Boot List

tiercemischaboot Shiba Inu Boot List

Me:  The Boxer on the Mainland* who had the bucket list has died.

Tierce:  Huh?

Me:  Boxer.  Bucket list.  Dead.

Tierce:  What’s a bucket list?

Me:  It’s a collection of things you want to do before dying.

Tierce:  What’s ‘dying’.

Me:  We’ve had this discussion before.  Never mind.

Tierce: Well, I’ve got a lot of things I want to do.

Me:  Like what?

Tierce:  Run loose.

Me:  You’ve done that.  In fact, we let you run loose for your birthday.

Tierce:  Run loose again.

Me:  Uh, sure.  Anything else?

Tierce:  Cheese.

Me:  You had some cheese.  We gave you some for deigning to come back from the yard.

Tierce:  More cheese.

Me:  Right.  Any other ideas?

Tierce:  Stinky fish**

Me:  You’ve had stinky fish.

Tierce:  More stinky fish.

Me:  This is getting a little repetitive.  Let’s see what we’ve experienced together.  In no particular order.

  • Bicycling
  • Bicycling in a trailer
  • Kayaking
  • Travelling in a big ferry
  • Travelling in a small ferry
  • Driving in a car
  • SCA events
  • Farmers markets
  • Local fairs
  • Downtown Nanaimo, Victoria
  • The Richmond Night Market
  • The vet
  • The groomer
  • The dog park
  • Doggy daycare
  • Dog expos
  • Swimming pools
  • The ocean
  • Lakes
  • Rivers
  • Hiked up a mountain
  • Conformation dog shows
  • Agility
  • Clicker training
  • Trick training
  • Lure coursing
  • Go-to-ground fun matches
  • Obedience training
  • Canada day celebrations
  • Geocaching
  • Zombie walks
  • Visiting other people’s houses

Tierce:  Some of those were fun.  Some really sucked.

Me:  Yeah, but that’s life, in all its glory.

Tierce:  Life should include more cheese and off-leash running.

Me:  Would that it did.

Tierce:  Want to see my boot list?

Me: Your what?

Tierce:  Boot list.  Boots smell better than buckets and you can put things in them.

Me:  Like the time you dropped your biscuit in my shoe?

Tierce:  Yeah.  Like that.  It’s ideal for hiding things.

Me:  Uh, sure.

Tierce: Okay, here goes:

  • Run off leash
  • Find another bacon wrapper in the garbage
  • Eat cheese
  • Get the rest of the stinky fish
  • Run off leash
  • Get my equal share of pizza
  • Eat cheese
  • Have more friends on Facebook than you
  • Figure out how to open the door myself
  • Eat the cat crunchies at the side of the house
  • Be able to go up on the landlord’s deck whenever I want
  • Eat cheese

Me:  Well, that was interesting.  You repeated yourself.  Several times.

Tierce:  I repeated the important things as they occurred to me.

Me:  I see.  You do realize that some of these things will never come to pass if I can help it, right?

Tierce:  You’re just not supportive.

Me:  Of you getting worms from eating cat poop?  No.  Getting run over because you’re off-leash on the Parkway***?

Tierce:  YOLO.

*Vancouver, BC and its suburbs are known collectively as ‘The Mainland’ or ‘The Lower Mainland’
**Tierce means dried anchovies  
***Highway that bypasses Nanaimo



CKC-Approved Canine Nutrition Course

image1 592x1024 Shiba Inu CKC Approved Canine Nutrition Course

Tierce, attempting to supplement his diet with Shiba-appropriate nutrition.

Tierce: What are you doing?

Me:  I’m studying a canine nutrition course approved by the Canadian Kennel Club.

Tierce:  Why are you wasting your time with that?  I can tell you everything you need to know.

Me:  Because I want to know what goes into providing you with an optimal diet.  You… you’re not really what I’d call a reliable resource.

Tierce:  Sure I am.  I already know what goes into an optimal diet.  It starts with ‘ch’ and ends with ‘eese’.

Me:  I beg to differ.

Tierce:  I’ll beg for it, too.  I have no pride.

Me:  Then why don’t you like your bicycling harness?

Tierce:  That’s not ‘pride’.  That’s ‘dignity’.  Also, there’s the fact that the straps sap my will to live and make cats hate me.

Me:  Cats hated you before I even bought that harness.  Anyway, this is going to give me some good basic information about what kind of nutrition you need.  That way, I can make better decisions for you and become a better resource for my customers at work.  I’d like to know what supplements would be good for you to take, for instance.

