Immigrant Life: Taking Off the Cone of Shame

by Emily Kemme
Immigrant Life: Taking Off the Cone of Shame

Hi. My name is Moro. I am a Shiba Inu puppy.

There’s a meme that went viral on the Internet about another Shiba Inu like me, a dog they call “Doge.” The meme shows pictures of this yellow dog with lots of silly words scribbled all over it. At least, I think the scribbles are silly; Doge doesn’t speak in full sentences. If you want to talk like Doge, you only need to say two words: a subject or adjective, and “So” or “Much” or “Many” to modify it. “So wow.” “Much amaze.” “Many happy.” “So food.”

I’ve noticed Doge doesn’t talk like most of the humans I’ve met, and although I’m trying to learn how to communicate with you, speaking your language makes me anxious. But being a relatively new breed to America, you probably think I talk funny, no matter how much I try to get it right. I get sad when my words are misunderstood.

Sheba Inu learning to communicate

I am no different from you. I need warmth and security. And sometimes, I miss my old country, where I knew what the rules were and how to talk to people. But I want to live here with you and fit in. Photo: M. Kemme

For those of you who aren’t familiar with my breed of dog, I’m petite, originally from Japan, very fastidious and have a feisty personality. I don’t want to tell you too much yet — because I’m afraid you’ll pass judgment simply because I am not a dog breed you know. I worry that you might label me, or put me in a certain category. I am not a Golden Retriever. I am not an English Sheepdog. I am not Toto, the Cairn Terrier who has been immortalized in an iconic Hollywood movie. The AKC — American Kennel Club — only recognized my breed in 1992.

I have a respectable heritage as a hunter in my country, going back hundreds of years. My genetics nearly became extinct during WWII. My bloodline parents emigrated to the United States in 1954 with a family who served in the US military, but there is no record of Shiba Inu puppies here until 1979.

I want to tell you my story.

I was born on a farm in Pennsylvania to decent, simple dogs. My Mom and Dad (who tended to be aggressive and had to be chained up and no one could visit or talk to him) lived on the farm. There was a dirty farmhouse, with comfy, squishy humans who didn’t talk very much. There were acres of green grass to play on, and sweet smelling hay to lull me to sleep with my brothers and sisters. There were other really big animals that weren’t like me. Some made mooing noises and others whinnied and snorted a lot. And there were a couple of animals that didn’t eat like the rest of us. They ate liquid and breathed out smoke. A lot of smoke. They were noisier than the rest of us. But pretty much, it was quiet there, and I would have been content to stay there my entire life.

Except. There was this one morning. It changed my life.

Sheba Inu learning to communicate

This is one of my two humans. He smells very nice. Most of the time.

Three humans who talked very fast came to the farmhouse, and after they let me sniff their hands and I let them smooth my fur and hold me, they stuffed me into a dark container. To be fair, the container was lined with soft, fluffy padding. I could see they weren’t mean humans, but they were very, very busy. They never stopped moving. We got into one of the animals that eats liquid and bumped away from the farm.

In a few short hours, I learned that these animals that eat liquid are called “cars.” I also learned that trains go very fast and make me woozy as they sway along the tracks, and there are cars called “Taxis” that specialize in dodging through a sea of cars in the dark. They are the noisiest of all; as they weave through traffic, they make horns blare and sirens whine.

Sheba Inu learning to communicate

I’ve discovered I don’t care for trains all that much. But there are some things we must put up with to get from Point A to Point B.

Since I started out small, my humans like to stuff me in all sorts of carrying cases. I’ve stopped crying about that. I like being close to them, and even though they have no fur, they’re warm. They smell interesting, too.

Sheba Inu learning to communicate

Tight fit. Check. Zooming traffic all around. Check. My crazy human on a bicycle in Manhattan. You got it.

My humans believe it’s important I have playtime with others like me, so they take me to dog parks to socialize with other dogs. While that’s fine once in a while, I have the most fun when I can be in the same room with my humans. It doesn’t matter if they’re working. I always find something to keep me occupied. When humans are working, they are being serious. When they aren’t looking, I study their faces and how they talk with each other. I’ve learned how to imitate what their faces do when they speak with each other; I keep practicing and someday, I think they’ll understand what I’m trying to tell them — in their language. And I’ve noticed they’re calmer when I’m with them.

I also like their food. For some reason, they think because I’m a dog I should eat only food for dogs. I’m working to retrain them on that misconception. One of my humans makes really yummy smelling food. I think we’d all be much happier if we ate diverse foods.

But, they sure have a lot of rules.

One of the rules is about going to a cold, white place where they make you stand up on a high table and push their hands into your stomach. I didn’t want to look over the edge. What if I fell into the abyss and could never return? What if it was dark like the crate on the train? Or the sirens never stopped? I think about that and shiver, even in my dreams.

There was another dog who didn’t get it, either. I could see how worried he was. But I didn’t speak his language, so it was difficult to soothe him. And besides, I’m still learning the ropes. It’s important to keep adding to my knowledge base. I hope someday I’ll be able to tell other dogs I meet, “It’s okay. We need to go through these trying times if we want to fit in with the humans.”

Immigrant Life: Taking Off the Cone of Shame

Immigrant Life: Taking Off the Cone of Shame


Except, there are things the humans do to us to make us fit in their world that are humiliating. I don’t know if they understand it’s not just that I had to wear the plastic Cone of Shame. It was more that I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, and drooling on plastic made me feel sticky and uncomfortable. They asked me several times a day how I was feeling, but all they really wanted to hear was, “I’m fine.” It was probably safest to tell them that because if I told them the truth, they might take me back to the cold, white place and put me back up on the high table.

I felt singled out and different, more than I ever have. My humans tried to make me happy, but I wondered, during that awful week that I wore the Cone of Shame, if they did it to remind me that I’m not a human, that they don’t always understand me and perhaps, never will completely.

Shiba Inu learning to communicate

One of my humans gave me his baby blanket. I think it might be a nonverbal cue that he got it. Photo: J. Harrison Kemme

I think I like it here in this New York City of America. The noise can be energizing, like a subtle wave of human and dog emotions building together, interweaving to create a gigantic buzz of purpose. I want to play my part in it. I want to be one of the good guys, the guys I watch on TV with my human when he’s holding on to the little box with the colorful buttons.

I know I can do it. I’ll keep watching, listening, learning, thinking. And someday, the humans won’t think of me as different. I will be one with them.

Shiba Inu learning to communicate

I am Moro the SuperDog. I am going to save the world. Really. Truly. But my humans will help me do it. Photo: J. Harrison Kemme

Did you enjoy reading this? If so, please share! And thank you!

Award-winning author Emily Kemme writes about human nature, illuminating the everyday in a way that highlights its brilliance. Follow her on her blog, Feeding the Famished,, or on Twitter @EmFeedsYou . Life inspired. Vodka tempered.

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Sanjeet Veen November 28, 2016 - 11:56 pm

Dogs are the best friends to humans. A beautiful human animal relations is shown keep it up.

Lynne Hugo November 6, 2016 - 12:38 pm

What a sweet puppy! Thanks for the introduction to the breed. Fun to read about.

Emily Kemme November 7, 2016 - 10:19 am

Shiba Inu’s are wonderful animals! Very observant.

sooz November 14, 2016 - 9:18 am

I enjoyed it, Emily I sent it to some other “dog lovers.” sooz

David Forney November 6, 2016 - 10:59 am

Very nice, Emily! What a cool pup!

Anonymous November 5, 2016 - 7:50 am

I think this lovely story could be published into a children’s story

Emily Kemme November 5, 2016 - 10:35 am

Great idea! We’re thinking about doing that!


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