Categories for Opinion

Photos of NYC on the 9/11 anniversary

September 11, 2018 Published by . Leave your thoughts

Reposting from 2015:

While I was moving late last year I came across a box of old photos (who am I kidding… several boxes of old photos), and one of them had a few envelopes labeled “NYC” from some trips I took there years ago.  My father grew up in Brooklyn (you can still hear it in the way he says words like “coffee”) and my mother in New Jersey, so we took many trips “back East” as we called it, to visit family.  Until I moved to Chicago in 2003 after growing up in the suburbs, I had actually logged more big city hours in New York than in Chicago.  So I love visiting that old friend and smuggling dozens of bagels back with me on the plane.

I had almost forgotten that I had once been up to the top of the World Trade Center while visiting my aunt and uncle in 1998, until I found the photos a few months ago.  With the anniversary of the 2001 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center this week, I wanted to share my walk down memory lane by posting the photos from the last 2 trips I took to New York before 9/11/01.

The photos start in 1998 when my aunt and I took the ferry- if memory serves me well- from Hoboken to Pier 11, and then we made our way to the towers:

1 3 2

I remember joining a line of tourists and buying tickets to get to the observation deck, and seeing the tightest security I’d seen up until then.  I think the bombings in the garage in 1993 were still fresh enough for everyone, and at one point we posed for what looked like a souvenir photo and were given a ticket stub, but never got our photo or heard anything about it later.  After we left my aunt said she suspected it was just a way to photograph everyone for security, but who knows.  It’s also just as possible we walked right past a “pick up your photos” booth without noticing it.

And then came the longest elevator ride I’d ever been in.  Actually, it was quite short considering how far up we were traveling, and sort of unsettling when I thought about how fast we must have been going.  The pressure changed and everyone laughed as they tried to pop their ears several times and hear again by the time we got to the top.  I remember the elevator attendant seemed amused at the familiar sight.

The weather was stable enough to let people on the outdoor deck, so I got to take in the incredible view:

4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

 

A year later I was back in New York for Millennium New Year’s Eve 1999 to 2000.  Here’s an 18 year old me, heading toward my grand-aunt’s apartment in Peter Cooper Village, where my friend and I stayed for our trip:

13

And here I am photographing a squirrel.  Because I was apparently fascinated by the squirrels in the neighborhood.

14

 

And here’s my traveling companion, Beth:

15

Also fascinated by the squirrels.  I think we had never seen black squirrels before- only gray ones.  I’m going to pretend like that’s a valid excuse for spending the possibly several hours we spent hanging out with the squirrels.

16

 

Beth and I were photo buddies back then- taking rolls and rolls of photos and developing them in our high school’s darkroom.  So there’s a whole box in my closet of old photos of each other as we learned photography together and experimented with light and shadow, and a stack of photos from this trip to New York.  We gallivanted around department stores, met up with a friend who moved there the month before and walked around FAO Schwartz, rode the Staten Island Ferry back and forth a few times, poked around the Trinity Church graveyard, went to see a taping of Late Night with Conan O’Brien (the guest stars were Christopher Walken and I think some football player whose name escapes me), and munched on some tasty nuts like our squirrel friends…

36

Of course our ultimate goal was Times Square for New Years Eve.  That’s the whole reason we booked the trip in the first place- to be in Times Square for when the whole world came to an end because of Y2K.  But after a long day of sight-seeing we managed to convince ourselves that we didn’t want to brave the cold and the crowds and instead got some Chinese food and watched it on TV.  From 30 blocks away.

I’m suddenly reminded of a story my dad told me years ago about when he was young and living in New York, and how he and his friend heard about a concert up north so they drove to it, but it was too muddy so they left.  It was Woodstock.  Apparently I am my father’s daughter.

So instead we opted to hop on a bus to check out the aftermath the next morning in Times Square:

17 18 19

There was confetti from the night before blowing off the roofs of the buildings, and people collecting it off the ground.

