Life With A Shiba Inu: Rest in Peace, Shassi the Misanthropic Shiba
I found an awesome new Shiba blog through Mongoose’s post about Shassi’s death in relation to Mongoose’s own Shiba – The Eentsy Weentsy Dog
On Dogster, where Shassi has a profile, there is a thread about her death. (Thanks to Jen of Inu-Baka for sending me the link) I had also previously seen a thread about her a while back that gave me warm fuzzies.
Also, to the good people of the SHIBA-L mailing list, here’s a shout-out for all the good thoughts and sympathies sent my way.
Facebook saw dozens of messages pouring into the comments on my personal Facebook page from my friends and the friends-in-Shiba-spirit that I have met through TMS and though the Facebook group Justice for Yoshi. Tierce also got quite a few notes and emails on his Facebook.
Leslie requested that I consider re-posting a tribute to Shassi I wrote in 2007, so I’m going to link to it here, this post being long enough as it is!
The Shiba Inu Forum: In Memoriam
If I find more stuff about Shassi, I’ll just post it here instead of making a new post.
I have been perusing the emails sent to me over the years – some were “this is so true!”, some were questions about Shibas and how to deal with their little foibles (I tried to give what advice I felt was best, but I always encourage everyone who writes to me to get outside help if they feel their Shiba is out of control!), and some were batshit insane (some woman wrote into me protesting my tongue-in-cheek use of ‘psychotic’ to describe Shibas and devolved into her accusing me of being a lesbian… because I guess to her lesbians are something bad. ANYWAY…). These messages date back years, they have pictures in them of happy Shibas, they shared funny little anecdotes of what their dogs did and what they loved best about them.
I’ll take credit for the writing, but Shassi was definitely the catalyst. For every passion, there must be an object and Shassi inspired my interest in Shibas as a whole – so funny, so unique and so infuriating. We speak of our other dogs fondly – Kena, the big collie on the right, we speak of fondly even today. Buddi, on the left, we speak less fondly of, but we still remember him. And there are others, stretching back to my earliest childhood.
But it was Shassi who sparked the fun and interest in my writing about her and Shibas. You hear about parents who secretly love the kid who’s the most trouble the best and it was kind of like that with her. She didn’t care if we were there or not, once the 30 second greeting was over. She didn’t come when she was called unless you were waving a big steak in the air like a flag of surrender (and she happened to be hungry). She was quite happy to do her own thing while you did yours. As long as your thing included feeding her and walking her.
The other dogs must have been mystified. They came when they were called, they won prizes for Best Trick at the local fair, they could be let off leash… but Shassi was the one who could command attention at a second’s notice. If they had been children, they would have knocked her front teeth out once she hit puberty. Because they were dogs and collie mixes to boot, they settled for slapping her around on a regular basis and she learned not to screw with Buddi when he gave her a hint that he didn’t think much of her attitude. I’m sure that they muttered about it together when the whole world (our household) stopped to watch Shassi carrying around a toy, but then again, they got to run off leash and Shassi didn’t.
When Shassi actually took notice of you, it was SUCH AN HONOUR. When she felt like playing, usually everything would stop while one of us played with her and the other members of the family smiled fatuously while the turkey burned in the oven or the door swung ever so slightly ajar (Shassi, being well aware of any door in the house that was not latched tightly, would play adorably for a few moments and then make a dash for the crack). She only had to nudge the cowbells hung on the door for one of us to drag on clothing suitable for inclement weather and stand for a half-hour while she inspected and discarded any number of possible peeing and / or pooping spots.
The one thing she really hated was water. The first bath I gave her was interrupted by my aunt pounding on the door and demanding to be let in, sure that Shassi’s shrieks meant that I was scalding the puppy. Since I was soaking wet from Shassi’s repeated lunges to escape the tepid suds covering her ankles, I lost my temper and snapped, “You want to bath her, well, FINE!” Ten minutes later, after a cacophony of howls that told the world that my aunt was trying to murder her and why didn’t anyone DO something, my aunt emerged. Her light pink velour tracksuit was now a dark fuchsia and water pooled on the floor around her toes. She shoved Shassi at me, went into her room and shut the door. Shassi, of course, was thrilled to be loose from the life-leeching liquid and energetically clawed dark red marks on my arms as I tried to wrap the towel around her. I let her down, only to yell, “SHUT THE DOOR!” at my mom, who was coming in with some groceries…. but that’s another story.
Shassi was a mathematical and architectural genius. She could, without a calculator or a chalkboard, figure out to the inch how long a leash was and just how far enough ahead of me she had to be while dragging it so that I would run after her and not catch her. I swear to you all now that she would look behind her and laugh. At me. At me and my friends and family who were frantically trying to head her off. Thank Dog we lived in Lake Cowichan, B.C., which was just a village at the time and there was no traffic to speak of.
