And a little Shiba shall lead them

My boyfriend and I have a problem when we head down to Victoria.  We have so many friends we want to catch up with, it’s really hard to get time to see them all.  Last Saturday, we explored a unique solution to this dilemma:

tierce12

Despite creating a Facebook event less than 48 hours before we were due to let Tierce strut his stuff on Dallas Road, which, in addition to being stunningly beautiful, is also one of the city’s off-lead dog areas.  Despite Tierce’s recent contretemps with other male dogs, he behaved himself beautifully around the many dogs who came up to say hello.

A number of the gang down on Fonyo Beach, just off of the Dallas Road walkway

Photo by Byron Lundstrom

It was an unqualified social success; about twenty people showed up!  I was so happy, because we haven’t had a lot of opportunities to see some of them.  We ended up at the Beacon Drive-in where we had a terrific time chowing down on hamburgers, fries and soft-serve ice cream.

So, if you visit places with your Shiba and want a way to catch up with them all, try announcing an official ShibaWalk and see who shows up.  This is also a great way to get together with friends on a daily or weekly basis.

Things I will remember for next time:

  • I will have a defined starting point, turning-back point (if applicable) and end point
  • I will state a time that we are getting together at a local eatery and whether or not dogs are allowed there (extra points, of course, for outdoor venues, but you can’t have everything in February)

A Warning

tiercesnarlI had a wake-up call a couple of days ago.  It’s hard to get it down here, because I feel so utterly ashamed of myself.

We have friends who own a pit bull.  “Buddy” is a lovely example of the breed; happy and friendly with people, but also with the single-minded intensity and dominance around other dogs that are hallmarks of the breed.  Despite this, he has had amicable relations with other dogs, so we thought he and Tierce should meet.

Buddy and his owners came around the corner of the house.  We were outside, because we thought it would be easier than in the house.  I brought Tierce forward on the lead to let them sniff noses.  Tierce was excited and went directly to Buddy… and Buddy grabbed him by the ear and Would. Not. Let. Go.  Tierce started SCREAMING and thrashing.  Luckily, Buddy’s owners were right on both the dogs and held them down so Buddy couldn’t shake his head and Tierce couldn’t thrash about too much.

At this point, I’m ashamed to say that I completely freaked out and could do nothing but alternately cry and scream, “Oh my God!”.  I couldn’t see how much damage Buddy was doing.  I couldn’t get in there because it would have made things more complicated, meaning worse, since Buddy’s owners were already in there and getting him to open his jaws.  Honestly, I don’t know what I would have done if I had been alone and I don’t want to know, because I broke down so completely.

They separated the two dogs and took Buddy to the car, while I got Tierce into the house. I was freaking out, my boyfriend was frozen with horror, my friends’ kids were hysterical and terrified that Buddy was going to be taken away or put down, and my friends had each been bitten by Tierce while he was freaking out from the terror and pain.

Amazingly enough, Tierce did not have a scratch on him.  It had been a warning.

But what a warning!  I was thinking of Bella, who is still at large.  I was thinking of all the pictures that I’ve seen of pit bull attacks.  Despite the fact that Buddy is a well-socialized, well-trained dog, he still took a long time (it probably was maybe 45 seconds to a minute) to let go and one of my friends had to stick his fingers down the dog’s throat to do it.

At this point, I would like to emphasize that this is NOT an anti-pit-bull post!  This was a huge human error on both sides.

Above all, I am kicking myself for not foreseeing this and protecting Tierce.  Buddy is a great dog, but he is a pit bull who has been attacked by other dogs before – it’s not strange that he would be on the defensive.  And, for an ABPT, defensive is usually a really, Really, REALLY good offensive. APBT have been bred for generations to fight other dogs and are very, very good at it.

Thank Dog my friends took the time to train and socialize him.  Thank Dog they were on the ball.  In the end, Buddy was a true APBT.  The only injuries that occurred were from Tierce and I’m going to give him a pass on that because he was hurting and scared.  Buddy never bit or threatened to bite his humans.  However, he would have severely injured or killed Tierce if things had not gone the way they did.

