So where have you been?

Sooo… yeah.  Where was I?  If you’re a friend on Facebook or following TMS or Tierce and Shimi, you might have some idea:

  • Graduated from my Administration program, but the first job I got didn’t end up working out (it was pretty far away and commuting was a problem), so that kind of sucked, because I liked the people.
  • Looking for another job that can keep the Shibas in the style to which they have become accustomed.
  • Restless Leg Syndrome is a bitch. That is all.
  • Got notice to vacate the house we have lived in for 11.5 years at the end of June.
  • Packed everything up for the end of June and moved it into a storage locker (with the help of some awesome friends).
  • Lived with another pair of awesome friends throughout July of absolutely wonderful meals and cameraderie.
  • Packed everything up and moved into new home in August (again, with awesome friends).
  • Found out my aunt and mother need to move out of the home they have lived in for over 20 years into assisted living.
  • Husband continues to have kidney failure with the regular health crises that situation brings.
  • A number of friends have had their animal companions pass away or become gravely ill lately. (RIP Saige <3)
  • Tierce continues to have fierce allergies in the spring, summer, and fall, but with the introduction of Cytopoint injections, we have had to use much less Vanectyl-P, which is a combination of Predisone and an antihistamine.
  • Shimi continues to be a fake Shiba, friendly to everyone and every dog.  She also likes to cuddle.  I have no idea what happened.

I do want to finish the Labradoodle series, because I want to complete that train of thought.  I’ve also started comics depicting mostly life with Shibas, which are on Facebook and Instagram.  I’m trying to figure out how to amalgamate the TMS and the Tierce and Shimi pages, but Facebook is being a bit of a bitch about it.

Did We Create The Doodle Craze? Part 3

In the last installment, I looked at how a growing middle class started looking at purebreds as one of the luxuries their income and leisure could now well afford.  Mid-century modern society wanted the mid-century modern dog to keep up with the Joneses.  Supply followed the demand… to excess.

The Star That Tarnished

Gradually, the star of the purebred started to dim, with more and more reports of unhealthy, inbred animals.  The changes in some breeds and a growing awareness of the problems with breeding for extremity also didn’t do the purebred fancy much good.  Resistance to allowing new blood into the stud books was also a contentious issue.  As the years rolled on towards the end of the 20th century, the purebred’s image was getting worse, not better.

Whether or not one agrees with any or all of the claims in the links above does not change the fact that these sentiments are widely circulated and widely believed.  Also, they are rooted in truth, as most kinda-sorta-well-a-little-bit-but-not-really things are.  There are some lines of purebred dogs that are flawed genetically – with recessive genes that cause debilitating problems or bred for a look that does not lend itself to a healthy, long life with minimal structural problems.  There are people who breed dogs they are well aware are passing on recessives that will ruin the lives of future puppies.  Not all of these people exist on remote farms with dogs permanently installed in cages, either.  Some of these dogs are trotting around show rings even now.

With every report of a defective dog or puppy, with every news article on unhealthy purebred dogs, with every expose on the dog show world that highlights English Bulldogs who can’t whelp on their own or German Shepherd Dogs running on their hocks, the image of the purebred dog in general got a bit more grime on it.

Author’s Note: If your dedication to breed purity/your bloodlines/your reputation as a breeder/producing puppies is greater than your desire to produce healthy, temperamentally-sound, long-lived dogs, you have failed as a breeder.  FAILED.  If you are part of a group that ignores or promotes breeding practices that do not result in said healthy, temperamentally-sound, long-lived dogs, you have also failed.  Grade F.  I don’t care if you breed purebreds, mixed breeds, your own new, special breed or whatever.  You don’t produce the best possible dogs with the best possible future within your power, you are contributing nothing to the dog world.  Zip. Zilch. Thank you for calling, please don’t try again.

