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!

We’re Back, with a New Addition

It’s been a long time since I’ve updated this blog.   Life got in the way–I was working full time and in school part time, and simply didn’t have the chance to do much of anything beyond that!

However, school is done, and work is busy but manageable, and so it’s time to update The House of the Fox Dogs!

First, there was a new addition who appeared here in May:

Leo at 8 weeks

Leo is a Kai Ken, one of the six native Japanese dog breeds.   The Kai Ken are considered one of the medium sized breeds and were used for hunting boar and deer.  They are sometimes called Tora Inu (Tiger dog) because of their brindle patterning, which looks like tiger stripes.  The Kai Ken are not a recognized breed by the AKC, but are registered in Japan with the The Kai Ken Aigokai  (Kai Ken Preservation Society).  Read more about them here .  Leo comes from Yamabushi Kennel, formerly in Taos, NM (and now in Flagstaff, AZ).   Leo is from the breeding of Akashi and Ayu, whose photos and pedigrees are available on the Yamabushi page.  You can also find plenty of information about the Kai Ken there

We were not expecting to add a fourth dog, but I’d gone up to Taos to meet the Kai and fell in love with them, and when there was a puppy available, we talked it over and decided to take him.

Leo is a very handsome young man now, at 7 months, and is a good friend to both Bel and Oskar:

Leo and Bel

He is about the same size as Bel right now, and last time we weighed him, a few months ago, he was 30 pounds.  He’s quite different in temperament than the Shibas or Akita, which makes him a good fit for our house.  He’s not at all dog reactive, and in fact is quite a little peacemaker–he wriggles on his back and gets very puppyish if there are squabbles in the house.

He’s also quite active, and loves to run and play.  He’s been through a puppy class and an agility for fun class, and is starting to work on agility more seriously, now, as he really seems to enjoy it.

Leo in the tunnel at his agility class

We’re quite happy with him, and feel he is a wonderful addition to the pack at the House of the Fox Dogs.

There have been some other changes in the dog world, which I’ll get to in future posts, but right now, let this return to blogging also be Leo’s introduction.   The other dogs in the house are doing well, and we’ll be returning with more posts soon!

Leo on the sofa

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!

Snow day, Snow Dogs

The train came out of the long tunnel into the snow country. The earth lay white under the night sky. —Snow Country, Yasanuri Kawabata

When I was a kid growing up in southern California, my mother and I would  “go to the snow” as people in California sometimes say.  That meant driving up to the mountains outside of LA, to Idyllwild, or Big Bear.  I loved the snow as a kid–in those years before we moved to Alaska and it became commonplace–and I could spend hours upon hours outside in it.  Snow made the world magic:  everything cloaked in white and made unfamiliar, sparkling, and new.

After the snow

I was reminded of this today, as I took Toby for a walk.   The House of the Fox Dogs is situated in the Sandia mountains, and this year we’ve gotten a lot of snow.  According to local news, Sandia Peak ski area, which is just a few miles and  a couple thousand feet higher than us, has 47 inches of snow, the most in the state right now.   Just down the mountain a bit, we’ve definitely got our share of it.

Snow days

These days, I’m reminded that my dogs are snow dogs, that their breeds come from the snow country of Japan.   They revel in the snow.  Oskar, the Akita, would probably not come in at all, unless we made him.  He goes outside and runs and runs, ears back, face full of joy.

Snow Dog!

He runs, snatches mouthfuls of snow in between his leaps, then collapses in the snow to rest.   I’ve never seen him so happy, so animated.  It’s as if the world makes sense to him, finally, and I suppose it does–this was a dog bred to hunt in the mountains, in the deep snow, and he is in his element.

Even Toby and Bel seem to enjoy it.  Toby can be fussy–he doesn’t like to get his feet wet–and Bel is just flat-out crazy–but they are also built for the snow, with their thick double coats, and neither of them mind being out in it, and neither seem to mind the cold, either.


Some days, I have to be reminded of the magic and wonder in the world.  It is what we lose as we age, along with our innocence, and perhaps rightly so–we live in a world where innocence is so routinely abused that to be innocent is to be in danger.   Still, I miss that sense of wonder, and it’s something over the past few years I’ve tried to recultivate:  I’ve had a string of difficult years, and one thing that got me through was my dogged attempts to find beauty and wonder in the world, regardless of the ugliness that I (and all of us) witness.  I used to play a game with myself:  today I will find three magical things.  My magical things were invariably things of the natural world:  the Japanese maple on campus turning scarlet, the raven croaking from a utility post.

Or I watched my dogs.  Their joy in the world is effortless and amazing.   Every day is a great adventure to them, and they do not get tired of their world, this little half-acre, as far as I can see, though they are also joyous when they get to go somewhere new (Bel aside–Bel doesn’t really like going new places).   These snow days–days when we are forced to stay home by the nature (and the unaccountable schedule of snow plows), I’m able to watch them, and rekindle some of my wonder.

