This submission is by Barbi, whose everyday Hero Dog is Shinkou, a Shiba Inu.
My Dog is My Hero Because…
Shinkou was our very first foster dog from the Shiba Scout Rescue. Shinkou was found on the streets so we had no information about what her life had been like but it was easy to see it had not been the life she deserved. Shinkou was found weighing 11 pounds (about 10 pounds under weight), she had burns on her legs, tar in her hair and a serious attitude. She also had a microchip that indicated she was purchased from a pet shop meaning her life had most likely begun at a puppy mill. It was soon found that she also had a curious habit of passing out when she got excited. After going to the vet she was found to have a rare condition called sick sinus that caused her heart to beat about half as often as it should. She needed a pacemaker and pacemakers aren’t cheap. Because of her condition she was given the name Shinkou meaning heart and faith in Japanese. Through generous donations by people who had never met Shinkou, Shiba Scout Rescue was able to give Shinkou her pacemaker. Shortly after her surgery she came to our home. A life of being abused, neglected and sick led her to have some behavioral issues that we hoped we could work on so she could be adopted. After a few weeks Shinkou was a new dog. She loved to play with her foster brother Banksy, she was learning basic commands and she was learning that she didn’t have to treat each meal like it would be her last. The most impressive change came in something we couldn’t teach her, to love. She gave trust like she had never been hurt. She loved like she had never known hate and more than anything she showed that once in a place where she could feel safe her behavioral issues would begin melt away. We began to dread the day we would have to give Shinkou to a new family. She had become a part of our home and a part of our family. Everyone had told us that your first foster dog is the hardest but we knew we were in over our heads with Shinkou. Maybe we weren’t cut out to be foster parents.
Then one day Shinkou began having problems breathing. We hoped it was just a simple issue with her pacemakers timing but took her to the CSU vet hospital as fast as we could. The tests came back, her pace maker was fine. Something more serious was going on with Shinkou. After more tests our worst fears were confirmed. Shinkou had a rare blood clotting disorder that had caused a blood clot in her heart and would continue to cause her blood clots for the rest of her life. The doctors told us the best thing for her would be to put her down now. Our hearts were absolutely broken. She was only a year and a half old, how could this be the end? As we made the long drive up to Ft. Collins to be with her we discussed if we could ever even foster another dog. Seeing her go to her forever home would have been hard enough but this was unbearable. We knew one thing for sure when we got to the vets office. Shinkou was no longer our foster dog she was our dog. Shinkou had found her forever home with us, she had just known it long before we did. We still didn’t know if we would be able to take in another foster dog again. We thought we might be better at helping in a different way, an easier way.
Then we saw our Shinny baby. She was sick and very tired but just as loving and sassy as ever. We held her and cried at all the things that would never be. She would never go on a hike in the mountains, or play in the water. She would be missing out on all the things that every dog should do and it just wasn’t fair. She had never done anything to deserve the life she was given. That is when it all clicked for us. Every dog deserves a life like Shinkou was given in her last few months. She was loved, well fed, given all the belly scratches she could get and she had a place to call home. How could we not continue to do that? Her name stood for heart and faith. The focus had always been on her physical heart but now it needed to be on our faith and heart. We knew we could make a difference in other dogs lives and we would do it for her. We promised her we would never forget her and that we would make sure she continued to live in our mission to help other dogs like her. With my head pressed against hers and my face covered in tears I whispered to her that I would save as many dogs as I could and I would do it for her. It is a moment I will never forget and never want to forget. As sad as Shinkous life had been we knew there were many other dogs out there with just as sad of stories that wouldn’t have a chance at a forever home if we didn’t open ours to them. While no dog deserved the pain Shinkou had every dog deserves the joy and love she had at the end of her life.
A week later we began with our next foster dog we named him Nobuyuki, meaning faithful happiness in memory of Shinkou. Then again a few days later another foster dog Nijiko found her way into our home. Now we can not imagine a life that doesn’t involve having a foster dog (or two!). It has been two months since we lost Shinkou and some days are much harder than others. I often wonder if I did enough for her and think about what I would have done differently while she was here. As I look around our house, covered in dog toys, hair and chewed up socks, I am able to see that while Shinkou isn’t here her spirit is. She is making a huge difference in other dogs lives, as well as in ours. In addition to fostering we have also began setting up a grant to help dogs who need major surgery like Shinkous pace maker, so that no life is lost simply because the solution is too expensive. Shinkous life may have begun as one of thousands of puppy mill dogs bred every year but it ended with her being a tiny hero for all pets and for us too.
Learn more about the Hero Dog Awards.