Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Fear and the Princess

March 3rd is the doll festival celebration here in Japan, and Claire is our princess. I've been reading an interesting blogpost from Upward Hound about watching our dog's body language for awareness of fear-related dogbites, Listen to the Whisper. When Lady Claire was rescued from the pound, she nearly wasn't because she was such a (canine ladder of aggression rung 8 and 9) stiff, staring, fearsome growler and aggressive-looking barker, but I've only ever seen her snap and vent at unwanted attentions from over-ardent butt-sniffing males. She's softened up in her old age as she has become accustomed to jostling and space-invasions from boisterous Nobunaga, Luna and now Sherlock...she knows it's not about her after all.
I borrowed Sheperd K.'s 2009 visual canine ladder of aggression from the blog, very interesting to think about the different ways each of my doggies talk to me...sad to say, poor old Sherlock came to us on rung 6, with his tail tucked under and crouched down like a dachshund. In the early days, Sherlock has actually snapped and drawn blood at the mistaken invasion of a kiss...but that was based on human folly...a mere shaving accident, as it were... Only this morning he was on rung 7 with me for some reason, rolling over with one leg up as though he wanted a belly rub, only he's ticklish and hates belly rubs and messing with paws or hindquarters...perhaps because yesterday I was a bit out of sorts and short of my own temper and must admit I slapped him smartly on the shoulder a couple of times for barking...at the table, at the door, at the gate...ah the folly of the raised hand, sorry sweetie...
Finally sweet-tempered Nobunaga, who loves babies and small children, and who has never growled, snapped or bitten in his life, using rungs 1-4 with great aplomb. He's so aware, watching carefully himself to see how the humans are taking things and what his best evasive or inviting moves are.
 He does love to playbite though, jumping and jousting and nipping mummy, arms, chest, bitey bite, let's play now, please! I have successfully taught him what a toy is, thank heavens, and when he gets in close to wrestle, I have a toy on hand to thrust in his hungry jaw...he is also good enough to respect "That's enough!"...what a darling...

Monday, February 27, 2017

Chilly Monday

 Psyching myself up to go for the afternoon walkies...it never got sunny like the weather forecast said and my hands are still cold from two hours in the park this morning! The contents of the toy basket are strewn all over the floor, and Claire has had a wee garden session barking at neighborhood cats and howling along with an ambulance, so it's about time...

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Special Treat

Dog Cafe Anjin had a one coin Sunday, with delicious lobster spaghetti, salad and a side of bread for 500 yen. After a rather short evening walkies, we made our way there to enjoy the bounty.
Nobu and Claire are fixated on the doggie plates, but Sherlock has had a whiff of something more alluring...
...even though I asked for a smaller portion, this is apparently the smaller portion. After Anjin Mama helping feed the dogs while I ate in peace, the dogs were happy to slurp some spaghetti and crackle snack the shell of the lobster...don't worry, I picked out the onions!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Upside Down

Nearly supper time after a dreamy day...Nobunaga shows us how to relax and reboot...
No need to worry, everything's going to be all right...the world from right side up or upside down, whatever, it's just a moment in the eternity of the universe...

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Japanese Dakiningyo

Meet Mami, a little sister for Hiromi. Today a best friend (I sure am blessed with wonderful loving friends) took me to the Yamato antiques flea-market, held every third Saturday of the month, and I felt her calling me from across the stalls...no way I could resist.
She's a cutie, just the right kind of company for Hiromi, the eighty year old doll I was gifted by a neighbor...here they are together, rescued like our setters from oblivion, now happy additions to our family. Hiromi is looking like a big sister already!
It's so funny the way their mood changes every second, their faces are so expressive, just like us humans, just like setters, sentient beings. Japanese craftsmanship is superb in that way, Hiromi and Mami really come alive.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Record of Abuse

Hi, I'm Nobunaga. I was abandoned because I ate too much and wanted to play. Well, and wanted to get out some, and meet friends too. I guess I got too big too fast. The breeder or shop who sold me didn't offer any help or advice to my first family, and didn't offer to take me back when my owner didn't want me any more, so I got thrown out. Probably driven away by car, which is why I will never get in a car voluntarily ever again. Period. 
I got lucky, because when Mummy got me, I was so thin and weak, I couldn't walk, I couldn't pee standing up, I had such a weak digestive system from lack of walkies, I was vomiting a lot and had constant diarrhea. On my way to meet my maker, I guess...so I want to beg you to protect me and other dogs like me, with compulsory registered owner information in microchips. Yes, and a nationwide database to identify abusive owners and irresponsible breeders, rapacious pet stores, so they don't get a chance to ruin the next doggie life they take a fancy to. America has one, don't let them take it down. See, some bloggers are saving the info, and helping us! Information is power! Spread the word! Let's have support here in Japan too!
Hi, I'm Sherlock Holmes. My owner trained me so hard to heel, beat me up with a stick when I wouldn't do things the right way, kicked me, I was like a zombie and kept my belly close to the ground for safety...so scary, every day, not sure where the next moment of pain was coming from, couldn't relax, trying so hard so hard to be good, see me wagging my tail tucked at my belly, see, good, good, but what should I do to be good in your eyes? Not sure, oh boy, but it's coming, your anger, my pain, your anger...every muscle in my body rigid with fear, frozen...and I try so hard, and you just throw me out...worthless? broken? cherry eye genes? Can't look you in the face, never, don't hit me, who are you? 
And I'm learning to see who my Mummy is now, love in voice and eyes, trust in freedom, understand my own mind and control my own body, so I want to beg you to protect me and other dogs like me, with compulsory registered owner information in microchips. Yes, and a nationwide database to identify abusive owners and irresponsible breeders, rapacious pet stores, so they don't get a chance to ruin the next doggie life they take a fancy to. Information is power!
Hello. I'm Claire. I'm really good at hunting, scents, birds, flight paths, wind, angles, woodlands...I lock on to birds like you wouldn't believe...but I guess I just got too old, or maybe my owner just got too old and gave up on caring for me, his family won't care for me...so confusing to be rejected, abandoned, it breaks my heart, I don't understand. I miss him. I'm good at chasing the postman too, and barking at intruders, how can a whole life just get taken away in one moment? Behind bars. No exit. No light. No love.
I know I got lucky, saved by CACI, cages and more cages, biding my time to find Mummy...so I want to beg you to protect me and other dogs like me, with compulsory registered owner information in microchips. Yes, and a nationwide database to identify abusive owners and irresponsible breeders, rapacious pet stores, so they don't get a chance to ruin the next doggie life they take a fancy to. Information is power! Spread the word!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Setter Valentine