Oskar grabs a fallen icicle and runs with it, joyously, with delight at this new, melting toy.

Oskar with icicle

Bel forgets her fearfulness for a moment, and runs through the snow, with a rare (for her) Shiba smile.   Toby forgets to be fussy and trots into the snow, then poses for his profile shot.

Toby on the deck

And watching them, I remember all the wonder in the world, and remember those long ago days when my mother took me to the “snow country” of California.  And I remember to enjoy unplowed roads, the forced time out in my life.

Today,  I measured 15 inches of snow on the deck, which is from the heavy snow last night, and from the snow of the past few days.   And since our neighborhood, and our road, is low priority for the county snow plows, many of the roads in the neighborhood, including ours, have not been plowed.  Someone had driven down our road, so when Toby and I ventured out to get the mail today, we had a path to walk in, and larger roads below us were cleared.   But when we came home, we turned onto another road, and we were able to walk a ways in the tracks of a truck, but then, apparently, no one had ventured out of their homes (or perhaps into them!) for after that, the road was a vast expanse of untouched snow.  Do we turn around?  Go back the way we came?  Or go forward?

I thought of the spirit of the girl I had been, so many years ago in California, and remembered how in those days, I’d seek out the new snow, where no one had gone, and I decided to follow that kind of spirit today.   I’m older, wiser, I suppose, and certainly it’s harder these days to hold on to my childlike wonder or even optimism.  But I’m also a Sagittarius, and I have never entirely lost my inner child.  So we struck out down the road in the new snow.  It was above my boots in places (when I got home, I measured, and my boots are 13 inches tall), but I kept going.  Toby plowed away through it gamely, though the snow was up to his chest, sometimes up to his neck, and he looked like a Shiba swimming through snow.

But he was smiling.

And when the sun hit the snow, it was like a field of diamonds.

It was magical.

Oskar says "come play in the snow!"

And I was reminded of how much I’d loved the snow as a child, and I remembered, too, the harsh beauty of those short days and long winter nights in Alaska, when the snow blued as evening came on, and sometimes the aurora swirled above in otherworldly ribbons of light.   There is great beauty in this season.

House of the Fox Dogs in Winter

So all of us at the House of the Fox Dogs wish you a magical season, whichever holidays you celebrate this time of year, and we thank you, too, for reading.   Updates have been few and far between, as the mistress of the House of the Fox Dogs is working full-time and in school too, and sometimes I simply don’t have time to write.   But we appreciate every one of our readers, and thank you for following our adventures.

We’ll have more to say in the New Year, but in the meantime, and in the coming year, may your lives be filled with magic and wonder.   Just follow the dogs–they always know where to find joy.

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).

What I Did on my Summer Vacation

The human contingent of the House of the Fox Dogs has been on vacation, visiting U’s family in Germany. It actually looked like I wouldn’t be able to go at first, because we had an unexpected canine health issue: One month after his neutering, Oskar suddenly developed a rather large hematoma in his scrotum. It was, well, rather noticeable, since I took a look at him and thought wow, he looks like he was never neutered. The scrotum had filled up with blood.

So off the vet we went, where it was aspirated, but unfortunately, it filled right back up again with blood. This meant Oskar needed a procedure I am unfortunately all too familiar with from various dog injuries: the vet had to put in drains, and a pressure bandage. Obviously, this is not the easiest place to bandage, so as usual, my vets got creative, and Oskar ended up with a very interesting outfit:

Oskar's outfit

Granted, that wasn’t all the vet’s doing.  Oskar’s bandages wouldn’t stay up so we sacrificed a pair of U’s boxers and put them on Oskar.  It did help to keep everything in place, but as you can see from his dropped tail, he wasn’t happy.  He had to wear that ensemble for about a week, and his drains had to be flushed at least once a day, a procedure that I simply could not do by myself (imagine trying to hold down a 110 pound dog and squirt betadine into his nether regions.  Not a one-person job, and U. had already left for Germany), so Oskar went to the vet daily.

Poor Oskar!

Luckily for me, the drains came out two days before I left, and there were no more complications, so I was able to leave Oskar and the Shibas with our lovely housesitters, and go to Germany.

(I should add that the complications with Oskar’s neutering are rare.  This kind of swelling does sometimes happen in dogs that are too active immediately after the surgery, but it is rare indeed for it to occur a month later.  My vet said he had not seen it happen so long after the surgery in his 30 years in practice.  We’re not sure what caused it, and it was probably just a fluke, but given that Oskar has had a few other odd issues with bleeding–a broken toenail that bled on and off for two weeks–I’m going to have him tested for von Willebrand’s Disease, which is a hereditary clotting disorder.  While it seems unlikely that he has it, as he did not bleed excessively during surgery, we decided that it would be good to know for sure, so he’ll be tested for this soon.)