The animal rights groups had the perfect ground for promoting adoption and casting an evil light on breeding.  Purebreds, they argued, were not one whit better than mixed breeds and no one should be breeding

Image Problems

Meanwhile many dedicated breeders were breeding dogs that were hardy, healthy, suitable for the work they were bred for, and reasonably long-lived.  Of course, few people heard about them, because a purebred Labrador who is purchased from a breeder, lives a healthy, happy life and dies at the ripe old age of 15 does not make the news.

Purebreds were still popular, but their image was damaged by a virulent combination of puppy mill dogs and growing unrest about the proliferation of genetic problems that seemed to plague purebred dogs.  After all, despite the dawning realization that breeders were going to have to challenge the image of the purebred dog as a weak, unhealthy, unsound animal, their voice in the general population wasn’t that loud.  Also, when you try to make a point about inbreeding vs. linebreeding vs. outcrossing coefficients, the only thing the average person sees is ‘inbreeding’ which equals ‘bad’.

A lot of breeders who woke to this realization tried to repair the damage, but in every case, it was overshadowed with the purebred vs. mutt/mixed breed/crossbreed controversy.  Yeah, sure, we could talk about hip tests when they started to be in vogue and eye tests when they started being a thing, blood tests when they came out, and DNA testing when it appeared… but all we managed to teach people was that it was a case of purebred vs. crossbred, not a case of serious breeder vs. look-I-stuck-two-dogs-together-and-they-have-PAPERS.

On to Part 4: Enter the Doodle.

Did We Create The Doodle Craze? Part 2

In part 1, I went over the origins of purebred dogs – briefly.  To sum up, the branding of the purebred dog was originally ‘carefully bred, for a purpose’.  With the advent of a rising middle class with more leisure and more spending power, the companion dog became popular.  The family dog became iconic.

The Luxury Dog

With the rise of the family dog, the industry surrounding dogs also changed.  While people have given thought to what a dog should be fed since before the Common Era, dogs were fed food from scratch or the leavings from the dinner table.  The first commercially made dog food was created in the 1860’s by an enterprising electrition named James Spratt.  Still, most people fed their dog table scraps or a recipe of their own devising until commercially available dog food started becoming the norm in the mid-20th century.  1922 saw the first canned food and the 60s saw the first puppy formula come on the market.  Now, finding dog food is not the problem; it’s deciding which one!

With the idea of the dog as a luxury item firmly entrenched in mid-century Canada and the U.S., the image of the dog as a status symbol really took off.  The first dog shows were largely exhibitions of hunting dogs, but eventually became popular with the public and were opened to more and more breeds.  The Kennel Club in England developed criteria for judging different types of dogs and established the Stud Book to authenticate pedigrees. With the popularity of the dog show came the popularity of the dogs that attended it.  Purebreds weren’t just valued for what they could; they were valued for their ancestry and their status as ‘papered’ dogs.  While the appeal of the mutt had a certain down-home cachet, ‘purebred’ was in ascendancy and the demand for purebred dogs grew throughout the post-war years.

Supply and Demand

As any dedicated breeder knows, producing puppies that are genetically healthy, good-tempered, well-socialized, and finding the right homes for them take a lot of time and not a little money.  If you don’t care about that whole health thing and will hand over a puppy to anyone with cash, though… sky’s the limit.  After WWII, people had lots of disposable income and they wanted dogs.  Since they would pay more for purebreds and even more for papered ones, unscrupulous breeders cashed in.  Then someone had the bright idea of stores devoted solely to pets and stocking them with litters bought from breeders who weren’t so very fussy about who got their pups or what they did with them.  Wow, we can just keep these dogs in cages with mesh bottoms and not actually interact with them except to breed them and haul out the puppies after 6 weeks with the dam?  Bonus!

Too Many Dogs

During the 20th century, the explosion in the dog population in North America became a particularly contentious issue.  The dog population mirrored a growing proliferation of human lives and the subsequent discussions about populations that outgrew their resources.  People were distressed by the amount of unwanted animals euthanized in shelters and the methods used to kill them.  Awareness campaigns about the plight of abandoned and unwanted cats and dogs resulted in people who backed widespread spay and neuter campaigns.

