North American Kai Association

Hero Emily


i believe i had a kai ken/shepherd mix, but we never knew what she was until I recently found images and information on the internet, and videos on youtube through this group.

i am writing at a time when i've just lost my best friend of 14 years. she was the sunlight in my day each and every day, and the best pup in the world (to me of course). I wanted to share our story. I hope you'll indulge me.

14 years ago I was visiting home and walking my parents German Shepherd, a very sweet natured runt of the litter who turned out to be 120lbs! along the walk I noticed a little black dog running around us, herding us almost, at speeds I didn't think were possible. I was fearful at first, but realized though she looked wild, she just wanted to be closer to us. I think the good natured shepherd attracted her and she was always attracted to shepherds.

I asked my neighbors about her and they said she'd been running the neighborhood for several days and they'd left food out for her but no one took her in or had seen any signs for a 'lost dog'. The next day, my mom and i saw her again playing in our neighbors lily pond. She was timid around us, but i brought out some wet cat food- an addiction she never gave up- and lured her into the house. She seemed afraid of nearly everything, except me, and the shepherd. She was then about 30 lbs, a beautiful ball of fluff and with the sweetest face i'd ever seen. The first vet I took her too said she was about 6 months old and a chow mix because of her coat. I didn't think there was anything chow about her, but once he labeled her chow mix- every vet after that assumed she was chow.

Lily was the perfect dog around me, but anything new and different, anything overly stimulating or new people approaching her would cause her to cower in fear. she was never a biter- she wouldn't even bark, she would just hide. I assumed she'd been mistreated and several trainers told me that she wouldn't do well in classes because she was too afraid of the other people. So i trained her myself with love and patience. I could stand across the room and look at her, and point in just a certain way and she'd sit or lay down, depending on the command. she did it all without food incentive even, she was just very smart. Ofcourse, this would all go out the window on walks. a baby stroller on the sidewalk would cause her to panic and try to run away from it. And because she was so cute, everyone wanted to approach her. I read that you can remove the fear through a process of 'flooding' -exposing the dog in a positive way to the stimulus they are afraid of, so I would sit in the square near my house for hours with her, sometimes all day, letting people go by, carts, motorcycles, anything. if someone tried to approach her, she would cower, but i would ask them to follow through and pet her explaining that they'd reinforce her belief that cowering away would stop the source of the fear if they didn't. so many nervous strangers had to pet a scared dog : ) we took her everywhere with us, every trip in the car, every walk to the corner store, but, it never really made a difference once she was confronted with something new or scary. I suppose i wish i'd had the internet then, or cesar milan the dog whisperer to help me with her, but i did the best i could on my own, and she would warm up to people once she saw them enough.

there were strange and mysterious things about her personality I never made sense of until reading about kai kens. She could jump like no other dog, she could even climb. I once saw her climbing the back chain fence- like a bear to get into the neighbors yard. We could never have her off leash because she was lightning fast and would most certainly have caught a squirrel by the time i could catch up with her on those few occasions she got loose. She had a sort of bent tail, it didn't curl, but never was straight and i thought maybe it had been injured before she came to me. She also seemed to have two coats of fur, and she'd shed huge amounts of an outter coat that was more stiff- but not shepherd like or wirey, and have this puppy soft fur that made strangers ask me how old my puppy was even when she was 7-8 years old. She grew to be about 55 lbs and to me, looked like a short shepherd so I assumed she was some sort of australian shepherd, but her coat never really fit with that.

She was always good with our cats, and with other dogs, unless they tried to dominate her and she'd have none of that. My step sister had a male husky mix that tried his best to dominate her and eventually she bit him in the tongue and drew blood and he submitted to her from that point on. that was the only aggression I ever saw in her. In looking at the videos on youtube of kai kens, there is a dog Taro that she most resembles in appearance and personality. she loved water and would run like a crazy dog toward you, ferocious look in her eye, and run past you wagging her tail so proud of herself.

In the last 6 months, her hip dysplagia got progressively worse. She was on medecines and suppliments every day and it might have slowed the progression but in the end, she was having internal problems and started to go off her food, act very lethargic and have blood in her stool. The ramp i made for the steps stopped helping and i had to carry her outside to go to the bathroom, and help her up when she'd get stuck under a chair on the hardwood floor parts of the house. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do calling the compassionate care vet to come to the house and put her down. I so wanted one more day, one more day after, and even another day with her, but she was no longer the lovely happy active dog she once was, now with full grey beard and losing so much weight in the last year of her life. I made the decision when she stopped looking like my Lily, she would look back at me with a sullen empty expression that broke my heart.

About a week before I lost her, i found an image of a kaiken on the internet and found this group and links to videos and I was sending them to everyone who knew her and we all agreed she definitely had kaiken in her. I imagine now she was in a house where she wasnt socialized at all and she didn't get that early important socialization that would have made the difference to her life. But i gave her the best life she could have had, and loved her each and every moment she had with me. and in return she gave me 14 years of joy and love.

thank you for letting me share, Emily, proud mommy to Lily