldn’t see it. Still, I knew it was there, trapped in the engine of the car (I guess it’s the engine–I’m not very mechanical, and if I was a human, I’d ride a motorcycle not a car anyway). What to do? I barked and barked, and finally the German came over. He’s alright, but not nearly as clever as me. But he is big. And strong. And easily ordered around. It took forever, but I finally got him to understand what I needed him to do. So he started in on the car, biting the fenders and pullling them out. My hope was he’d pull away enough of the car for me to get the squirrel. Pretty smart, huh?

Unfortunately SHE heard all this and came outside. With her friend M. who owned the car (I like her friend M.–she’s my second favorite human in the whole world, even if she does have a German Dog that I hate. And a talking grey bird that she won’t let me eat). The humans weren’t nearly as impressed by my ingenuity as they should be. In fact, they seemed really angry. Humans! Who can figure them out? Luckily for me, they got mostly mad at the German dog. He was in trouble for weeks! I don’t think they even realized it was my idea! Apparently, the car was really expensive to fix–like $2,000 or something. I don’t really know what that means–SHE won’t let me have money because she thinks I’ll just order Kobe beef online (she’s right), but it seemed like the humans were quite worked up.

And the squirrel? It got away.

Time for my nap. If SHE lets me, I’ll add more. You know, she’s a good human all in all. She feeds me raw chicken and takes me for rides, and she has a tattoo of me on her arm. I just wish she’d get rid of those other dogs–well, maybe the little Shiba bitch can stay.

And I DO want to know when my papacy will be recognized. I have plans. Big plans.

Ok, where’s the goddamn squirrel?

On the left, the car–which doesn’t look nearly as bad in the photos as it was. Those humans–always overreacting!

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