Woof! - Sumi

Japan Trip Update (3)

(Update May 10, - as told to me by Sumi) Sumi is enjoying life in Kagoshima. However, today was Sumi's and my first encounter with a Japanese viper. Though I don't believe that Sumi is even aware that it happened, the viper sure was. Sumi and I take two regular morning walks up the mountain path from Mia's parents. The first walk typically is Sumi, me and Sheek, the family's loving, old, overweight, formerly golden, retriever. Sheek is not a fast dog. Barely a slow dog. He struggles up the hills, flexing his body almost like a fish trying to swim through a thick liquid, and breathing nearly as heavily. This first walk was normal. It was the second walk, with Sumi and Chibi, that we came across the snake. Chibi is a young, spritely, overly excitable male shiba inu. He is in just the opposite physical condition of Sheek, which is why we generally take two walks. Sumi, who is part whippet and lightning fast, can keep up with Chibi without problem. Sumi, unlike Chibi, is also reasonably well-trained and responsive, except for today.

photo of Sumi, Sheek, Chibi, my wife Mia, and Nephew Ryo, about 100 meters from the start of the walk.

Our walk up the mountain is probably 1/4 mile up on a paved road through a few tea fields and past a tea processing plant, and then sharply upward cutting back, then forth, on a concrete then dirt road through the woods.About 1/4 mile further up there is a station for drinking water from the stream that runs though. Because of all the weekend rain the stream was gushing fast and full. This is the normal destination after which we would turn back. It is almost always so with Sheek. Sumi and Chibi generally are alternatively sprinting, then running and jumping on each other most of the way up the mountain, probably doubling the distance traveled. On the Chibi run, we sometimes continue up further into the woods, if Sumi, Chibi, and especially I are in the mood. I hadn't walked them far yesterday because of the rains, so today I thought we'd go a little further, despite the muddiness of the path. It was about 200 yards further up the path when I saw that Chibi had seen something -- alive.

Chibi was about 10 yards ahead of me. He was focused on something on the side of the roadpath. First advancing, then retreating. But always keeping his distance. Sumi, on the other hand, had no clue something was up. She actually was continuing her romping, and generally taking Chibi's actions as an invitation to play. I approached cautiously, aware that the outdoor-living, country-dog, Chibi, probably has the better instincts here, than Sumi, who was adopted in San Francisco by Mia and me, who pamper her to the point of letting her determine sleeping positions in bed. (not all the time) On the side of the road among the leaves was a 2-3 foot viper, coiled up to attack.

Now I don't know whether a quick Shiba inu is able to take on a snake. I do know that if I saw Sumi run past that snake whithin striking distance one more time she might have learned a quick and probably fatal lesson. (When I mentioned this back at home to my wife, she said these Japanese "mamushi" are very very poisonous.) So, not wanting to get too close myself, I decided to try to attract with more activity and play back down the hill. I was able to get her attention, then with some effort also break Chibi's concentration on the snake. We all returned safely, one of us, none-the-wiser, down the mountain.

(UPDATE: Thursday, March 11, 2004, Yachimata, Chiba, Japan) Mia was invited to attend a tea ceremony held by her first intructor, Ms. Joya, so I went to visit Sumi alone...driving my in-laws minivan. Today it was insanely windy across rural Chiba. Dust and topsoil from farms blew across the towns and roads with a force only slightly less powerul than the dustbowls in John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath. Sumi was glad to see me...but the winds made it difficult to stay outside for too long. In addition to the dust, which was somewhat less intense in the concrete environment of the airport, the noises created by the winds blowing against various objects was a bit too much for Sumi. She is a little sad, but it doing OK. On the positive side, she is in the homestretch of this leg of the trip. 11 of 15 days down. We pick her up on Monday for the 1.5 hour flight to Kagoshima.

Sumi at the Airport Kennel | Sumi trying to fit in

(March 4, 2004 - Chiba, Japan) Sumi arrived in Japan OK! Though a somewhat stressful experience, Sumi arrived safely at Narita Airport Sunday afternoon 2/29 after an 11 hour journey. Our highest compliments to the people of All Nippon Airways for their excellent care and attention to Sumi (and her parents) during this trip. She is now 4 days into her 14 day quarrantine in a kennel on the outskirts of the airport. We visited her Tuesday and will see her again today. She is a little confused and worn out by the experience as well as seeing her first snowfall on Monday.

We adopted Sumi from San Francisco Animal Care & Control last summer. Sumi is the word for the black ink used in traditional Japanese calligraphy. As best we can tell, she is a female black lab, pitbull, whippet, et. al. mix. She had been abused, had run away twice and had been hit in an accident. When we saw her in her cage, her eyes looked like she had just about given up. We knew we had to help her. In the "getting to know you" room at ACC she cowered in a corner by my wife but wouldn't come near me for about 1 hour. She was so afraid. At home she hid under the bed covers for the first few days. I literally had to carry her out to the Marina green for 2 weeks for her to go. But we gradually got her to come out of her shell and trust us. We had a trainer come to help. She began to socialize with other dogs. Today, though still skittish of new people and bicycles, she is the fastest and most popular dog on Marina green. She has given us back an unconditional love of a life that has been given a second chance.

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