In the 60’s and 70’s, the animal-rights movement started to grow.  The Animal Liberation Front was formed in 1971 and PeTA was founded in 1980.   These are organizations against the breeding, ownership, and use of domestic animals. ‘Adopt, don’t shop‘ originally meant ‘don’t buy from a pet shop’, but as today’s breeders know, it is flung at anyone who deliberately causes an animal to be born – no matter how carefully selected, no matter how painstakingly planned for.

On to Part 3: The Star That Tarnished

Did We Create The Doodle Craze? Part 1

“Say ‘hybrid vigour’ one more time.”

‘Designer dogs’ occupy a unique niche in the pet marketing system.  They have unique identifying names.  They have a brand.  They are better marketed.  Many purebred dog people hate them with the fiery, burning passion of a flea allergy.

However, I submit that we purebred people created this ‘doodle’ mania, even as we decried it.

Let’s be completely honest; I’ve never been against crossbreeding or mixed breeding for the sole reason that the dogs aren’t purebred.  A healthy mutt is worth a crap-ton more than a dysplastic purebred with a bad temperament to me.

The Concept and Marketing of ‘Purebred’

For decades, though, purebreds were the epitome of careful breeding, because most people weren’t paying much attention to whether Jack’s mongrel’s hips were good or if Jill’s crossbred bitch was stable enough to successfully retrieve a downed Mallard.

‘Purebred’ is a relatively recent concept.  It came into favour in Victorian England, where a rapidly upward-rising middle class suddenly had the leisure to view dogs as hobbies as opposed to working tools.  The idea of purebred dogs also aligned with the colonialist attitudes of the era, where purity of race, the bloodlines of the nobility, and class consciousness were deeply ingrained upon the collective unconsciousness.

Where, in the past, you might have a landrace (a general type of dog used for a specific type of work) that was more or less homogeneous, depending on what work it was and what genetic material was available, now you had purebred.  Pure.  Refined.  Imbued with the characteristics people popularly attributed to the upper class.

The Purebred Brand

‘Branding’ is establishing a connection between a target market and certain concepts, ideas, and impressions.  How does Apple market its products?  They are sleek, predictable, and have a giant connected family of other products you can use them with.  Purebreds were the Apple product of the 19th and a large part of the 20th centuries and still retain some of this branding today.

Consider this passage from the famous dog story Lassie Come-Home:

But Lassie had something that the others had not. She had blood. She was a pure-bred dog, and behind her were long generations of the proudest and best of her kind.
This theory of blood lines in animals is not an empty one, as any animal lover knows. Where the cold-blood horse will quit and give no more, the thoroughbred will answer and give another burst of speed gallantly, even if he is spending the last ounce of life strength; where the mongrel dog will whine and slink away, the pure-bred will still stand with uncomplaining fearlessness.
And it was this blood that won for Lassie.

When people thought about purebreds, they had some expectations:

  • Bred for a purpose
  • Excels at that purpose
  • Bred for quality
  • Healthy
  • Sound
  • Good tempered

We capitalized on that.  We based our brand around that.  “Is it papered?” was our mantra, because registration papers in the Canadian Kennel Club were proof that someone gave a shit about this dog’s future.

Of course, eventually people realized that if you had something you could claim was a “purebred”, you could make money.  So they did.  The registry bodies were no safeguard; they just registered what breeders claimed was the sire and dam of a litter and the resulting puppies.  Once dogs as pets became a lucrative market, people who wanted to maximize profits turned to the purebred branding as an easy way to add value.

Next… How did the designer dog take the purebred’s place?

Dogs and Grief

Tierce on the couch

I attended an informational session at the Nanaimo Hospice for a school project.  During the presentation, I had the privilege of talking with a child counsellor who explained that children don’t grieve like adults and, because of that, their grief is sometimes overlooked or misinterpreted.

