Inside the Shiba house

Odin and Nami are two famous pups

No matter what happens in the coming days, weeks or months, I can hazard a guess that Halifax landmarks will remain the same. Point Pleasant Park will still be a place of tranquil nature. The Killam Memorial Library shall retain all its grey and blocky lustre, and the Coburg Shibas will continue to keep watch.  

These Shiba Inus have become a fixture of Coburg Road. In a house right across from Dalhousie University’s Howe Hall, two — sometimes three — golden-coated pups smile away the days on a cushioned window seat. Pictures of the dogs are scattered across Halifax Instagram. They even were jokingly nominated for Dalhousie Student Union president by the Instagram account Dal Memes.  

The Dalhousie Gazette got inside access to these Halifamous dogs and their celebrity lifestyle.  

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Coburg shibas for DSU pres 2020 IG: @odinami6215

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A Shiba family 

Their names? Nami and Odin. Nami, 10 years old, is Odin’s mom. Her owner Daniel Smith says she’s a bit of a “recess monitor.” At the dog park, Smith says, “she stands around and makes sure no one’s having too much fun.” 

But Nami certainly had her glory days. She’s a five-time champion of the best in breed award at Canadian Kennel Club dog shows in Nova Scotia. 

“She’s very accomplished,” Smith’s partner Matt Havenga chimes in. Havenga says he’s more of a cat person, pointing to the svelte tabby who waltzes across the floor. The cat and the dogs keep to themselves. 

Smith and Havenga sit in their living room, across from the window seat where Odin and Nami spend much of their time. Odin is laying under the coffee table, his golden head resting against the rug.   

“He’s a bit of a mommy’s boy,” says Havenga. Odin was the only puppy in Nami’s fourth litter. He spends most waking minutes by his mother’s side.  

There’s another Shiba here as well. Smith’s brother Andrew is visiting for the evening and has brought his dog Loki (Odin’s cousin). Word on the street is Loki’s a bit of a renegade. 

But Odin and Nami? A mother son duo of goody-two-shoes nature. 

“They’re pretty atypical for Shibas,” Havenga says, giving Nami a hearty scratch on her downy neck. “They’re well-behaved.” 

Doggo adventures 

Having good manners doesn’t mean these dogs aren’t adventurous.  

Smith and Havenga relay the story of when Odin was accidentally let out of the backyard. Following his nose, Odin made it all the way across the Halifax peninsula to one of their friend’s houses. On the way, he was hit by a car, but he wasn’t injured.  

“It was pretty terrifying,” says Havenga.  

Odin and Nami are keen walkers. They have a dog-walker who comes over three times a week. On walks through Dalhousie’s campus, or around their neighbourhood where lots of families with young kids live, Nami and Odin have gotten used to the paparazzi.  

When the dogs are spotted, students will often yell, “They’re from the Shiba house!” or “Doge! Doge!” referring to the popular meme of a Shiba.  

“Odin just loves attention,” says Smith.   

But the way to Nami’s heart is to be as cool as she is — which is to say, as cool as a cucumber — and to not give her too much attention. 

“If you’re aloof like her, she’s interested in you,” says Smith. “You can’t be too eager.” 

When Smith and Havenga moved into their home about four years ago, Nami and Odin immediately headed to the window: a wide, high, three-paneled panorama of busy Coburg Road.  

After Smith renovated the space, a wide window seat was put in and soon became Shiba territory.  

Now, Smith says, “they spend all day there.” Their snouts peek over the sill to gaze at passersby or the camera lenses of students waiting at the bus stop across the road.  

Hardships and happiness 

Smith started an Instagram account for his canine stars to document their luxurious lifestyles. But the dogs’ day-to-day lives are not without trial.  

Odin grimaces as Havenga slides a new Baby Yoda costume over his ears. Odin stands still, eyes narrowed as the beige robe falls around his haunches.  

Nami, similarly, finds costumes tiresome. But she shines under the glow of living room lights in her multi-coloured unicorn suit.  

Havenga also says the dogs sometimes get the “Shiba shakes.” 

Crinkle a bag of chips, open a garbage bag or light fireworks too close, and Nami will freeze and shake in disgust. Lots of Shibas are the same.  

As I leave the Shiba house, the window seat is empty, lit up against the dark sky. But I know tomorrow afternoon, the Shibas will be there. 

Smith says Odin and Nami know their owners by sight. They can spot Smith and Havenga from a long way off. So, Odin and Nami will lay by the window every day, waiting to see their best friends come home. 

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Nami's name as Nomi. Sorry to Nami and her dads!

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