Monday, January 30, 2012

Sand and Sea

Claire finds birds on the seawall
Nobu's dash trips up Tosh - soft landing in the sand
Making new international family beagle, Donguri/Acorn, who ran par for par with Nobu.

Getting treats
Romping by the shore

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Visit to Kotetsu's home

Nobody in the family seemed the least bit interested in waking up and taking the dogs for a walk, so I combined work and play, walking to Kamiooka to order some dogfood at 10% off sale, and found a great raincoat for Nobu 70% off.

On the way we stopped by friend Kotetsu's home. Kotetsu is a Japanese kaiken and has a very beautiful nature and interesting pattern together with a really strong wiry body, and we meet him almost every morning in the park (or did when i could get up so early, recently I've been sleeping late).

Kotetsu's Mum, Sadako Endo, is an artist, and I had promised to go to her group exhibition, but couldn't make it, so I wanted to apologize and promise to go to her next solo exhibition. She invited us all in for coffee and showed me some of her works, which blew me away: really thoughtful and provocative pictures, full of emotion and insight, with allusions to other great works of art and a strong social message. She brought down a pair of giant canvases from her atelier, inspired by the Fukushima accident and an incident here in Japan where a mother abandoned her children and they died taped up in their apartment: very moving, with bird's nest motifs, moon in eclipse, gold streaks and Goya allusions. I felt very moved by her power, and the warm depth of her empathy. I would like to spend more time contemplating her pictures.
Nobu was really interested in the upstairs room and kept disappearing, so we had to keep calling him back - it seems Kotetsu's mum keeps birds too, so that was what sparked his interest. I could hear the birds singing and warbling from the sitting room. She showed me the resting body of one parrakeet, just passed away the previous evening, its soul obviously still very much here in its home as it slowly took farewell to cross the rainbow bridge. Rest in peace.
Meanwhile Claire was getting her teeth into Kotetsu's pig's trotter, so Nobu and Claire were gifted with one each to take home. I thought horse tendons were the ultimate, but Claire is happily gnawing in the kitchen here as I blog, and the trotter doesn't seem to be getting any smaller....:) 

Jody and Purin Dog Run

Having spent a restful evening and slept like a log at Jody and Purin , I took the dogs to the dog run while Tosh had a morning spa bath. Breakfast was Japanese, with grilled aji fish, natto beans and  wakame seaweed miso soup- delish. After breakfast we packed up, and after ten o'clock check out we went to the dog run for the last time. We met up with another guest, and Nobu began to play. The wee dog had been interested in Nobu since the evening meet the guests time, when the owners chat and introduce their own dogs, Jody and Wolf (apparently they have nine dogs!). I was kind of afraid he would bite Nobu, since a couple of days ago in the park a jack russell terrier had suddenly aggressively bitten into Nobu after what seemed at first to be a friendly sniff, and poor Nobu froze up into a tiny ball in shock. It took a couple of minutes of stroking and coaxing to revive him and reassure him, and fortunately there were no scars. This time Nobu made sure he ran hell for leather corner to corner of the dog run after coaxing his wee friend to chase him.
We watched carefully, enjoying the fun and ready to jump in if anything got over excited, but there was no need to fear: both dogs had a great time. Nobu used the chairs to maintain a safe separation, just like kids with a safe home base.

Then he would dash out, making sure his friend was following, always just a little bit out of reach to maintain the excitement. Here you can see him glancing round as he runs, to make sure the game of tag is still on. Meanwhile Claire sits around waiting with an air of long-suffering patience. There's only one dog she will play tag with, a Shiba we occasionally meet on walks called Ryu (Dragon), although come to think of it she has begun to play diffidently with Nobu sometimes.
As both dogs got tired, the laps got shorter and shorter, until finally both dogs were down and ready for peeing repeatedly over each other's marking in the same corner and allowing a friendly sniff. Once things had got to this stage, they moved into the grappling and wrestling stage, with Nobu on his back inviting attack, and the wee hound jumping gleefully onto him to grab and hold him in a judo wrestle. Nobu loves full body contact sports, he'd be a great athlete, judo, rugby, wrestling, as long as it's sweaty bodies in a heap, he'd be there! 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Nobu Dog Hotel Debut: Jody and Purin

We just got back from a fantastic overnight trip to Jody and Purin, a great getaway from city stress. The sad news is they're closing on March 15, so hurry up and book a trip, or it'll be too late. With Nobu getting car sick it's just the right distance, an hour's drive on the expressway, and only a short winding drive on the last stretch. We headed straight for the dogrun before checking in:for the first time I saw the full benefit of having two dogs, as Nobu and Claire ran and ran and ran together, much more than Claire ever ran the first time she was here. I guess she's also built up some stamina with the long walks.

