Continued from last Friday:
I still have to keep from automatically launching into my spiel when people say that they want a dog like Tierce. Because I don’t think I’m normal and maybe Tierce is the ideal dog for my circumstances because I shaped him that way and was aware of his needs. As Sir Arthur Conan Doyle said, via Sherlock Holmes:
“My line of thoughts about dogs is analogous. A dog reflects the family life. Whoever saw a frisky dog in a gloomy family, or a sad dog in a happy one? Snarling people have snarling dogs, dangerous people have dangerous ones. And their passing moods may reflect the passing moods of others.”
The problem of putting this all at my door, or at Susan’s, is that I have adapted to owning Shibas just as much as Tierce has adapted to me. For me, it’s second nature to waggle my leg in front of an opening door to confuzzle a Shiba hoping to escape. Dominance is automatically met with the appropriate equivalent of You’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”. He gets out for several walks a day and I take him running and geocaching and to the dog park for heartier exercise. I accept that I may never be able to let him off leash without doing a complex algorhythm in my mind, calculating the likelihood of other dogs or prey animals being nearby.
This is why I temper my raving about how awesome he is around the artlessly enthusiastic. I know that without the complicated calculation that is great breeders, preparation, education, financial stability, the right attitude needed to effect change without breaking the dog’s spirit, time and the help of friends and family, Tierce would not be the awesome dog that he is.
For Shibas everywhere, that scares me, simply because I know the fickleness of the general population when it comes to dogs. They don’t often look beyond the surface of a dog attack or breeds considered “snappy”, “fear-biters”, “bad with kids”, “horrible at the vets”, etc. Thus, when people breed and raise Shibas irresponsibly, there’s the risk of people shrugging off unusual aggression or fear in a Shiba as ‘oh, that’s just how they are’. No, we need people to say to themselves, “Well all the Shibas I know are great little dogs. What’s wrong with that one?”
Understanding that dogs are individuals, affected by heredity and environment just as people are is, to my mind, one of the first steps to approaching dog ownership as a human responsibility, rather than something that can be determined or regulated by a dog’s breed or physical appearance.