One Year Later: On Dogs and Happiness

I didn’t write down the date I adopted my dog Fumu. But it turned out to be pretty easy to track backwards.

February 22, 2015, I ran the Tokyo Marathon. The adoption agent I’d been talking to at Tokyo ARK* had invited me to an adoption event that day, but I said I proooobably wouldn’t make it. So I joined one the following Sunday. And there was Fumu.

20150301_fumufumu

Three weeks later, I picked him up and took him home.

I’d been wanting a dog literally forever. I’d had one growing up, after also wanting a dog literally forever. (But I’m not going to talk about her just now, because there are some sad feelings there, and this post is not about those sad feelings.) I am 1000% a dog person. I am this girl.

via GIPHY

So the idea of paying a full month’s rent as a non-refundable pet deposit, interacting with a vet in Japanese, of just plain caring for another creature when I had only a tiny apartment and no yard, did not dissuade me.

And I mean, look at this gangly, snaggle-toothed little beast.

fumu

He was 2.5 kilos when I got him, which was about half a kilo less than was ideal. I didn’t think much of the weight difference, and he put it on fairly quickly, but seeing his old picture next to his new one I really see the difference.

Not to pat myself on the back or anything, but good job, Jordan, meeting the basic needs of a small dog.

I was stressed as hell when I first got him, though. Not going to lie. I’m an anxious person and like (do not like) setting impossible standards for myself, so I was gripped with fear when I was away from him and self-consciousness when I was with him and he wasn’t behaving like a complete angel (ie, barking at old women and children, which he still enjoys but is getting better at not doing for the sake of treats, which he enjoys more).

Then, as is always the magic answer to anxieties like these, I reached a point where I was able to not give a fuck.

#pratting way after the meme was over

Was my dog happy? Was he healthy? I mean, as far as I could tell, and though I think he’s smart and has me well trained**, I doubted he was hiding some kind of secret misery from me and putting on a happy face. Dogs are ultimately honest, because even the sneaky ones are not that good at being sneaky.

And now that I don’t care if he barks sometimes (though we are working on it), and he has a schedule so he doesn’t care when I leave for work (the dominant theory is that he sleeps all day, but I haven’t gone to nanny-cam levels to find out), I think we’re both pretty good. I’m certainly happy, and science assures me that this is a thing that happens to people who have dogs. I am still stressed (because I am an adult human), and he is still sometimes a little shit (because he is a dog),  but he is my precious darling little shit, and I love him, and I’m glad he’s in my life.

So happy adoption day to my little guy.

Fumu the dog does not pose nicely for pictures.

*If you are looking for a dog (or cat!) in Osaka or Tokyo, I highly recommend ARK. They really care about their animals and are serious about finding the right fit between people and pets.

**Pawing at the empty food bowl = me filling it, but only because he isn’t an overeater and I trust him to do it when he’s hungry! Really! I have reasons!

 

On Walking

Advice to Writers is a nice little blog of quotes that I usually skim over in my feed. I remembered this quote from last December, though, after I got Fumu and he and I settled into a routine:

Writing is about talent and creativity, but it’s also about discipline – about the ability to sit yourself down in that seat, day after day, often after eight hours of work, and make yourself do it, day after day, even if you’re not getting published yet, even if you’re not getting paid, even if ABC is hosting an all-star reunion of your favorite cast members from The Bachelor and The Amazing Race. It’s a form of training that’s as much physical as mental in nature – you sit down, you do the writing, no matter what distractions are out there, no matter that you’re tired or bored or uninspired.

Being a dog owner requires a similar form of discipline. You wake up every morning. You walk the dog. You do this whether you’re tired, depressed, broke, hung over, or have been recently dumped. You do it. And while you’re walking, you’re thinking about plot, or characters, or that tricky bit of dialogue that’s had you stumped for days. You’re out in the fresh air. Your legs are moving. Your dog is sniffing the butts of other dogs. It gives you a routine, a physical rhythm, a loyal companion, and a way to meet new people when you’re in a new place. It gets your body used to doing the same thing at the same time – and if you’re walking the dog for half an hour at the same time of every day, it’s an easy step to go sit in front of the computer and create for half an hour at the same time every day.

JENNIFER WEINER

Going for a walk with Fumu is a different sort of experience than running. When I run I have my music on, I’m paying attention to my stride and my heart rate. I have a focus, and though I’m aware of my surroundings I’m not really taking them in. When we go for a walk, usually when the little monster wakes me up at 5:30, I am minus music, minus phone, and at that hour, minus many human-made distractions. It’s just me and a dog on an empty street, in the cool and quiet morning hours.

