What is it Like to Own a Shiba Inu?

I originally published this article in response to a question on Quora.com, but since everyone who finds out that I share my life with a shiba inu asks me, “What are shiba inus like as pets?” I thought I would blog my response here, too. I should note that, despite the search-engine-friendly title, one does not own a shiba inu or any dog. We share our lives with them, care for them, and love them, and in return they give us their unwavering affection and loyalty. 


I’ve lived with dogs all my life, from lovable mutts (I still think of you all the time, Ladybug) to everyday Labs and golden retrievers, to more exotic breeds like Pulik. (Little Hungarian Rastafarians.) I’ve trained handled and raised dogs for the conformation show ring (primarily American cocker spaniels). I worked in administration and marketing for an all breed dog grooming school, and edited their grooming guidelines and textbook. I’ve known a lot of dogs.

But nothing compares to my shiba inu. My family rescued Toshi five years ago, when he was 10 weeks old, and he has owned our hearts ever since.

The Unique Little Brushwood Dog

shiba inu puppy

This is little Toshi at 10 weeks old when he first joined our family as a rescue. How can you resist that foxy face?

I first met shibas when I was working at the dog grooming school. Occasionally, to give the students work on breeds that require heavy brushing, a local show breeder would bring in her pack of four or five shibas. When they arrived in the reception area, they would be happily wagging their plumed tails, but also tussling with each other and “talking” in their strange little voices. I knew immediately that one day, when the time was right, I’d share my home and heart with a shiba inu.

Shiba Inu translates to “brushwood dog” (or perhaps “little brushwood dog”) in Japanese. They’re compact in size — about 13-17″, with males being bigger. They have a dense double coat with a coarse outer layer and a soft thick undercoat. That undercoat sheds twice annually in a crazy vacuum-clogging shedpocalypse. I call my area rugs “hair traffic controllers” because they’re the only thing stopping great balls of hair from rolling across my hardwood floors like tumbleweeds across a prairie.

What’s most unique about the shiba is his personality. They are: Continue reading

Murder in the Morning

Anyone who knows me understands that I’m the sort of person you can text at 1 a.m. and usually not worry about waking. In fact, there are nights—more than I’d like to number—where I’m still wide awake at 4 a.m. even when I know I have to be up at some ungodly hour like 7.

Such was not the case last night. (Well, technically this morning.) I didn’t have any place to be at an early hour, and so I felt no compunctions about staying up until 4:30 reading. All I needed to do to get my seven or eight hours of beauty rest was simply sleep in. And I was so looking forward to it until…

Thump! Clank! Clank!

I rolled over groggily and checked my phone for the time. 7:21 a.m. What the actual fignewton was going on? (I’m going to replace f-bombs with fignewton because Fig Newtons are tasty and reasonably high in fiber.)

I got up, peed (thank the gods for master bathrooms), and went back to bed, but I was now alert for strange noises and couldn’t relax. That’s when my shiba inu, Toshi, barked excitedly from downstairs.

My house is an 1890 country Victorian. Aside from all the squeaky floorboards and other quirks, it has an old iron grate that sits above the wood stove. Once, the vent’s primary function was to allow heat to travel to the upstairs.  Now, it’s merely an amplifier for every single sound my pets or family members make, especially while I’m trying to sleep.

Clank! Clank! Continue reading