Susan Anderson's Nami, a Shiba Inu (the dog's father is named Tsunami), has a seemingly innate ability to bond with autistic children and bring them out of their shells. Even more amazing is how Nami is seemingly drawn to autistic children. One day, at an airport in Seattle, Nami clearly became focused on a little girl, Anderson recalled.
Anderson, of Anchorage, AK, says simply, "Never sell what dogs know short."
Nami is also drawn to senior citizens. Anderson's mother was touched by this angel with four legs.
"Mom was intensive care over Christmas and was really out of it," says Anderson. "I think she recognized my voice, but was really uncommunicative, except that she repeatedly asked for Nami. So, the hospital allowed me to bring Nami into the intensive care unit. Immediately, (Mom) became responsive. I've seen Nami do this before, but this was my own mother. It was amazing. Soon, Mom began to insist that she'd get well so I could participate in Eukanuba (a dog show). In no time, she was sitting up and on the mend."
Still, being over 90, Anderson's mother is forgetful. "Nami goes around closing cabinets that she's left open," Anderson says with a laugh. "Nami even shuts the door behind her after she comes in from outside."
Nami's schedule is busier than that of most people. She participates in several dog sports. She's also a sort of mascot for a non-profit program called Job's Daughters, designed to help young girls develop skills and confidence. All this, plus she competes in dog shows, including the king of them all, Westminster.
"My message is that dogs are capable of so much if we challenge them to be all they can be," Anderson says.
As Sydney competed at Westminster, some handlers and breeders of Tibetan Terriers weren't only surprised by the dog's appearance. They were surprised that Sydney was alive and well.
About a year ago, in Maine, Sydney was attacked by a bobcat, which nearly tore off the dog's front left leg. Veterinarians at first doubted Sydney would survive.
"She lost so much blood that I didn't think she was going to make it to the vet office alive," recalled her misty-eyed co-owner, Brenda Algar, of Landenberg, PA. Although Sydney made it through surgery, there was still a question about whether or not her leg would have to be amputated. That possibility seemed certain after the pet developed a post-surgical infection.
Not only did Sydney overcome the infection, but within months was running and playing.
"People ask about the kind of rehab we did," Algar says. "She was such a fighter with so much heart. She just did it, and very quickly. She was in good condition in the first place, but still I can't explain it. I'm not sure anyone can."
Martha Stewart's 4-year-old Chow Chow, Genghis Khan, won Best in Breed. Not only was Genghis Khan named after the Asian warlord of yore, but he was named after Genghis Khan "the first," who tragically met his end in a 2009 kennel explosion and fire that also claimed the lives of 14 other dogs.
Trainer Victoria Stilwell, of Animal Planet's "It's Me or the Dog," who's known for rescuing shelter dogs, commented, "We can't ignore dog shows, For one thing, they're so popular. So, I say 'get on the boat.' I don't think the world is going to exist without pedigreed dogs. I don't think the world should exist without pedigreed dogs. I love pedigreed dogs as much as I love the mutt. If there is no responsible breeding, what will happen to the dog? But I am talking about breeding that must be responsible."
(Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column. Write to Steve at Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207. Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.