2320 21

This is one of my favorite shots because I’m catching a piece of confetti in mid-air while a woman takes a huge bite out of a hot dog…

24

But a lot of the photos we took that morning were quite beautiful– watching the confetti sprinkle down from the sky and the people on the ground stopping to reach up and grab it.

25 26 27 28 29 30 31 33

A few blocks from the World Trade Center, we stopped to take our photos with a bronze sculpture on a concrete bench:

37 382 years and some months later, while in college at the University of Illinois, I suddenly remembered those 2 photos when I saw this in the school’s newspaper:

39

Every year around this time, everyone is remembering where they were and what they were doing that day.  I was in my sophomore year in college and in a film theory class.  Our class didn’t receive word about the tragedy so after it was dismissed I walked over to the Union for some lunch and to email my brother a happy birthday, but I passed by the cafeteria filled with people staring in silence at some TV screens, and wondered what was happening.  Someone had wheeled extra carts with TVs into the room and all 4 of them were playing the story on the news- the sound from all of them synced into stereo.  When I realized what was going on I headed over to some computers and emailed my dad if he had heard from my grand-aunt in Manhattan and if she was being evacuated.

The next day there was a student memorial service on the quad– I took this photo from one of the windows in the Union:

40

My grandfather was a draftsman for a large naval architecture firm from 1968 to 1989 and worked in the World Trade Center back then:

WTC-ID-Front WTC-ID&Key

We live in too small of a world to not all be connected in some way to each other, and everyone has their personal connections to the World Trade Center and the terrorist attacks of September 11th.  For me, it’s my brother’s birthday, my grandfather’s old office, and my old sight-seeing stomping grounds for every trip to the Big Apple.

And of course I’m still looking forward to gallivanting around the city again soon.  I’ve got to say hello to all my squirrel friends, after all.

 

Sexist things said to me at work

October 14, 2016 Published by . Leave your thoughts

I work for myself now.  I’m a full-time photographer running my own photo studio and have been doing that for almost 12 years.  But before that, and for a few years while I was getting my business started, I worked for other people.  When people ask me what made me go out on my own and start my own business I say that several factors contributed to my decision: I had a passion for photography and an entrepreneurial spirit which led me to go out on my own. I never found the right workplace where I could use my talents to the best of my ability so I went out on my own.  And I’m a control freak who works well with others until they tell me what to do so I went out on my own.

But what I leave out is that like a lot of women, I felt like an outsider in what’s still considered the man’s world of business.  I noticed trends in the way I was treated compared to my male counterparts.  I was paid less, I was given menial tasks, I was left out of important meetings or decisions, and sometimes I was straight-up teased or taunted for being female.

After last week’s story broke where Donald Trump was caught making sexist remarks about women (and referring to actual sexual assault of women), and he sloughed it off as “locker room talk,” I kept having flashbacks to all the times I personally felt the brunt of this so-called “locker room” mentality in the business world.  Every time someone around the water cooler would make an off-color remark about women or about me, I didn’t know what to do or say in response.  I was young and new to the working world and with so many people around me condoning the behavior there was nothing I felt I could do except awkwardly laugh and try to walk away and forget about it.  And I did the best I could do to forget about it.

But now that I’m older, wiser, and stronger, I decided to go back and re-live those experiences and respond differently.  At least in my mind, of course.  I can’t change the past and what my younger self said, but at least I can decide what I would say now if that happened.

So here they are:  A short list of sexist things said to me in the workplace, how I responded at the time, and how I wish I would have responded if I could do it again:

 

SAID TO ME: A boss showed me a picture of his new girlfriend (who was about 15 years younger than him) and asked me if I thought she was pretty.  He said his good friend said she was pretty but had “no speedbumps.”  He then asked if I thought her boobs were big enough.

I SAID:  “Umm… I don’t know.”

