Thursday, October 25, 2012

Mum in Nasu

I took a couple of magazines and a good book to read during the evenings in Nasu, but the burrs kept me so busy every day, I was busy grooming my sweeties the whole time we weren't in the dog run :P The seeds cling so persistently to the fur, I have to pick them out one by one, all the while admiring their myriad shapes and ingenious ways of being picked up and carried.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Nobu in Nasu

Went for a short trip to Pension Olive the size of the dogrun is amazing, a football pitch or more, and Nobu and Claire were ecstatic. The place is gorgeous, nature in abundance, everyone friendly, the dogs enjoying the freedom, truly beautiful area of Japan, only three and a half hours away on the motorway up north. Definitely heading there again sometime in spring.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Omen

Tosh took this scary picture of Nobu and Claire lazing on the couch :) On a different note, there's a new book out by Jessica Pierce, The Last Walk: Reflections on our pets at the end of their lives, reviewed in the Economist, which talks about pet euthanasia and looks quite interesting. Having experienced Sofie's passing, and the agonizing gut wrenching spasms and vomiting she suffered as her kidneys packed up, the seemingly endless nights up at each bout of wretching to stroke her and hold her up, the cleaning and washing, I was on the verge of taking the euthanasia option when she passed away naturally after about two weeks of her ordeal, which was a great relief to me. I'd hate to think I had somehow robbed her of something, taking a life, however humane, is a great weight of responsibility, and I'd hate to think it was a decision I made because I copped out and couldn't bear to support her through the excruciating and tiring process. It's Uni of Chicago Press, but I'll not buy it unless it's paperback...

Monday, September 10, 2012

Muddy Claire

A walk in the park means Claire goes straight for the muddy stream or pond and splashes around, swimming if possible to get cool and comfy. Nobu is not so keen on getting his feet wet, so when we get home he heads straight for his dugout and lets me get on with showering down our little lady in peace :) I'm hoping this heat will let up soon, hiding in the shade of the house with the blinds down during the day is getting boring...fortunately there are TED talks to watch, and the net has so many opportunities for study...but the HEAT!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Drowsy Claire

 Home from the morning walk Claire and Nobu head straight for the shower, (a miracle, Nobu walks straight there from the door no fuss, all on his own now) and I rinse off their paws. Claire goes first while Nobu laps at a bowl of water waiting his turn, and then both settle down on the cool kitchen tiles to calm their pounding hearts and panting breath while I ready no time they're both peacefully asleep, dreaming of breakfast.

Friday, August 24, 2012


Even when she's snoozing, there's one sound that is guaranteed to get Claire growling: the sound of whistling :) I was listening to Flo Rida's new song, Whistle, and Claire growls and gently barks reprovingly...good song though. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Jewelled Orbs

A tiny hint of autumn in the air, the breeze stirring the chestnut leaves as Claire scans for pigeons, alert, but still carrying some of the dreamy heat of summer.

"You have thrown in your lot with us, through thick and thin, on battlefield and hearthrug, refusing to leave your master even when death and destruction lie around. Ah noble dog, you are the furry mirror in which we see our better selves reflected, man as he could be, unstained by war or ambition..." Connie Willis (1998) To Say Nothing of the Dog.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Nobu's dugout

As I succumb to the heat and languish in the air-conditioned room with Claire, the fans circulating air full blast, Nobu takes advantage of the cool earth he digs up behind the house,  seeming to prefer braving the mosquitos  in order to sleep outside. I'd prefer if he slept indoors with me and Claire, but then on the other hand it's good he feels at home enough to be able to do his own thing:
"Faithful and loyal and true, you share in our sorrows and rejoice with us in our triumphs, the truest friend we have ever known, a better friend than we deserve." Connie Willis (1998) To Say Nothing of the Dog

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Italian Restaurant Marc

 A chance acquaintance at my local dog cafe, Anjin, recommended Marc, a local Italian restaurant serving delicious Kamakura vegetables and great food. He said Nobu and Claire were so well behaved, it would be fun to have a meal out with them, and Marc, while not a dog cafe, provides some space for eating out with your dogs. When I called the restaurant, it turns out they only have two tables for dogs, one seating two with a hook next to the door, which is where we sat, and a couch area with a low table for four. They won't accept large dogs, or even small dogs who bark or are restless in the restaurant, and they were on the point of politely turning us away on the phone, when I insisted that setters are not large dogs, only medium size, and talked about how a regular had recommended we go, and pleaded just how well-behaved our babies are. Well, they said, we don't really have the space, but let's give it a try, and please don't be angry if this is the one and only time you may bring your dogs. 
 Persistence pays off, Nobu and Claire managed to curl up and make themselves really small under the table, plus they were quiet as a mouse, as is their wont, and we proceeded to enjoy a delicious meal: the entree was divine, with unusual vegetables cooked quite simply, but really making the most of each individual taste and shape. There was fish dipped in corn grits and deep fried, delicious. We both fancied pizza, so we haven't tried the pasta, but the cheese was the real thing, and the basil sauce and three types of spicy oil were delish. They kindly packaged up the extra pizza we couldn't manage for us to take home.