German Dogs!

I spent a lot of time in Germany looking at dogs.  Of course,  I am terribly interested in all things canine, anyway, but there was another reason:  I don’t speak German.  So during gatherings of family and friends, I was often left to my own devices.  I like to imagine that my understanding of German is something like the way dogs understand any human language.  This is what I understood:   Blah, blah, blah, dog!  Blah, blah, blah chocolate!  Blah, blah, blah beer!  Of course, like a dog, I perked up noticeably when I understood those key words.  I also perked up when I heard my name.  I imagine if I had ears that pricked forward they would have done so, and if I had a tail, it would have wagged.  Other than that, I spent a lot of time observing dogs.

First, there was Gina, who belongs to my brother-in-law.  Gina was the first German dog I met:

She was good-natured, and I was never able to figure out what breed she is, or if she is a mix, but she does slightly resemble a Gordon Setter, and is even more like a black and tan Hovawart, a breed that originated in Germany. (Gina looks a lot like this dog).  We took her on quite long walks, including to an outdoor museum, and she was always well-behaved.  Until we saw other dogs, when Gina turned into a maniac, jumping at the end of her leash, snarling and barking.  Clearly Gina is a reactive dog!

Gina in repose

Dogs are allowed pretty much everywhere in Germany it seems.  Gina was welcome at restaurants, though we only ate at outdoor beirgartens with her, where she laid under the table quite happily.  We did not take her with us when we went to the retirement home to visit my husband’s 95-year-old grandmother, but there was another dog there, also laying calmly under the table while the family had coffee.  We also saw a young pup there that looked–and acted!–like a Shiba puppy; it was leaping about and biting anything that came within reach, a crazed little ball of fur.   It was not a Shiba, but the owners told us it was an “island dog” whatever that means.  I would have asked more questions if I could have spoken German.

I am fairly certain Gina has food allergies.  Her stomach is almost completely hairless and freckled and she was almost constantly scratching and licking at either her belly or her paws.  I suppose my brother-in-law’s family was spared a long talk on diet and food allergies because of the lack of a common language.

On the first day in Germany, with a bit of translation, I was made to understand that the neighbors had a Shiba.  Except that it was a big Shiba. But it was a puppy.   I immediately suspected that the “big Shiba puppy” was a Japanese Akita.  The neighbor was invited to stop by on his walk for us to meet the “big Shiba puppy” and one morning the doorbell rang, and we met this dog, who is almost a year old:

Japanese Akita

While he may have seemed a bit cautious in this picture, it only took a few moments for him to become a typical, young Akita.  He jumped up to try to lick our faces.  He mouthed our arms and hands.  He grabbed onto U’s shirt and started tugging.  While his looks are quite different from an American Akita–in much of the world the Akita is split into two breeds, American and Japanese–his mannerisms were very similar to Oskar’s.  We enjoyed having a visit with him, and I was delighted to have met my first Japanese Akita.

The next canine we met was in the small town where my mother-in-law is from.  We went to see her brother and the farmhouse she grew up in.  When the family came outside to greet us, they brought a little dog with them that at first I thought was a pug, but then I recognized those bat ears; it was a little French Bulldog.   I’m not a fan of the flat-faced breeds, usually, but in the 20 minutes or so we spent there, this little dog thoroughly endeared herself to me.  She was clearly not interested in everyone there–she barked at my mother-in-law–but she came up to me immediately, and tilted her head and looked at me as if she was trying to decide if I was worth her attention or not.  Apparently I was, because she licked my hand, then set to sniffing me with a great deal of interest.

French Bulldog

She was, apparently, visiting while her family was on vacation.   She was quite a self-possessed little dog, who followed conversations by watching everyone with a grave, and slightly affronted look, as if she wasn’t sure approved of the conversation.  I found her quite charming!

On Sunday, we ventured into nearby Bavaria for a trip to Germany’s most iconic castle, Neuschwanstein, pictured below.

Neuschwanstein, Aug. 2011

After our visit, we had coffee with one of U’s school friends, who had accompanied us on our tourist jaunt.  He and his wife have a lovely house they had designed themselves (she is an architect), a lovely daughter, and of course, a dog.  I thought the dog was a greyhound, so I asked (they both spoke some English), but as it turns out he is not, though he does resemble one:

Delgado, a "windhund"

I was told that Delgado is a “windhund,” which I understood to be a category of dog.  With the help of a dog book, I was able to say that, yes, the equivelent of “windhund” is probably “sighthound.”   This still did not explain Delgado’s breed, however, and the book that included his breed was only in German.  I understood that his type of dog came from Spain, and his breed is related to greyhounds.  I thought that perhaps he was an Ibizan Hound, only because it was the only Spanish sighthound I could remember, but once I looked in the book, I saw this was clearly not the case.  When I got home, I was able to figure out that Delgado is a Galgo Espanol, a type of Spanish Greyhound that is not closely related to the English Greyhound.

