There is something about my appearance that brings out the worst even in a normally well-mannered dog. It may have to do with my hunched-up pack or rapid gait. Or the way I swing my arms. Perhaps dogs know intuitively that I dislike the sound of a bark as much as the cry of babies or Siamese cats. Or it could be that I just look and smell a bit trampish. Whatever the reason I view all dogs on the loose as potential assailants… ~ John Hillaby, ‘Journey Through Europe‘
I have been harassed by dogs while walking on four continents.They are easily my least-favourite local fauna. I have nothing against the creatures in theory — the idea of them. I’ve had a few mutts in my life and we got along nicely. But Mr Hillaby might be right about the pack: It sets the buggers off. Many’s the time I’ve been grateful that I usually walk with trekking poles.
But even pack-less, they will often take me on, or at least give me a good barking-to as I take my customary daily stroll. There are too many dogs nowadays, and too many selfish morons on the other end of the leash. And all that boorish yapping and frothing through the fence slats, that frantic lusting for my blood, spoiling my peace and quiet. I mean, call me over-sensitive…
But Japanese dogs are the worst, in my experience. Farm dogs, I mean. Not the little mutant rat-like critters you see in the cities…
..which are barely worthy of the name. No, those maniacal farm dogs: ugly brutes, devoid of charm, invariably tethered on short chains at the front of the house where they can case the road and let hell loose when they spy an unwelcome hiker cresting the hill. Those poor bastards — not much of a life for them, I suppose. Let ’em have their fun.
Another curious fact is that farm people — American, Japanese and Swiss, in my experience — rarely silence their demon-curs as they menace a passerby. Maybe that rabid barking and jumping up and down suits their master just fine. Don’t even think of coming up the drive, stranger. Keep on walkin’.
Farm hospitality. Another rural fantasy shattered…
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not a dog-hater per se. This guy, for example, just invited a good pat on the head. He or she purred like a kitten and I walked on, whistling, having done my bit for east-west relations:
But I value all my limbs. No scratch behind the ears for this mangy bastard:
Or for this fascistic fleabag. Sometimes a chain and a fence are not quite enough:
Hokkaido: long stretches of peaceful, empty countryside suddenly despoiled by the hysterical baying of yet another canine. I’d have to cover another quarter-mile, sometimes, before the noise would fade out. It became a way of passing the time and guessing the distance travelled. Then that bastard would settle down and the brute at the next farm would take over.
Maybe they envied me my freedom.
April 2008. About a week into my Hokkaido walk, I’ve just escaped the last throes of one farm mutt’s country greeting when, like deranged clockwork, his neighbour takes up the chorus. But this time it’s different. Hokkaido is cold, plastic-greenhouse country, and out of one of these surreal structures comes a flash of furry terror. This bastard is loose.
I raise one stick and square off. It’s been a long morning, my knee is hurting like hell, and God help any unfortunate mutt that takes me on today. Then I notice that this dog has an unusual…gait. And no wonder. He’s missing both back legs. And with Japanese ingenuity, he’s been rendered fit for continued service by enclosing his lower torse in an old fertiliser bag so he can drag his rabid frame around the property.
He seems oblivious to any disability, however. He ventures onto the road, hackles quivering. Then a shout, and another, and “Mother” darts out, apologising profusely. She grabs Fido-chan and shepherds him back from the road edge. It’s a quiet road, like all roads in rural Hokkaido in spring, but he really ought to know better. She confirms, with the Japanese word for “accident”, that it was this very road that rendered her loveable lad limbless.
She apologises again.
It’s really quite alright, I tell her in halting Japanese. But I deserve compensation after such a harrowing encounter whilst going about my own business. Would a photo be too much to ask?
She is embarrassed, knows she looks a sight in her pyjama-like work duds, standard uniform, along with a sun bonnet, for Japanese farm women. But before she can retreat, I raise my camera and snap off a picture. Nobody would believe me otherwise:
I farewell them and continue limping into the lonesome hills. It’s my first and only conversation in a week.
Around the next bend, I can already hear the prickly tones of the next of the morning’s mutts…
~ And that’s all the Goat wrote