Tosh had fish, and I had the beef, which was again very simply cooked but just right to enjoy with the flavors of all the different vegetables, and then the dessert was awesome, watermelon ice-cream to die for, the cheesecake totally like home, and they made me a gorgeous latte to go with it. There was a once a month Kamakura vegie market happening outside, so I popped out and bought some watermelon, tomatoes, blueberries, aubergines and okra...meaning ratatouille tonight, after the lunchtime meal at Marc we were so full, we only had watermelon and nectarines for supper. We were a little nervous what with all this delicious fare, and so much wanting to be able to come again with the dogs, but fortunately the owner came over to our table after the meal and said hello to our sweeties, and gave us the thumbs up for coming again: just call in advance and say the Suzuki setters, he said.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Fashionista Claire

I love playing around with  Claire when she's lazing in the garden...and she takes it patiently, although her mind is more on what the cicadas are doing and whether any pigeons are around or whether the neighbors are out...These scarves are hand me downs or from recycle shops and they do look great on me, too :P I particularly like my Gucci sunglasses, which I found at Opal in the Isezaki Mall.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cicada Hunter

I'm generally trying to rest, but Claire's guard dog barking turned into a "come here quick Mummy see what I've got" yipping, so I popped out to see what was up: she had found a cicada, and I watched and shared as she enjoyed playing with it, finally picking it up in her mouth and probably eating it...yikes!


Tosh had a haircut and realized just how good it felt to have short trimmed hair in this summer heat, so he agreed to take the dogs to Inuya for their second clipping this summer. The dogs readily jumped out of the car and headed  happily in for their grooming session, and I was quite relieved because that means we can continue using Inuya - they really do a great job with the special setter cut, the dogs come out looking picture perfect. I asked the owner not to cut their whiskers, called vibrissae, because I walk the dogs early in the morning when it's still dark, and according to Stanley Coren, they need the whiskers to avoid bumping into things, a bit like a blind person's cane:

"Dogs have a set of stiff hairs protruding from the sides of their muzzles. Popularly called whiskers, these are technically called vibrissae. Vibrissae are sophisticated devices that help the dog feel its way through the world. They are quite different from most other hairs on the dog's body, more rigid and embedded more deeply into the skin. At the base of each vibrissa is a high concentration of touch sensitive neurons.

Of those areas of a dog's brain that register touch information, nearly 40 percent of it is dedicated to the face, with a large amount of that dedicated to the upper jaw where the vibrissae are located. You can actually map each individual vibrissa to a specific location in the dog's brain, suggesting that great importance is assigned to information from these structures.

The vibrissae serve as an early warning device that something is near the face, and thus prevent colliding with walls and objects, and keep approaching objects from damaging the dog's face and eyes. You can tap gently on the vibrissae of a dog, and the eye will blink protectively, and the dog will tend to turn its head away.

The vibrissae also seem to be involved in the location and perhaps in the recognition of objects themselves, much the way that a blind person uses a cane. First, the little muscles that control the vibrissae direct them somewhat forward when the dog is approaching an object. Next they actively "whisk," or vibrate slightly while the dog swings his head to drag these hairs across surfaces. Whisking gives information about the shape and roughness of surfaces near his head. Since the dog's eyes can't focus very well on close objects, and his muzzle blocks his line of sight when he is looking at things near his mouth, the information from the forward and downward pointed vibrissae appears to help him locate, identify, and pick up small objects with his mouth.

Many dog fanciers are unaware of the importance of vibrissae. Unfortunately, amputating vibrissae is both uncomfortable and stressful for dogs, and it reduces their ability to perceive their close surroundings fully.