Our house at the time had a stairway that led up to a landing in front of the door. Shassi knew the exact radius of our blind spots. You would be comfortably surveying the territory, sure that Shassi was in another room, only to realize that she had squirted past your legs and, due to the fact that she was small and fast, was down the stairs and hurtling across the street before you realized she was even near you. My cousin James saved her life and our sanity by putting up a small fence/gate combination on the landing that stymied her if she managed to get out the door.
Our learning curve with Shassi looked like a very small ledge at the foot of El Capitan. Within the space of a month, it had trickled through our heads that, no, this was not a collie and, no, she’s not going to come when she’s called, no matter how much you beg. Our previously casual attitude towards doors and leashes started getting intense… and then it started getting mildly insane. People coming to the house would be warned in a hoarse whisper, “And shut the gate! before you open the door!” accompanied with a narrow-eyed stare that, to us, meant, “Hey, this is important,” and to our family and friends probably looked more like, “And if you don’t, I’m gonna shiv you and set you on fire and watch you scream!”
My mother, in particular, was not prepared for Shassi’s misleading cuteness. One time, she was walking Shassi up at A.B. Greenwell, the local elementary school, which had a huge playground shrouded in thick forest – I’m told that they’ve since cut the woods back because there was a concern about cougars. Thinking that Shassi looked so adorable that she would let her loose to toddle around on the grass, Mom unclipped the leash. Immediately, 3 month old Shassi transformed into a greyhound in Wimbledon Stadium. As Mom looked on in dumb horror, Shassi covered half the ground between Mom and the only opening in the chain link fence that would take Shassi out of the confines of civilization and into the wild she so obviously viewed as her birthright. Mom did manage to catch her, but she later said she had never run so fast in her life and thought she was going to have a heart attack – she was pushing 60 at the time. To my knowledge, Mom has never gone faster than a brisk walk since.
Even when she was well within the bounds of seniority, Shassi still retained a spark of the devil in her. Sometimes we would let her out in the back yard of the house in Nanaimo to stalk around the blackberry bushes and delicately inspect individual blades of grass to see which was worthy of being sprinkled with her urine. Of course, there was that one time where, after weeks and months of sedately touring the lawn, she decided to tour the street instead and matter-of-factly headed for the side of the house farthest from me. Luckily I was onto her game and ran around the opposite side of the house to catch her jogging comfortably by the side of the road. She looked mildly put out to be prevented from her Trip to Bountiful, but the last thing we needed was a blind, deaf, 13 year old Shiba traipsing merrily down a major thoroughfare. Oh, yes, as long as the spark was there, she just did exactly as she pleased unless physically restrained.
So there you have it, a few vignettes of my life with Shassi.
Very well said 🙂
I think anybody who has the pleasure of being owned by a Shiba (or two) will nod their head as they read this. Growing up, my family only owned Newfs or Labs – the kind of dogs that wait for you ever so happily to tell them what to do. When I decided to get my first Shiba, Obi’s breeder told me everything that a Shiba would do to piss me off on a daily basis. I really didn’t think it could be as horrible as she explained. After a few desparate races through Saint John (New Brunswick) and now Calgary, I’ve become leash/harness/door obsessed. A few years ago when Susan from Sunojo called me asking if I’d want to possibly add another to my family, I had to think long and hard…could I really want to add to the already rising level of insanity in my house?!? I drove to Vancouver island to meet Sue and the little furball, took one look at her running around the yard antagonizing everybody else (Kit, not Sue) and fell in love. Now I can’t imagine NOT being petrified of a window being left open or wincing everytime anything remotely sounding like a doorbell catches their ears. I still have a long time to spend with my brood, but I’ll be in your shoes soon enough, and can only hope I have as many good memories of Obi and Kit 🙂
Two years ago when my first shiba suddenly died at 8 years old, I was devastated. The only thing that could even begin to fill the empty hole at the time was googling for shiba inus and seeing what other shibas were up to. And so I found the Misanthropic Shiba.
So I just wanted to let you know, Julie, that you and Shassi and Tierce were a big comfort to me when I lost Niki. Thank you so much for putting yoursevles out there.
The grief does soften eventually into the fond memories.
When I lived with roommates and people would come over every other day, that was our favorite phrase: ‘Shut the door!’
I still remember that first blog post I read about Shassi escaping in her late years!
I am so sorry to (just) hear about your loss. I’m sure Shassi is out there causing mischief somewhere. 🙂
Thank you for this home you’ve built to share with us. You’ve made us smile and laugh many times and will continue to do so.
Lots of hugs to you, Tierce (I’m sure that scotch egg was DEEElicious!), Mischa, your mother, and aunt!
– Cassaendra, Akemi, and Juubei