Yuki was born on June 6, 2009, part of a litter belonging to a breeder somewhere in central Virginia. According to his records, Yuki came into this world full of problems. Diagnosed almost immediately with hip displasia, and soon after that, a worm infestation.
It’s unknown if Yuki was the alpha of the litter, the runt, or somewhere in between, but he started life with health challenges that would only be there first items in a long list to develop over the following years such as nose and sinus problems, skin rashes, chronic ear infections, worsening hips and so on.
Yuki and his sister (the exact litter size is unknown to us) were adopted soon after birth by an individual from the Richmond, VA area. The owner was a professional photographer whose apparent specialty was creating stock movies that she sold to companies like Getty Images. They, in turn, would make the movies available to whomever needed a movie of kids and a puppy, or short movie of kids and puppies playing, to place behind their ad for whatever (there’s also plenty other shorts without dogs in them). Yuki and his sister (named “Neige” by their owner, both names meaning ‘snow’ in Japanese and French, respectively) appear in a number of Getty stock photos/snippets running down a beach, or playing in grass with children or getting a bath on a summer day. This is what we can piece together in regards to Yuki’s early life.
In the late summer of 2010 Yuki and Neige’s owner surrendered them to the Virginia German Shepherd Rescue organization, at the time based in Sterling, VA. We don’t really know the reasons for the surrender of the dogs, but speaking with the VGSR rep that accepted the dogs the owner was heartbroken to give them up She had given them a good home by all accounts and medical records, but life happens and we can only guess at the reasons.
During this time, we were dealing with loss in our family as well. Mom had lost her father and the family home was feeling empty. I had recently moved in with my dog, Archie, a Labrottie mix I had rescued from an animal shelter in 2005. We had been talking about getting another dog for some time, but other things had taken priority that year. Mom would peruse petfinder.com and research the dog rescue organizations in our area. Somewhere along the way she had become enamored with German Shepherds, and specifically white GSDs, a somewhat rarer find.
Mom found VGSR’s website along the way and would show me pictures of GSDs on an almost nightly basis. At one point she came across a white Shepherd the had just shown up for adoption. After talking it over we decided to contact VGSR about the possibility of adopting … Neige.
In a day, or so, VGSR informed us that Neige was no longer available and had been adopted. They also informed us that Neige’s brother, Yuki, was still available if we were interested. We looked again, and brought up the funny looking GSD to see what we thought.
Yuki didn’t have the sharp, stand-up ears of what we thought of as a “typical” GSD. his ears flopped on the side of his head like a lab whose ears were just too short to hug the side of their head. This gave him an odd “Llama-like” look that Mom came to adore. At times his right ear would flop over the top of his head like a silly looking too-small toupee. His right ear had a cut in it that is visible even in his puppy movies from Getty, so we can only guess what happened to that ear in his infancy. Behind his left ear was one spot of black hair. The only hair on his entire body that wasn’t snow-white. I often wondered if he had a touch of Dalmatian in him, but whatever caused it, it was a nice accent.
We met with Yuki’s foster Mom, who had been caring for Yuki on behalf of VGSR, one fall afternoon. She brought Yuki over to our house to meet Archie and to make sure they would get along. After a couple tense minutes of rough-and-tumble Archie, the more passive of the two, yielded and Yuki became leader. After that point they got along quite well. Yuki loved to play fetch all day long, a task Archie was frustratingly aloof about. That worked out great as there’d be no squabbling over tennis balls. Archie was the explorer who followed his nose wherever it led him, Yuki was, regardless of health issues, the athlete.
The foster Mom agreed that the dogs seemed to get along quite well, and we had been approved by VGSR to adopt following the obligatory applications, interviews and home inspections. The next step was what they termed the “sleepover” in which we’d take Yuki for a weekend and see how everyone got along. If, for some reason, it just didn’t work, we could give him back to VGSR no questions asked and try another adoption candidate.
When I went to pick up Yuki from his foster Dad I was surprised that they gave me all his paperwork, toys, food, treats, etc. The foster Mom told me days later that she knew Yuki wasn’t coming back, because he was such a good dog, so she wanted to give us all his “stuff” so we wouldn’t have to make a second trip after we decided to keep him.
Of course she was correct. We never had a second thought about keeping him. We even took Yuki and Archie to the groomers the day after we brought him home. After that, he and Archie spent the fall afternoon playing in the back yard. Chasing each other, play-fighting over sticks they’d find, etc. Yuki, in the way only Yuki could, also made it clear that weekend that he was “home”. Once he came into the house on the first day, he was comfortable enough to immediately hop up on the couch we had at the time, curl up and go to sleep. Just as if it was what he’d always done. He tucked his ears in and took a nap, also sending a message to Archie that the couch was now shared territory, if not actually Yuki’s, which Archie could borrow once in a blue moon.