WHAT I WISH I SAID:  “This is an inappropriate discussion for the workplace or between you and I at all.  Please don’t talk to me about the size of any woman’s breasts or the level of her attractiveness.”

 

SAID TO ME:  At a conference, the hotel was one room short with our company’s booking.  A guy with a partner company said “well we can share a room if you’d like” and nudged me with his elbow while winking and all the guys around us burst out laughing.

I SAID:  “Umm… I’ll see if there’s another hotel nearby.”

WHAT I WISH I SAID:  “Please don’t touch me or make a suggestive joke in front of everyone here.  I really don’t appreciate that.”

 

SAID TO ME:  On a job interview the interviewer said “this is an options trading firm, so the guys who work here are, well, guys’ guys.  They like to make jokes and stuff, and the jokes can get kind of crude, and you’d be the only girl… so, well… you’d have to have some thick skin to work here.”

WHAT I SAID:  “Umm… I see.”

WHAT I WISH I SAID:  “If this is a workplace that allows sexual harassment of any kind I retract my application.  Please get me my coat, I’m leaving now.”

 

SAID TO ME:  A boss said to me “you know, if you wore more makeup, got some better clothes, and did something with your hair, you’d be kind of pretty.”

WHAT I SAID:  “Umm… thanks?”

WHAT I WISH I SAID:  “It is not appropriate for you to make a comment on my personal appearance like that.  Please don’t do it again.”

 

SAID TO ME:  My boss would repeatedly walk past the fax machine to ask me to fax something for him.  When I told him I was the marketing coordinator and sending faxes for him isn’t part of my job he said “we all have to wear many hats here.  I don’t have an assistant and there’s no receptionist and it makes sense for you to fill that role when necessary, instead of any of the guys.”

WHAT I SAID:  “Understood.” (Then quietly started looking for a new job)

WHAT I WISH I SAID:  “Fax you.  I quit.”

 

SAID TO ME:  On a dinner with colleagues at a convention when I ordered chicken (and was the only girl at the table) someone said to the waiter, “the men will all be having steak, the little girl over there will have chicken.”

WHAT I SAID:  I sheepishly joined the table in laughter.

WHAT I WISH I SAID:  “You will all die of heart attacks.  I quit.”  (Then smash a drinking glass on the floor and walk off with my middle finger in the air.)

My rant on Thumbtack and Amazon Home Services

April 22, 2016 Published by . Leave your thoughts

A few months ago I was “hand selected” (as the email led me to believe) by Amazon Home Services to provide photography services on Amazon.com in the Chicago area.  A new feature Amazon.com has been rolling out in some markets is the ability to buy not just products online, but services as well.  If you go to the Amazon Home Services page you’ll see that you can now order services like plumbing, electrical, painting, wall-mounting your TV, assembling your new fat-busting elliptical machine, and more.

At first blush the concept sounds pretty rad: I, the consumer, have better things to do than spend time and effort researching for a good plumber so I’m just going to “order” one on Amazon.com by selecting the service I want and a professional will come to my door, and the prices even look lower than I thought they’d be.  To the contractors doing the work the concept also sounds pretty reasonable: people find you through a big website like Amazon and book you for work without having to do much marketing to get them and Amazon just takes a percentage of their earnings from that booking.  But if you dig a little deeper, it doesn’t quite work in practice.  Without proper research you can end up with a very unskilled service provider, and without communicating directly with the service provider before the job and using an arguably unmanned website as a middleman there can and will be miscommunication on the work and the price.

Let me for a moment compare this to Thumbtack.com which has been around for a few years and even advertising on television now (you know exactly when the commercials are airing because you can hear me screaming “KHHHAAAAANN” at the top of my lungs).  I was also “hand selected” for Thumbtack when it was in its beta version and quickly ruled it out as a reputable and reliable way to connect with my customers.  I tried it a couple times and wasted a little money connecting to bargain-hunting clients who were looking at price instead of quality, and competing with countless newbie photographers undercutting each other (and themselves) just for the gratification on being picked for the job.  Again, this concept from afar sounds dandy: service providers pay for “tokens” or “credits” or whatever they call them, clients post the work they want done, providers use the credits to bid on the job, and the client chooses the bid they like without paying a dime to get connected to the provider.

