Thursday, April 16, 2009

Dog Walking 101

I'm doing a little happy dance. This coming Thursday I get to go home, back to the States. It's been two years! The next time I post here I'll be sitting at my dad's computer a margarita in one hand, a fist full of BBQ ribs in the other. I'll type with my nose. If you know me you realize this is indeed physically possible.

It's always a trick to make the big trip across the pond. One of the problems is the dog. Kennels are near non-existent and the ones I've found are mere cages. I did discover one place that actually took the time to walk the animals. It costs over 600 bucks for a three week stay though. Another two hundred bucks and you can buy a plane ticket from Narita to Omaha and back. Anyways, we used that kennel once but when we went to pick Cha up one month later none of recognized him, he'd lost a lot of weight and had this crazy look in his eyes. Something like this:

So this time I decided to hire a dog walker. My father-in-law. Nicest guy you'll ever meet.

There is only one problem -- up until one month ago my father-in-law had never so much as touched a dog, much less put a leash on one and attempted to take a stroll around the block. So my first plan of attack was training.

This ended up being a lot more difficult than I imagined. Little things like his worries about hooking the leash onto Cha's collar ("Are you sure it's going to hold? What do I do if it breaks?")to his tendency to just follow the dog wherever he wanted to go, zig zagging up and down the block, into people's yards down the middle of the road. But there was an even bigger problem.

Number Two.

My father-in-law kept asking about it ("How does he do it?" "What does he do beforehand, so I can be prepared?"). I'm trying to explain the whole event and how to properly clean it up when Cha decides to just show him and squats down to do his business right there and then.

And then the unbelievable happened. Suddenly my father-in-law gets all giddy and crouches down behind the dog. I'm standing there trying to gently persuade him to get back up and look away. But, no. He then begins to make a running commentary about what's going on. Detailed. Yeah, it was traumatic, to me and the pup. I still have a few days. I'm hoping to break the habit lest I come home to an extremely embarrassed dog.

Now, in an attempt to remove that lovely image from your minds... An old instructor of mine e-mailed me last week to direct me to Publishers Weekly Web pick of the Week. I'll just paste the review here, that bad half a sentence and all.

"A Robe of Feathers: And Other StoriesThersa Matsuura. Counterpoint (PGW, dist.), $14.95 paper (192p) ISBN 9781582434896

Inspired by Japanese folklore, Matsuura’s debut story collection is as clever as the mythical spirits and creatures who romp through her fable-like tales. Although her penchant is for the malevolent and unforgiving, , the humans who populate these seventeen stories are seldom innocent victims. Even when led astray by otherworldly tricksters (such as the oni in “The Seed of the Mistake”) or tortured by spiteful gods (like the God of Smallpox in “Yaichiro’s Battle”), it is the humans’ flaws – greed, cowardice, lack of compassion – that make them vulnerable. Matsuura depicts such failings insightfully, and, at her best, reveals them gradually. In a world brimming with shape-shifters, ghosts, and devils, belief in luck and superstition is rational and even skeptics soon become believers, but these are stories about the choices ordinary people make, and the sometimes devastating consequences of those choices. Although some of Matsuura’s denouements are weak, and others overwritten, her prose is mostly tight and her characters well-crafted. The captivating stories gathered here offer lively glimpses of Japanese culture, urban and rural, present and past. (May)"