After this horrorfest, we got Tierce calmed down, Buddy calmed down and the kids calmed down.  After a visit from his “mom”, Buddy was a happy dog again.  Tierce was happy after I had the kids feed him a huge slab of turkey.  We dressed the wounds that Tierce made and spent a reasonably relaxed hour visiting… “So, anyway, how ya been?”

We also discussed the situation and came to the following conclusions:

Mistakes:

– Expecting Buddy and Tierce to get along because we wanted them to.  This was a big one, because we relaxed our guard around two male dogs, one an APBT and one an intact Shiba.

– Introducing the dogs near the house.  That was Tierce’s territory.  Out in the street or even farther would have been better.

– Bringing Buddy around the corner of the house to meet Tierce.  Surprising a dog with the presence of another dog is not always the best idea.  We would have done better to go out in the open where they could have seen each other coming.

– Letting Tierce come up to Buddy right away.  Keeping them separated to see their reactions could have clued us in to the fact that this was a Bad Idea.

– Not acknowledging the fact that Tierce is a very dominant dog and therefore is likely to approach other dogs in a dominant, in-your-face way.  Not something a male dog, especially a male APBT, is likely to take in good part.

– Forgetting that dogs often make decisions based on smell or minute behaviour that humans can’t easily detect.  Tierce’s entire demeanor up to the instant that Buddy grabbed him was, “Who the fuck are YOU?”  Buddy probably had figured that Tierce was going to try to take a chunk out of him well before Tierce came within touching distance.

I am heartily ashamed of myself for not stopping to think.  I could have easily cost Tierce his life or his left ear.   As it was, neither dog was hurt and the humans will recover.  I think my friends were scared – Buddy had never done that before.  I’m guessing he made the decision, after he was attacked by a loose Labrador, that a pre-emptive strike was best.

This was also an excellent lesson on the kind of responsibility that goes with the ownership of an APBT.  Buddy’s owners were prepared to deal with him and did not hesitate to act when things went south.  This is the kind of owner that a pit bull needs.  Buddy is a good dog who has a great temperament and who is owned by knowledgeable, prepared owners.  However, this great temperament is directed at people.  Dogs are a completely different ballgame, as we learned that day.  This incident proved that even the best owners can be blindsided by their dog; fortunately, Buddy’s owners acted immediately and saved Tierce from permanent damage.

Of course, if Tierce had been someone else’s dog, they could have easily blamed Buddy for the incident, because he is a pit bull.  It wasn’t Buddy’s fault. It was our fault, for not recognizing our dogs’ limitations and stress thresholds.  Unfortunately, since Buddy is a pit bull, the onus tends to be on his owners to prove that he didn’t start a fight or that the fight was the natural result of dog-to-dog dominance and not he’s-a-pit-bull-and-they-are-all-vicious-uncontrollable-dogs-that-should-be-killed.

In retrospect, Buddy acted exactly like a typical dog of his sex, age and breed would have acted.  In fact, given what we know about APBT, it was odd that a male pit bull in the prime of life, possessing all the speed and power gifted to his breed, latched on to Tierce and did not leave a single toothmark.  Maybe it was luck or maybe Tierce was very lucky that Buddy was socialized with other dogs in his youth and did not immediately go for a killing hold.

Repeat after me.  Dogs are not people.  Just because a dog gets along with people, does not mean s/he will get along with other dogs.  Shibas are very smart about a lot of things, but their comprehension of their size and fighting power is grossly exaggerated.  Shibas are little shits who will take a shaky situation and make it worse if they possibly can.  Despite the fact that Shibas are little shits, it’s the owner’s full responsibility to make sure they don’t pay the price for being said little shits.

So, if you have a dominant Shiba, be very careful about their attitude towards other dogs.  A Shiba that is extremely submissive may not have the problems that were brought up by my experience, but then again, I have never met a Shiba that didn’t think it owned the world.  If you want to introduce your dog to your friend’s dog, stop and think:

-am I prepared to cancel the physical meeting of the dogs if I think that they are not reacting to each other well at any point?  I ignored my inner warning voice because I wanted the dogs to get along.

-is my dog really good with other dogs?

-is my friend’s dog good with other dogs?

-is there any history that might indicate that the dogs may not get along or may start to grate on one another?