Tosh had some exercise too, running for Nobu to chase, and since there were no small dogs around we opened the gates to the smaller dog runs and dashed round and round through the three areas, exploring the bushes and coveys.
The hotel has a wonderful shower area at the entrance to wash the dog's feet, and there are plenty of towels to dry off the paws and wipe down the tiles to leave it clean for the next family. Then you drop the wet dirty towels in the plastic bin. It's so well organized, and Claire, having gone first, waited patiently for Nobu, who is never too keen on getting his paws wet.

 Then after a short rest in our room I went shopping for clothes for Claire and Nobu - the boutique has original T-shirts, and the green looked great on Nobu,  with a peace sign in colored studs, and there was a knitted top for Claire. The three of us crashed out on the bed while Tosh went to have a bath, and then went back to the dog run for a quick workout again before supper. 

 The dogs are allowed on the bed as long as you use a cover, so I brought our blanket from home: it's lasted a long time, I bought it as a high school student in Germany, so that makes it over thirty years old now.

I jumped in the bath too, and then it was six o'clock and we went upstairs to the restaurant for the candle-lit French dinner with the two dogs waiting for tidbits beside the table. They have their own wine-glasses, with dog designs cut into the crystal, and we had a bottle of white wine with the meal.

Nobu Closeup

Friday, January 27, 2012

Nobu Dog Cafe Debut

We're lucky to have a local dog cafe, Anjing (only open on Saturdays), and what with the snow and being busy and all we decided to give the dogs a treat and a change of scene with an afternoon tea. I had a coffee, and the dogs had a special sundae: jellied gourmet something or other specially prepared to delight doggie palates, and served in glass dishes to delight indulgent humans.

Mixing the sundae
Claire waiting while I mix
There was no way the sweeties were going to sit down and wait patiently, but they did their best, and Claire set about licking the glasses and spoons clean before we gave the ok for the feast to begin! Nobu took a while to catch in on the action, so Claire got a good lick of his dishes too. I don't have a picture of them eating when we set the dishes on the floor: it was gone so fast, with such a smacking of lips and delighted scrunching and slurping. Nobu is definitely a believer in dog cafes now! When we go by on our morning walk he sniffs  around at the entrance, waiting in vain for the open sesame. Sure is a good thing having a local dog cafe.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Training Nobu

Nobu is the most gorgeous dog ever. HANDSOME! Takes my breath away watching him training with Dodo sensei.  He trots, lifting his paws with confidence and ease, jaunty, sauntering, fully present. He puffs up his chest, lifts his chin, his eyes sparkle, dandy! Then when it's my turn he gets all babyish and cuddles up and snuggles up and playbites me, nipping my sleeve, my coat, my legs, anywhere is up for a poke and a nip, and I can't get him to sober up and calm down. Since he doesn't get that way with Dodosensei, it's a real challenge to know how to control him. I've tried huddling on the ground faking pain with little cries of ouch, and he jumps happily on my back enjoying the full body contact and bites me ever so gently from the side...if I get up and try to walk away, he thinks that's part of the fun...We have an old shoe of Tosh's that I shove in his jaws and we tussle and play with that, but he still goes for my hands, creatively playing with ME, not toys. I'm hoping with our weekly training sessions he'll learn WAIT, and we're trying to focus his energy into FETCH with kong toys...Whatever, when he trains with sensei, Nobu is unbelievably melt your heart GORGEOUS. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Nobu stressed

Of all the doggie books I've bought, the one I like best is a slim volume by Turid Rugaas called 'On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals'. This picture of Nobu at the Sports event shows he is totally stressed and feels threatened, with his tail down, and it gave me a shock to see how totally unhappy he looked...
"Primarily a dog gets stressed for the same reason as humans: when they feel unable to cope.... A dog with a constantly high stress level will be much more likely to get stomach problems, allergies and heart trouble. They will be faster and more violent in their defense...Many dogs have a high stress level because of demands resulting from a young age, anger and aggression from the owner's side, or being constantly commanded to obey, with the owner often using a harsh voice. A dog such as this is stressed by these things every day. As a result stress levels remain high, and consequently the dog never calms down....This leads up to my conclusion: There is no, absolutely no, reason or excues to punish, be violent, threatening, or forceful towards a dog or to demand too much of him...We always have a choice of how to behave. Then we can understand our dogs' calming signals and tell them that we understand. Or, we can overlook these signals and make the dog feel he cannot cope, consequently making him stressed.' 