An article by Stanley Coren in Psychology Today opined that canine grief might be similar.  Children from around two to five don’t understand that death is permanent.  They view death as someone going somewhere else rather than ceasing to be.  Their grief stems from the separation from the loved one rather than the understanding that this separation is permanent.

The counsellor I spoke with also explained that children also experience grief as a different emotional landscape.  An adult may experience grief like a program running in the back of their mind, leading to depression and anxiety.  During periods of intense grief, they can rationalize and control their behaviour.  A child, however, experiences grief as bursts of emotion that they cannot sustain for long and may lack the capacity to rationalize.  Their behaviour may change in response to the stress they are feeling, but they may not be able to articulate their feelings.

Dogs may experience grief like children where, instead of showing prolonged depression, they may evince behaviour changes that don’t appear to have a trigger.  However, is this because they have experienced loss or because they are responding to the behaviour and emotions of the people in the house, who are going through various stages of grief?  Also, dog behaviour seems to show more that they respond to the absence of their loved ones than the concept of death.

Dogs have been known to eat the bodies of their deceased owners, which doesn’t actually reflect on the bond they had with the person.  Dogs don’t share our moral code concerning the eating of the dead.  Also, it may be that once the physical body is dead, it stops smelling and (to the dog) being the person the dog had attachment to.

There are child counsellors for children as young as 2 to help them deal with grief.  Check your local Hospice for information about grief counselling for the loss of a loved one.

For dogs?  It’s harder because not only are they stuck at a human’s age of about two-and-a-half, they will never grow beyond that.  Consequently, you will never be able to make them understand what has actually happened.

What you can do is fill the dog’s time with things that keep them busy and thinking about something else.  If your dog is thinking about chasing a ball, participating in agility, hiking in the woods, etc. etc., it is less likely that they will be thinking about their absent person.  If the dog has been rehomed due to a death in the family, quickly establishing and reinforcing a schedule of walks, food, play, etc. is a good way to create a sense of security.

Also, if you’re reading this because you have a dog affected by a death in the family, it is possible that you have experienced loss as well.  Deal with it – go to a counsellor, talk with friends, write, contact your local Hospice… but deal with it.  It doesn’t always have to be a loved one who passes – even assholes leave a mark on the people whose lives intertwined with them.

Dealing with your grief is as important for the dog as it is for you.  Your behaviour and emotions deeply affect your dog’s daily life.  Also, stuff like this tends to sneak behind you and bite you on the ass when you least expect it.  Encourage the people around you affected by the person’s death to explore their options for processing whatever emotions come up.  You will build a better environment for all of you and the animals that share your lives.

The Source

I got Shassi in 1993 from Sunojo Kennels.  In 2007, I got Tierce from Anautuk Kennels, bred out of two Sunojo parents.  In 2017, I got Shimi from Sunojo Kennels.

Of course, both breeders did the requisite testing and showing and evaluation before breeding, but I got more than just dogs with excellent antecedents.

Both breeders have always been there for me.  If I have a problem, if I have questions, if I need emergency dog care – they are there.  If I and my husband both died, I know that Shassi and Tierce will never be without a home and would never be cast into an uncertain future.

I didn’t just buy a dog when I bought these three dogs; I bought lifetime support for myself and my dog.  Not only are these people friends; they are also a part of a network of Shiba people who will never, ever let one of their dogs be subject to the whims of fate if there was any way to prevent it.

“Well, get one from a rescue,” you might say.  Problem is, rescue can be a lucrative business when done poorly.  Just as puppymills sacrifice the well-being of the dog and owner for profit, ‘retail rescue’ or ‘McRescues’ play on the emotions of well-meaning people to sell dogs for hundreds of dollars – dogs that may have been given scant medical examinations and insufficient temperament evaluation before being placed in homes.

The best rescues – and they do exist – take their responsibility seriously.  They vet their dogs carefully, foster for extended periods, and evaluate the dog’s reactions to the stimuli of normal life in the society where they have come to live.  Like good breeders, they do take their dogs back.  They give generous support to owners – who may be dealing with behavioural problems from past mishandling, temperament and health problems from irresponsible breeding practices, and other vagaries caused by the luck of the draw.

