The Domestic (Dog) Adventure: Fitz Roy
Two months ago we introduced the fabulous Fitz Roy, the first four-legged member of the BecauseItzThere team. It has been a seriously new experience having Fitz aboard. Site Editor and Minister of Expedition Brian has managed a hiking expedition or two, most often with positive results, and he has had some past experience with cats. But he has never owned a dog before. Sylvia did own dogs back in Peru, but they were not of the same breed and temperament of Fitz Roy.
Fitz Roy is what is known popularly as a Husky-Inu…part Siberian Husky and part Shiba Inu, the latter being one of the smallest members of Japanese Spitz family of breeds. The Shiba Inu are themselves Husky-like dogs, bred for hunting in mountain areas. They are distinguished by their forward curling tails and two-tone coloring, which gives them a somewhat fox-like appearance. Fitz Roy however is mostly white.
This crossing of breeds is popularly known as a ‘designer breed.’ In truth, we have no idea if any design was followed, or even where Fitz came from; the first time we met him, he was in a kennel at the dog rescue center known as Saving Grace of Raleigh. He probably came from somewhere in eastern or central North Carolina, and his given name was Clark, though he has never answered to this name. We know next to nothing about his past.
Note in the photos above how Fitz’s head (and teeth) more resemble the Husky, but his body and statute are more Shiba Like. Also note the almond colored eyes which can occur in both breeds.
What we do know are two things. The first of which, apparent at the time and increasingly more so with the benefits of a stable home, is how incredibly handsome he is.
The second and less fortunate thing we learned after adopting Fitz. Like many rescued dogs, Fitz did not receive the proper upbringing that a propertly socialized dog requires. Both the Husky and Shiba Inu are strong willed dogs that can be a serious challenge to train, and many dog owners simply aren’t up to the challenge. Shiba’s also tend to be standoffish dogs, not known for being overly friendly to strangers. Because of this, neither breed is recommended to first time dog owners…nor is the hybrid of the two.
We don’t have any evidence that Fitz was abused or mistreated in any way. But it seems likely that the previous owner did not bother investing the time and effort necessary to correctly raise a spirited dog. Perhaps they were overwhelmed, or realized they had bitten off more than they could chew with such a dog. Or maybe they just didn’t care. Whatever, the results are that Fitz ended up in a shelter, where we found and adopted him.
Fitz is a fine dog, but within days of adopting him we began to see behaviors that very likely landed him in the rescue center to begin with. He is nervous, excitable, difficult to control and distrustful of strangers. None of these things are unusual in a dog, but all of them together in the same dog make for a volatile breed.
To anyone looking at it from the outside, Fitz might simply looks like an aggressive dog, when in fact he is a nervous and fearful one. He barks, he growls. He pulls at his leash, he cannot easily relax, but he is easily distracted. When something happens that he doesn’t like, he goes immediately on alert. He thrusts himself protectively to the fore, snarling. If he is not quickly calmed down, his behavior will usually escalate and become completely out of control. Sylvia and Brian have already endured several public ‘meltdowns’ as a result.
Fitz enjoying his fu-fu coffee.
On the advice of a veterinarian we enrolled Fitz in obedience class, but his inability to settle down made it very tough for him to learn in a class environment. So, we backed up a few steps, asked for a home consult, got some good advice and went forward from there. We learned that Ftiz’s behavioral issues begin at home; that bad behavior in the house leads to bad behavior outside and around others.
Fitz recently celebrated his second month anniversary with us (and first birthday.) We have seen many improvements in Fitz’s behavior so far, and in the house you simply could not ask for a better dog. He was already housebroken when he came to live with us; he doesn’t chew things (apart from his toys, which he destroys) doesn’t jump on the furniture, doesn’t bite, isn’t an escape artist, isn’t a finicky eater, is clean (Shiba’s are famous for their cleanliness) doesn’t howl or make much noise apart from when he is disturbed, and gets along well with other dogs. He is as smart, loving, loyal and alert as a dog can be; but few others except us ever see his gentle, placid side.
The story of this dog is far from written. Sixty odd days in, he still has distrust issues, still is difficult to control, though far less incendiary than he was. We believe time, patience, effort and love, plus simple maturity, are all that is needed to make him into the dog we wanted all along, He is very nearly there.
We have also been using a dog sitting service to come work with Fitz during the day while we are away, turning what should be empty time into productive time. The results have been better than we could have hoped for. We think Fitz is well on the way to being the great third member of the team that he could someday be.
Fitz in training
In fact, we think Fitz is close to being ready for his first serious outdoor adventures. There is no doubt he enjoys a good walk in the woods, though sometimes his reactions to people and things are less than we would want.
Our ultimate goal is that Fitz will accompany us on every adventure except maybe those that require serious travel to far away places, and we intend to document that evolution here, and also post some thoughts on dog ownership and the rewards and pitfalls of rescue dogs as well. Check back for updates as we live the adventure of Fitz Roy the dog!