Tierce:  I occasionally supplement with dried liver and anchovies.

Me:  Not exactly.

Tierce:  What?  They’re great.

Me:  Sure.  They’re just not what you need for long-term health.

Tierce:  I also supplement with other stuff.

Me:  Sure you do.

Tierce:  Cat poop!  Full of protein, trace minerals…

Me:  Ugh.  No supplementing with cat poop.

Tierce:  What are you, a hater?  Against a natural diet?

Me:  That’s not a natural diet, that’s disgusting.

Tierce:  Of course it’s natural.  I found it in the wild.

Me:  You mean the side of the house?

Tierce:  Yeah.  It’s pretty wild there.  The grass is really tall.

Me:  You are not allowed there anymore.

Tierce:  You’re all about feeding raw and natural and you can’t let me have a diet that would be natural for me if I was running free?

Me:  Well, ‘natural’ isn’t always ‘better’.

Tierce:  Then why do you feed me raw food?

Me:  Because I believe that a properly formulated raw diet, supplemented appropriately, is a healthy choice.

Tierce:  But you don’t let me supplement my diet as I see fit.  That makes you a hypocrite.

Me:  No, it makes me a little more cognizant of the physical and social consequences of certain dietary choices.

Tierce:  But you still feed me kibble sometimes.

Me:  I don’t think kibble is ‘bad’ or ‘evil’, just that it isn’t as good as fresh, whole food.

Tierce:  And sometimes it’s just easier.

Me:  Exactly.

Tierce:  So you’re lazy, too.

Me:  Not lazy enough to stop working so I have an excuse to not pay for your food.

Tierce:  Apparently laziness has a sliding scale.

Me:  Keep talking.  That sliding scale includes generic dog food.

Tierce:  A Shiba has no honour at his own dog dish.


Parvovirus Outbreak Leads to Vaccine Backlash

Parvo vaccine spurs debate among dog-care professionals

As an advocate for human vaccines, I’m torn.  I feel that my information is desperately inadequate to make an informed decision about vaccines.  It’s been difficult for me to find an unbiased source to obtain useful statistics on vaccines and how they are really affecting pets.  SkeptVet (yes, I love SkeptVet) has a good overview of vaccines.

Tierce hasn’t had any shots since he had a reaction to his rabies booster at 7 months old.  I’m still wondering about that.  Three days after the vaccine, he started scratching at his face and, ever since, the summer is a long series of Vanectyl-P and searching on the Internet for something better.  I’ve been taking a look at Apoquel, but it isn’t cleared for pet treatment in Canada yet.  Call me a sheep, but I believe that I do pay my vet for hard-won expertise and I don’t want to merrily start dosing Tierce with something without her input.

There’s a middle ground here somewhere.  I’m just going to have to keep reading until I find it.



Notes on Dr. Ian Dunbar

About a year ago, the Nanaimo Kennel Club hosted Dr. Ian Dunbar for a three-day seminar and hands-on workshop.  Part of that included a question-and-answer event where people who hadn’t attended the seminar (i.e. me) could come and ask questions and listen to his answers.  I intended to write a blog post with the crappy notes I took, but… yeah.  So I came across them now and decided that hey, why not just post them here so my readers can see A) my crappy note-taking skills and B) read some of the hilarious things that Dr. Dunbar said.  He really is an awesome speaker and he LIKED MY HAT.  He said that to me when I was poking around after the Q&A.

So here you go.  Notes, with commentary.