I’ve started noticing flowers blooming that I’m not sure I saw before. The trash from last night bunched up where the wind’s blown it into buildings. The buildings themselves, which were always sort of a vague mishmash of color and faint familiarity but now I look at in detail while Fumu dives into some bush to pee. I hear all the time–mostly on the long list of crime and legal procedurals I pop in and out of–how unreliable eyewitness testimony is. And I totally get it. We don’t see half of what we see. Our brain just filters it for us, paring it down to the most immediate and necessary detail, so we don’t smash our noses into anything or walk into traffic.

I can see why walking meditation is a thing. For someone who spends the above-mentioned hours after an 8 hour day of work trying to write what the world looks like, what people see, and how they interact with physical space, I don’t actually spend a lot of time observing what’s around me. Four years in the same neighborhood and I couldn’t tell you what building was one block down, or what the logo colors are on the convenience store on the corner, or which side of the street you have to be on to get up to the tram platform.

I don’t necessarily need to teach myself these things, but by paying attention to them, I’ll get better at describing a made up building down the block, or convenience store logo, or tram platform, or whatever else I need.

On Walking

Advice to Writers is a nice little blog of quotes that I usually skim over in my feed. I remembered this quote from last December, though, after I got Fumu and he and I settled into a routine:

Writing is about talent and creativity, but it’s also about discipline – about the ability to sit yourself down in that seat, day after day, often after eight hours of work, and make yourself do it, day after day, even if you’re not getting published yet, even if you’re not getting paid, even if ABC is hosting an all-star reunion of your favorite cast members from The Bachelor and The Amazing Race. It’s a form of training that’s as much physical as mental in nature – you sit down, you do the writing, no matter what distractions are out there, no matter that you’re tired or bored or uninspired.

Being a dog owner requires a similar form of discipline. You wake up every morning. You walk the dog. You do this whether you’re tired, depressed, broke, hung over, or have been recently dumped. You do it. And while you’re walking, you’re thinking about plot, or characters, or that tricky bit of dialogue that’s had you stumped for days. You’re out in the fresh air. Your legs are moving. Your dog is sniffing the butts of other dogs. It gives you a routine, a physical rhythm, a loyal companion, and a way to meet new people when you’re in a new place. It gets your body used to doing the same thing at the same time – and if you’re walking the dog for half an hour at the same time of every day, it’s an easy step to go sit in front of the computer and create for half an hour at the same time every day.

JENNIFER WEINER

Going for a walk with Fumu is a different sort of experience than running. When I run I have my music on, I’m paying attention to my stride and my heart rate. I have a focus, and though I’m aware of my surroundings I’m not really taking them in. When we go for a walk, usually when the little monster wakes me up at 5:30, I am minus music, minus phone, and at that hour, minus many human-made distractions. It’s just me and a dog on an empty street, in the cool and quiet morning hours.

I’ve started noticing flowers blooming that I’m not sure I saw before. The trash from last night bunched up where the wind’s blown it into buildings. The buildings themselves, which were always sort of a vague mishmash of color and faint familiarity but now I look at in detail while Fumu dives into some bush to pee. I hear all the time–mostly on the long list of crime and legal procedurals I pop in and out of–how unreliable eyewitness testimony is. And I totally get it. We don’t see half of what we see. Our brain just filters it for us, paring it down to the most immediate and necessary detail, so we don’t smash our noses into anything or walk into traffic.

I can see why walking meditation is a thing. For someone who spends the above-mentioned hours after an 8 hour day of work trying to write what the world looks like, what people see, and how they interact with physical space, I don’t actually spend a lot of time observing what’s around me. Four years in the same neighborhood and I couldn’t tell you what building was one block down, or what the logo colors are on the convenience store on the corner, or which side of the street you have to be on to get up to the tram platform.

I don’t necessarily need to teach myself these things, but by paying attention to them, I’ll get better at describing a made up building down the block, or convenience store logo, or tram platform, or whatever else I need.

Dog Distractions

Hi friends, sorry I missed my regular Sunday post. Blame these two, and the other dogs available for adoption at ARK:

20150301_fumufumu 20150301_seiji

I also fell in love with a bigger, almost coyote-like dog named Satoimo. He was part of a pack of dogs living in the mountains, and is still quite shy around humans. He hid under the table at the adoption fair most of the time. But, remembering the sage lessons from The Dog Whisperer, I sat next to him, making sure he had an avenue of escape if he wanted one, let him sniff my hand, then when he seemed to decide I was OK, calmly petted him. Poor guy. He is much too big for my house, and too untrained for my often-absent schedule, but I really hope he finds a nice, loving home.

I should be able to report back in another week if anyone in particular is coming to live with me. Stay tuned – and if you don’t like cute dog pictures, run now while you still can.