We are Marco and Nancy van Rattingen-Schenkhuizen, and since 2001 we have dogs. Marco and I are very fond of travelling and we have seen a lot of the world since we first met. Especially Asia (Thailand, Malaysia, Malaysian Borneo) and Central and Latin America (Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Peru, Bolivia, Chili) have fascinated us, because of the mix of culture and nature. Our last big trip was to New-Zealand, in the period December 2000-January 2001 and because we had seen so much of the world together, but also seperately (before I met Marco I had already visited countries like Indonesia, United States [California, Arizona, Nevada]. Egypt and Australia, not to mention the 'normal' trips within Europe. Marco has travelled to Canada, Malaysia and China for his work, where he actually had the chance to see something from the surroundings), we had reached a point of saturation after our return from New Zealand. The longing after a more homely life became very strong, especially because we had recently moved to Valkenburg aan de Geul, to a house with a view over farm land, country walks and beautiful scenery on walking distance. It is perfect for making long and less long walks, whatever you feel like. Also the location of the house was close enough to both of our jobs, so that we were able to go home during lunch time. For that was the condition we had set for ourselves, that if we would consider to take a dog, he or she should not be left alone all day. This is something everybody needs to decide for themselves, of course, but for us it has always been a restriction to get a dog. Also it stood firm in our mind, and Marco was and is even more firm in this as I am, that in case of vacation the dog would come along. A boarding house for dogs was out of the question. This has nothing to do with the quality of these boarding houses, because I am convinced that some of them have very high standards, and they will do anything to make the stay of their guests as pleasant as possible, but for us it is: either the dog can come along, or we do not go! Automatically this meant that travelling abroad (by plane) was no longer an option, but as we getting tired of that anyway, it was not such a problem.
So, the decision was taken, now the dog! For Marco it was quite simple: he wanted a Dobermann. This breed always has been the ultimate dog breed for him, so.......I could not imagine a better companion, he said to me. Honestly speaking, I was not so thrilled by the idea in the beginning. Unlike Marco, I was not used to having pets around. At home we were with 6 children, and my mother has always banned pets from the house, here in The Netherlands, because she was afraid that the care would end up with her. Apparently, she had experienced this in Indonesia, the country where my parents and brothers and sisters are born and bred. I, as their youngest child, was born in The Netherlands. In Indonesia the dogs were kept outside, which was not an option in our small home. And to take pet for inside, into a home where 8 people lived, apparently was not an option either. Only recently I learnt that my father, who already passed away unfortunately, was a little bit afraid of dogs, so I assume that was the main reason we never had one here. But OK, here I was with my wish for a dog, with absolutely no experience whatsoever in having one and a partner who need to have a Dobermann. This was a hard one to swallow for me, because I was not sure I could master the Dobey. Marco, however, had faith in me, he said:"You can do it!" and as I have a lot of faith in Marco, I joined him in his wish. He immediately started a search on the internet for breeders, because he was determined to have a Dobey before the end of the Summer, as per August 2001 the tails were no longer allowed to be bobbed (cropping of ears was already forbidden).
In the meantime an idea started to shape within my mind to have a smaller dog next to the Dobey, a dog for me. Because eventually the Dobey would listen to me, but it would still be Marco's dog. But what kind of dog would I want? We had once thought of a Jack Russel, a short legged body builder. I decided to read the dog encyclopedia and page for page I have read all there is to know about dog breeds, their features and characters. I came across dog breeds I had never heard of before, I compared the various encyclopedias with one another (the descriptions per book tended to vary, and also the pictures of the dog do not always give a clear image of what kind of dog we are talking about). In the meantime I dreamt of all kinds of dog breeds, and one day I said to Marco:"What do you thinkof this one?" I showed him a picture of a Shiba (never heard of it before, left alone I had seen one for real!). It is a japanese breed and he resembles the most a polar dog (thick coat, curly tail, pointy ears) in a red-brown colour. Withers height is abt 40 cm (knee high as I would call it, but that is a bit treacherous, as I am only 1.52 m tall, so one is always inclined to ask:"Your knee or mine?"), an agreeable size, dark alert eyes a little bit slanting, but foremost an agreeable character. Not too wild, still in for action, does not bark a lot, so in short, it suited me. Also Marco was very positive about the whole idea, so that was good! But still, I did not intend to get myself a dog I had never seen in real life before, so how do you go about such a thing? Accidentally, I had read in one of the dog magazines that there would be a dog show in Eindhoven later that month. So we went there. Luckily, we read in the catalogue that a number of Shiba's would be shown. Curiously we went looking for them. Once we found them, we were so enthousiastic: they were even more beautiful and cute than in the pictures! We started talking to one of the breeders present (Wilma van der Meer of Mara-Shimas), who invited us for a visit. And that was the beginning of our Shiba mania.