Auto shaping device (I assume this refers to a treat ball/food dispensing toy.  Why?  Educated guess.)
Food treats
Stops barking
Bark activity counter  (The first thing that came to mind was a collar that clicks in a number whenever a dog barks.  Probably not what he was talking about.  But, somewhere… probably on Amazon, there’s someone selling them.)
Food bowl – no
Don’t feed dog out of food bowl – use food dispense toys, chew toys
Intervention: take away the food bowl 
Reduce barks by 90%
Barkathon – let it out of the system
On cue. 1234
1. “Speak” Teach it to bark on command
2.  Accomplice
3. (Yeah, no number 3.  WE’LL NEVER KNOW.)
Treat add one second of silence each time
Fear based behaviour
“your dog is in pain every day. Same for the tiny dog as for the Rottweiler”  (This really resonated with me.  I had never thought of it this way, but it’s true.  Fear is not fun when you have no way of processing it like humans can.)
No treats, only kibble hand fed
Fearfulness is not funny in animals 
People ignore it
“Does anyone mind if I drink my beer?”  (Yeah, he really said that.  And had beer.)
“2 am, your dog is barking with two other dogs at the end of the yard an you’re getting laid: not such a good training scenario.”  (He said that, too.  Awesome guy.)
Dogstardaily.com puppy book for free
Biting: not appropriate 
Bite inhibition
Pain causes reaction – ow! Then walk away. 
Normal puppy behaviour 
Tie food treat holder in an open crate
Night: stuff with honey, bit of kibble
Teach dogs to want to do the behaviour. 
“Your dog doesn’t understand English”
Stop crying: jackpot. Sleep: jackpot
Bite: yelp. 
10 positive feedback to 1 negative
Puppies tugging on pant legs: play tug of war
Play rules
Dog cannot grab without requesting
Teeth touch hand game over
Instantly let go
You can let dogs win. 
Blew Cesar Milan’s mind  (I’m not sure what blew Milan’s mind… I don’t think Dr. Dunbar is a big fan of his.)
Alpha rollover: what do you want to teach the dog?  That you’re an asshole? (Like I said, awesome.)
Pay attention
Be directive and instructive
Puppy license until about 4.5 months old (Note:  This apparently does not apply to dogs like Tierce, who reserve the right to hate all puppies except the rude ones that get in his face.  Unless he decides to hate them, too.  I keep plodding along, trying to understand him.)
Don’t give up
Differential reinforcement
If this dog has blown me off, he is going to suffer. Training is the most exciting thing a dog can do – stopping training is a punishment. 
Teach the rules of the game
Make sure dog understands
Suggestion: like a stop sign in Canada (Heh.)
Reward training
You know why you have to punish the dog?  Because you were an idiot and you let him do it wrong.”
The most important pee is the one in the morning, the dark yellow one that can kill redwoods. (And how.)
Breed excuses. “You have a dog, now train it.”  (Dammit, I have a SHIBA.  That ought to count for something… anything?)
And those are my notes.  I’m just lucky that this wasn’t college, because my old notebooks have a line or two of legible text which quickly devolves into lines with intermittent breaks and the occasional squiggle.  Dogs doodled in the margins, that sort of thing.

Fallen Gods

god (ɡɒd)
— n
1. a supernatural being, who is worshipped as the controller of some part of the universe or some aspect of life in the world or is the personification of some force

A friend of mine lost her cat recently.  She’s the person who painted this awesome picture of Tierce:

tiercephillips500 212x300 Shiba Inu Fallen Gods

Tierce painting by LJ Phillips.

Her comic, Skins, and its spin-off, Smoke, Fur and Stone are NOT safe for work or for the kiddies, just FYI.

One of the things I said to her in a reply to her post about her kitty was:

We hold so much power over our pets’ daily lives, I think it’s jarring when we realize how little power we have against the forces that take them away from us.

It resonated with me because of the parallels between humans and gods when it comes to pets.

Food magically appears for them.  Doors open.  Cars whisk them away to places, good or bad.  We can just walk into a room and things happen.  No wonder they get excited when we come home; when we come home, things happen!

We are also strange and inimicable gods at times.  We yell and throw things, yank on leashes and get aggressive for reasons beyond an animal’s comprehesion.  We make noise and wield frightening objects like the vacuum.  We can leave them without food, without water, without shelter.  We can be too exacting during training, expecting too much too soon.  We are strangers with our hats and coats on.  We’re terrifying when we hold the symbols of discomfort or pain – the nail clippers, the shampoo and the stethoscope.

Yet, for all our power, we cannot turn the clock back, nor can we pluck them from the confines of a mortally wounded body.  For those of us who share our lives so intimately with our companion animals, it seems like the ultimate failure when we can do so many miraculous things in a pet’s eyes, yet we cannot simply stretch out our hand and order their lives to remain with us.

We spend their lives grandly making decisions, but when it comes to the most mortal ones, many people find themselves petitioning a higher power to intercede for them.  In my case (since I’m an atheist), I grimly assess the facts, ignoring the pleas of a desperate heart that is ever-hopeful that if we wait just one more day, Shassi or Buddi or Candy or Gremlin will magically get better.

It gets harder if there are options that might work, but finances and time curtail their viability.  Cue the guilt.  Well, do I really need to eat this month?  I’ve already spent $1500… should I just max my credit card?  Maybe there’s some cardboard boxes in an alley downtown I could fix up with some curtains.

