Thursday, December 22, 2011

"Merry Christmas!" says the Elf

Niko has been very busy this Christmas season. Because....
he is Santa's Little Helper!
Check out those pecs!
Merry Christmas to all our readers. Thanks for keeping up with our blog and reading this year.
"Does this shirt make my butt look big?"

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Naughty or Nice?

I can't believe it is Niko's third Christmas this year. The Santa hat comes back out again and I put it on Niko as often as I can remember to. Compared to his first Christmas, he doesn't even notice the thing is on him now.

Niko is on the "nice" list this year. He is maturing more and more now and hardly causes us any trouble. We love him.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Thanksgiving Recap

On Thanksgiving morning, Niko was chillin in Times Square, in a crosswalk. This was made possible because of road closures for the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade.We were on 40th street and off the parade route. We stood in an area that was less crowded and viewed the floats from a distance. As expected, Niko the country dog was a nervous dog in a big city. He stayed close to us, cowering from noises, manhole covers, and subway grates. When we stayed put to watch the parade, he sat quietly and looked around. We received many comments, questions, and requests to take picture of him. We even caught a lady videotaping Niko. Imagine that.

The weather was exceptionally nice for this time of the year. On Friday, we headed to Coney Island. I'm ashamed to say that I've never been to Coney Island in the decade that I lived in Brooklyn. Although a lot of shops and attractions were closed that day, there were many people on the boardwalk enjoying the weather. We walked on the beach as well and ventured onto a pier to watch people fish.

At the pier, Niko met a poodle in a sexy poncho. The caption for the "No Swimming" picture should be "Pffft, you don't have to tell me twice!" says Niko. Also pictured is Niko in front of Nathan's. We had an excellent time in NYC. After a short 36 hour period, we left town (to Niko's delight) to go to the country and visited with other family.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Shiba Shot Glass

So much for not finding the Shiba Inu represented at specialty stores! My cousin Tracey was on vacation in Smithville, NJ and found a shot glass. Coincidentally, my last post was about how difficult it was to find anything Shiba related. This will come in handy when I take my cough medicine. Let the Shiba find continue...

We hope everyone out there had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. I will be posting about Niko's Thanksgiving adventures shortly.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Shiba Socks & Shar Pei Niko

I had to go to Seattle for a few days last week for work. As excited as I was to see Seattle, I also missed home. Niko was in good hands with Ed and I received periodic updates. On the first two days, after Ed returned from work, Niko went up on his chair to look out the window anticipating me as well. Not exactly a Hachi story of a dog who looked for his owner everyday for ten years, but I'll take it anyway!
On my last day of the trip, we went to  Pike Place. I found a store called Merry Tails that stocked all sorts of pets stuff. Normally, I don't hold out much hope at these stores in finding anything "Shiba Inu." To my surprise, I found a few items representing the breed. I couldn't resist and purchased a pair of socks. In case anyone's interested, they were made by Wheel House Designs. Next time I have to be away from home, I'll be packing this pair of socks to cope with missing Niko.

When I came home, Niko went wild with excitement. Instead of his usual tame self where I instruct him to sit before I greet him, he tackled me and gave me non stop licks and sniffs. It was great to see him again and let him sniff me out to figure out where I was. Last night, he joined me on the couch for an extended amount of time. Of course, I lured him with treats first, but the cool thing was that he stayed after the treats were gone. He laid on top of my fleece throw. Niko's face in the wrinkly throw reminded me of a Shar Pei:

Thursday, November 3, 2011

What's in Niko's Bowl?

The answer to that question is Blue Buffalo dry dog food. Occasionally, he finds surprises in his bowl. A great way to spice up his usual meal is to sprinkle on some cheese. Niko's food bowl is in the kitchen. Whenever a recipe calls for cheese, I sneak some of it into Niko's bowl before putting it back in the fridge. I had some freshly grated Parmesan cheese left in a container in the fridge that I've been slowly depleting by way of Niko's bowl. This cheese is especially aromatic and he LOVES it. 

Niko oftens peeks into the kitchen when we're in there cooking. He stares me down to see if I share anything. His nose picks up scents of meat and cheese very well.
We noticed Niko's been munching down more food than usual. We attribute it to the colder weather and his survival instincts kicking in. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Snow Already?

