Rob's Blog Archive

December 4, 2011

Cameo Appearance










In “Seven Samurai,” Toshiro Mifune plays Kikuchiyo, an orphaned farmer’s son posing as a samurai.  Kikuchiyo is charming and clever, but has no training.  As the film progresses, he wins over the six true samurai with whom he fights.  He becomes the seventh Samurai.

Cameo probably has Siberian in her but is not a purebred.  Running on my team of racing stock Siberians, she’s kind of like Kikuchiyo fighting along side the Samurai.

Cameo was found a bit east of Missoula and turned over to the local Humane Society.  They spayed her, wormed her, and, after a bit, gave her a set of personality tests.  Cameo failed these and was classified as unadoptable.  The Humane Society was willing to sell her to a musher or give her to a rescue.  Otherwise, she was going to be euthanized.

Some local mushers who no longer owned kennels had learned about Cameo and went to check her out.  She was friendly and maybe a bit hyper, but seemed perfectly healthy for a two year old Siberian, something they figured she might be.  They knew I ran Sibes, hunted me down, and told me about her.  Since 2000, I’ve had at least some association with rescues.  Even when I moved to Montana, I planned to do at least a little rescue work.  Cameo fit the bill.

When I got to the Humane Society, they brought me to her.  The pup promptly jumped up to kiss me on the lips, a happy submissive gesture.  Everything I saw told me this was a healthy normal two year old, just like Sally and Maureen had said.  After this, I was shown a set of films depicting the aggressive behavior that caused her to fail the tests.  In the first, Cameo did growl as they were shoving a bowl she was eating out of back and forth, but it looked to me like “stop annoying me” more than food guarding.  In the latter, the dog’s body language is different and they usually bare their teeth too.  Cameo just continued to eat, perhaps with a bit more desperation.  The second showed her playing.  What struck me was how happy she was with a good tug of war.  Cameo had done this before.  The woman at the shelter said she saw Cameo’s tail in a dominant position, but I certainly didn’t.  There was supposed to be a growl in there too.  If there was it was a play growl that I automatically dismissed.  The final thing I had to do was sign a document stating that I understood that Cameo had jumped up to bite somebody in the face.  I was sure it was exactly what she had done to me, Maureen, and Sally, jump up and kiss us on the lips.      

A year and a half later, it is clear Cameo was a family dog, probably with a bunch of boys.  She’s the only dog in my kennel that really enjoys play fighting with me.  With this, she breaks off the combat every couple of minutes and kisses my face just to make sure I know she’s still submissive. 

I also think that she lived with one or more non-Siberian dogs.  Even on the first walk through the kennel, she liked the other dogs and they liked her.  Her only “flaw” was she easily made ten times more noise than anybody else.  Persistent threats to convert her face from wolf like to mastiff like, the pug conversion, along with telling her she’s a good dog in an affectionate and approving tone when she’s quiet and yelling at her with a harsh tone when she exceeds “the noise threshold,” seems to have worked.   Now, the Cameo to anybody else in my kennel noise ratio is merely a comfortable factor of two.  

I got her in the end of March, 2010, so it wasn’t until the following fall that I got to run her.  She’s done okay on short runs, though she’s never been a great puller.  On longer runs, she just gives up.  I don’t think it’s an issue of ability to keep up.  It’s just that that part of being a Siberian isn’t showing up.  There isn’t any work ethic.  Which is fine.  She enjoys the runs and I take her out as long as she doesn’t slow the team down. 

There’s a point in Seven Samurai where Kikuchiyo takes a baby from his dieing mother’s arms.  He screams out, “That was me!” and breaks down, crying.  Cameo lost her first family too, but like Kikuchiyo, she has a new one, only we are 22 rather than seven. 

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