Ultimately, I accept the need for bringing death to an ailing pet who will never get better.  I can’t say that I’ve made peace with it.  Even today, the phrase, “we had to put her down” is followed by the reasons.  It doesn’t matter that the recipient of the information knows that there is very little I would not do for my dogs.  I’m thinking that it’s not necessarily for their benefit; they know I would have chosen a different path if such was available to me.  It’s for mine, a chanted mantra to remind myself that what I did was necessary and right.

Maybe if I was a god, I would be so far removed from earthly cares that I wouldn’t even think about the suffering of those under my power.  Or, perhaps I would misinterpret it:

smbc god perspective Shiba Inu Fallen Gods

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic Copyright 2014 Zach Weiner SMBC is an awesome comic. Check it out!

I would like to think not.  Because, fallen god I may be, but at least I’m close enough to suffering to recognize it and do my best to alleviate it.

The pain we feel when our pets pass away might be good for us in the long run, reminding us that we are only mortal.  We can only do our best for our pets and, when our best isn’t good enough, we bring them peace – even if it’s at the price of our own.


Shiba In-Woo: My Issues With Pseudoscience And Anti-Science

A Short History of Medicine

I have a headache:

2000 BCE: Here, eat this root.
1000 AD: That root is heathen. Here, say this prayer.
1850 AD: That prayer is superstition. Here, drink this potion.
1940 AD: That potion is snake oil. Here, swallow this pill.
1985 AD: That pill is ineffective. Here, take this antibiotic.
2011 AD: That antibiotic is artificial. Here, eat this root.

Source: Unknown

As people who read this blog or TMS Facebook are, no doubt, well aware, I have problems with pseudoscience.  This includes stuff like animal communication, energy healing, ‘natural’ cures, herbal supplementation and a whole schwack of stuff marketed as ‘holistic’.

It’s not because this blog is funded by ‘Big Pharma’; unfortunately, it’s powered only by Cafepress and Tierce’s ego.  It’s because I really, really don’t like anything that purports to have The Answer™.  I view it as potentially harmful to pets and, ultimately, the people who love them.

What you don’t know can hurt your dog.

There are a lot of people who say, “Live and let live!  It might work and, even if it doesn’t, it makes the person who’s trying it out on their dog feel better!  Who are you to attack something that you can’t prove isn’t true?”

Problem is that if it doesn’t work (or works too well), it can kill or seriously harm your dog.  I remember being contacted about a ‘natural’ remedy that someone was giving their Shiba.  Unfortunately, when I looked it up on WebMD, it was listed as directly conflicting with Atopica, something she was also giving the dog.

Anti-Science Advocates Harm Pets

It’s distressing to me how many people completely discount or cherry-pick science when it comes to ‘natural’ cures.  If it works, why don’t more people want to prove that it works beyond a doubt?  Also, why don’t more people want to know the exact parameters of effectiveness?  What about conflicts with other treatments?  Wouldn’t you want to know if that herbal supplement has some effect on the pills your vet prescribed?

What is worse is that the same people touting ‘natural’ cures are also spreading distrust of vets and veterinary medicine.  Vets aren’t miracle workers; they’re applying the knowledge that thousands of people before them spent their lives learning and extrapolating for use by future generations.  Treatments that are proven to work in most cases.  And, no, not every treatment is going to work for every pet, but chances are that if it worked for the last several hundred dogs, it’ll work for yours, too.

And, of course, when it comes to people claiming powers of telepathy to ‘speak’ to an animal and telling you that they can help you make medical decisions for your pet, you are wandering into dangerous territory.  There is no proof – and I mean studied, verified proof – that ‘animal communicators’ or ‘pet psychics’ are able to in any way communicate mentally with animals.  Let’s not even get into the whole looking at a picture thing, because… no.

Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence

If something simultaneously cures ADHD, cancer, headaches and the common cold, I want to see a lot of people in double blind studies that prove that yes, actually, it does do that thing.  If someone is going to claim the existence something that present-day science indicates there is no evidence for, they should be prepared to provide evidence.  Irrefutable, reliably replicatable evidence.  If what they claim is true, then there is nothing stopping them from proving it to everyone.  There really is no excuse.

The Presence of Belief Does Not Validate It

Believing something doesn’t make it real.  Reliable, repeatable results make it real.  I believe that if someone’s marketing something they claim will help your pet, it should have ample proof that it works, not anecdotes, not stories of how much someone believes that it works - proof.  How good it makes you feel is not proof.

Proof is obtained through study.  Studies provide parameters for the claimed phenomenon that help prevent personal bias, concurrent treatments and the placebo effect from affecting the results and the conclusions drawn from them. The scientific method is based on a genuine desire to increase knowledge, whether or not it supports the original theory.