But the whole thing breaks down and crumbles for the exact reasons reviewers of the service from both the client and the provider side have laid out in their experiences.  There are stories of unskilled and unlicensed providers advertising their services, miscommunication on cost, clients not paying providers, providers not showing up or doing the work, and on and on… My favorite stories are of the client meeting with a caterer for tasting foods for a wedding and the “caterer” brought the food samples in her purse after taking public transportation to get there and also sharing that same food with another client at another appointment on the way there.  (I mean, I get it, when you’re just starting out as a caterer getting business and cutting costs can be tough, but come on– no need to violate food safety codes.)  Or the contractor who took a 50% deposit for work then never did the work and disappeared.  Or the cleaning ladies who did a terrible job cleaning, broke a mirror, and refused to replace it.  (Possibly they weren’t exactly insured even though their Thumbtack profile said they were but Thumbtack never actually asks for proof of insurance?  I clicked the “insured” box when filling out a profile for both Thumbtack and Amazon and neither of them actually requested proof of insurance from me…)  Or the countless contractors who suspect that Thumbtack itself is a fraud when they pay to bid on jobs they never get and even get alerts that “there’s still time to bid because no one has bid on this job” after they did indeed bid on it and lost that money.

Call me old fashioned, but when I hire any type of service professional I spend a little time and effort researching them, calling them and talking with them, comparing and contrasting, until I find the person I feel can help me finish the project for a price that’s reasonable to me and within the industry standards they should be paid.

When I started to fill out a profile on Amazon Home Services just so I can see what it was all about, I didn’t even get past their legal agreement which basically gives them my kidneys.  Upset about their process and representation of photographers specifically, I emailed the guy who emailed me a friendly “hey you started filling out a profile for your business but stopped, why is that?”  I’ll just paste my email to him below since it pretty much sums things up.

I sent the email 2 months ago and haven’t gotten a response.

 

Hi Buck,

I looked into selling my services on Amazon Services and decided it was not in my best interest to do so.  Frankly, I don’t believe Amazon should be offering photography services on the site at all.  It’s an industry much more personal and particular than a lot of the other services you’re offering on your site (such as TV installation, furniture assembly, appliance repair, etc.), and as a photographer, I’m actually a little insulted by the way in with photography services are represented on your site.
 
There is no place on any of the pages for me to upload photos of my work or link to my portfolio, and clients choose their photographer based on the quality of his or her portfolio.  You’ve got stock images sitting as thumbnails for each photography service, and your customers are going to assume that those photos are indicative of the quality of work they will get with any of the photographers they choose, and it’s not.  The purchasing and choosing setups of the site are also confusing, so most customers are not going to understand which photographer is doing the work, and what they get with their session, and will likely show up to their photo session expecting something totally different than what is actually offered.
 
Also, you’ve set up certain packages or offerings for all photographers to fit into, and that’s not how most photographers work.  I also believe the percentage fee you’ll be taking from each purchase is too high, especially since photography services are not featured anywhere on your website and I had to go through lots of pages and searching to even find photo services.
 
After reading through the contract/agreement in order to sell services on Amazon I also couldn’t bring myself to sign it because (and correct me if I read it wrongly) something in the agreement states that any of my materials (such as a logo and images) are released to Amazon to use on the Amazon website.  I cannot possibly agree to this, as it creates a possibility that you could use a photograph from my portfolio as a stock image to sell photography services in general, which would lead customers to believe it’s another photographer’s work.  I believe the agreement also releases Amazon from settling any disputes, so if a customer is unhappy with the photo services and paid through the Amazon site, you could grant them a refund without giving the photographer the opportunity to handle it– putting the photographer in a position where he or she could waste time on a shoot and not be paid later.
 