I completely forgot all this wisdom at the sports event, in the blithe assumption that Nobu, who loves playing with other dogs, would love the whole thing. In fact the long car drive makes him feel carsick, so he went through prolonged agony, only to be told to wait, not run freely, and then perform in tricks like waiting and running to heel when he's only just arrived in our home and had never learned to "sit" before, and only had two obedience classes to get a feel for what it's about. No wonder he was into playing and grabbing my coat and stressed by the need to behave in a particular way...Fortunately he had a little time to play with Aria and Claire, and overall I think it was a positive learning experience for him, but what bothers me is that my own assessment of how great it would be for him made me blind to his real feelings, and so I didn't use any of the calming signals that the book teaches to help him relax: head turning, softening the eyes, licking my nose (as best i can), yawning and picking imaginary weeds from the lawn (since I can't sniff). Here he is below telling me with a nose lick that this is highly stressful, and he's trying his best to calm down and manage to do what I want...I should have licked my own lips, turned my head away and sat down as well, to let him feel at ease, instead of thrusting my face in his space and waving my hand dangerously above his head...sigh, the mistakes we humans make...

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Nobunaga before and after!

Nobu before his Five Drops name tag arrives
The parcel arrives
The excitement and smiles- Mum is this for me?
Just doing a reality check here-yes, it's real!
Seen from above- turquoise and green leather with a silver concho and garnet in the centre
 Five drops name tags are hand-made and hand-woven, and each one is made specially for the dog, with a prayer woven into the plait:
"Nobunaga, may each future day bring health and more and more happiness, so that your smile glows in the family circle of your forever home."
今までの分もいっぱい幸せを手に入れるのですから 鈴木様のそばで笑顔でいられるように

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sunday Sports

In spite of being totally overburdened with work, Tosh and I made some time to go to the sports day organized by dog school I'll doing volunteer training of the rescued English setters. As usual with two dogs, the schedule of events and the long drive to Chiba we were unable to snap photos, so please click on the sports day link to see a report by the CACI shelter. The first snap we have is courtesy of Trainer Yamamoto himself, who did a grand job organizing all the fun. We had to leave for home early so as not to be driving in the dark and didn't get a booby prize for the dogs to enjoy on the way home :( Maybe next time :) Meanwhile we pigged out on the gorgeous buffet meal provided by CACI...thank you! 
Dash- Claire running with Tosh (Photo Courtesy of K. Okayama)
Dash - Nobu running with/after me (Photo courtesy Keita Okayama)

I really enjoyed meeting all the other setter owners and volunteer staff. Everyone was so in love with their dogs, and proud of their dogs! +Let's hope Aria, Kelly, Fizz and Elle find loving homes too, and owners who can be proud of their skills, temperament and beauty.

Friday, January 13, 2012


I have end-of-terms coming up and am fearfully busy writing exam questions, so there is no time to take the dogs for extended walks...some days they get 14000 steps as measured by my cellphone, but today they had to make do with three small walks totalling 7500...I have no time to go special places for cute photos, but I made an effort to snap some shots today: Claire, as ever, finding underbrush even walking along roadside, and Nobu happily standing by waiting for the cat she may find to dart out of the briarpatch so he can chase it down the road :P

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Way love Goes

Lemar's song is perfect for these two...snoozing in the sitting room, at first each dog is enjoying their own space... and as they get more and more relaxed, they spread out and link up:
oooh come on Claire sweetie stretch out and get in the mooooood...

Nobunaga had his microchip implanted today, subsidized 2000yen courtesy of Yokohama City, which supports microchips. He also had his ears checked and cleaned again, and since there's still some gunk deep in his ears, another week of antiobiotics (this time no anti-imflammatory medicine) and Mum's ear cleaning with solution prescribed. I'm hoping that as his ears heal he'll sleep better at night, right now he's up and about, can't wait to go out, chewing cables and kicking the door with frustration at the long quiet time, or else at the itchy ears, wanting some kind of distraction, not quite sure. Today's training session was great, he managed to sit quite well this time, and we're moving into the wait phase, but his "Nobu, here" response is a delight, lolloping up with a big grin twice the speed of Claire! Claire kind of wanders over, I'll do this in my own time, you know, you do understand I'm doing you a favor here, but all right, since you ask nicely...sort of mood. I asked about training fetch, and got some tips on how to do it...Nobu likes rope and tug of war, so I'm going to buy a kong toy and tie some firm string round it so he can grip it to carry it.