Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Maioka Park

 We were invited to the Afghan hound rescue reunion  in Dog Hotel Woof by my friends Mariko and Rie, who offered me so much loving advice and support finding a dog to adopt. However, what with Granma's hip replacement we couldn't be sure we could go, and were both too tired to set up binding commitments, so instead after visiting Granma we went to a park I'd never been to before, close to the old people's home, Maioka Park. Having parked the car we walked across the overpass into the park, and were immediately stunned by the number of elderly people wandering around sporting professional looking cameras, tripods, and full hiking gear.
 After pausing to snap the camelias, now coming in season, we came into the maple grove, a vivid red, and realized that this was the reason for all the cameras (so we thought): a stupendously beautiful grove, where we attempted to calm Claire down enough to pose for a picture. In truth the delicious forest smell of the park was apparent even to my nose, earthy scents of mushrooms and leaves delighting the senses from the moment we parked the car. No wonder Claire was getting more and more animated, pulling at the leash and wanting to proceed, yes please right now, get snappy mummy.
After that we wandered on down a path that took our fancy (this being our first visit), and went through an open gate to walk on down the hill. On our left a group of students were researching bugs in the undergrowth, and as we turned a corner a fantastic vista of old Japan, with rice paddies and foliage, ditches and hayricks, greeted us. Claire's excitement could no longer be contained, she was in and out of the ditches, eager to explore, heady with the scents...

until a park ranger came up to us and said this was a protected area for wildlife, a research biotope, and Claire's presence and smell would disturb the animals. Hadn't we seen the sign at the gate? Oh dear, no, we said, and turned tail, walking up to the gate, where indeed the sign said no dogs.

We ended back up in the Japanese maple grove, and took a right instead, down the hill at Claire's suggestion: the path led on and on down the forest, with swamps and bamboo covered hillsides to left and right. Claire was pulling on the long lead, and it was all I could do to hold her back, but she knew right away this was going to get her to the pond at the other end of the restricted area, with all the birds and rural smells probably so familiar to her from her previous home and life.

Splosh, and she was in the pond, gulping the muddy water with thirst and aching to get at whatever ducks or birds it was that she could sense in the environs. Tosh came along behind snapping the scenery, but with Claire frantic and focused only on hunting she was hard to catch on film. We found another gate, a group of photographers inside snapping mud, so Tosh went to see what they were doing while i sat by the wayside with the lead wound round me and rested while Claire wrapped me up like a python, trying to get in the bamboo.
 Tosh came back and reported the mud stuff was actually some rare tiny birds...as in below, and then we discussed whether to turn back to the car park or wander on along the winding river valley below the pond. I was getting tired, but felt like exploring some more, so we walked on to some more fantastic rice paddies and hay ricks.

Once again Claire found something irresistible in the rice paddy, and after some photos I realized I was getting too tired to hold her in check any longer, and we doubled back to the car with Tosh abandoning photography in favor of restraining the dog... When we arrived back at the carpark we were both utterly exhausted, perhaps with the healing forest scents more than the work of holding back Claire, and we all ended up sleeping away the rest of the afternoon on the sofa...What a great day!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Family Sunday

