A recent Michigander on the Shiba Inu Forum reminded me of a tidbit relayed by the Doggy Daddy’s mother from when Bowdu was a puppy.
Briefly again for context, we were living in Taiwan at the time we got Bowdu as a puppy. However, we both grew up in small town Michigan, where our families remained.
DD’s mother was in the presence of a coworker who, as the story goes, was raving on and on about the wonderful, rare breed of dog that she had just managed to acquire. As this proud new puppy owner was regaling all those around her with fanciful legends about this rare breed that she was certain nobody else had ever heard of, DD’s mother interjected with a perfectly innocent, “Oh, I’ve heard of Shiba Inus! My son has one! He says Shiba Inus are like a dime a dozen in Taiwan.”
Now, his mother is a very gentle, polite woman. I imagine she blurted what she did just to make conversation. She is also very emotionally perceptive, and sensed immediately that she had inadvertently taken much of the wind out of her coworker’s sails, and that a lashing was coming.
“Well, first, you only need to say ‘Shiba’ because inu just means ‘dog,'” the coworker responded huffily. “And second, you don’t pluralize because it’s Japanese.”
I suspect DD’s mother must have exaggerated her reenactment for humorous effect. Though sweet, she’s also got a wicked knack for comedic voices, a trait that runs in the family. In this performance, she delivered a brilliant mockery of a bitchy woman who was irate about having her Special Rare Breed Snowflake melted in the presence of others. And good riddance, I say! The false perception of the Shiba Inu’s rarity has done it more harm than good from what I’ve casually observed of those who would trumpet that as a point of pride, so I tend to question the motives of those who cling to that notion. Uncommon, sure, in some parts of the world. Rare? No, not this one.
Of course, I’m sure this woman still loves her Shiba regardless of how “rare” the breed is perceived to be. Who knows how much trouble she went through to locate a breeder in the days before online puppy sales became commonplace? Or maybe she had connections with the NSCA-listed breeder who happens to live in that town. Though we never encountered another Shiba in our short time in that state, and still seldom run into other Shibas in California, I have never considered Bowdu a “rare” breed because I didn’t start out with an exoticized view. Not that my initial perception of Shibas was accurate, either… but that’s a story for another time.
And yes, I will pluralize the word as I see fit, just like numerous Japanese words have become legitimately Anglicized over the years (and vice versa). Besides, if we start to subject these words to English rules of grammar, then maybe both shiba and inu will finally become playable Scrabble words. Because that’s really the only dictionary that matters to me, practically speaking.
Incidentally, after we moved back to the US along with Bowdu, we were walking him around the DD’s small town Michigan neighborhood, and that’s where Bowdu met his first Basenji. A handsome little red and white B strutted down the driveway and right up to Bowdu, giving us the opportunity to chat with his neighbor. They helped us form an early impression that Bowdu got along well with B’s — though it would be years before we would add Bowpi to our pack.