Much to Niko's delight, snow came super early this season. We headed up to Ed's parents this weekend (one of Niko's favorite get-aways). He loves it there because of the vast openness of country exploring and of course, being spoiled rotten by grandma!

We woke up to a very beautiful scene- snow covered fields and trees. We took a walk into the woods where Niko reunited with his passion for snow.

We allow Niko off the leash when we're here. He still needs work in the "time to go inside the house" department. Although we get nervous about it, we have learned to allow him this freedom. It helps that he does not go very far without us. He stays by the perimeter of the house and remains within eyesight most of the time. I'm happy to report that during this weekend, he came inside on command more times than not. Progress is being made.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Day in Ithaca

This is a post about an excursion from this summer that I never got around to writing about until now. My family came up for a visit one weekend and we played host. Niko welcomed them with open paws. The only other times they have seen Niko is when we go to Brooklyn, where he is not really himself. My brother Matt warmed up to Niko and got to experience the real deal during his visit. 

We took a 45 minute drive to Buttermilk Falls State Park in Ithaca for a hike. Ithaca has many beautiful waterfalls and gorges, formed by glaciers. I often see bumper stickers and t-shirts that read "Ithaca is Gorges" and this picture Matt took on the hike proves it:

The hike was uphill most of the way and got a bit intricate in some areas. Niko was on his leash. The park was busy that day with plenty of visitors. He cooled off by slurping on the water from the falls along the hike. We saw other dogs going knee deep and sticking their entire head in the water.

It was a lovely day.
Niko enjoyed the ride and having Matt accompany him in the backseat.  I get a kick whenever I capture a picture of Niko with his eyes closed, as pictured here.

Afterwards, we had lunch at the Commons and Niko fell upon some dog statues. He was confused and scared about them.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The First Hoorah of Autumn

The weekend after our last hoorah of summer, we had our first hoorah of the Autumn season. The location was the Adirondacks, where the beautiful fall foliage was already starting to show. We were attending Ed's best friend's wedding at Inlet, NY. Ed had best man duties but we had plenty of free time to explore. We opted to stay at a "guided tent" at the inn the wedding took place instead of a regular room. Unlike our usual camping routine, we were "glamping" it on this trip. I borrowed that term from a show on I caught on the Travel Channel; it is a portmanteau for "glamorous camping". The tent was equipped with a comfy bed, basic furniture, heaters, a furnace, and it even had electricity. 

We had a private bathroom a few feet from the tent that was luxurious for normal standards (double shower heads?!). The inn did not allow pets, but the groom got special permission for his dog, Cabela. We were asked to keep her in our tent the night before the wedding. Niko stayed at a pet friendly motel with Ed's brother.
Coincidentally, on the day of the wedding, there was a special event going on in the small town of Inlet (population of 400).  The town was hosting an event called One Square Mile of Hope, an attempt to beat the Guinness Book of World Records for the most boats floating on a lake. It was also an event to raise money for the Susan G. Komen Foundation, for the Cure for breast cancer research. We almost brought our kayaks to partake in the event, but didn't for various reasons. Fourth Lake was right in front of the inn and we watched from the shore. It sure was a lot of people, a reported 1,925 canoes and kayaks. Congratulations, Inlet, for beating the world record! 
A group of us decided to go on a hike that would take us to the top of a peak, in hopes of getting a birds eye view of the kayak and canoe laden lake. Niko and Cabela went along on their leashes. It was quite a challenging hike up the mountain. There was a light mist and the trail was muddy and slippery. When we reached the top, we were highly disappointed. There was a heavy fog and we couldn't see two feet in front of us, let alone the lake. We needed a rest, so we loitered there for a bit. Not too long into our break, the fog started to break. It was amazing to see the view in front of us slowly appear. To our surprise, most of the boats had dispersed by this time. We enjoyed the scenery anyway and I caught Niko sneaking a kiss with Cabela:

Cabela, Best Pet
After the hike, we separated Niko from his pal Cabela. Cabela had some important tasks ahead of her at her parents' wedding. She is an exceptionally well trained dog. She performed her ring bearer task right on cue and melted guests' hearts. At the reception, she held the basket during the dollar dance and didn't drop a penny. Cabela truly surpassed her title as Best Pet in the wedding party.