Granma's hip replacement wounds are officially healed, but she had asked for various toiletries and some pain-killing gel to soothe acheing joints, so we dropped by for a visit. There's an area in the garden where you can sit enjoying the sun, and the three of us sat chatting while Claire looked longingly at the flower beds.
She's not interested in playing fetch with balls, so there's one less way of interacting with her for Granma to enjoy, but food is always a good communication tool. Unfortunately Claire was a little off color with the heartworm chew from the morning, and as we waited for Granma to come out of the facility (dogs are not allowed inside), she had copiously pooped with a rather soft stool...so at first she rejected Granma's food advances. However after Tosh took her for an exploratory walk to the top of the hill up some makeshift stairs in the hillside, she perked up and accepted some treats.
After a while Tosh took her up the hill again, not that there's anywhere to go, just a fence with a hole in it saying danger do not enter...but Claire was sniffing around the bamboo and crawled under the fence. As Tosh tried to pull her back, she turned, and the whole doggie harness slipped off, lead and all, and in a flash Claire was off exploring. Oblivious to all this I was chatting with Granma, until Tosh came back down the hill. "Where's Claire?" Granma and I echoed in one breath. "She's gone" he mumbled, forlornly, "she slipped the leash"...What, what, what? How on earth? So the two of us trudged back up the hill and started calling her frantically at the fence, listening for familiar rustles in the underbrush: no sound. Oh dear.
After what seemed like an eternity she reappeared with a grin, and Tosh held her while I slipped the harness on her again and tightened the buckles somewhat so that it wouldn't happen again...what an adventure, she grinned, I had the best time ever, nothing like a bit of freedom...Thank the lord she's got the sense to keep it short and come straight back to us, not going wild over some cat or bird and disappearing into the sunset...What with the relief, I didn't have the heart to be angry. What an impish lady she is, our Claire.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Duck Hunting

Claire has become a seasoned traveller...we jumped in the car to drive over for a quick run in Kuraki park, and Claire knows it's all about her and good things are coming. The sunshine had dulled, so we didn't stay in the park too long, but long enough for Claire to ignore the cat sitting by the pond in favor of the far more exciting ducks. The cat herself didn't know she had been rejected in favor of winged fare, and was on red alert as Claire walked by.

Unthinkable two months ago that Claire should just walk on by (although by now she's been hissed at enough times to get the message that cats don't want to play, and seems to let sleeping dogs, er, cats, lie). I was beginning to think I could add Kuraki park to our daily walk routine, or maybe at least a couple of times a week...until she finally found the brace of ducks, who swam away to the safety of an island in the pond:

Claire rushed hither and thither along the shore, and finally perched on the stone flag nearest to the island: she set up a rousing halloo which echoed round the park, and barked her heart out, yipping and whining and straining at the leash, tripping over her own paws to send out ripples across the water, perched longinly on the very edge of the stone. When the ducks finally flew up in the air with the palaver, she lunged forward and sideways, falling over her own feet and sploshing around in her urgency, quite the goofy wild duck hunter. Couldn't get pictures though...too busy trying to hold her back and calm her down...

Needless to say she is now showered off from all the pond mud and sleeping peacefully on the sofa...chameleon lady...

Yokohama vistas

Walking to Gumyouji there's a fantastic view over the city at the top of a flight of stairs. Personally I'm not a great fan of modern architecture, but I think the Yokohama skyline is really beautiful. I love the wavy curved lines of the Intercontinental and the Pan Pacific on down to the bay, as if waves are coming up against the pier of the Landmark. Claire's head is hiding all that, so I guess I'll have to try again some other time for a better angle. On the morning walk there are some great views of Mount Fuji too, particularly in the coming winter season when the air is clear, so perhaps I can build up to a vista series...

Friday, November 25, 2011

Soothing Hues

 There's something mellow about autumn, and everything looks softer. Claire has a feminine aura about her, and after taking photos it's hard to choose which ones are best. This time I've focused on close-ups, although it's hard to get the motion close ups I'd really like to snap, as with one of those slow motion cameras. When she runs the smooth coordination of her muscles and body alignment are a joy to behold, almost as though she's dancing with the autumn elements.

These snaps are taken in the Shinrin park, where I escaped from the drudgery of housewifery and family ties for a magic moment with Claire. She really wants to go careering down the mountain to the duck pond at the bottom, and since the lead has pulled her up short she's sniffing the air to check out the environment.

 I couldn't resist the sunbeams as she stood and gazed over the duckpond...the picture is taken into the sun, the overexposure giving it a faerie rainbow feel, almost as though she was standing by a Scottish loch with the bracken and rocks.

It's such a glorious day, the blue sky and trees are mirrored in the lake and Claire's coat is dappled with the shadows of the leaves in the warm sunshine. Meanwhile she's focused on a flock of ducks, almost twenty or so paddling around dabbling in the afternoon.