-are the dogs stressed at all?

-am I choosing a neutral venue that allows the dogs plenty of time to see and evaluate each other before physically meeting?

-if there is a fight, am I prepared to deal with it?  Can I break up a fight if it happens? (this is a big one for me; I learned that I need to know what to do if this (DOG FORBID) ever happens again, instead of standing around like a useless, screaming git.)

In the end, this was a relatively minor incident that ended as well as such incidents can.  I didn’t blame Buddy for being what he was.  I didn’t blame his owners; I was just as much at fault for not seeing the pawprints on the wall.  They didn’t blame me or Tierce.  While we were shaken up and frightened at what could have happened, what could have happened didn’t.  It was human error, not canine viciousness and I daresay that Buddy’s owners learned as much as I did about their dog’s abilities and limitations.

I just hope that this story will encourage people with dominant dogs to take things slowly when introducing their dogs to other dogs and keep their dogs away if there are any signs that things will not or are not going well.

Rambling Post from SuperSickShibaPerson

Well, Nanaimo finally got some snow and I’m sick.  I’d like to say “sick as a dog”, but Tierce has been disgustingly healthy.  Well, that was before he barfed up some bile in the car, when my boyfriend decided to take him to the dog park to run around.  Tierce and the dog park are not always compatible, as my boyfriend found out when Tierce decided to take offense at a Shepherd/Rottweiler mix who promptly pinned him down and gave him a smacking.  Not to be deterred, Tierce decided to launch a full offensive, only to be separated from his bemused antagonist by Boyfriend and the other dog’s owner.

cloak-005Sometimes Tierce gets on alright with other dogs; sometimes not.  However, in the dog park, there are 2 acres that he could be deciding to fight another dog in and that just doesn’t do it for me.  I might try him out after he’s neutered, but I’m still leery of it.  Neutering doesn’t always “fix” all the aggression and dominance issues some Shibas have.  Tierce is much better one-on-one with other dogs, or with females (surprise, surprise).

And my boyfriend isn’t planning on taking Tierce back to the dog park.  Amazingly enough, the owner of the other dog was frantically apologizing, probably the result of having a large, strong dog with obvious guarding breed ancestry.  Boyfriend, bless his heart, said, “Why are you apologizing?  My dog was being an asshole and deserved whatever he got!”

Tierce was fine, by the way, which was a good thing, as that dog could have seriously taken a chunk out of him had he wanted to, from Boyfriend’s description.  I’m wondering if there really is some kind of “small dog syndrome”.  I’ve heard owners of Rottweilers and APBT talk about it – small dogs going for their dogs for no apparent reason (often while their owners wring their hands and accuse the owner of the attacked dog for having a vicious monster).

Either way, Tierce is not going back into the dog park for a long, long time.  Now my boyfriend knows why I generally don’t let him in there unless there are no other dogs (although that’s tricky, because someone could come in with their dog at any moment).  All’s well that ends well, but things can be better when they don’t happen in the first place.

And, no, that picture above has nothing to do with the subject of today’s treatise; it’s just a cute picture of Tierce on the SCA garb my brother scored off of Craigslist for me.

Update!

Well, Tierce is much better on the Cyclosporine, although I’m not a fan of giving him a pill that requires an anti-nausea pill to keep it in him. Here he is next to one of many jellyfish that washed up on the shore beside Departure Bay Terminal (BC Ferries).

Shassi (forgot to get a picture tonight) is… a 15 year old dog. My aunt took her to one of the best vets in Nanaimo and got a complete blood panel done. Verdict: Shassi is in good shape for a 15 year old dog, but her kidneys are failing. Not entirely an unforeseen thing. Fortunately, my aunt is determined to take care of her and is feeding her the lowest-protein dog food that she can find.

Katana, the subject of my last post is, according to Petfinder, still looking for a home.

Bella, the Shiba missing since this April, is still at large.

Wow, lots of good news, huh? Well, I’m just glad that Tierce isn’t scratching as much and he can stop wearing the cone most of the time!

Allergy central

Tierce went back to the vet’s today to get his stitches out. His skin biopsies showed no sign of any disease or other problem and the “most likely cause of his itching is atopy or food allergies”.