Although Niko didn't get our fullest attention this weekend, it still beat being home. Here he is sniffing the air and saying good bye to the good old Adirondacks. 
See you next summer. We can't wait to return.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Last Hoorah of the Summer

Two weekends after Labor Day, we went on our last camping trip of the summer. It was bittersweet, as the months passed before our eyes too quickly. We returned to The Thousand Islands where we spent our first camping trip of the year (on Memorial day). The park was less crowded at this time of the year and the nights were cooler, with temperatures dropping to the 40s. However, with multiple layers of clothing, an insulated sleeping bag, and a nice fire, we couldn't complain. The weather was clear and sunny and we were happy about that. We brought our kayaks but spared Niko the misery and kept him from the water.
We noticed Niko being more interested in the campfire than previously. On past trips, he would sit a far distance from the fire. He would curl up in a ball and rest on fallen leaves or soft grass. This time, he approached the campfire when he was hungry. He finally discovered the business we call campfire cooking. Samplings of our food included roasted corn, hot dogs, burgers, pizza paninis, and s'mores. It might have been the colder temperatures too that drew Niko closer to the fire.
We took the same hike as we did last time and Niko found some living and not so living things. He was on the leash the whole time but his nose was sniffing things out. As soon as he smells something interesting, he would pick it up with his mouth. He finds things that we would never have noticed with our eyes. One particular specimen he did not want to let go of was a dead fish head, identified by Ed as a northern pike that was killed and feasted on by another animal.
Due to the fact that there were fewer campers this late in the season, we secured a prime campsite. Back in May, we drove around the park to look for the perfect location and took notes. Luckily this one was open when we made reservations. We were on a point that was surrounded by water on three sides. We were also high off the shore, on a big rock platform. Check out our view:

I'm also glad to report that I got zero bug bites on this time which is a big win. What a big difference from the typical camping trip I would return with swollen bites all over my limbs. We said goodbye to the summer, our kayaks, and equipment. Until next year...

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Pupcake

Niko comes from humble roots (literally, an Amish breeder). He is not accustomed to fancy treats. Sure, I've made him treats before, but I presentation is not my forte. So, when my good friend Mona bought her dogs doggie cupcakes and shared one with  Niko, it was special. 
The thing had edible glitter! Glamorous, right? 
Poor Niko, not being used to his very own cupcake, he didn't know what to do. He sniffed it but left it alone. I took the wrapper off and he licked the wrapper, as he is accustomed to eating crumbs and leftovers. It was only when i placed the cupcake in his food bowl that the light bulb went off. I  might have to start instilling some culture in this hobo dog. 
Mona is a talented cupcake baker herself. Check her creations out:

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Perfect Pose

I decided to post this picture because of the way Niko's paws are positioned. It reminded me of a pose for a studio picture. Getting Niko to pose for pictures is a difficult task. He looks away too quick or I don't have my camera ready. He has an aloof personality. have something he wants. In this particular instance, Niko was very interested in what I was eating. He held the pose long enough for me to grab my phone to snap the picture. This is his "I'll pose for food" pose.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Dog Show

Our local Kennel Club hosted an AKC sanctioned dog show and it was open to the public. It was a three day event and we were able to drop in on the last day. It was held outdoors and of course we brought Niko show him what obedience really means. 
We were hit with an air of silence and seriousness when we approached a prep area where the handlers and dogs line up to "show." We soon learned it was no joke and that people traveled far distances to compete in this show. There were dogs of different sizes, colors, and shapes. 
We were dog show newbies and did not know what the judges look for. The competitions we watched were by breed size. The dogs pranced around in a circle with their handler one pair at a time, the judge gets a close look at the dog, lifts a leg or two, and they go back in a line. After all the pairs have taken their turns, the entire group jogs in the circle together one more time and lines up for the judge to look at the dogs side by side. Ribbons are awarded and the winners pose for pictures on a stoop. Like this beautiful Akita named Trader:
"where are the treats?"
                                                                                                                                   Do you see any resemblances between Niko and Trader? Akitas and Shiba Inus are related breeds. When people see Niko, aside from the common "he looks like a fox" comment, people also guess if he's an Akita. Look at who was backstage checking things out:

All in all, it was an interesting first dog show. We do wish we caught some agility competitions. Maybe next year. We were reminded of how much work goes into training a dog in general, but to train for dog shows is a whole other level. 
One last note, we caught Niko checking this broad out:
Sorry Niko, she is way out of your league and may be too high maintenance. You need to look for someone that likes to roll around in mud like yourself.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Fundraising Fun