I understand that it’s possible your intentions are noble, by allowing photographers to sell their services through such a high-profile site as Amazon and increase their business, but it’s actually doing more harm than good.  Photography is something that can’t be bucketed into a simple service on a site like this, since each photo session is different and each photo client has different needs. Photography services also range in price based on geographic area and the skill and experience of the photographer.  By offering such discounted rates and high “finders fees” taken from each booking, you’re going to end up with unskilled photographers, customers expecting more than they’re getting, and undercutting the pricing in the industry as a whole by confusing customers in the ways in which to choose their photographer.
 
Please consider removing photographer services from your Amazon Services offerings.
 
Thank you, 
 
Michelle Kaffko
Photographer

Who does a photographer ask to photograph her wedding?

November 13, 2015 Published by . 1 Comment

So here’s my big news for the month: I got married!  On October 3rd, 2015, Joel Ebner and I officially tied the knot.  A visual designer by trade and a musician by design, Joel and I are now legally a powerhouse of sound and vision.  Actually, the song we chose to play when we were introduced as man and wife was David Bowie’s “Sound and Vision.”  Everyone laughed and shook their head in agreement.

The wedding was AMAZING.  I mean I knew it would be fun and lovely and awesome, but seriously, I had no idea how awesome it would be.  I’m still glowing.  But what they all say about the day being a total blur– it’s spot on.  It seriously happened so fast.

With photography being such an integral part of my life (duh), I knew I wanted the PERFECT wedding photographer to capture our special day for eternity, since it will be over in an instant.  As the day drew closer, when I told clients I was getting married their first question was almost always “who’s photographing it?”  A fascination I can completely understand, because really, how does a photographer choose a photographer?  I’ve often wondered what dentist my dentist goes to, where my mechanic takes his car, where my lawyer friends go to have their own law business attended to.

But if you’re looking for some super secret special insight into how to find the perfect wedding photographer from an industry insider, my advice isn’t going to wow you.  To choose my wedding photographer I did the same thing I suggest everyone does.  I looked at portfolios for a style I admired and pictured for my own wedding, compared packages to stay within my budget, and talked to photographers on the phone to get a feel for if we would work well together and how they answered my questions.  And my questions really weren’t any different from anyone else’s questions: Can I see your contract?  Can I see a full sample wedding?  What are your plans/packages?  How long have you been shooting weddings?  What are your emergency back-up plans if you get sick on the day of the wedding?  Etc.

Okay, I did ask what equipment they shoot on, but only out of curiosity.  And I mentioned upfront that I’m a fellow photographer, but let them know right away that I won’t be asking for the RAW files or anything crazy like that.

And I will admit that out of all of the wedding planning, choosing the photographer was the part I got the most “bridezilla” about and actually made a spreadsheet of photographers to contact and their basic info to compare.  And I actually contacted 18 different photographers.  But I swear, everything else in the wedding planning process was easy peasy– I bought the first dress I tried on and I can prove it.  I have witnesses.

But enough about that- let’s get to the fun part and look at some of the photos from the wedding!

ALL PHOTOS BELOW BY SALLY O’DONNELL OF SALLY O’DONNELL PHOTOGRAPHY

Thank you so much Sally for capturing our day exactly how we envisioned it!

