Everyone likes an underdog story — so much the better if it actually involves a dog. Well, I'm a dog. I'll just say that first and get it out there so there isn't a big scandal later. I like to chase sticks and carry a once-stuffed, black squirrel (carcass) around in my mouth and when no one's looking I sneak into the kitty litter box looking for an after-dinner mint. It's all true. I'm sorry if my commas are in the wrong place and my noun-verb agreement is off. But I was educated on the streets.
I live in New York now, but I was born on the tough streets of Memphis. If you don't think Memphis is tough, then you haven't been there. In 2006 — the year I left — there were 149 homicides in the city alone. Almost 12,000 burglary reports, 33,600 larceny reports, close to 6,000 assaults and 409 reported rapes. And there are thousands of stray animals. They don't keep numbers for us.
Unlike New York, where in three years I've never seen a stray dog, back home you couldn't go a day without seeing at least one, maybe 12 strays. You'd see us digging through the trash, dodging cars — sometimes successfully, more often not — and you'd see us begging for a home. I got lucky. My mom and I sheltered behind a dumpster at an apartment complex one night and the next day there were humans trying to coax us out and giving us food and water. I'd never before met people who cared. To tell the truth, I don't actually remember ever meeting people before. I think I may have been born in the wild. I was however, terrified of human feet, so maybe not. Maybe thankfully, I just can't remember what happened to me as a pup.
I won't bore you with the details, but after a few days my mom was ready to move in with the humans. I was more hesitant and actually had to be cornered and picked up and carried in. That was the best thing to ever happen to me. Now I live with a loving human girl. I have my own bed and a full belly. I have toys and friends, a Sensei Cat, and most of all, I have love.
The funny thing is, no one in the South asks what "kind" of dog you are. They accept you as you are. They don't care if you're pure bred or a half-breed or a whole gumbo of breeds mixed together. What they care about is personality and if you are the kind of dog that bites or the kind of dog that demands belly rubs at all kinds of crazy hours.
But in New York every human I meet wants to know, "What breed is he?" Everyone here is breed obsessed. My human used to just say, "Oh he's a mutt." People didn't shun me for it, but I could see they were disappointed. Well, I've had enough.
Humans, I am NOT a mutt. Nor am I a beagle or a corgi or a shiba. I am Japanese Ninja Dog and I refuse to keep quiet any more. Just because Americans are ignorant of the breed, doesn't mean we should be kept on the sidelines of all the great dog shows. I watched those dogs at the Westminster Kennel Club show last week. And let me tell you something, I could kick all their butts! (I'd sniff them first, of course — I'm from the South and I wasn't raised to be rude. But in the end that silver bowl would be MINE!)
But I'm not allowed to compete because my breed isn't AKC recognized. Well I'm not taking it any more. I refused to be marginalized by a human society who refuses to accept what is different. I have a dream too. And my dream is to walk around that fake green floor at Madison Square Garden, tail held high and hear that announcer say, "The Japanese Ninja Dog is the oldest of the Japanese native breeds and was originally developed for hunting in the dense undergrowth surrounding Japan's ravines. Alert and agile with keen senses, he is also an excellent watchdog and companion. This is Japanese Ninja Dog, Number 9."
My dream is that we be given the chance to compete. That little Ninja Dogs everywhere knew they could grow up and one day be able to ring the opening bell on the stock market, light up the Empire State Building and hear the words Best In Show after their name.
And I'm using all of you to get that dream.