Sunday, May 5, 2013

Our "Secondhand" Japanese Dog

How could you say no to this face??

We just adopted a puppy here in Japan! He is a Shiba Inu mix from Okinawa (an Island boy!). A few weeks ago he was flown to Tokyo by an nonprofit organization called wanspace (that we found on a Japanese website similar to Petfinder). Lucky for him, he was born to two strays that someone was taking care of and he wasn't abandoned in a field, like a lot of stray puppies are. Okinawa in particular has a big problem with stray dogs that is not helped by the American military leaving dogs behind when it comes time for them to leave Japan. Therefore, we had to PROMISE (cross your heart hope to die stick a needle in your eye) that we would never, ever abandon our dog. I also said several "gomen nasai"s (apologies) to the organization for the irresponsible Americans that had thrown their dogs away.

Finding a dog to adopt wasn't easy. You can't just go to your local animal shelter...because uh, there really isn't one. I'm not kidding. There is no established "culture" of dog adoption here. There are pounds (hokenjos) where they hold stray dogs for one week (or less) before they are euthanized. And then there are a few organizations like the one we found, that fosters strays in people's homes. There is only one physical shelter that I know of -- ARK in Osaka, which is run by a British lady.

I don't think people even consider dog adoption as an option. Lack of awareness, among other things. Most people buy their dogs from the pet store or the pet section at big box stores. Yes, they sell dogs at the equivalent here of Target and WalMart. It's heinous. By the way, they are also insanely expensive--upwards of 100,000 yen ($1000+). And of course, these dogs, like purebred pet store dogs in the U.S., come from awful puppy mills. Or are bred in apartments by the yakuza (gangsters). Maybe I'm wrong, but the impression I get is that it doesn't seem that anyone's blown the lid off that here in Japan. I feel like most Americans know they should never, ever get a dog from a pet store. Also, because the Japanese are so brand-conscious, you will almost never see mixed breed dogs around. I've maybe seen one or two since we moved here. Mutts like our adorable puppy are considered "used" or "secondhand" and most Japanese don't want that kind of dog. The purebred dogs here are horribly inbred, even worse than the U.S.

On top of that, they need a healthy dose of Bob Barker here to remind everyone to "Help control the pet population. Have your pet spayed or neutered." I've heard it has something to do with Buddhism, but it seems that spaying/neutering your pet isn't something people think to automatically do here in Japan. Consequently, you have a bunch of mutts running around that nobody wants and nowhere to keep them since there's barely enough room for people here in Japan, never mind unwanted stray animals. I could go into more details but it's really heartbreaking. 500 dogs and cats are euthanized every day. You would never imagine, after seeing all the pampered, spoiled child-replacement dogs here that they could treat animals like that.

I'm glad that we got to save one special dog.  :-)

First night at home after a long drive from Tokyo

First walk (ever!)

You know, just posing with some flowers

Here's to many more years with our "little weirdo" ;)

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