MichelleGettingReady(92of218)Michelle(6of16) MichelleGettingReady(111of218) MichelleGettingReady(127of218) MichelleGettingReady(123of218) MichelleGettingReady(152of218) MichelleGettingReady(183of218)Joel(3of10)Joel(6of10)FirstLook-Ceremony(28of200)FirstLook-Ceremony(29of200)FirstLook-Ceremony(70of200)FirstLook-Ceremony(74of200)FirstLook-Ceremony(76of200)FirstLook-Ceremony(78of200)FirstLook-Ceremony(80of200)FirstLook-Ceremony(89of200)FirstLook-Ceremony(111of200)FirstLook-Ceremony(123of200)FirstLook-Ceremony(134of200)FirstLook-Ceremony(160of200)FirstLook-Ceremony(162of200)FirstLook-Ceremony(172of200)CoupleShots(11of29)CoupleShots(14of29)CoupleShots(10of29)Reception(1of200)Reception(16of200)Reception(45of200)Reception(54of200)Reception(88of200)Reception(98of200)Reception(101of200)Reception(116of200)Reception(109of200)Reception(129of200)Reception(71of200)Reception(196of200)Reception(194of200)Reception(199of200)Reception(154of200)Reception(161of200)ArtInstitute(1of1)-2ArtInstitute(7of83)ArtInstitute(49of83)ArtInstitute(44of83)ArtInstitute(38of83)ArtInstitute(40of83)ArtInstitute(56of83)ArtInstitute(63of83)ArtInstitute(71of83)

My life with a Shiba Inu

July 18, 2015 Published by . Leave your thoughts

Shiba Inu, headshot, portraitIf you’ve been to my home studio for photos, you were most likely greeted by a gentle sniff from a Shiba nose before my handshake. And before we started talking photos, we most likely covered the usual Shiba intros:
“what kind of dog is that?”
“he’s a Shiba Inu.”
“is this the breed that doesn’t bark?”
“that’s a Basenji. Shibas don’t bark that much though.”
“does he shed?”
“yes. I own stock in lint rollers.”

I’ve seen a lot of articles and blog posts written about the breed tendencies of Shiba Inus, and some of them warn against getting one more strongly than some warn about pitbulls. It troubles me to see the downsides of any breed being focused on, but I do understand why it’s done: if you’re considering getting a dog you do need to know what you’re getting into. And a lot of clients who ask me questions about my Shiba are filing the info away for their own dog search.

I figured it might be helpful to some if I shared what I’ve learned from living with a Shiba for the past 4 years. But I’m not going to list his traits as breed tendencies (though some of these things are so Shiba that other Shiba owners will let out a “oh yeah girl, amen to that”). I believe each dog is an individual. Breeds do have certain tendencies toward certain behaviors and temperaments as a whole, but dogs aren’t robots and you can’t expect them to act a certain way just because most other dogs in that breed act that way. For example, my Shiba barely barks, but I’ve met other Shibas who bark like it’s a neat little hobby.

IMG_6635_bSo let me introduce you to David Bowie the Dog, or Bowie for short. And like most dog owners my fiancée and I have given him a laundry list of nicknames he responds to, such as BooBoo, BoBo, Fuzzypants, Monkeyface, Chippychips, and Numbnuts. (Numbnuts is reserved for when he humps me to get his dinner or that one time he ate his own poo.) I love that dog more than just about most of the mammals I know and would give him my kidney if he needed one. I love how sometimes he’ll lightly poke my leg with his nose as he walks by, just to acknowledge my presence. And I love how his feet smell like cornchips, his snout smells like pancakes, and his breath always smells like bacon (except for that one time when he ate his own poo).

sheddyBowie sheds.
Shiba Inus are fuzzy, double coated dogs, which means he’s got a topcoat of brown fur, and an undercoat of soft, white fur, which keeps him warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The fuzzy undercoat is constantly turning over, and when the seasons change sometimes he can “blow his coat” and it comes off in huge chunks of fur every time you pet him. On average, I vacuum about twice a week if I want it to look like nothing furry sits on the couch. He is not hypoallergenic. A few people with dog allergies have sneezed on him.