Delgado is a Galgo Espanol

Delgado was quite sweet, and content to lay on his bed, until the cakes were brought out, and then he quickly positioned himself where he could not-so-surreptiously put his head on the table and sneak a treat.  When he was shooed away, he settled his head on my lap for a bit, but I was not fooled….it was not me he was interested in but my cake!  I learned that Delgado does not like having his picture taken (and he turned away as soon as the camera came out!), that he is quite a thief, and that he loves to sleep on the sofa, but will only do it if no one is in the room with him.  Our hosts admitted that they struggled with teaching him to stay off the sofa, then finally decided that the battle wasn’t worth it, and Delgado has apparently slept on the sofa ever since.  I’ve always been fond of sighthounds, especially greyhounds, and this Spanish greyhound was no exception.

What else did I learn about German dogs?  I learned that they are welcome many more places than dogs are in the US, and while the vast majority of the dogs I saw walked politely on leashes and were content to lay under tables while their humans socialized, I also noted that there were plenty of spats between dogs who were not so pleased to see other dogs.  In a way, this was reassuring:  I was not seeing a nation of perfect dogs!  I also noted that I never once saw a dog walked with just a collar:  every dog I saw was wearing a harness, which I know is better for the health of the dog, as it does not put pressure on the trachea and neck.  And while I saw a number of types of dogs, I never once saw a German Shepherd Dog, called Schaferhund in German.  I did, however, see a German TV documentary that bemoaned the failing popularity of this national breed, noting that their numbers were consistently falling in Germany, though the channel was changed before I could find out why that was.

All in all, it was a good trip, but of course, I was delighted to come home and find my three hounds healthy, happy and well-cared for.  I learned that they all had new nicknames:  Bel was Bella Loca, a nickname so good it will stick; Oskar was Baby Beluga; and I suppose Toby’s new nickname says something about how he must have behaved when we were gone, because he was just “the little asshole.”  Oh Toby.

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’s Story: an Addendum

After first posting about Bel in my previous entry, I was reminded of something I should add so the context of my struggles with Bel are clear.  It’s impossible to understate how near to killing Toby she came.  My vet thought Toby would die.  She even told me that putting him down might be the thing to do, because his recovery was going to be long  and expensive and he might not pull through, the damage was so great. He had multiple wounds on his neck, head and front legs, many of which had to have drains put in them.   In one place on his rear leg, the skin was entirely gone, exposing muscle, and this place was almost the size of a dollar bill.  (I have pictures of the wounds, but they are rather gruesome, so I’ll keep them to myself).  The skin tissue turned necrotic, and couldn’t be pulled back over the damaged area–we didn’t know if it would grow back.  He had liver damage from the sheer amount of damage to his body.   He was at the vet for six weeks.  SIX WEEKS!  His wounds had to be flushed three times a day, and he had to be force fed.

Toby at home, after 6 weeks at the vet

But Toby’s tough.  He pulled through, and now you can’t even see the place where the wound was on his leg–he does have a scar, but his fur covers it.

Bel had done so much damage that my vet asked me if I wanted to put her down.  She pointed out that Bel was a risk to the other dogs.  Honestly, I thought about it.  I thought hard.  But I couldn’t bear the thought of losing both Shibas at the same time, and we weren’t sure Toby was going to make it.  And then, as now, she’d never shown any serious aggression to a dog other than Toby.  I kept her, though there were days when I couldn’t stand the sight of her as I flushed Toby’s wounds and force fed him.  For weeks–even after he came home from the vet, I still had to do this.  I spent thousands of dollars I didn’t have on his care.

But there were other days too, when seeing another, healthy Shiba was a comfort.   She slept with me, and though it wasn’t Toby, it was still a familiar, curly-tailed dog.  I kept him alive.  I kept her.

But people who multiple dogs know this:  sometimes you have a dog that people call the “heart dog,” the one that feels closest to your own heart.  Toby was that dog for me.   The thought of losing him was–is–terrible.

Behind my frustration with Bel is fear, fear of loss.

Today, Bel had her birthday.  She went to Long Leash on Life to get some dog treats.  She did not enjoy her visit; there were people there she didn’t know, and that scared her.  She did not enjoy seeing M’s dogs, though some days she does.   She went for several rides, which she did enjoy, and she had a Sonic burger which she liked, and a tiny bit of ice cream from my root beer float.  She ate a bully stick in the car on the way home.    Even though she’s still hyped up from her encounter with Toby–still stalking him, pawing at the door to his room–and even though she still has her fearfulness (there was thunder, wind, and then it got dark, all frightening things to her), I think she enjoyed at least a portion of her day.

Perhaps that all that any of us can hope for.

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