Friday, November 20, 2009

Cherry’s Resilience

We kept Cherry on a long rope in our tiny side yard. She had a nice little dog house to protect her from rain and wind. In Miyazaki the winters are mild, so I felt this arrangement was at least satisfactory. Our landlord lived directly behind us after all, so disobeying the contract and having a dog in the house wasn’t really an option.

We walked with cherry several times a day as I trained her in basic obedience. The kids played with her often – she was a regular member of the neighborhood gang. Though sweet and very friendly, she had wild eyes that reflected her desire to run at every opportunity. She never did learn to come when her name was called, so we weren’t able to let her run freely very often. It would have been difficult in a small, crowded Japanese neighborhood anyway. We tried it at the beach, but always had to sit for hours, long after we were ready to go home, waiting for her return. She had a great sense of direction and a wonderful memory, so without fail, she did always return to us.

In those early years we went hiking nearly every Saturday with a group of my students from the college. Cherry went with us on every adventure, of course. Once we had to climb steep rocks to get across a small gorge. Each of my children rode on the backs of one of the students, but Cherry managed to climb very well on her own. Then suddenly she slipped. Her rope was jerked out of my hand and I screamed. We all froze, eyes and mouths wide open, as we watcher her fall several hundred feet. Stunned by the fall, she lay limp at the bottom of the ravine.

Jin-kun scampered down the rocks to rescue her. When he got to her, she licked him relentlessly. “I think she’s OK!” he yelled up to us. Then Cherry sprang to her feet and sprinted back up the rocks. Someone grabbed her rope as she ran past because we all knew that if she got past us, she would take off on her own and none of us could chase her on that terrain.

That was my first indication of just how resilient that little dog could be!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A New Pup: Cherry

When my kids were little we lived in Japan. I taught at a small liberal arts college (Miyazaki International College) at the southern tip of Kyushu. We lived in a new neighborhood at the edge of a state university that specialized in medicine and agriculture. Just beyond our neighborhood was the ocean to one side, rural countryside at the other.

One day, while riding our bikes through the big campus, we came to a small brown puppy curled up in a cardboard box in front of one of the dorms. A handwritten sign was stapled to the front of the box: “If I am not claimed by Friday, I will be adopted by the test lab.”

We got off our bikes and played with the pup. The kids begged me to take her home. Cute as she was, I was hesitant to take on the responsibility. We lived in a rented house and I knew we couldn’t have a dog inside. I also knew that we wouldn’t be staying in Japan forever, so the problem of taking a dog through customs and back to the United States looked complicated and expensive. I said “no”, but was keenly aware that my heart strings were already tied up in knots for the kids, the adorable little pup, and even for myself.

That night, the puppy was all we could talk about. I finally agreed to go back Friday after school and if the puppy was still there, we would take her home…

When Friday finally came, we peddled as fast as we could to the dorm where we’d seen the little dog. The box was still there, but it was empty. We stood around and lamented for awhile, then walked around looking for her. She was gone. We got on our bikes and started to head home when suddenly, she came tearing out from around another building. At top speed, she ran right toward us. I got off my bike just in time to catch her when she leapt into my arms. The kids were screaming and jumping and the pup was squirming all over us.

We took her home and named her Cherry for her cherry red coat.

Cherry changed our lives…

Monday, November 9, 2009

My First Blog Entry

OK, so I’m starting this blog in early November, late in the barefooting season. Nonetheless, with a passion for both dogs and barefooting, the barefoot dog woman seems an appropriate title for this new endeavor.

My little stray mutt named George is my trusting companion in all I do, including barefooting. I pull George’s pale blue sweater over his little mohawked head and together, we tread barefoot out the door to begin our day. This morning the two of us went out to the park At the edge of town and padded over the damp leaf carpet that lined the river’s bank. The thick covering of golden and magenta leaves on the ground cushioned our soles from the stray sticks that had poked and scratched in warmer months. It’s been unusually cold the past few weeks, so this sudden rise in temperature was a welcome to both of us.

George will be barefoot all through the winter; I’ve never tried those booties they sell in upscale doggie boutiques and don’t ever intend to. I think he would be appalled. I’ll make it through the first few snow falls, but when the ground is frozen solid and the snow comes up over my ankles, I’ll have to pull the boots out of boxes and pack my feet into them.

Nonetheless, this barefoot dog woman is ready to start blogging about the love of nature and my connection to it through the soles of my feet while experiencing the world with canine companions.