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.

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