With Wilma we ended up on a waiting list, because naturally there were more people interested. She could not tell us yet, when it would be our turn, as that depended on our preference and the number of puppies to be born. We enlisted for a red male (because Katsu, her red champion dog stole our heart) and secondly for a sesame male. Summer passed and we heard nothing. In the meantime the Dobermann arrived, we picked him up on the 1st of July (it happened to be our wedding anniversary). This was such a treat! He could walk underneath our coffeetable, and that while we knew he would become a very big Dobermann (Dobeys from the line of Van Stevinhage are always a bit bigger than the standard of the breed describes, so we are told). We called him Bruce, after Bruce Lee, and Bruce was the most adorable puppy I could imagine. Neither I could imagine ever being afraid of him, because although naturally he would grow up to be a big dog, it was already so apparent that there was not a shred of evil in him. He was so trusting towards us, I immediately threw overboard all my prejudices with regards to 'big black dogs'.
In the meantime Marco did not sit still, and surfed the internet for more Shiba information. Mid October he announced enthousiastically that he had found a breeder with a litter of 5 puppies in following constellation: red 1 bitch, black and tan 1 bitch / 1 male, red-sesame also 1 bith/ 1 male! So it contained our preference! He had already taken the liberty to make contact and made an appointment to go look at the puppies. Oh my god, how exciting, because the impression was made that we could take him with us. And indeed, end October we went to look at him and that evening I had my first Shiba at home! It was an impulsive buy, as I was still enlisted with Wilma, but the waiting was really hard and I just had to have this puppy. We called him Brandon, after the son of Bruce Lee, and we took him into our hearts immediately. He was a bit of a softy in the beginning, especially if you compared him to Bruce, who had no fear of anybody or anything, and was very tough on himself (no pain). Brandon clearly was cut from a different kind of wood, but we soon realised he was the greatest actor! Especially with me he soon figured out I was more sensitive to the fact he had hurt himself, or I would sooner hold him comforting him....yes, he knew how to get my attention, until I figured out he was playing me! He really could squeek very pathetically, while there was nothing going on. He did not do this to Marco, but he did it to me. For me it was quite an experience to witness that a dog can be like a child, and knows d... well what he can do with whom.
I had created a sort of a problem for myself, by getting a puppy with another breeder. Now I am not the person not to keep a promiss. So I was checked out Marco carefully, how he would feel about the idea of adjusting my deal with Wilma: no male, but a bitch.... Where there are two dogs, could fit a third, no? Marco, who adored Brandon, was not acting difficult at all, so that is what we did. Wilma's reaction was pretty cool too, only she still did not know when it would be my turn to have my red bitch. Until on Christmasday I received a telephone call from Wilma: Maku had given birth to 4 puppies, 2 males and 2 females, on Christmaseve. The father was Katsu (my favourite) and Wilma never had a litter of which the colour was so beautifully even red. And one bitch was for me! I had the best Christmas ever! And on the 14th of February (Valentinesday) we were allowed to pick up our little girl, how cute she was! She was so tiny, she could fit in Marco's hand! We called her BonBon, to continue the tradition we had (to have dog names that start with a B). And this is the story how it happened that we went from having no dog at all to three dogs in one year's time.