Our breeder experience went well, so I'm going to share our little story we've got so far. This is also for Phoebe, who is apparently in the market for a little poodle! And maybe Wesley!
My previous, limited experience with breeders involved finding one at the dog show at Chicago's McCormick Place in February. This seems a good way to meet breeders and to see their dogs' dispositions, but I wasn't willing to wait until February. After figuring out which breeders were in the Midwest and approved by official figures (AKC, National Shiba Club of America), I started contacting breeders in the early fall, asking about litters and providing some information about me and Mordecai. Actually, everyone ignored me, so I was getting a little nervous. Were Shibas in such high demand?! Was I going to have to prove in some helicopter mom way that I was a fit owner?! Momoko did say that she had to be "selected" to own her puppy from her New York breeder, and this breeder wanted a survey filled out (which I did, and which was ignored). Finally, Mordecai called Glenchester Kennels. They made sure we knew about the breed, but didn't drill us about ourselves. We were placed on a waiting list, but somewhere at the ass end. So we watched their website and our emails for updates, and eventually anticipated a puppy from either Spirit's litter, born at the end of September, or Danica's litter, born at the beginning of October.
Spirit's litter: Who knew we'd get the one that first caught our eye, "Darkest Muzzle"?
Debbie and Mark diligently kept us updated with many pictures of their growth, from when they looked like guinea pigs to when they looked like miniature wolf pups. We arranged for a late November pick-up, aiming for some time around Thanksgiving. A lot of friends and family started asking us about which gender we wanted. I initially wanted a boy, because I wanted to name it Felix (after 2010 AL Cy Young winner King Felix Hernandez). But I knew that it wasn't necessarily a good idea to get fixated on something superficial, that it had more to do with matching personalities, and anyway, Mordecai did not care at all either way. So eventually I softened up to the idea of a girl, and since there were so many girls in both Spirit's and Danica's litters (8 out of 10 puppies were girls), we figured we'd end up with one. After waiting for so long, we stopped caring about genders, and just longed for A PUPPY in our house. But thinking about it now, it's good that we got a girl because so many of her dog friends will be boys (Oji, Jackson, Boba), and the breeder mentioned potential same-sex aggression in Shibas.
Around the time we figured out we were likely getting a girl, my mom thought of the name "Mitsu," taken from the word "hachimitsu," which means honey, or literally, bee nectar. It looks like (according to my observations at ShibaInuForm.org) everyone who has a Shiba has to name it something Japanese, and I had long been needing to do this as well. Mitsu is easy to pronounce, as it's contained in known Japanese names (Mitsubishi, Mitsuwa), so we were leaning towards Mitsu. (Other contenders were Strawberry, Ichigo ["strawberry" in Japanese], Josée [from "Josée, the Tiger, and the Fish"; apologies to Sean!]).
Left, Mitsu; Right, Poo Monster Dud
It turned out the one I thought was a boy was one of the remaining two puppies we could choose from. Our other choice was her lighter coated littermate with rounder eyes. The latter presented a couple of problems right away. One was that she had a heart murmur, which we were told would most likely go away. The other was that we observed her go potty in the breeder's living room, and after she relieved herself, she proceeded to begin EATING what she just excreted. This is apparently a habit picked up from their mother, who is particularly meticulous about cleanliness. I've read that Shibas are very careful about being clean, sometimes prancing around puddles, avoiding the rain, etc., so I wasn't entirely disgusted. "Darkest muzzle" also seemed tempted to join the fecal adventures, but she hesitated and missed her chance.
Goodbye Poo Monster and Keeper (breeders' pick of the litter)!
Mordecai was turned off by the Poo Monster Dud, so we were more prone to picking "Darkest Muzzle." We (and others) had thought she was the cutest of the bunch from previous pictures, so it was nice to see her remain an option for us. She seemed very outgoing, friendly, and cautious but optimistic about unfamiliar territory. I was also impressed that she let pretty much anyone hold her, play with her paws, gums, and even trim her nails with a dremel. I've read that Shibas are not particularly cuddly, so I was drawn to the possibility of contact. And finally, the breeder said that she looked like a good Shiba. Her ears taper forward a little and are well-proportioned, her hind legs bend well, and her eyes are triangular instead of almond (Asian eyes!). If they were keeping two puppies from the litter, the breeder said, Mitsu would have been her second pick. I wonder what her other three littermates were like, especially as they transition into their new homes.
I was afraid that Mitsu would have a hard time in the car ride home from Ohio, that she would have a hard time in a new environment, that she wouldn't like being crated at night, etc. But so far, she's been totally fine with car rides; she immediately claimed her crates, bed, toys; and she's allowed us to sleep at night by crying for only a couple of minutes in her crate. It's also been relatively easy to potty train her, as the Shiba literature indicated would happen. Her confidence in herself and her new surroundings is growing, and she's starting to get a bit feisty. One of the current challenges is being able to leave her alone in her giant crate (it's Yuki's old crate, so it's for an Akita, which means she has a mansion of a den space for Mitsu). The main challenge though is to make sure her will never triumphs over ours, partly because she's a Shiba and partly because she's a puppy. I like how people ask us, "Do you know about Shibas?" as if we're gonna be like, "Oh really? They're stubborn and willful and hard to train? My, thank you for informing me!" Child, please! I know how to read a book and use the Internet. I appreciate it, but don't. Anyway, I can already tell what kind of trouble we've gotten ourselves into, and I'm always busy thinking about how to erase bad habits, effective immediately! I got this!