Monday, October 31, 2011

Holding the fort

 I've been away helping out with my friend Kasumi Suzuki's knit exhibition, so the only time I get with Claire is our morning walk. Tosh has been taking her out for the evening walk and sends me updates on the cell, which gives me something to enjoy on the long trip home.

Here she is literally pigging out on a pig's ear, which she crunches and scrunches on for about quarter of an hour before it's devoured. Tosh likes to give her treats, whereas I'm more inclined to go out for yet another walk... 

After that they go wild with the toys, and Claire is quite good at catching them in midair when tossed. She seems to prefer playing inside, rather than running around after them in the garden for some reason.

You can really see she's happy and comfy when you look at the bedroom shots...there she is replete and snuggling in like a baby:

 Granma is having an operation tomorrow and she was kind of anxious, but asked after Claire, so I showed her the pictures. What a lucky dog, so happy, totally accepted in the family circle, she said. Our wee Claire.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ninja Claire

Claire using the trees as cover to stalk pigeons on our morning walk. While other dogs are chasing balls and frisbees, she's focused on birrrrrd.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Explorer Claire

I had smoke coming out of my ears, my brain was overheating with the preparations for my courses tomorrow, so I decided to have a change of pace and go for a walk with Claire.

Much to my disappointment over the weekend, the famous Yokohama Sankeien park with its old Kyoto style buildings, arching bridges over ponds and pagodas is banned to dogs, so today I decided to take some pics of Claire at Santonodai, the Jomon era wattle and daub roofed huts dug circular in the ground. We walked over, only to be advised that dogs were not allowed in the park, but if I tied her up at the gate I could go in...I know it's fun, I've been many times with guests and the kids virtually grew up playing around there...but not without my darling dog, oh no!

So we decided to carry on home using a circular route, until we got to the elementary school.  And then I took a left up some steps, rather than going back on down the hill, and realized I was going places I had never been before!

First we came out at on the crest or a hill with a fantastic view over the sea and the port, which I'll take some time with a decent camera. As we walked on down the hill there were nooks and crannies with hidden vistas of Japan: two separate statues of OJizosan, who stands along paths all over Japan giving solace and support. 大地が全ての命を育む力を蔵するように、苦悩の人々をその無限の大慈悲の心で包み込み、救う所から名付けられたとされる。一般的には「子供の守り神」として信じられており、よく子供が喜ぶお菓子が供えられている。
And then further down the hill a tiny shinto shrine, pretty dilapidated but ever so quaint, and evidently still much in use by the locals judging by the pink plastic dustpan stored at its foot. I'm getting a shot of the Spirited Away-style bathhouse another time, today Claire was lost in the shadow as i snapped, and then my cellphone ran out of batteries...
All in all I was pleasantly surprised by our walk, having been under the misguided impression I knew our area inside out- relieved to have Claire's reassuring company discovering new paths, and grateful for the incentive to explore.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Getting closer

 Get a load of me and Claire happy in the Shinrinpark...there was a crowd of kids playing while their Mums picniced, a wind section practicing (quite good, actually) and an Irish Wolfhound (for real, with an amazing long dangling tail) walking by with its Mum: the park was full of fascinating, distracting sights and sounds.

This lady here was too focused on what the ducks were doing to pose for pictures, so I decided to get in closer for a twosome...and I like the one of me leaning up close to her, making a nice flow of lines together.

Emboldened by my success I got impish, and while Claire continues to look fantastic I am rather taken aback at my tired features (I was working on my classes all morning through lunchtime), but nevertheless, I had fun! Winged god Hermes, Cartoon Scooby Doo, Stitch, or Dumbo? Take your pick.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Edokomon Claire

 As I've probably mentioned before, I love wearing kimonos, and it's kind of boring if they're too good for walkies with Claire. I want the best of both worlds, kimono and dog, and today I'm wearing a hand-me-down Edokomon which fits the bill perfectly. 

Ordinarily Edokomon are great for visits to art galleries, a day out shopping or an evening cocktail party or jazz event, since they're chic and stylish. However, they're so genteel they can even be worn to tea ceremony or weddings, so they are both elegant and versatile. Too good for time out with the dog even, only this baby is second hand, already used to wear and tear, so if the lead runs across it or Claire brushes up it won't mind, just happy to be worn and appreciated again...
  -and just the right chrysanthemum pattern for the autumn. Quite an unusual pattern, intricate and enthralling, beautiful and graceful, a rare gem of a kimono indeed. The craftsmanship going into these Edokomon is fantastic: first, artists create specialized stencil sheets, then craftspeople strengthen them with threads, and finally the dye specialist dyes them on the silk fabric, moving the block for each section and taking great care to leave no blurred lines where sections join. Apparently now the skills are dying out, although computer printing is now available to make a perfect Edokomon easily...although they lack the warmth of the handmade pieces. Claire and Mum in an autumn mood together, back from a walk in the park where we were showered with admiring and generous compliments from passers by.