Bowie is smart.
He was easy to train the basics- sit, down, speak, roll over, and stay. His best advanced trick is that he rings a bell when he has to go outside. But I’m hesitant to call it a trick… I think the things he’s learned can be put in two categories: tricks and communication. Tricks are the things he learned that if he does them when requested he’ll get a treat. And he freaking loves treats. Communication is the stuff that he learned he has a right to. He views himself as a clear member of the pack of mammals in the house and that the tall, hairless mammals will provide for his needs if he can communicate them. So he rings a bell when he wants to go out, he sits at my feet and lets out a soft bark when he wants dinner, and he paces in front of the stove when the chicken is done. (I don’t even use a kitchen timer anymore. He literally grabbed my shirtsleeve and started pulling me toward the kitchen once when some chicken boiling on the stove was done. If Lassie ever needs a stunt double on set we could just start boiling chicken.)IMG_5930
He also understands that the humans are mostly in charge and will stay in the house if the door opens or not jump out of the car until told it’s time to do so. This might blow some Shiba owners’ minds since Shibas are often lost because of their “door bolting” tendencies. When they see a door, they bolt. The first time a young 6 month old Bowie did that to me I put him through my own personal boot camp. Every time we went through a door I made him stop first, sit, look me in the eye, and wait until I crossed through the door and said “okay” before he could follow. It took us a long time to get out of the building, but it was worth it.
Also, like a lot of Shibas he doesn’t come when called. Most dogs come running to anyone kneeling with open arms saying “come here, boy!” Bowie just stares at you like you’re a moron.

snowed-24bBowie is independent.
I had a Giant Schnauzer as a kid and used to take her for jaunts around a park without a leash- she would disappear among some trees for a bit and I would just have to say her name quietly and she’d be right back at my side. If I tried to take Bowie for a walk anywhere without a leash he would completely ignore my calls, run toward something that smelled cool, get into a cab, and try to find Baconland. If we try to pet him when he’d rather be left alone he’ll tolerate it for a little while, then stand up, walk just out of arm’s reach, and lay down again. Shibas have been described as more cat-like than dog-like and for the most part it’s true with Bowie. Whenever he’s off doing his own thing or ignoring us we say he’s got a doggie agenda. Every so often he’ll snuggle on our laps, roll over for belly-rubs or do other things a yellow lab would do 50 times a day and we’ll stop everything and scream, “Look! Quick! He’s acting like a real dog!” But he’s still my shadow for the most part and sits at the foot of my chair when I’m at my desk working or will join us on the couch for Game of Thrones.

Bowie is skittish.
He loves meeting new people, but not in the way most dogs love meeting new people. Instead of excitedly jumping on them, barking, licking their faces, and sniffing crotches, he’s more likely to slowly investigate the new, tall, hairless mammal in his presence with some quiet sniffing. Out of instinct most people reach down to pet dogs when they’re being sniffed by them, but when a newbie goes to pat Bowie on the head he dodges the hand and backs off. Most people feel awful for scaring him and I have to explain that they shouldn’t take it personally. Like most Shibas he’s not aggressive when he doesn’t want to be pet, he just dodges it and backs off. Part of me thinks it’s some kind of con… he knows that humans will feel bad if they scare him, and when humans feel bad for a dog they’ll give him bacon. But another part of me has seen Bowie try to run away from floating plastic bags on the street, leap in the air when someone sneezes, and stop at the threshold of a doorway when carpeting turns to tile as if he thinks he can’t walk on the tile or his paws will burn off.IMG_5072
He’s especially terrified of children. I think it’s because they’re just like adults but a fraction of the size and they move very quickly and erratically so he can’t seem to figure them out. Which makes me feel like the biggest ogre on the planet when we’re out for a walk and an 8 year old asks to pet him and I say “you can try if you go slowly but he’s really shy and might run away,” which is exactly what happens. Since most dogs love kids and accept their hugs and pats on the head like manna from Heaven, when kids see a dog run from them like they have the plague they’re dumbfounded. There isn’t much out there more heartbreaking than the look on a young child’s face when a dog doesn’t want their snuggles.
But of course, not all Shibas are this skittish around children- many who grow up around them are used to them and play like normal dogs with them. Bowie just doesn’t have as much experience with them. But when he’s in the same room with kids for more than an hour I’ve seen him warm up and accept some gentle pettings and stop bolting to my legs and sitting on my feet for reassurance. One of my proudest moments with him was when we were in line at the AT&T store and a little girl hugged him and put her tiara on his head and he took it like a champ and didn’t move.
One of my least proudest moments with him was when he ate his own poo.

