I'm very glad to have had the opportunity to interview Nicole.
- How did you first become interested in shibas?
When I was a kid I was in love with Huskies, I always wanted one but we would end up with mutts (I use that term lovingly, I know sometimes it has a bad rap). They were great dogs but my longing for a Husky never abated. So when I was finally able to have a dog of my own, I was in my last year of college and no longer living with roomates, I knew it was the perfect time. But I also knew I wouldn't be able to have a Husky still. I knew they didn't do well in apartments and while I had time to devote, I didn't think I had enough time to properly exercise a Husky knowing what high energy dogs they were. I knew I wanted a spitz type dog. So I starting looking around not knowing what would be a good fit. That's when my husband (then boyfriend) suggested Shiba Inu because of friend of his (Erin) had 3 of them. The more and more I read and researched the more I realized they were perfect for me. Pretty much everything I was looking for in a dog (smart, loyal but not overly clingy, clean, a spitz, primitive). Then one day we ran into Erin out with Kitsune, and I was sold. Turns out she was looking to rehome Jiro because he and Kitsune weren't the best of buddies. She found Jiro in the local Animal Shelter by accident when she was there with her boyfriend looking for a dog for him. It was his (Jiro’s) last day, despite wearing a collar with tags; the owner wouldn't come for him. Since she knew about shiba, she paid for him with the intent of finding him a good home. A year later she still had him; when I expressed interest in shiba she asked if I wanted Jiro and the rest, as they say, is history.
- Why do you love this breed?
Oh man, where to start with this one? Like I mentioned previously I've always been drawn to primitive, spitz breeds. I love that they are small enough to pick up should you need to or want to (torture them) but big enough that they can handle anything mother nature wants to throw at them (or think they are big enough to handle it). I love that they can think for themselves but still yearn to please you in small ways. And I'm not going to lie I love the look of the breed, puppies/adults/seniors, they are all adorable. They have to be, they are so much of a brat that their cuteness is their only saving grace.
- Why should someone looking for a shiba consider a rescue?
This is going to sound weird coming from me, who is so heavily involved in rescue, I don't think you should consider a rescue unless you are certain that's what you want. Let me explain: Puppies from a great breeder, with known linage and testing, are a wonderful thing. You know what you are getting, or at least you have an idea of what you are getting. I would love to have a puppy from a great breeder someday, but I know that time is not now. I know I cannot handle a puppy or puppy training. I once fostered a puppy and was so happy when she was adopted. Potty training is a nightmare when your trainee can only hold it for a couple of hours. I fully support breeders who do things right and the people who buy from them.
On the flip side, should you want rescue think about all the pros and cons. The cons are you will get a dog will an unknown history and lineage; you have no idea what you'll be getting, and it's a crap shoot at best. I love my boys and wouldn't trade them for anything, but it would've been nice to know that Jiro's linage has issues with allergies and Yuki-san's had LP (luxating patella) so I could've been financially prepared. It's a risk going with a rescue, but it does pay off. Jiro and Yuki-san are amazing dogs and are so well bonded with me.
I've heard many a people say a dog won't bond with you unless you get it from a puppy. Hogwash, I say! Jiro is my heart dog, that one in a million that comes along and knows you better than you know yourself.
Another pro about rescuing is that you can see the dog's personality before opting to take it home. Whereas with a puppy you can meet the parents, but there's no guarantee it will be exactly like either parent or even a good mix of the two.
There are numerous reasons to rescue a dog, most importantly is that there are so many animals in shelters and there shouldn’t be. I think when it comes to adding a member to your pack, whether it is your first or tenth, you should really think about what you want and why you want it. No one can tell you one way or the other is better. All I will say is please don't support unscrupulous breeders (back yard breeding or puppy mills). Personally, I think rescue work should involve more education than cleaning up after these people, but the sad truth is we sort of have to. Education goes a lot further than pulling dogs and placing them in good homes. It’s equivalent of the old saying “Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day teach a man to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime”. Truth be told I will be happy when rescue organizations are no longer needed. Of course world peace will be abound and pigs will fly when all this happens (yes, I am being sarcastic with that last sentence).
- What would you tell someone who might be interested in helping out with a shiba rescue, but doesn’t know where to start?
Best place to start is to contact whatever organization you want to help with and find out what they need. Also know your limitations. Do not let anyone talk you into things you are uncomfortable with. I give this warning because I've heard too many horror stories as of late. It's sad because some of us are trying to do good and nearly everyone has good intentions but I think some people have lost sight of that goal.
I know my rescue will gladly welcome anyone and everyone who wants to volunteer. Foster homes are what we are always in need of, but I know not everyone can foster. We could use people who can transport or pull dogs from shelters, many of our volunteers have M-F/8-5 jobs—unfortunately, that's when shelters are open too. If you are good with legalese, figuring out 501(c)3 applications would be a big help to a rescue looking to get not-for-profit status. Also, if you can help file taxes after obtaining not-for-profit status. If you think you can help fundraise or brainstorm ideas for fundraisers, please do! Can you help at local pet expos? Talk to people? Educate about how and where to buy/adopt a dog? Educate about how to be a responsible owner? What I'm trying to say is volunteering with a rescue isn't just about fostering. The possibilities are endless. Chances are you have a skill that we/they can use.
- Tell me more about the CGC.
CGC is the AKC Canine Good Citizen Program. It is a way of proving that you are a responsible owner and you have taken time to train your dog. Many of the tests are things everyone strides for in teaching basic obedience. There are 10 small tests:
1) Accepting a friendly stranger.
2) Sitting politely for petting.
3) Appearance and grooming.
4) Walking on a loose lead.
5) Walking through a crowd.
6) Sit and down on command and staying in place.
7) Coming when called.
8) Reaction to another dog.
9) Reaction to distraction.
10) Supervised separation.
They are easy enough and it's useful because it is a building block for many other titles such as obedience titles or therapy work. While Jiro had no problem with 9 out of the 10 tests, #8 - reaction to another dog, gave us some problems. Jiro has leash aggression. He is fairly reactive when he even sees another dog (barking, stiff posture, snapping at the air or at Yuki-san). What we had to do for us to pass this was to approach another handler and their dog from a distance of 20 feet, shake hands, exchange pleasantries and then continue on our way. Like I said, Jiro would have not been able to do that when I started the training. I went through private lessons with Jiro because the class I signed up for never had enough people to become a class. We trained at the local dog park, starting 100 feet from the fence and teaching him the command "Watch me." Every time he looked at me, I would treat him until he would hold my gaze while we walked. We slowly worked up the distance until we could walk next to the fence without him becoming distracted by the dogs inside the park, and he kept his gaze on me. On the day of the test, we were able to greet the other handler and Jiro didn't even notice the other dog. The "watch me" command also helps with loose-leash walking because he'll pause and refocus on me. I admit I haven't been great on keeping all this fresh in our minds, but he still retains it. It was my hope to get him into therapy work, but life has a way of happening. March 2011 will mark a year that he's been CGC certified.
Yuki-san is not CGC certified, right now he would fail tests 1,2,5,8 & 9. I really should train him.
For more info on the CGC program, please visit the AKC site. http://www.akc.org/events/cgc/program.cfm
Lastly, I would like to thank Vi for interviewing me. You posed some great questions and made really think about my answers. If anyone has an questions or would like to contact me you are more than welcome to at email@example.com.