I wouldn’t exactly consider myself a dog person. Please understand, I’m not a dog hater. I have nothing against dogs. Dogs are great. Other people’s dogs are awesome. I just don’t want to be fully responsible for something that breathes anytime soon, and Travis has agreed that we will have a no dependent policy for as long as we can hold out. We can barely keep our rosemary bush alive.
But here lately, I have to confess…I’ve been secretly taking pictures of dogs in Japan. They’re beyond remarkable. Small, thoroughbred-ish, portable, well-groomed, well dressed, and well-behaved, these wonders of the animal kingdom have me laughing, staring, and marveling on a weekly basis.
In the past, I’ve always thought it was hilarous to hear people subtly imply that their pets are on the same intellectual level as a person. Yeah, dogs have feelings, but I was never convinced we can ascribe words like “thoughtful, chivalrous, bashful, or pensive” to our four-legged friends. My personal favorite is to hear how “funny” somebody’s dogs is- as if it is aware that it’s being entertaining. Maybe destined for stardom? They’re still animals, people!
But now living in Japan has almost convinced me otherwise!
Some people say the Japanese are a little racist against other Asians, believing they are the top of the Asian food chain. The most sophisticated in culture, advanced in technology, innovative, first-world, organized, cultured and all that jazz. I’m beginning to think that their dogs have adopted a similar hierarchical attitude towards other dogs on the planet. For instance, a long-haired daschund in Tokyo, freshly groomed and outfitted in a beautiful plaid sweater, sitting patiently waiting for his master is without a doubt smarter, cooler, more innovative, and wittier than the same breed in another country. He’s got manners, class, style, humor and he knows it.
Several years ago, I heard a funny interview on NPR with a lady who rescues stray dogs in Sierra Leone. This weirdo lady argued that you can judge a country by its dogs and the way the citizens treat their dogs. I thought it was a little over-simplified and “far-fetched” at the time, but after a good deal of travel, I think the crazy dog lady is right. I’m reminded how many developing countries I’ve visited where there are tons of stray dogs who aren’t cared for, and I’m afraid to approach them because they could very well have rabies! In Japan, I appreciate the fact that I have yet to see a stray dog. No pound puppies on the prowl. No mangy, rabinous dogs lurking in the shadows. It’s pretty remarkable considering the size of Tokyo and the amount of people with dogs as pets.
The birth rate in Japan is steadily declining (maybe because it’s so dern expensive to live here?), and it seems more Japanese are opting for dogs instead of children, or having fewer children + a dog.
And the clothes and accessories always seem to perfectly match the dog’s personality. The studious types are preppy. The girly-girls like to wear frilly dresses and bows.
The cool, hipster doggies are dressed a little more urban.
This doggy extremism is a complete lifestyle. Doggy strollers are everywhere. Many owners cook meals for their dogs that are tastier than the food they cook for themselves. Nursing care and health insurance for pets is not uncommon. And for that dreadful day when it’s time for Fido to go, there are pet cemeteries, pet crematories, or even the option of securing a funeral plot next to your dog.
So if we can judge a country by it’s dogs, Japan is the most sophisticated society with the smartest, coolest, and most self-actualized dogs on the planet.