IMG_2809smallBowie doesn’t stink.
Again with the cat-like qualities, Bowie grooms himself incessantly. His fur is also kind of waterproof and it’s like trying to hose down a duck to give him a bath. Thankfully he only needs baths if he rolls around in something gross or goes for a swim in the lake. He can go months without a bath and still smell like roses, unlike most dogs that smell like, well, dogs. Also he HATES baths and having his nails trimmed and anything else that’s forced grooming. He does tolerate having his teeth brushed, however, because the doggie toothpaste tastes like chicken.

Bowie doesn’t bark.
Much. He does bark, but it’s not usually like an average dog bark that sounds like “ARF!” or “BARK!” or “RUFF!” It’s more like talking. He’ll let out a solid “ARF!” if there’s a knock at the door, but he’ll stop at one. It’s like he knows one bark is all he needs and he doesn’t have to keep repeating himself. Unless he’s hungry or wants to play, then he’ll keep making noise until he gets his way. During those moments instead of barking he does something closer to talking. Like “Aroo roo roo.”
10893659_10100591980809454_124642038_n_b

Bowie is a purebred. And a rescue dog.
I knew I wanted a Shiba Inu before getting one and I also knew there were plenty of breed-specific rescue associations out there filled to the brim with good dogs that needed good homes. A friend of mine knew she wanted a Dachshund and followed a Dachshund rescue for a few months until they got a dog that was perfect for her. I got lucky and checked out a local Shiba Inu rescue association at the exact moment they had Bowie up for adoption. He was 6 months old and in foster care for his shots and neutering, after being rescued from a puppy mill at 3 months old. The puppy mill was breeding puppies to sell in pet stores for Christmas and the puppies that don’t get bought by this mill would be destroyed if rescue associations wouldn’t step in to beg and plead to take them off their hands. (Actually let’s change that word “destroyed” and not sugar-coat it: the mill was known for taking puppies behind a shed and shooting them.)
I’ll never chastise anyone who goes to a reputable breeder because they want a specific type of dog because it’s not my place. But I will say that rescue dogs are the best dogs in the whole world. Especially when you can get a purebred or equally awesome mutt for a fraction of the price and he or she will already have all the necessary vaccinations and been spayed/neutered. And rescue groups who spend so much time, effort, and money to spring dogs from the klink who are literally on death row are absolute angels. I owe so much to the individuals at the group that nabbed Bowie who volunteer so much of their resources to save Shiba Inus from mills, city pounds, and step in to help Shiba owners who want to give up their dogs and make sure they get a loving home. Without them I wouldn’t have my Bowie and I can’t imagine life without his fuzzy little face.
IMG_5848

In a nutshell, I hope this better explains the Shiba Inu breed to those of you considering adding one to your family. I had a client come by for headshots a few months ago and she said she was looking for a dog that would fit in with her lifestyle and Bowie was so chill during the photo session she thought a Shiba would be perfect. But when I started to explain other parts of his personality her face sank a little- she was looking for a more snuggly dog that slept all day since she worked so much and couldn’t come home after a long day at work to a fetch-aholic. I told her to look into retired Greyhounds and she thought I was nuts, “they’re greyhounds! That’s so much energy, they run so fast!” I said, “not anymore!” A retired greyhound is usually only 2-3 years old and the laziest dog on the planet. They were bred for short bursts of energy and long periods of rest so they sleep like 22 hours out of the day and just want to lay on the couch with you and snuggle for their 2 hours spent awake.

But again, every dog is an individual and I’m sure someone out there is saying, “I’d love to finish reading this but my Greyhound is humping my leg for his dinner and running in circles trying to get me to play fetch.”