Research is Biased

Science isn’t exact and research is prey to the same practicalities that plague many areas of life, namely funding, public support and the availability of qualified personnel to conduct research.  What is studied is also largely dependent on funding and interest.

While it would be nice if pharmaceutical companies would freely fund cancer research, the reality is that if they don’t make money, they can’t afford to pay the nice people who do the boring job of checking petri dishes and filling out spreadsheets.  So, they pour the majority of their funding into research that’s likely to provide reliable results.

How those results are interpreted by society at large is often highly dependent on the news sites and special-interest sites that write about them.  And they do spin them.  They spin them like dreidels at Hannukah.  I can take a study that associates aggression in Shibas with a particular genetic polymorphism.

“Shibas are aggressive, study says.”

“Inbreeding in Shibas Could Mean Danger.”

“Shibas Have An ‘Aggression Gene’, Study Says.”

None of these are really true, but if someone reports them thusly, how will you know if you don’t read the study and have your bullshit detector light blinking?

Can you trust studies?  By and large, my opinion is yes.  However, if you have a real interest in them, teach yourself how to understand them so you don’t need someone interpreting them for you through the lens of their own bias.

How To Understand Scientific Studies and Research

Here are a couple of links to pages that explain how to understand and interpret a study:

Stumptuous.com: How to read a scientific study

How to Read and Understand Scientific Research

As always, when looking at a work on Wikipedia, go to the citations at the bottom.

Wikipedia: Scientific Method


The Raw Story

tierceoffice Shiba Inu The Raw Story

Tierce’s office.

I’ve taken a position at a raw pet food store and I’m reading up everything I can about raw food, raw feeding, etc.  It’s a lot of information to take in.  I’m trusting to my considerable obsession with dogs and anything to do with dogs to carry me through.

So far, most of the studies I’ve found on raw pet food have to do with the level of Salmonella and bacteria they can carry and its transmission.  Opinions are divided, with natural feeding advocates and veterinarians butting heads.  “Raw is natural!”  “Raw is dangerous!”  “Raw is healthiest!” “Commercial dog foods have decades of science behind them!” “Natural feeding!” “Feeding based on science!”

It makes sense to me that a diet of fresh food (I view food frozen upon processing to be ‘fresh’ in terms of the nutrients that are preserved by immediate freezing) would be preferable over a diet of kibble, if circumstances allow.  I don’t eat nutrition bars at every meal.  I’m told that a diet comprised of mainly fresh food and light on the processed, refined crap that I love so well is the best way to go if I ever want to make the acquaintance of my old jeans again.  Then again, I’m not a dog.

However, these opinions are not formed on cold scientific fact; they are formed from what I’ve observed.  I’m well aware that the human mind is sometimes its own worst enemy, with confirmation bias being something that one must ever guard against if a thorough examination of the available evidence is to be successfully undertaken.

SkeptVet states that recent studies have not indicated that raw feeding is significantly better than feeding a high-quality kibble.  He does note in another blog post on raw cat diets that any diet high in moisture may be better for cats.  I like SkeptVet because he really looks at the available evidence and draws conclusions based on it.

Anecdotal evidence is shaky at best when it comes to ascertaining whether a raw diet is ‘better’ than a kibble diet.  What I’m going with right now is the evidence based on Tierce’s forays into the raw fed world: his poops are smaller and there’s less of them and his coat is looking pretty good.  As we march towards the dread month of May, which is when his allergies start to act up, I’ll be interested to see if a raw diet has any effect on them.



io9: Squirrel attempts to hide nut in BMD’s fur

Yeah, with Tierce, this probably would have the following ending:


Me: What is that?

Tierce: Uh. My new toy.

Me: It looks like a dead squirrel.

Tierce: Yes! It’s my new stuffed toy!

Me: That’s not a stuffed toy, Tierce. Did you kill that?

Tierce: I played with it until it stopped moving. On its own.

Me: So you killed it. You can’t have that thing in the house.

Tierce: But… it’s my new stuffed toy.

Me: It’s not stuffed.

Tierce: Yes it is! With bloody, chewy goodness!

Me: Precisely why you can’t have it in the house. What’s that smell?

Tierce: I pulled some of the stuffing out of my new toy. Behind the couch. Why don’t you feed me stuff like that? It’s good.

Me: Does the word ‘de-wormer’ mean anything to you?

Tierce: No. Should it?

Me: It will.

(Thanks to Sarah, who provided me with the impetus for this completely imaginary conversation)