Niko went to his first fundraising event as part of last weekend's activities. We changed vets over a year ago to SPEAK Animal Hospital, which is a non-profit animal hospital. The staff is super friendly, prices are more affordable, and they had just renovated the entire facility. We attended the grand re-opening event to help their cause, let Niko meet new people and dogs. It was a well organized event with a live band, food, vendors, exhibits, facility tours, and raffle prizes. 
On display were two beautiful alpacas. Niko didn't care much for them. In the last several years, alpacas have grown in popularity. I was educated by a coworker that breeding alpacas is a serious business. Not only are they cute and loving animals, they are making a name for themselves in the textile industry.
The best part of the event was watching the New York State Police demonstration. A police dog named Wheeler (a German Shepard) and his handler educated the audience about NY's K-9 Unit. We learned some interesting facts:

  • All NY State police dogs are named after fallen officers to honor them
  • The Canine Unit training facility is located in Cooperstown, NY
  • Wheeler and his handler were part of a team that searched for survivors and bodies at Ground Zero after September 11
  • Dogs can smell their handler's emotions change regardless of visual and verbal cues
We watched Wheeler search for hidden narcotics and "attack" a culprit. The obedience and intelligence of Wheeler impressed us very much.
"hmm...that dog's got some neat tricks up his paws"

We were glad we attended the event. I bought Niko his latest fashion accessory - a bandana that threads through his collar. 

It is not very often I dress Niko up. He is more of a ruff and tuff dog, but this was for charity =)
A few days later, I received a phone call that I won a raffle basket. Even sweeter.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Dog Park & Raised Fur

In the area we live in, dog parks didn't exist....until now! A few months ago, we were at our local Petco and we saw a display table with volunteers raising money for a community dog park. We gave a monetary donation and forgot about it. The other day, I decided to do a search online on the dog park progress. What a nice coincidence, they had just finished putting up the fence this week and have the gates yet to put up tomorrow. We couldn't wait so we decided to take a drive and check the place out.
The fenced in park is very open with lots of space for dogs to run around and do their thing. They have 2 divided areas for big breeds and smaller breeds. We let Niko off the leash and he barely moved, giving us a confused look. We threw his tennis ball and he got the hint. He darted around playing fetch, enjoying the free space.
Not long after that, a few other dogs who were offleash came into the small breed section. Although they were larger dogs, they noticed Niko and came in our area anyway. Niko was outnumbered and smaller in size. One dog chased him and Niko chased back. We noticed Niko's fur patterns change very quickly and fur was raised like nothing we've seen before. My limited knowledge of reading a dog's body language is: tail up and wagging means happy and confident; tail down means scared.
I was able to snap a few pictures and review the transition from happy/confident/playful to scared/nervous.

Niko was alone at this time. Tail up and fur on his shoulders raised. He is alert and chasing the ball.

Then came the larger dog who chased Niko. Notice Niko's tail is curved way down and his back looks like we shaved him and gave him a mohawk. This was only minutes after the other picture:
The owners of that dog tried to call her name but to no avail. She just wanted to play with Niko and was not a threat. But Niko was very timid when 4 dogs came in all at once. He growled and the other dog did back away. We were on hand to stop a fight if needed, but it didn't come to that. 
Happy as a clam again.
We give the dog park 2 paws and 2 thumbs up all the way. We are happy the community approved the project and it is something a lot of people and pets have been waiting for. There is even a creek by the park for dogs to swim in and cool off. We took Niko there as well and he was about 2 inches deep in the water. Not bad, Niko.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Lonely Sunflower

Giant sunflower stalking Shiba Inu:
At last year's state fair, I picked up a free packet of sunflower seeds (for growing, not snacking purposes). I planted the seeds by the stairs to the deck in the spring. Patiently, we waited for the stalks to come up and the plant is taller than us, towering over the deck. So far one flower is open and it is bigger than my face. Niko doesn't seem to notice this behemoth of a flower because it is not within his eyesight.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Swimsuit Season

