My name is Jenna Gates, and I’m the human traveling Ronon’s journey with him and telling his story.
“About Me & Ronon” Begins With Snickers
Before Ronon, my canine companion for almost 18 years was a black and tan Shiba Inu named Snickers. Snick changed my life in many ways, all for the better. I had grown up with dogs and horses, but he showed me the full potential of the human/animal bond.
Snick and I lived two blocks from Times Square for the first five years of his life. He went to meetups and training classes, played with his pals at the dog run every day, took long walks all over the city, partied hard at doggy daycare, had awesome dog walkers, visited a school to teach kids about doggies, went out to restaurants and bars, and even went to work at an investment bank on Fridays.
Rescue and Community Service with Snickers
Even though he came from a breeder, he got me involved in rescue. We adopted his first sister, Secret (RIP), when he was three years old and shortly thereafter started the original NYC Shiba Meetup, which led to the founding of NYC Shiba Rescue (NYCSR) in 2007. Over the years, we hosted foster siblings for NYCSR, Midwest Shiba Inu Rescue, Tupelo-Lee Humane Society (in Tupelo, MS), and a few independently as well. We also adopted two more sisters after Secret – Brandy (RIP) from NYCSR and Suzuki from the Young-Williams Animal Center in Knoxville, TN. (Zuki lives with my daughter now.)
Rescue wasn’t Snick’s only community service. Before starting NYCSR, he suckered me into volunteering to manage our community dog run in Hell’s Kitchen. A couple years later, he became a Delta Society therapy dog. We visited an elementary school together in NYC, an adult day care facility in Indiana, and a mental health facility in Mississippi. Apparently, part of Snick’s agenda was always to drag me out into the world of human interaction. In 2011, we met up with Troy Yocum and his dog Emmie in Alabama on their walk across the US to raise awareness of veteran suicide. Snick was so smitten with Emmie, that he threw a birthday “pawty” for her in NYC that raised several thousand dollars for Active Heroes. Emmie passed away in 2020, so Snick dedicated his 17th birthday to her and raised another $1,840.00 for Active Heroes online.
Snick retired from fostering and therapy dog work shortly before we moved to Philadelphia in 2015. We spent the last 6 years of his life taking long city walks and snuggling as much as possible.
And Then Came Ronon
About five months before Snickers passed away, I arranged to adopt Ronon. He was about one and a half years old and living in Alabama. I was hoping to bring him to Philly before Snick died. After spending about six weeks at a vet in Alabama, getting checked, dewormed, and neutered, Ronon was transported to Indiana to what was supposed to be very temporary foster care. He turned out to be SUCH A HANDFUL there though (busting out of crates, jumping fences, and being generally unmanageable) that we had to send him to a board and train for a couple months. When Snick died in September 2021, Ronon was still in Indiana. By then, I felt I couldn’t possibly have another dog any time soon. Unfortunately (or, fortunately?), I couldn’t find anyone else to adopt Ronon, so, in October he came to Philly.
Our first few months together were ridiculously difficult. Ronon wasn’t house trained at all when he arrived and couldn’t go more than a few hours without peeing. That didn’t go over so well in my Center City loft apartment. He was afraid of everything outside the apartment though, so taking him outside was a challenge as well. He was scared, stressed, and incredibly unhappy living in an urban environment. He didn’t trust me, and his training from the board and train didn’t seem to have stuck. I didn’t think we’d ever bond. In addition to grieving for Snickers, I had other difficult changes happening in my life as well. On top of everything else, Ronon had major separation anxiety and couldn’t be left alone when I needed to go to the office, but he was too anxious and afraid to go to doggie daycare.
I didn’t feel I had the fortitude or heart necessary to give Ronon a life that would work for him. A friend on Long Island offered to adopt him if I couldn’t make it work. In a last ditch effort to find some equilibrium, I moved to a much quieter neighborhood. At that point, we began slowly making progress together. We started obedience classes. He was accepted into a daycare/training program at a farm in Bucks County, so I was able to get to the office a couple times a week. Ronon’s confidence grew, and we finally began to bond.
Eight months later, he had made such stunning progress that I felt it needed to be documented, shared, and celebrated. I started this site to tell his story.