The vet advised a “hydrolyzed protein” diet. From what she told me, “hydrolyzed protein” means the protein breaks down into components too small for the body to form an allergic reaction to. This is the only thing Tierce can have. No treats, even his toys have to be put away. He can, however, have sticks to play with.

She wants me to keep Tierce on this diet for two months to rule out food allergies and I agreed, because nothing is working so far. However, I can’t wait for two months to be over. The food looks like CORN POPS, for Dog’s sake.

And just wait until you read what’s in this stuff:

Starch, hydrolyzed soy protein isolate, coconut oil, calcium phosphate, canola oil preserved with TBHQ, powdered cellulose, corn oil, potassium chloride, vegetable gums (gum arabic, guar gum), choline chloride, DL-methionine, salt, magnesium oxide, lecithin, taurine, zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, Vitamin E supplement, manganese sulfate, niacin, calcium carbonate, Vitamin A supplement, copper sulfate, calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin supplement, garlic oil, Vitamin B-12 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folic acid, Vitamin D-3 supplement, calcium iodate, biotin, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of vitamin K activity), sodium selenite.

Starch??! Yeah, that seems like a REALLY healthy main ingredient… oh, but look! Canola oil preserved with TBHQ! Charming. I know that some dogs do really well on this kind of food, but the ingredients make me throw up a little in my mouth. Typically – it’s full of crap (I know, I know, sometimes this kind of thing is the only food a dog can handle) – and he LOVES it. He hated the pinto-bean-and-sweet-potato test food we had him on and lost half a pound.

1 bag and that’s it. We’re going back to RDD Herring once it’s proven that it’s not a food allergy. He loves that, too.

I’m pretty convinced that it’s the vaccine that has caused this, but I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that’s what it is. Problem is, we don’t know if the vaccine triggered another allergy. So we might as well put him on this diet and see if he does any better.

He also has a new and exciting pill to take: Cyclosporine. The vet said it was better than Prednisone, especially since he is so young. After a look at the side effects of Prednisone, I’m inclined to agree.

So that’s where we are with Tierce: pills and Corn Pops. Hope it helps.

A picture of the invalid


So, we got into the vet’s – one that his breeder and his grand-breeder have used for years. I found her competent and flexible, which is pretty damn valuable in a vet. We think that having that will make driving to Mill Bay worth the time and expense.

1 antibiotic for the hole in his head – he got a shot, so I don’t have to give this orally
2 antihistamines to help deal with his reaction: 1 once a day and 1, 2 pills 3x/day
1 bottle of ointment administered to a furiously wriggling dog: 2x/day
a hypoallergenic diet – pinto beans/sweet potato/peanut butter for taste, potato chips for snacks and/or Red Dog Deli‘s Herring/Veggie.

I still think it’s the shot. He just wasn’t tearing himself apart before this. The bad thing is, from what I’ve read, this could take months or years to resolve – or might not resolve itself at all. One thing is certain – Tierce is not going to get any more vaccinations. I’d rather do titers than put him through this again.

Now, I’m not totally against shots in general. However, I am seriously rethinking my attitude towards boosters after the initial puppy shots are given.

Update

Just an update so all of you people know that we’ve not disappeared. Tierce is definitely worse; he has a huge bare spot on his head now. We’ve been in contact with both Shassi’s breeder and Tierce’s for advice. His breeder is going to call her vet (we’ve been going through a very interesting time with vets of late) for an appointment; we are probably looking at Demodectic Mange as a result of the rabies vaccination on July 7th. However, again due to the aforemention interesting experience at the vet’s, we have had no confirmation of that.

Okay, well… here goes. I was discussing the possibility with my mother and aunt of them taking Tierce into the vet’s about 10 days ago. I work all week, and it’s really hard to get any kind of vet on the weekends – they’re so booked up. My aunt asked me if I would like her to make a call. I said yes.

She called me several hours later to let me know that she had up and taken Tierce to the vet. This was the same vet who gave him the 3 year, sub-dermal shot on July 7th. I was not happy. Not only did she not bother to ask me if there was any information I could give her (such as I wanted a mite scrape done and that Tierce had stepped on some glass and torn a toe pad right off – yes, it’s been a wonderful last two weeks).