Chasing rainbows

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sofie and Claire

 ...on the right is snoozing Sofie, and below is Claire, not quite sure what to think...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hunting ducks

 All work and no play...so Claire and I went off to Kuraki Park for a late afternoon walk. I haven't been back for a while because there are so many cats and Claire goes wild on the leash, and I don't always feel like running berserk and untangling her leash over and over. But today she seems less overexcited about chasing things, smoother on her paces,
and she has discovered duck hunting, as oppose to just pigeons. As always at the entrance to the park she uses the natural cover of the tree trunks to take in the situation while hiding her presence.
What makes the walks so fantastic lately is the golden autumn sunshine, at its most glorious from three to four in the afternoon before it fades to evening. All the tints of the park are highlighted in the light.  I'm a really proud parent, Claire stands so straight and sprightly, full of bundled energy but very grounded. She was wagging her tail for most of the walk, enjoying herself to the utmost. Here she is below, startled at some scent or movement in the bushes.

It was all i could do to stop her diving straight into the lake to go after the ducks, and when we got to a shallow area with no fence she did make her way in up to her belly...but dried out soon with the good walk and exercise. It's hard to get her to stand still and face the camera, she's so intent on what's going on in the woods around.

 Paths where i completely lost control of her in the summer are now less verdant, and she is more willing to stay with me and not jump off the beaten tracks in such wild abandon. I really love these tiny tracks between water meadows, with all the reeds and rushes fading into autumn shades.
 When we got to the open space and the baseball diamond at the top we discovered they were doing construction work in one half of the park, and our usual route was closed off. Even in the wide space, Claire is intent on all that goes on around us.

 Time to go home, as the trees turns orange above the shaded hillside. I've got work and a dance class waiting, and Claire will warm the sofa waiting for me to come home and take her out for a teeny night walk before bedtime. Dreaming of duck hunting some more, I bet.

Monday, November 21, 2011


Claire looking apologetic, having peed on the carpet yesterday just after a rather late lunch...not that she didn't have access to the garden, and we were both home at the time, plus she had a great morning walk with lots of bowel movements...I washed the small carpet and hung it out in the sun, and soaked up the remaining pee on the big carpet with doggie sheets, sprayed with odour killer and wiped it down with disinfectant...No big deal, and no fuss about the incident, although Claire herself seemed most embarrassed. I was thinking perhaps she wanted a longer walk, what with being stuck in the house during the stormy weather, so we went for a longer walk locally. When we got back she had indeed perked up and looked her usual upbeat self. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

After the rain

Claire went wild in the woods this morning after the stress of short walks on a short leash in lashing rain and wind yesterday. She was quite scared of all the howling, banging and whistling noises around us as we climbed the hill in the dark at around six yesterday evening, taking advantage of a lull in the rain: the rain may have eased off, but the wind was stronger than ever. I felt very protective of her, and remembered what a friend had said about Claire only being a teeny kindergarten kid in terms of life experience: five years. In spite of having been let out into the garden at regular intervals during the day, she had turned tail and come straight back in out of the rain, so the evening walk was a necessity.

This morning the woody paths were still wet, and after her run she went straight in the shower for a total wash, including her face! See how white and fluffy she gets with the Luminosa shampoo. Now the two are settled on the sofa for a lazy Sunday morning...

Friday, November 18, 2011

Leopard Plant:Tsuwabuki

Leopard plant is a traditional Japanese garden flower blooming well in shade around October November, and it's the one spot of bright color in my garden right now. I can see it from my kitchen window as I work researching and studying, and the bright yellow is sun when the sun itself is in hiding on a dull drizzly day like this one. I'm surprised at the English name Leopard Plant for Tsuwabuki, since the leaves on my own plant are not spotted at all. The name Tsuwabuki is used a lot as a surname in Japanese anime and manga.

Claire is really good at sit, wait and down, wait after our lesson yesterday, when for the first time she was responding to my commands from a distance of about 3 meters. Dodo sensei praised her highly, saying that was a big step forward in obedience. It makes taking pics of her in the garden like this easy, although she's a little reluctant to face the camera.