Claire at Play

I must have taken about twenty photos as we played and they're all duds. I love her play bow: how it works is I throw something and she jumps to either catch it in the air or picks it up to toss in the air again herself. The more the merrier, and the carpet ends up strewn with the whole contents of the toy bag...she's hoarding three toys, a stuffed duck, the tartan ribbon, and the bambi between her forepaws at the same time, before I distract her with something new.
"If you think dogs can't count, try putting three dog biscuits in your pocket and then giving Fido only two of them." Phil Pastoret

Friday, October 21, 2011

Doggie poetry

He puts his cheek against mine
and makes small, expressive sounds.
And when I'm awake, or awake enough

he turns upside down, his four paws
in the air
and his eyes dark and fervent.

Tell me you love me, he says.

Tell me again.

Could there be a sweeter arrangement?
Over and over
he gets to ask it.
I get to tell.

Mary Oliver

Mouth agape

The convenience of the high trees!
The air's buoyancy and the sun's ray
Are of advantage to me;
And the earth's face upward for my inspection.
  (Hawk Roosting:Ted Hughes)

Thursday, October 20, 2011


 Half way through our run in the park I sit down and slip the long lead over my foot, letting Claire wander off the full 10m length, and then call her back: here! Even though I've not been practicing our doggie obedience with any fervor this week, it's a wee moment to remind her. I picked some burrs out of her coat to point out that I have my reasons when I call.
 She's generally getting the message and I reinforce positively with a tidbit of dried liver which I carry in my wee doggie waistpouch for these training occasions. The good thing is today's Thursday, and our obedience class. It's hard getting up early for walkies and switching on active peppy working mode the day after my long haul in Tokyo, but it's worth it: Claire's happy that I'm happy, and it's mutual positive reinforcement. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Environmentally sustainable pets?

I'm teaching a course on Environmental Economics, and it always makes me wonder about sustainable issues...a pet dog is really a luxury afforded by our so-called developed nations, and many of the problems with dogs are a result of that switch to luxury life. Lez Graham (2010) in her book 'The Pet Gundog" talks about the issue:

 "...I was seeing [such an amount of gundogs] as a Canine Behavior Practitioner that were intelligent and eager to please and yet were totally dominating their owners and destroying the home - why? Basically, because they were bored out of their minds.
Here were thewe wonderful creatures that had been bred, generation after generation, to work alongside man, doing his bidding and flushing, pointing at and retrieving his lunch. Instead of doing work they were bred for they were being forced into sedentary lives, being screamed at for picking up the remote control and banished to the garden to amuse themselves. There's just no getting away from it, dogs over millenia have been bred to work;...that's a working dog you've got sharing your living room." (p.1)

Plus Claire being an English setter is a non-indigenous species here in Japan...Although since she's been neutered she's a non-breeding non-native species, which may be a little more acceptable. Rescuing dogs is maybe the luxurious tip of the iceberg in  addressing the biological destruction afforded by our consumer lifestyle. ...Think big, act small? least increasing the sum of real happiness in her life and ours is positive and life-sustaining in this local environment. A short term fix? Or karmic redemption? Or just Claire with a slice of family bliss, and play with me Mummy instead of ruminating.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Autumn Glory


Mum is busy with university work, and Claire sits close by bored as I type and think and scrabble around with my's going to be another of those days, she sighs, dreaming of seagulls or pigeons or exciting dog cafes...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fashion Show Claire

Handknit by a local grannie

Moth eaten Burberry with Harris Tweed patches

Tennocho Craftshop Handwoven Silk/Wool Scarf

Kasumi Suzuki student's hand-crocheted Victorian-style scarf

Tasmanian Beanie

Friday, October 14, 2011


I've been too busy to blog, a whirlwind of commitments and capers. After obedience training Claire and I stopped by at Vegie's house to pick up some clothes his Mum was handing down to me...beautiful fabrics and designs, lots to wear this autumn, I am really pleased. She was so kind as to make me lunch, too, and I admired her collection of bone china and venetian glass. Claire was after their cat in a quiet way, so we closed the door on the room with the cat and asked Vegie and Claire politely to sit under the table and on the rug by the door respectively- they were really good.
I was so busy talking and having fun I forgot to take pictures! So here are two from the obedience training, "Wait". Dodo sensei changed the venue to get Claire used to the idea of being obedient in various different locations, and not to get distracted.  I'm really proud of the increased separation distance and time she can wait. After asking her to wait when you're visible, you walk round behind the dog and finish up at her side: isn't she a good girl, in spite of the tantalizing view of the pigeon park.
And then today I am proudly wearing the striped top Vegie's Mum gave me, and off to the Bayside Marina to visit another friend. I let Claire run free on the boardwalk and she went hell for leather right up to the end and without my realizing must have jumped right in after the seagulls. I was chatting and naively didn't go with her, thinking there was nowhere for her to disappear to...and after a bit, I called...she didn't come back, even with two women tweeting and chirping after her, so I thought I'd go and reinforce "Here" with some owner presence...only to find her swimming in the sea! Aghast, I grabbed her lifejacket (thank God she had one on) and pulled her out, and she seemed quite unfazed by it all. I then had to wash her down with fresh water, and she continued to career wildly along  the gangplanks getting great exercise chasing the seagulls.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pointing dog

