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2006-04-19 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets...

by Joanne Anderson

Dakota and her "cat" litter Dakota and her "cat" litter Since dogs don't check calendars, this story is a bit early for Mothers' Day. A local dog showed that maternal love has no bounds and can help fill the void carved by grief. A tiny Shiba Inu, adopted two orphan, newborn kittens, just days after her puppy, an only child, was killed by a hit and run driver.

Dakota, the Shiba mom, had a litter of one. She doted over her puppy, DJ, and was still nursing her at eleven weeks old. The pup was mature in every other respect and already knew some basic commands. In fact, she was a precocious therapy dog. The owner's friend would bring the puppy to cheer her mother every time her mom had a chemo or radiation treatment.

Two weeks ago while leaving after one of these visits in North Babylon, DJ wiggled out of her collar and ran into the road where she was hit instantly by a car that sped away. She died later that evening at the animal emergency hospital. Everyone, including Dakota, was devastated. The Mama Shiba would not stop looking for her missing puppy.

Dakota's owner, Erin, works at the Willow Pet Hotel in Deer Park. The Shiba accompanies her each day and hangs out behind the reception desk as the canine concierge. Last Monday a man came into the boarding kennel with two kittens he had found. They were less than a week old so he was looking for someone to bottle feed them. After the kittens were checked out and hydrated at the veterinary hospital next door, Erin decided to let Dakota see them.

Dakota immediately took to the feline bambinos. The dog started cleaning and nuzzling them. Shibas are about 1520 pounds so she is just a little bigger than a mother cat would be. The kittens started nursing from her, and she couldn't be more content. Dakota also stimulates them for "diaper duty" like a mother cat or dog. As a precaution, Erin is supplementing the infants with bottles of KMR (kitten formula) to ensure that they're getting the proper cat nutrients.

Shibas are an ancient breed, first bred to flush birds and hunt wild boar. They are still quite popular in their native Japan. Translated "Shiba Inu" means "little dog". Tiny bold little warriors, Shibas can be quite independent and aggressive toward other dogs. Even the National Shiba Club of America states that if Shibas could utter one word it would probably be "mine" because Shibas feel that sharing is a concept others should practice.

Nothing could be further than the truth with Dakota's new family. Although she is their Japanese "hahaoya" (mother) and the kittens are her "nyuuyouji" (babies), everyone is allowed to admire them. Her lack of the possessive breed trait makes this Shiba Inu so much more surprising. She shares the kids. Dakota shows her new family off, and lets everyone hold them. She's so relaxed that she takes breaks to nosh on her rawhide while the kitties nap.

Mama Dakota is getting to be a ham. Willow customers can see the trio behind the front counter. I had this photo session at the Pet Hotel the day after Dakota adopted the kittens, and Channel 12 showed up two days later. We're all spreading the word because in about 6 weeks or so the kittens will need a home of their own. If you're interested in a cat that might learn to bark in Japanese, contact Willow Pet Hotel at 667-8924. More pets wait for homes nearby at Babylon Town Shelter (643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon. "Bridget" has been at the shelter since January through no fault of her own. She's a petite Lab mix with a prominent "ridge" on her back. This is usually the trademark of a Rhodesian Ridgeback but she is more Lab with a feminine face. This sweetie in Cage 87 loves to climb on your lap and give kisses. "Alfie" in C4 is a fabulous cat. The 2 year old, neutered fellow is a longhair tabby with the expression of an Abyssinian very "Lion King". He is a lover boy who dives onto your shoulders to nuzzle your neck. Babylon's Petfinder site has great photos of Bridget's fancy ridge.

Males: "Cosby"the mini Newfie mix in Cage 5; a brindle Tibetan terrier mix in Cage 7, now groomed; "A-Rod"a Shepherd mix in Cage 1.

Females: "Freckles"the prancing Border Collie mix in 81; "Queenie"the Husky mix in Cage 95; "Winnie"the Boxer mix ( been at the shelter the longest) in Cage 53; "Lexie"a Sheltie mix in Cage 51.

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