Specifically, dogs whose vibrissae have been removed seem more uncertain in dim light. They actually move more slowly, because they are not getting the information to tell them where things are that they might bump into. These special hairs are so sensitive that they also register slight changes in air currents. As a dog approaches an object like a wall, some of the air that he stirs up by moving bounces back from surfaces, bending the vibrissae slightly, which is enough to inform him that something is near well before he touches it. "


I took the liberty of editing the original text down to make it an easier read for some of my Japanese blog followers: I recommend reading the original well-written story. Meanwhile my son found the pertinent info obviously translated from this original text in a Japanese search.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Onioshidashi Dog Run

Stopping off for a doggie break, this is Onidashi Dog Run at Kita was fearfully hot in the sun and there was no shade in this dogrun, so we didn't stay long, but Nobu and Claire love the chance to stretch their legs and run free. The sky was gorgeous, oh so summer blue with puffy little white clouds, precious, just the thing to make you feel on holiday after weary toil in the big metropolis.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

La Porte Rouge

La Porte Rouge, gorgeous restaurant near Lake Yamanaka with a garden (not fenced in, but Nobu and Claire were happy to stay in the immediate vicinity)...great home-cooked food and beautiful terrace, about ten mintues from Dog Hotel Woof at Lake Yamanaka...make sure you call in advance, though.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Rough and Tumble

Mint and Nobu had a great time chasing each other and playbitint...Mint gets a mouthful, just a playful gotcha...
Nobu gets quite furious, how dare you, sir, this is an outrage!
....and lunges in for a tackle of his own...

No sweat, really, all in the spirit of good fun, just let me catch my breath now, says Nobu...

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Mint and Nobu

One of the great things about Dog Hotel Woof is that you get the chance to meet and make new doggie friends who love to play...particularly large dogs, which are getting to be quite uncommon here locally as everyone opts for smaller dogs. This is Mint, a German short-haired pointer rescue, having a game of tag with Nobu.
 Mint has a wonderful new family who know oodles about his breed, and give him the exercise and love he needs: he was a picture of health, shining coat and smooth muscles, an absolutely gorgeous happy dog, a pleasure to watch. His mum is smooth and muscled too, a gorgeous sportswoman who cycles, and we made friends. I really need to get more toned myself now with the autumn dancing coming up, but I'm like my setters, lazy and laid back in the home, energetic in spurts :P I love the photo below, where the specks of dirt Nobu's kicking up fly by Mint as he catches up on Nobu, stretched out, lean and flying forward, gorgeous picture by Tosh.

Monday, August 6, 2012


Nobu gets extra hot in the sun with that black samurai helmet of his, so he's really happy pottering around the Woof woody dog run early in the morning before the sun gets too intense.
 We've just got back from a wonderful trip to Kita Karuizawa, where we stayed at Pension Libre. They had wonderful and generous portions of excellent food, for the first time in my life I ate dragonfruit! and you can take the dogs to the bath with you and they watch while you enjoy the open air tub. The wood chip dog run is woody and has good shade, and the whole building is tiled and airy, a really pleasant place to stay. I got the hot tip from Alphonse and Birth's blog, thank you :)

During the day we would enjoyed lounging around reading books and snoozing with the dogs on the wood decks built into the hillside of the great dog run, Dog Vacation. Dog Vacation must be one of the most fun dog runs we've been in so far, with open areas at the top and lots of natural woody hillside for setters to sniff and explore. They also had an excellent cafe, where I had melted cheese on curry topped off with chopped cabbage, an unusual combination I actually found to be quite delicious. They had blood orange juice in the drink and desert set, which reminded me of my childhood, my mum used to get blood oranges saying they would give us kids extra strength. Plus the coffee jelly with icecream was divine. After three days lazing around and pigging out, with no need for walks as the dogs go wild in the dog run, I am fat and flabby and feeling so heavy in my dance shoes...time to get back to everyday life with the dogs, a good long morning walk and exercise in the kitchen :)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Almost a year

Claire's been in our family almost a year now, and she looks as regal as ever...I was really happy to have someone come up to me in the parking area on the motorway, the other day and say, "oh, look, that's Claire isn't it? I enjoy your blog, and can I please take a photo?" It was an amazing coincidence, and really fun to see how the blog is making waves, and how Claire is a poster girl for the CACI gundog rescue helping setters and pointers find new families...

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Coming back to Yokohama the heat is suffocating, and the dogs spend the best part of the day flat out on the floor, particularly after a shortish walk...mind you, I'm happy to spend it with them, it's really too hot to do more than pant and loll around. Yokohama is having fireworks in the MInato Mirai area tonight, so there'll be lots of distant rumbles and bangs, but it's too hot to get jumpy, even now the sun has set and a gentle sea breeze lightens the atmosphere somewhat. Phew!