Although life jackets aren't exactly the same as bathing suits, Niko seems to have shed some pounds for the summer. When we first put the suit on him in May, we felt how snug it was. There were rolls around his neck. Last week, when we put it on him, not so snug. He has shed a ton of fur earlier this summer. I didn't think Niko was a image conscious pup, but maybe he knows about pictures of him ending up on the internet and shiba tabloids.
When he was at the vet in July, Niko weighed in at 29lbs, which, according to the vet, is a healthy weight for him. She even said he was muscular which we found funny. She called him a "G.I. Joe" dog after we described some of the activities we do with him. We feed him Innova dog food and today, switched to Blue Buffalo to try out. Niko doesn't clean his food bowl out when we fill it in the mornings. He tends to eat and finish his food at night. We give him scraps sparingly and conscientiously. He definitely longs for scraps by quietly staring cutely at us, but we only give him pieces of meat and cheese. For treats, we give him beef jerky made for dogs and sometimes doggie biscuits.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Long Anticipated Canoe Trip

After months of contemplating, planning, and worrying about the canoe/backpacking trip to the Adirondacks, we did it.  This was different from the other camping trips we have done in that we were miles from the car and had to use a canoe and our legs as the mode of transportation. Our biggest worries: bears.......and..........Niko jumping out of the canoe and flipping us and all our stuff into the lake or river. The second worry was more plausible and risky (in our minds). We started getting Niko acclimated with his life jacket months ago.
Snapshot of what we brought
We had to be very selective in what we packed to limit space and weight. Kibble, leash, life jacket, and a tennis ball was Niko's allowance. For ourselves, we packed dried food, tablets to treat water for drink-ability, warm clothes, sleeping bags, fishing poles, and a canoe carrier.

We launched at Long Lake and had an 8 mile paddle to our first night's humble abode: a lean-to. Lean-to's are wooden shelters provided by the park and is on a first come first serve basis. It was an alternative to bringing a tent. 

Niko was in the middle of the canoe on his own. I was anxious during the first 30 minutes, fearing he would jump out. With some coaxing and readjustment of his front paws, we avoided mayhem. He quickly got the routine down. He was alert and looking from side to side a lot. There were lots for Niko to see: biplanes that took off and landed in the lake, ducks, loons, turtles, and even fighter jets that were doing some test flights.
Niko did make noises at times when we were near land. We took breaks and got out to stretch and check out different areas. To our amazement, there were times when he knew we were getting ready to go back into the canoe. He would come to us and willingly let us place him back inside it. The second morning, I picked up his life jacket and he automatically sat down to let me put it on him. It was as if he was ready to check out the next place on the route.
We had a waterfront site to ourselves the first night. Niko was off leash and discovered every corner. Ed caught fish and cooked it up with a fuel burner and mess kit. It complemented our instant noodles very well. Of course we shared the fish with Niko. He likes fish very much. Before I can stop him, he gobbled up a raw minnow that was laying on the ground (gross, Niko!)

After the first night, we packed up and went back into the lake to head toward Racquette River. Here, the scenery changed from the vast openness of a lake to a woodsy, enclosed, and curvy river. The current helped us move along easier which was nice because we were tired from the first day. We approached a waterfall area where we had to get out and go on foot to our next lean-to.
We took the sign and broken canoe hanging on the sign very seriously!
The portage (canoe carry between take out from river and relaunch) proved to be challenging. Although we had a carrier to wheel the canoe with gear inside it, there were steep inclines and rocky areas. We met others in the path and commiserated on how tiring it was. At this point, Niko uncharacteristically barked at people. It was probably due to being in a new surrounding and the need to protect us. During the portage, Ed and I were slowed down by the weight of the canoe. Niko ran ahead to "scout" the path and would circle back. At this point, I think he knew the canoe was part of the "pack." He stopped whenever he heard the canoe on wheels stop. We ran into trouble about 3/4 into the portage. We had a flat! We had to stop for Ed to patch the tire. Niko was very good, considering we had other things to worry about. He never ventured out of eyesight and sat near us most of the time. After the mishap, we continued on and found a lean-to for our final night's stay. 

The rest of the trip went smoothly. Some random final remarks:
1) We saw some amazing scenery.
2) Niko may not be a water dog, but he is a canoe friendly dog.
3) No bear encounters. Boy scout Ed craft-fully sealed our food in a bag and tied it high up to a tree far from our campsite.
4) Niko enjoyed being off leash in the wilderness, but the poor toads that he chased did not
5) Niko learned how to find drinking water by going to the shore. 
6) Niko is very dexterous when hopping across big rocks in the river.
7) We all did some soul searching on this trip and bonded.
8) Niko went into a coma for 2 days after he arrived home.