In early April we had nice, if brief, visit with our dear friends from Virginia, D and C and their precocious 8 year old, M. They are also of the Pacific Islander spirit and have a home in Hawaii and land in Fiji. After picking them up at the airport, we shared the sight of cherry blossoms at Katori Jingu, a major Shinto Shrine in the town of Sawara and then took them to see Kashima's busy sea port. The next day there was an early morning earthquake of 6.1 on the Richter scale to welcome them to Japan! Shaken, but not stirred, we all went to Kashima Jingu (our major shrine) and also took them to see Daihukuji (subject of an earlier post), but it rained cats and dogs and we had to retreat to home for some hot ocha (green tea) and soba (buckwheat noodles).
Not long after our friends left for Tokyo, we had another visitor, this one unannounced, in the form of a Shitzu dog that we spotted wandering up and down the roads by our home. It was obviously lost. Later in the day it came into our yard and I spoke kindly to it, but told it in no uncertain terms to go home. Well there's a picture - an English speaking human trying to communicate with a Japanese dog. If the message doesn't get across, who's the idiot?
Reminds me of the Gary Larsen cartoon (The Far Side) of a man scolding his dog saying something like ""Oh Ginger, that was a bad thing. You're a bad, bad dog, Ginger." What a dog hears: "Blah Ginger, blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah, Ginger."
Anyway, perhaps needless to say, the dog didn't go home. It was definitely lost. Perhaps one of the cats and dogs that came down in the rain when our friends were here. The next morning we discovered that it had spent the night on our front porch. Dogs can sense a sucker a mile away. It is one of their instincts, like their incredible sense of smell. If you don't know this yet, it is time you learned. Humans did not domesticate dogs. Dogs (wolves) adapted to take advantage of humans. The wolf who was not scared off by humans was the one who got the easy table scraps. Thus did dogs evolve. This dog KNEW which house to sleep at.
Well, she was right. After seeing her for a whole day and night; lost, hungry, and covered in burrs and twigs that matted her hair, we decided to feed her (see how I deftly make K share the responsibility for this decision by inserting the word "we"?) and gave her a slice of bread and a can of tuna. To a human that is a small act of compassion, for a dog its like signing a contract.
We put ads on the internet in Japanese to find the owner, called around, and finally called the "dog catcher". Sadly, they don't have animal shelters in Japan and the pound is so crowded, they can only hold a dog for three days and if it is unclaimed it gets a lethal injection. Jeeze, like George Bush's Texas for dogs. So at this point the dog is facing death row, and only we can offer clemancy. I'm not going to condemn this animal to death. Why bother helping in the first place only to do that?
So she stayed - outside. We have tatami mat floors, so like Snoopy its "no dogs allowed" inside the house. We made a bed (of among other things one of my good cotton polo shirts), bought a leash, a tether, dog food, treats, toys.... Deeper and deeper. We take her for walks every day, picking up her poop, two or three times on one walk. (Dogs are geniuses. Far superior to humans. Does anyone feed you without fail every day? buy you toys? play with you? take you for walks? pick up your POOP? yet require nothing in return? I rest my case). We bathe her, clip the matted hair off of her along with the burrs. This dog is beginning to be like Uncle Remis's tar baby. At one fateful moment we realized we needed to call her by a name. She became "MOMO" - the Japansese word for "Peach".
Now, weeks later, there is a vet day at the local community center. We walk her down, meeting every other dog in the area as we go, and register her as "our dog" and get her vaccinated against rabies. (There has not been a case of rabies in Japan for almost 50 years, but they're not taking any chances). The vet tells us that it is common for people to abandon pets around here. How childishly irresponsible and heartless humans can be.
We're now focused on looking for a new home for Momo, while taking good care of her. We like her, and she grows on us day by day, but we know some day we will be off to Fiji, and when that happens we will need to know that she is in good hands. Fiji will not accept dogs except from Australia, Hawaii, and New Zealand. Three places which have always been free of rabies. Besides, Fiji is no place for a lapdog. Meanwhile, she's a "peach" to have around.
Honestly now, could you say no to a face like this?