I think we've gotten the Griffin question sorted out. I want to thank everyone who was kind enough to answer my emails:
Hokkaido Association of North America, also known as HANA, or "The HANA Project",
Sue Myles (A.K.A. "Auntie Sue"), the trainer who worked with me and Suzu and Koda when they first came into my life,
Kishu Ken-Nel, a site devoted to the oldest breed in Japan,and his first owner, Pam.
I found an excellent reference source on all Nihon-ken (Japanese dogs) at Japan Dog Export, via Shigeru Kato.
Here are the email threads, in chronological order, more or less. I put some of the emails together, so the threads would be more sensible than if they were left in strict chronological order.
This email is the start of the whole thing:
Just before last Christmas, I adopted Griffin, who was advertised as a Shiba Inu. He is white, with red ear points, and a tinge of red on his back and in his tail. He is also significantly larger than the other male I owned, who weighed in at about 26 pounds. When I took Grif in for his shots, he weighed in at 40#. While he is reserved, he is less so that what I am used to in Shibas. He actually has a habit of coming when called, which is not the behavior of the Shibas I've known (unless it involved food).
I'm just wondering if there is any way for me to resolve this interesting puzzle? My current best guess is that he is either a) a largish Shiba Inu, or b) a slightly smallish Hokkaido.
Thanks, Lee Webber
Sue was the first responder:
What about a Kishu Ken?Wow. This is sure interesting. He is not a Shiba or at least not like any I have ever seen.He isn't an Akita Inu or a Tosa Inu (which is good)Very very interesting. I bet there is a Japanese dog dog show judge that would be interested in this.how nice to hear from the town that has no Starbucks
I wrote back:
Heh. The "no Starbucks" came out when I was describing this town to a friend who's not from these parts. I'm damned sure he's not Shiba Inu. And I never would have suspected unless I'd gotten bored this morning and went looking for books. Yay random browsing.
I've got an e-mail into NAHA (North American Hokkaido A'ss'n) asking for some advice. If he is Hokkaido-Ken, he's extremely rare outside of Japan (I gather).
I've read of "Cream" Shibas, which aren't recognized by the AKC (their loss!) But size and temperament have pushed to the Ainu camp. He's ~= 18" at his shoulder (I measured), so... . I'll look up the other breeds just for grins.
And, keep you posted.
Enjoying the newsletter, by the way! Thanks!!
Then, a second thought:
But then, how did he wind up in the US??
The on "on alert" here is Grif's twin.
And a third thought:
The previous question was really affirmative. Sent a note off to the kishuken-nel.com folks. Maybe they can suggest resources up this-a-way.
To which Sure replied:
Few people would be more obsessive than this group.
And the a thought or two to the original addressees:
Had an e-mail conversation w/ Auntie Sue (Suzu & Koda's trainer), and she's not sure about Hokkaido. Further investigation makes me think Kishu-ken:
Japan Dog Export.com
If he is Kishu or Hokkaido, I find it sad that he's been neutered. They are rare breeds, and it would have been wonderful to bred him.
And, to the original addressees:
I'm sending this on to you all, because, as my day has progressed, this has gotten interestinger and interestinger! The web post has the bulk of it, but not all of the links.
Enjoy the story!
Then I sent this off to the folks who were involved in getting me connected to Grif:
I just wanted to bring you all up to date on Griffin. He doing quite well, and has fit in wonderfully. He likes to sleep by my bed for part of the night, but will *not* get up one it, not stay on it if I put him up there. I have finally been able to get him all current on his shots, and have had him chipped.
The main reason I'm writing is the new mystery that surrounds him. I was surprised that he weighed in at 40 pounds when he got his shots. That is *way* over the norm for a Shiba Inu. He's also a couple of inches outside of the normal height range for Shibas. His size, color and general behavior contra-indicate his being a Shiba. I'm going to refer you to a blog post I put up today for the long story, but the short version is that my research on Japanese breeds, and a discussion with my dog trainer friend, lead me to believe that Grif is not a Shiba, but a Kishu!