If you want a dog, from whatever source, ask yourself about the kind of people you’re getting your dog from.  What kind of actions do you want to support?  What kind of future do you want to help build with your money?

What is your dog source doing for you?  What are they doing for the community?  If dogs are an important part of society, what is your dog source doing to promote a healthy attitude towards dog ownership?


Don’t Worry

Don’t worry, he’s friendly. He’s really a big love bug. Can you please stop your dog from snarling? He’s really just trying to make friends. Oh, your dog doesn’t like other dogs? You should keep your dog off the sidewalk. I don’t want to risk my friendly dog with a vicious animal who is going to attack him just for saying hi. No, he’s off-leash because he’s harmless, really. He barrels into you because he likes you. I don’t understand why you’re so anti-social; they’re just clothes. That looks like just a scratch; he’s a big puppy, really.

Well, you should have managed your toddler better; he just loves children. Some children just can’t handle a big, friendly dog. You should tell your kid the difference between a friendly dog and a vicious one. It’s not like he bit him. Yeah, well, claw marks aren’t a bite. He shouldn’t have panicked with my big love bug galloped right for him, barking. He barks and lunges because he’s excited. Oh, it’s worse when he’s on leash; that’s why we didn’t leash him up. I’m sorry about the blood.

He just wants to say hi. Well, if you don’t like dogs, there’s something wrong with you. Oh, you like dogs, just not irresponsibly owned ones? Well, in your face. Are you perfect? I’m sure the world would be SO much better if we were all perfect like you. My big fluffums doesn’t need your judgment. I bet you’re not even afraid of dogs; you’re just mean. Why would I leash him? He’s fine. Well, if you don’t want a dog jumping on you, maybe you should stop walking in the park.

Besides, I don’t have time to take him for an on-leash walk; I have to be at a meeting. Yes, it’s more important than whatever you were doing. Would you stop going on about your dog and your clothes, your crying child, and your bleeding hand, please? You know, you’re really too much. This whole encounter isn’t about you; it’s about me. Me and what I want. And now you’ve made me late for the meeting, so thanks for that.

What was I doing that was so important? I’m presenting a report on how to teach children the concept of consent.


Today, January 28th at around 9:07am, our baby boy Darko passed away in our arms. It was at home with the family on his…

Posted by Bonnie Hussell on Sunday, 28 January 2018


I met Darko when I started working at Dog ‘n Suds in 2011.  Darko was one of the dogs that Tierce would tolerate and even play with, if the mood struck him right.  He could run circles around Tierce and would occasionally speed up and pull away from him like the Shiba was running in mud.  Darko would then circle around and see if he could poke at Tierce from behind and then speed away again, laughing like mad.

Darko loved running, loved the water, loved adventure, but what he really loved was his person, Bonnie.  He would tolerate time in the daycare when she had to be elsewhere, but he wasn’t happy until she was back where she belonged – with him.

He was passionately devoted to the rest of his family – Lee, Bonnie’s human counterpart; Harlem, his fellow canine partner in shenanigans; and the cats, Frenzy, Deunan, and Ravage.  Fortunately for Darko, from the beginning to the end of his life, he had what he loved best close by.

Cancer isn’t fair.  It can’t necessarily be predicted or guarded against; it sometimes can’t even be fought.  Darko did fight a wearying battle with it over the last year, along with his people who scrimped, saved, and sacrificed to get him the treatment and medications he needed.  Just when the last chemo treatment had been administered and it seemed that hope wasn’t too much of a luxury, Darko succumbed to complications.

The last time I saw Darko was when we met him and Bonnie while out on a walk.  He was a little scraggly from the cancer treatments, but in spirit, and took Shimi’s over-enthusiastic greeting with good grace.  Tierce, of course, was happy to see him.  Bonnie and I chatted and parted.  The last memory I have of him was him trotting along at Bonnie’s side, not caring where they went as long as he was with her.  From all reports, that was how he left this world – surrounded by those he loved best, not caring where he went as long as they were with him.