"The basic rule of dog training is repetition, repetition, repetition, plus common sense. One nail at a time will build a house. Repetition will eventually produce a well trained dog....Bear in mind, too, that every dog being trained is looking for what I call an escape hatch. ...You have given your puppy a workout and are bringing him back to the car. Suddenly he circles the car, maybe giving you a quick look, and takes off to hunt some more....Dogs are like children. You tell your kids to go to bed. They start, but then decide that they need a glass of water, or something to eat, or to do their homework. That is their escape hatch. With dogs, as with children, firm insistence will bring recognition of the fact that it is your wishes, not theirs, that must be obeyed." Paul Long (2005) Training Pointing Dogs 2nd. ed. The Lyons Press
I guess I am a bit of an easy going parent, asking to be disobeyed! Training day today with Claire, and this week, contrary to the basic rule of dog training, I was sidetracked by this, that and the other instead of reinforcing our training targets every day...Ah well, as Long says: "Frankly, it's your dog. You bought him for your pleasure. If you are not successful, who cares except you?"- and so, since I do care, as he rightly divined, we will ask Dodo sensei to put us back on the right track again today. Tally ho!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Morning chew

 I've recently discovered new treats for Claire, horse tendons. She likes turkey tendons, but they're gone in a twinkling, and I had run out, so I popped by the pet shop on my way to work last week: they didn't have turkey, but they had horse, so I thought I'd give it a try. The Achilles tendons are long sticks, a bit like a shoe horn, and when she chews on it the tendon gets progressively softer and presumably more delicious. It's a fun social treat, and my son enjoys a moment lazing on the carpet helping her chew. Although it's rather expensive at 200 yen per stick, it lasts for about twenty minutes to half an hour, so it's worth it. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Cobweb Hunter

I completely forgot it was a public holiday Monday, had my early walk, made breakfast and woke everyone, only to get resoundingly scolded by my irate family...then I sat down at the computer to prepare my courses, with Wednesday just around the corner. Around two I felt repentant about shortening Claire's morning walk to start work, and took a break, driving to the Shinrin Park - only this is Japan, and on public holidays every venue is overcrowded...when we got to the parking area it was full, and the attendant asked if I really wanted to queue, it might take around forty minutes to get in...but having got that far, with Claire getting excited with whiffs of the autumn air, I decided to wait, the two of us with windows wound down and Camila on loud in stereo sound.  

Fortunately the ten cars in front of us moved through the gate at a steady pace as people left the park, and finally it was our turn, after only twenty minutes or so. Claire knows the way, through the horse museum and down to the big park, and made a bee line for the lake...I didn't fancy letting her go wild in there with all the people around, so I coaxed her away, circling the pond to double back to the museum and go in the opposite direction.

 The park has a truly natural feel even though it's restored from land which was used as a racetrack. We skirted the perimeter, sticking to the small coppices rather than the paths, and I thought I would rename Claire Tree Winder, the many times she got the long leash wrapped around the trees, or Cobweb Hunter for the times I had to break through webs in her wake. Apparently there's a new spider silk fabric coming out sometime soon, but I know the feel already on my face! I was building up a sweat as we dashed around, and Claire was zinging in wide circles on the leash with wild excitement after she found a pigeon and it flew away. Claire's energy reminds me of fireworks, she soars higher and higher, getting more and more energy as she runs, and then for an incredible moment it stops, seems to disappear as she sets on the pigeon, and then explodes in a passionate burst of frenzied energy. I finally got tired and slipped, tumbling down the bank of wet, dark humus near the US army fence, and decided to call it a day. We slunk home, both of us muddy and exausted and intensely satisfied.

Monday, October 10, 2011


 I've had a really busy weekend, and been unable to be with Claire much, except for our morning walks, breakfast and hanging out the this morning Claire is extra smoochy, telling me she's missed me. She seldom offers me her belly to rub, but this morning things are different: she's draped across the floor in alluring poses and seducing me with loving looks. Meanwhile the backload of washing up, hoovering, water for the salamanders, taking out the trash and all the other chores that have piled up in my absence are waiting to be tackled, not to mention preparing for my Wednesday courses, so I skipped radio calisthenics, shortened our usual run, and now Claire is going to have to spend a morning sleeping on the carpet, I'm afraid.