I was so not pleased. For those of you who are parents, imagine someone just randomly deciding to take your child to a walk-in clinic for a rash without bothering to check with you first – y’know, to see if the kid is allergic to something or just got the rash by something you already knew about.

The vet also had no idea why Tierce was limping and suggested that if it didn’t fix itself, that they bring him back for x-rays.

So, $85 later, I was given all the information that Shassi’s breeder had already given me and was no closer to an idea of why Tierce is trying to scratch his skin off. I also apparently have a vet who either can’t see an obvious wound or can’t be bothered to find it. Guess which way I’m voting. Not heading back to her again. The other vets who work there are competent, but are against feeding raw, etc. I don’t want to spend my time arguing with them.

To my aunt’s credit, she apologized. But we’re still trying to fix my poor little puppy and I can’t wait for an appointment at his breeder’s vet.

Real Sonofanitch

Tierce continues to be plagued with itchiness and an uncontrollable urge to claw himself to pieces. We’ve combatted this as best we can while we try some different remedies.

Tierce’s fashionable anti-scratch-until-you-hit-an-artery wear:


The T-shirt he’s wearing is there because he’s scratched his chest raw:

The first sign of problems – see the bare spots around the eyes and the goop in the right eye?


Then I noticed that the hair on his left ear was thinning…


The problem is that I don’t know what’s causing this. My aunt up and took him to the vet (I was not pleased, because she took him there without telling me and getting some VERY necessary information. However, she apologized, so I’m gonna let it go.) The vet found that he had a yeast infection, but that doesn’t tell us anything because anything from allergies to mites could cause it… in fact, she basically gave us the same advice as Tierce’s “grand-breeder” did – Nizoral anti-dandruff treatment (off-the-shelf, for-humans, anti-dandruff, anti-fungal shampoo). So, $85 later, we’re still no closer to a cure.

I am still strongly leaning towards Tierce’s 3 year rabies shot as a cause. He was scratching before, but it was only after the shot that he really started tearing at himself. Part of me hopes that it is and that we can cure it, because it still means that his immune system is genetically sound. If it turns out that he has allergies, he probably shouldn’t be bred, as allergies are a symptom of a fucked-up immune system. However, if his immune system is merely stressed, he could still be a candidate as a sire.

Part of me really hopes so, as he has an outstanding temperament, his hips and eyes should clear with no problems and his knees are stable, so far. If he passes his tests, he would be a dog that could add a lot to the Shiba breed IMO (although he’s only 16 months old, so too young to seriously think of that, yet). However, I would rather that he have a manageable allergy and not be bred than watch him go through this. I won’t have any part of breeding a dog that could continue a problem that Shibas are notorious for.

My trainer advised me to take Tierce off his kibble, even though we switched to GO! Natural Grain Free, and this is what I think I’m going to try. I’ve been having uncomfortable thoughts about feeding Tierce what basically consists of protein/meal replacement bars all his life, even if they claim to give him all his daily needs’ worth of nutrition. So, I’m going to try feeding him ‘real food’ and see where that takes us. I’m going to be doing a lot of research into the proper nutrition of real food, so I’ll probably be posting regular updates on that stuff here.

Kibble is a fairly recent invention and dogs have survived for thousands of years on non-manufactured food. However, I’m not a fan of just feeding Tierce whatever we’re eating and expecting him to do well on this. I think that this is a lot like veganism – wonderfully healthy when the right foods/supplements are eaten, but horribly unhealthy when approached carelessly. So we’ll see.

Itchery, part II

Tierce has been to the vet, who took samples diagnosed him with a mild yeast infection on his chest. Her advice was to shampoo him with Nizoral (anti-dandruff, anti-fungal shampoo) every other day. That, coupled with changing his food to Go! Natural Grain Free, might do the trick. In a few weeks.

Oh, yeah… while we were down at the beach the day before yesterday, Tierce stepped on a piece of glass and sliced a chunk off one of his toe pads. Now he’s hopping around like Pogo-dog (his hurt foot doesn’t stop him from running around) and still trying to scratch his eyes.

This has just been the best week ever.