We are glad that you were loved, Darko, and that we knew you.  Our condolences to your family.

Julie, Mischa, Tierce, and Shimi




If you wish to help with the final medical bills, Darko’s GoFundMe is here.

Explore Darko’s life and adventures at his website or his Facebook page.

The Shiba Fitness Regime

We don’t care if it hurts. We don’t care if you don’t want to.  We don’t care if you’re sick.  We don’t care if you’re injured.  We don’t care if you’re dying.

You are going to do this.

You are going to haul your lazy ass out of bed and pull on your clothes.  Then you’re getting that same ass outside – whether it’s sunny, rainy, windy, snowy, hailing, tornado…

You made a commitment and we’re going to see that you stick to it.  We’re simultaneously the cheapest and most expensive personal trainers you could have hired.

You’re pathetic and out-of-shape, but we’re going to fix that.  You’re going to walk until you die, because right after you die, we’re going to decide, finally, to take that poop you’ve been begging us to do for the last hour.

Too bad about your pneumonia.

It’s been five hours and we need to pee.  Again.

Meet The Shiba

Owning a Shiba is not like owning other dogs.

Okay, everyone says that.  This is one of the breeds that, if you say you like it, the owners immediately go into a litany of why it’s not the right breed for everyone and that its natural temperament is somewhere between Vlad Tepes and that bitchy girl in 7th grade who tripped you going into Math class.

But, really, it’s not.

Shibas are this Beagle-sized breed of dog that looks like a tiny husky.  A little fox.  A Corgi.  A Basenji.  Mini-Akitas.  They’re 20ish pounds and they usually come in red.  But they could be black and tan.  Or sesame, which is a colour hard to describe, but looks like you took the red dog, rolled it in some glue and then in some charcoal.

But what we really want to warn you about is the temperament.  They’re great little dogs. Except when they’re not.  Except if you try to clip their nails.  Or brush their tails.  Or do anything – ANYTHING with their ears.  But they’re great little dogs. But there’s that other dogs thing.  Some of them play with other dogs.  Others destroy them in small bites, like furry piranhas.  It’s worse if there are two of them.  They feed off each other.  Oh, no, they don’t fight together.  Well, except for that one time.  That was a $250 vet bill.  But normally, they’re very nice.

Do they learn quickly?  SO quickly!  Then they use it against you.  Recalls are virtually unknown here.  Oh, this one is okay with the recall, but that just means they’ll come up to you if there’s nothing else to do.  You are the most boring thing on their walk or run or whatever you’re doing and, if there’s something better, good luck getting them to come back.  They never will.  Oh, one did this one time, but it was a fluke.  And a hunk of cheddar.

Grooming?  They’re so clean; they practically bathe themselves.  Well, there was that mud incident.  Bathing them is great if you are tired of hearing… everything.  They scream.  Did we mention the scream?  Like a train whistle crossed with a dying rabbit.  No, we’re not being crude; that’s how it sounds.  No, we haven’t actually been around a dying rabbit, but anyway, they’re loud.  They blow coat like Michelangelo painted – with great perseverance, as if they put their whole hearts into re-insulating your house.  We hope you like the colour cream.  We’ve already mentioned the nails?  Good.

How are they with kids?  Oh they can be great if raised with kids, but we do recommend older, respectful children.  Younger ones are merely springboards to the Cheerios.  Well, I wouldn’t say that they would bite them, but Shibas do like their space and aren’t always fond of darting youngsters.  Oh, and that little habit of Junior of grabbing dogs’ cheeks needs to be stopped yesterday.  I’m sure it’s cute and looks great in family photos, but your dog with Junior’s head in its mouth is going to look slightly less photogenic.

You have to go?  Well, it’s been great meeting you and introducing you to this wonderful breed that we love with all our hearts.  Maybe the Shiba isn’t right for you, but it is for us and – in some small way – that makes us special.