A little over three years ago we adopted our MSIR foster, Luigi. Luigi and his brother Mario were brought into the rescue because at four weeks they couldn't walk properly. They were both diagnosed with one of the worst cases of grade 4 bi-lateral luxating pattellas that our rescue had seen. Basically, this meant that their knee caps slipped in and out of place making it difficult to walk and bear weight on their hind legs. We are finding that this is something we are seeing more and more of in shiba's and in the past year have done several surgeries to repair this in shibas ranging from ages of 6 weeks to 6 years. Thanks to the very generous donations of our supporters and a fantastic vet who provides care to many of our rescues we were able to help both Mario and Luigi get a shot at walking. They are both alive and doing well, and while Luigi does have a little "hitch in his giddy-up" I don't know that he knows the difference. Luigi is still able to terrorize with the best of them, and at a whopping 17 pounds he tends to rule the roost at our house.
This year Luigi celebrated turning 4 years old. We call it his reign of terror because I am fairly certain that that is what our other shiba, Guiness, is convinced it is. Luigi is a great dog, but a pesky little brother. He takes what he wants, does what he wants, and doesn't feel bad about. He's kind of a little "honeybadger-ish" in this way. (By the way, if you aren't familiar with the honeybadger I suggest you google them because I am fairly certain they could be related to shibas). Luigi is fantastic at playing the "I'm not touching you" game with Guiness and will follow him around the house getting just close enough to him to bug the crap out of him, but not close enough where he's actually doing anything wrong. Any of you ever have to take a road-trip in the back of a sedan with an annoying little brother? As you can see in the picture above...that's what Guiness's daily life is like with his little brother, Luigi.
Luigi is in many ways the heart of our trio (which consists of two shibas and a toddler). He causes the mischief and if there is a growling Guiness or an upset toddler, chances are Luigi is involved in someway. He either stole the bone, or the brand new wooden railway tracks which apparently make a good substitute for a nylabone. However, when it's all been said and done, the three of them do love eachother - alot. And we love him too. He is the un-aloof anti-shiba in many ways and when he's not too busy being lazy, sunning himself, or grooming he will happily come to greet you at the door and try to get a quick bite of your hair while he's at it (don't ask me why). He loves to be petted and will lay by you, er on you, and share his extra fluff, which is never in low supply; as well as a kiss or two. He is a great fur-brother and the perfect friend. For every moment he spends being horrible, he spends two making us so very happy. At some point I will write a post about kids and shibas, because there is alot to be said, but we've been very lucky to have what we have.
People LOVE this dog. I love this dog. Many times I am not incredibly sure on why it is that I do, but I do. He has brought so much joy and happiness to our family and while I can't quite put a finger on why he does, he definitely makes our family complete. I think there is something about these "special needs" shibas. They develop personalities that can carry them through in ways that their bodies cannot. They learn to enjoy things more, or maybe they teach us ways to open our hearts and love them more, because we aren't ever incredibly sure on how much time we will have with them. George Carlin once said "Pets are mini-tragedies just waiting to happen". They really are, and sometimes especially these guys, but that doesn't and shouldn't stop us from loving them just the same. In my opinion, the only difference between a "special needs" dog and a "normal" dog is that with the special needs dogs you know, in advance, some things you'll need to look for. Having had alot of friends who have lost their pets suddenly and unexpectedly, I don't know that I think knowing what to look out for is necessarily a bad thing. For me, there is some comfort in that.
Luigi is 4 years old. And while still young, I do see his body starting to slip on him a little bit. Despite our best efforts in providing supplements, therapy, exercise, etc he is developing arthritis and moves with a little more caution than he has in the past. We take it for what it is, and while we hope that get 10 more years with him, we are always prepared for the idea that we might not. But in all honesty, that's any dog isn't it? We never will have enough time with the things we love most, and because of this I think birthday are a big deal and should be celebrated as such. Birthdays are the anniversary of another great year that we have had to enjoy each other and should be celebrated - fur creatures and people creatures alike.
To celebrate his fourth of year of being wonderfully awful, Luigi was given a small cut of steak and a home made peanut butter birthday cake with cream cheese frosting. My husband even thought it smelled good...it kind of did, lol. While I am fully aware that many people throw me into the "crazy dog lady" category because I make a cake and we have a party for our critters - I am a thousand percent OK with that. There are many worse things I could be.
And besides, I think he liked the cake...
Of all the things I have gained through my time experiencing with MSIR, the greatest is the opportunity to have Luigi join our family. 3 years ago, when he made the trip to Minnesota from Kansas City in blizzard conditions the thought of adopting him never even crossed our minds. However, little worm that he his, he made a place in our hearts (even Guiness's) and when push came to shove we couldn't really imagine our house without him. We made the decision to adopt Luigi, and despite the fact that the day I sent my contract in he ate a pair of my brand new Dansko's - we haven't looked back.
Luigi's "special needs" were the largest barrier he had to finding a great forever home, which is unfortunate. He is sweet, and funny, and silly, and wild and can run and play and do most of the things our other, "normal" shiba can do - just sometimes a little differently, or a little more cautiously. He'll never be a running partner, but lucky for him - I don't run. He can't go to the dog park, but its not because of his legs, its because he tries to attack the big dogs every time we go. Alot of shibas don't make it to the park. However, he is happy, and he makes me happy, and he makes the people around him happy. He is one of the best kind of dogs we could ask for. So friends, I will tell you this, please don't discount these "special needs" dogs. They are wonderful in so many ways. And while yes, there may be a little more work and a little more heartache involved, it is so amazingly worth it.
Luigi is a wonderful example of how all of the components of a rescue come together, and why all of our volunteers are so amazing and necessary. To those of you who foster, who donate, who drive, who evaluate, who do home visits and the many other tasks that hold our organization together - Luigi's birthday celebration is a tribute to you as well. Without your help, he would not be here today and our family would not be the same. Thank you so very, very much!
Photograph taken by Lissarrague Images
"Dogs are not our whole lives, but they make our lives whole." (Roger Caras)
(Alison N. MSIR Board Member, Minnesota)