Went on a date with my babies to the Forest Park...just out of the car, Sherlock's leash slipped out of my hand and he was off in a twinkling trailing his leash behind like a gaily fluttering ribbon...

Various people in the park gave me helful hints about his whereabouts, and he came back to me after circling both the parking area and then the whole park, happily chasing a pigeon at the pond before trotting over contentedly to rejoin our setter group. 
Pleased as plum, we all wandered around and around the various sections of the park, saying hello to doggie friends, enjoying chasing birds at the pond, sploshing in the stream, wandering through the plum blossoms...
Sherlock was having a ball, look Mummy, look Mummy, if we stop for a second he's hollering at the top of his lungs with excitement, trying to tell me where to go next...
Happy Valentine! Says Claire. Love is in the air!
 All you need is love!
 What me? Says Nobu...jumping on Mummy, bitey bite...never!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Exemplary Pet Owner Part 2

Chewies for the dogs to while the afternoon away as Mummy and family go off to the Exemplary Pet Owner Award ceremony. Award winners were presented with a fine Japanese scroll box:
...which opens to reveal the gilt certificate inside...
...the fun thing is it reads, we are awarding this to thank you on behalf of your pets, which is a really cute idea.
 The award ceremony itself was over in a twinkling with a roll call of names and an award winner representative up on stage to read some bland words of appreciation, and we all settled in to enjoy a talk by Japanese photographer, Manabu Miyazaki. I particularly liked his pictures of how animals decompose, recycled into the wild over time, providing food for scavengers, insects and flora. He had a lot of interesting and scathing things to say about our modern society and its saccharine view of nature. 
Thank heavens the dogs had their chewies!  It went on longer than expected and we were greeted at the door by a puddle of peewees...sorry sweeties, more attention and longer walkies another day.
Photos by Lelantos

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Allergic Reaction

Morning Sherlock was a cutie under the covers, his first time ever inside the bed, not on top...until I had a closer look at his face...
...puffy eyelids, hugely swollen chops...I had cold hands, so I felt around his gums and cheeks from the inside to cool the skin, and to see if it was something to do with teeth (my vet, Dr. Koyama, later told me if it's teeth, you usually get a swelling on one side only). I then decided to make some good vegie soup to flush out whatever trigger was causing the allergy, and fortunately Sherlock ate with gusto before burrowing straight back into the drowsy warmth of bed...or rather, futon...
After a call to Dr Koyama, who was so concerned for Sherlock he even suggested rushing to a more local vet, we all upped and got into the car in the drizzle-the cute thing was, I was going to ask Claire and Nobu to wait at home, only Sherlock wouldn't budge unless all three of the setters got going...
...fortunately there were no traffic jams or anything, so we arrived smoothly for a great consultation and loads of pics to document what was happening. The ensuing shot had an immediate soothing effect, Sherlock was visibly less puffy, and after a short walkies we all headed home. By tomorrow I think Sherlock will be back to being his cute perky and photogenic self. Thank you Dr. Koyama, you're a life saver!

Plum Blossom Setters

Wednesday, February 8, 2017


Call it aura, call it vibe, some people (and of course animals) have such an incredible beauty in their being...and others not. They say handsome is as handsome does, and over the years I think it shows up even more in your face and whole being, depending on how you have "done". No wonder we want to rest our gaze from the US leaders right now, and look elsewhere for beauty. No-one could be more gentle and wise, accommodating and self-possessed than Nobunaga, unless of course it's Lady Claire...Here he is holding back his irritation at the constant barking...fortunately some of that self-control is beginning to rub off on Sherlock.
On our way home from the woods and parks today, we met an eight month old Akita who wanted to play and, being held back on the leash, was pawing air at Sherlock and Nobu. In the melee, I realized I had actually dropped Sherlock's leash, but instead of hiving off into the impending sunset, he simple made a wide careful circle to my side. Very gratifying. 
Claire is wootling happily in the underbrush, not going too far, not losing her calm...Sherlock, meanwhile, hollers his joy of being alive to the four corners of the earth! Whoopeeeeeeee! There must be a beagle somewhere in the genes...

The Dream

Last night I dreamed a very vivid dream: I was given three new dogs, spur of the moment acquisitions abandoned by their previous owner who had bought them without the ability to care for them properly. They called me up and lured me to their place with the promise of some artwork, which didn't really do it for me, so I said no thank you....and then I end up being offered these three dogs instead. They were not setters, and not particularly pretty, but one of them climbed up on my shoulders and hung warm on my back and would not let go...the other total submission, nose at my belly...not quite sure about the third, but they were all getting on okay with Claire who seemed fine with more babies, and Claire basically rules the nest.
 I remember feeling so sorry for them, and then thinking okay, but I'm going to need the previous owner to help pay for the heartworm meds and vaccinations, if I manage financially I'm sure things will work out....weird! Claire came to be with us in 2011, here's a picture every year for the last seven years: