For the Love of Doge, Please Do Not Get a Shiba Inu


It’s hard to open up a laptop these days without running into the wildly popular and perplexingly hilarious Doge meme. Such style, many fashun, says text in multicolored comic sans over the image of a dignified, adorable looking fox-dog with an intelligent face. But is the Shiba Doge’s ubiquity translating to increased interest from prospective pet owners? Short answer: no. But that’s not a bad thing.

While the Doge meme might be relatively novel and still kind of funny, the Shiba Inu breed is very, very old — experts have dated the Shiba’s DNA to the 3rd century BC. Although they’re small, topping out at only 25 lbs, Shibas are strong, brave, fast, and very clever, an appealing combination for people who like to fancy themselves strong, brave, fast, and clever (I swear this isn’t excerpted from my 2nd grade book report on DOGS). They’re also very fastidious, sometimes grooming their front paws like a cat, and thanks to a low maintenance coat, don’t need to be groomed or bathed very often.

Not to go all pet-hipster on you guys but: I’ve been 100% convinced that I would someday adopt a Shiba Inu for years. On my old block in Chicago, I’d always see a man walking his two Shiba dogs — one black and one fox colored — and imagine how perfect his dog-owning life must have been with his two matching, adorable, alert-looking dogs sleeping beside him on an area rug, curling up in matching caterpillar balls at the foot of his bed, waiting patiently for food in matching dishes. For some reason, in my imagination, he had trained them to ring a silver bell when they needed something. It was an elaborate asexual dog-related fantasy that formed over the course of the 5-plus years I lived in the same apartment, okay? I don’t even remember what the guy looked like. I’d frequently visit Shiba Inu rescue organization websites during my free time, minimizing the window when my cat walked across my laptop like she can read and would be jealous of my looking at dogs.

So when the Doge meme began taking over the internet and my brain and my roommate Hayley’s and my text messages (“Many pipe, such flood,” I texted her when she told me that a pipe had literally exploded in the second floor of our building. “Beautious. Very sunset. So ocean,” she texted me when I sent her a picture from my vacation.), I was pretty sure that interest in the dog I’d long ago become kinda infatuated with would translate to an increased interest in owning them.

Curious, I contacted the National Shiba Club of America for what I told them would be a light hearted story on the effect the meme was having on interest in the breed, and was invited to speak with a delightfully no-nonsense-almost-to-the-point-of-cranky breed advocate named Nancy Stines. I asked Stines if she’d seen an increase in interest in Shiba Inu puppies in recent months, and she responded that, in fact, there’d been a downtick in interest in Shiba puppies, and fewer litters were being born. When I asked if this was bad for the breed, this is how Stines responded.

We absolutely do not want people wanting Shibas because we think that the journalists are doing a disservice to the breed because I feel as though they’re publicizing these dogs when, as we say, this is not the breed for most people.
If you like a cat, they’re a dog. There are cat people out there. If you want a dog that’s a cat, yeah, okay. If you really want a challenge and you want to drive yourself crazy. If you want to spend thousands of dollars repairing the damage your puppy has done, then yeah, go ahead! Be crazy! There are lots of crazy people on the planet.

Remember, Stines is a breed advocate. And when a breed advocate says “DO NOT GET THIS KIND OF DOG UNTIL YOU MEET ONE AND ARE SURE,” it is probably a good idea to listen. Stiles added that the Shiba dog is best enjoyed from the comfort and safety of the other side of a computer screen, and made an oblique reference to “make believe games,” which may or may not be a reference to Cowboy Bebop.

In other words: Many meme. Such cute. Be my pet? No. Such destroy. Very challenge. Many ignore. No rulez plz. Wow. Wow.

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