- So What Exactly Is A “Heart Dog” Anyway?
- Our Dogs, Our Hearts: Wolf And Janet
- Our Dogs, Our Hearts: Blade and Karri
- Our Dogs, Our Hearts: Jiro and Nicole
- Our Dogs, Our Hearts: Buckley and Jen
- Our Dogs, Our Hearts: Ishi and Rae
- Our Cats, Our Hearts: Molly, Digger & Kat
- Our Dogs, Our Hearts: Sonia and Nala
Rae’s heart dog, Terujishi youjinbukai (which means watchful lion of the sun), is an almost 9 year old male Shiba Inu. His birthday is November 30th, 2002, and he’s been with Rae since July 15th, 2003.
My girl, Trinka, has a lot of qualities that bind us together too; she is as loyal as the day is long. But, I suppose the challenged ones dig a little harder; make a slightly deeper impression. If I’d only had Trinka, I’d have had it easy. I would never have known what was possible, what I was missing, and because of Ishi, I have a better relationship with her, and my husband, and maybe my friends too!"
He started out as Phineas, a family name that wasn’t used for several generations. But as I got to know him, he needed a more fitting name. I still will call him Phin, but he also knows his other name: Ishi.
I was at my local bank. I had my first Shiba girl, Trinkaryu with me. I was stopped by a man who asked if I had a Shiba. I was surprised because most people didn’t know what they were at that time. I said yes. He asked if I wanted another one! Turns out, he was an animal control officer from several towns over. He had a male shiba at the shelter. This young dog had been hanging out a park for several days. It was believed that he was dumped there. The ACO wanted to find someone who knew the breed, if possible, to adopt him- or at least get him into a rescue. So, of course, I drove over there and met the dog. He responded well to me, and got along with my girl, so I put him right into my truck and he came home with us that day.
This poor dog is a classic example of what can happen to a Shiba under the wrong conditions. He was taken from his mother at about four weeks. He was shipped to a pet store halfway across the country at six weeks and put out on the floor before he was eight weeks old. He was adopted by a couple who didn’t spend any time with him, didn’t teach him anything and I do believe they physically hit him. He had no idea how to behave around people. His already wary nature escalated and he became a cautious, nervous and extremely insecure boy.
I brought him home and he bonded very quickly with my girl dog, who was able to show him how to be a dog. They played and ate and slept together from day one. With my husband and I, it took a while longer for him to gain some trust. There were many setbacks, many challenges and it was not an easy road. There were several times when I thought seriously about putting him to sleep. I hit the wall a few times with his aggression issues which are completely fear related. He also used to have seisures that were “fly-biting”, paranoid type episodes. He was on drug treatment for several years, but as he has aged, he has out grown the need for medication, and he is a fantastic dog (with limits).
This dog won me. He had to work at it. He put me through the wringer. I had to completely forget everything I’d ever learned and re-educate myself and re-tune myself to be more instinctive and more kind to his needs. To see the world through his eyes. Nothing that had ever been taught to me about dog training applied to this boy. I had entered the world of positive-reinforcement and the baby-step exposure training of owning a fearful dog. This was foreign training to me. But during this transformation, I was able to recall what I used to think and feel about animal relationships that I’d had as a child. They were so much closer and so much better. I worked very hard to accomplish that with this boy. And slowly, he decided to work with me, and most importantly, trust me. Every accomplishment forward was a BIG deal.
We continue to make small strides forward to this day. We have a definte communication where he’ll tell me if he’s not comfortable and I can help him either deal with that something or get him away from it as quickly as possible. We have been met by many loose dogs, have been attacked many times by them, and altercations with rude people. Once I learned to physically step in front of him, and take over for him, he could then learn to let me lead him. This was one of the biggest steps that we took a few years ago.
Is it easy to live with a fearful dog? Not at all. Especially since he is a potential liability. He has and could still, bite someone. He will never be a normal dog. He will never want to take long walks and be surrounded by many people or dogs. His world is small and he likes it that way. He has learned to be himself in “his” house and he loves “his” (our) bed. He is good when there’s a routine and he expects that routine. He gets upset very easily. He doesn’t like it when the furniture gets rearranged, or if there’s any different activity going on outside. He will never be comfortable around hyper or loud people. He doesn’t cope well with fast moving or overly-energetic personalities. He’s afraid of loud noises, but he’s become better with thunderstorms and cannons, just from continued exposure and the fact that I am there for him, telling him it’ll be alright.
He travels all over the countryside with me. He likes to travel in the car and he’s really a good sport with hotels and the chaos of road trips. We recently got an Airstream travel trailer, that I’m restoring. Once that’s together it will be even easier on him, as he can always sleep in his own bed 🙂