He is a wonderful addition to my household, and regardless of breed. I couldn't love him more!
I got this back from the adoption rep I worked with:
Thanks for the great update on Griffin. So happy he is so loved, no matter what he is, LOL. Very interesting article. Thanks again for keeping in contact and letting us all know things are well.Diane
Then I received this from the Kishu-ken group in Texas:
Hello Lee......thanks for visiting the website. Where did you get Griff? At first look he appears to be a large Shiba.....he is actually small for a male Kishu Ken which usually are closer to 50 lbs and 20 + inches. That's not to say there couldn't be a small Kishu.And the Kishu Ken is so rare in the U. S. it is hard to believe one would be in a "rescue" situation.
I cannot help but wonder if he could possibly be a white Jindo......Google "Jindo Dog" and look at the white ones. He could also be a mix of Shiba or Akita with some other "spitz" breed that gives him that look.
He is certainly beautiful, whatever he is. You may never know for sure what he is, but he looks like a great dog and that's what matters.
Carleen NewmanKishu Ken-nel
Sue had a thing to two to say about that:
jindo? hmmm.....since he seems to be such a nice dog.......that does not strike me as the right guess.There are quite a few jindos here in OC due to the Koreans, mostly up in the Fullerton and La habra area. The ones that I have known I would not get close to. I just stood in the house and looked at the dog in the back yard.But...no matter what his official breed this is a lucky dog to have you. And to know that he is such a sweet guy and can revel in his aged years.but this is an interesting journey to find out
I sent another email to Carleen:
Thanks for getting back to me about Grif! I got him just before Christmas last year, from a family the was splitting up and moving out of their house, and no one could have dogs where they were going. He had been neutered, but had not had his shots or been chipped. He had a bald patch down this right side, from mid back to his hip, from scraping himself on the bottom of the fence as he was getting out.
From what little I've read about Jindos, I doubt Griff is one - he'd not overly dominant, and seems to take to strangers quite well. But, I don't know if that's training, age, or temperament. He also looks "broader" than most of the Jindos I saw pictured. He has rib cage that is slightly wider than his shoulders. (See attached pic.) He does have some "Nihon-ken red" on his ears and tail. It is also notable on his back in the right light, but I don't think it matched the description of Jindo coloration. The info I found here:
http://japandogexport.com/breeds/kishu-ken/ is what leads me to think is is Kishu-ken. Which, as you say, raises the question of where he came from.
This is what I posted when I got him home: http://redlionwindow.blogspot.com/2014/12/say-hello-to-griffin.html
This a fun and interesting puzzle, and even if I don't get it resolved, it will not affect how I feel about him. He's just a great dog.
Thanks again, Lee
The new pictures show Griff better.....he does have a Kishu "look" about him......but he is smaller than most. No one in the family that had him knew anything about him? What did they say he was?.......or did they.
The Kishu Ken does have "apricot" ears tips sometimes and "apricot" down the back occasionally.
The Jindo has similar coloration.......and temperament-wise the Jindo is not always dominant and aggressive or aloof....they sometimes get a bad rap that way. I have had both breeds and actually they are very similar.
As you say....he's a great companion and you may never know. Good luck with him.
The last inbound emails I received were from the Hikkaido-ken organization:
you out look like you have a larger Shiba Inu. He looks all Shiba to me, and it isn't uncommon for the Shibas from pet stores/mill lines to be larger than average. He's a lucky puppy to be adopted!
...and from Grif's previous owner:
Aw, I'm so so glad to hear that all is well with you and Grif. He was sold to us as a pure bred Shiba, but that place later was known as very shady.Thank you so much for sharing and keeping me in the loop!!! Best Wishes to you and your 4 legged family
So, today, I started closing the loop:
Just following up on the Griffin question. I got an email from a Hokkaido breeder I pinged. His take is that Grif is most probably a Shiba, but from a puppy mill that wasn't too worried about conformance standards. Thus, his size is not (apparently) unusual. Cream is a non-standard color, so, I think I'm at "Grif is just a big Shiba".
...which led to this post!
And Griffin still doesn't care!