Checking in on Konbu

I went to visit with Konbu at an adoption fair at DOGSIGN in Shibuya this weekend. It has only been a few weeks since I saw him last, but he has grown so much!

He's still a bit shy around strangers, so he was content to curl up and "hide" in my lap, but he did come out to play with Chucker a few times. Konbu and Chucker are about the same size and age, so they make great playmates. Their foster families even live in the same neighborhood, so they get to go on walks together sometimes.

You can meet Konbu, Chucker or even Solar - the teeny tiny mame-shiba in the background. Visit arkbark.net to read foster dog bios and find upcoming adoption events.

KonbuAtDogsign.png

Ganbatte, Kon-chan!

Today was the foster buddy Konbu's last day at our home. He's growing so fast that he's already outgrown our rental restrictions, so he's going to another foster home. He's still super shy with other people, but he and I made a lot of progress, and I got a lot of trust snuggles this week. I hope he warms to the new family even more quickly! I'll miss you buddy.

Visit ArkBark.net to learn more about Konbu and other adoptable foster dogs in Tokyo.

He is mostly happy, but he still has some times where he doesn't trust anyone. I think this might happen less frequently after his baby teeth have finished falling out!

He is mostly happy, but he still has some times where he doesn't trust anyone. I think this might happen less frequently after his baby teeth have finished falling out!

Great progress, Konbu!

Some notes about Konbu's progress:

  • His biggest improvement has been walking on a leash. During our first week, whenever I took him outside, he would always cower or try to bolt. So I spent a great deal of time with him on very tedious walks, where I would stop walking every time he pulled on the leash. It's slow, patient work, but it's paying off. He still pulls, but usually not as hard. It helps that his new leash is a bit longer, so he has more room to explore.
  • He likes to potty outside, but he also uses pee pads indoors. He's a very big puppy, though, so I have learned to put out 2 or 4 in a grid so he is less likely to "miss".
  • He doesn't bark often. If he starts to get excited about a toy or food he might let out one big bark, at which point I sit on the couch and offer him a quiet toy and some petting to distract him.
  • He still has lots of restless dreams, but they are starting to sound less scary.
  • The KONG is his favorite toy ever, but it sometimes has really delicious stuff inside, so that's no big surprise.
  • Originally, he would only approach his food and water if I left the room, but now he will eat if I go sit somewhere else.

And finally...

Hiding from the big bad monster!

Hiding from the big bad monster!

He still gets scared of the most random things! The #1 Most Terrifying Thing in the home is a 12" Totoro doll which usually lives on the table behind the TV and watches over the doorway. Today I moved it so I could dust. Now that Konbu is aware of its existence, he is sneaking around so as not to disturb it. Second most terrifying thing? The ottoman, because it opens for storage. Also, plastic grocery bags. I try so hard to understand this dog...

Konbu's first week

Konbu is about 4 months old, and nearing 8 kilograms. He came to our house a week ago, and we will foster him for a few weeks until the next foster family can take him. (He'll soon outgrow the size limits for our apartment.)

My buddy is so handsome!

My buddy is so handsome!


He lived in the wild for the first month or two of his life, so he is very frightened of almost everything! But he has chosen our couch as his "safe zone". He won't sit on a lap, though he likes to lay next to us and lean his head on us. If we are downstairs, he prefers to hide under the bed. At night he sleeps in a dog pen in the bedroom - he doesn't whine, and he waits patiently for us to let him out when we wake up.

Konbu has learned to sit on command, but he is still unsure of my motives. He thinks I'm going to grab him, so he sometimes cringes from the hand that offers the treat. He has learned to sit patiently while I eat, as long as I reward him with a treat after I am finished eating.
 

He loves his toys

He loves his toys

He always uses a pee pad indoors, though he sometimes hits the edge, so I always supervise him so I can clean up. He also likes to chew on things, but he is easily distracted from chewing my belongings if I give him a toy instead. He loves his toys! If he has a lot of energy, he tries to sprint back and forth across the room to tire himself out. He occasionally gets excited about his food or toys and gives a bark or two, but I can distract him by inviting him onto the couch for a quiet cuddle before playing with him again.

Walking is scary! But fun!

Walking is scary! But fun!

He is just starting to walk on leash without pulling so hard. The beginning and end of the walk are very scary times for him, but in the middle of the walk, he is happy and prances with his tail up. He is mostly afraid of other dogs, but he has begun to let some of them exchange sniffs with him. He doesn't like it at all when people try to approach him. He was okay walking in the rain, until I opened my umbrella! Terrifying!

To sum it up: He's scared, but friendly, and making progress.

Meet Konbu!

Our new foster pup arrived today! His name is Konbu. (That's the Japanese word for the edible seaweed also known as kelp.)

Still wary of everything!

Still wary of everything!

Kon-chan is just over 3 months old and already 7kg! He was born in the wild, so he is super shy around people. We will be keeping him for about 1 month to give him extra attention until his scheduled future foster family can take him. He'll soon exceed the size limit for our apartment lease, but we can give him lots of cuddles in the meantime! (...if he'll let us. This is going to require a lot of food rewards.)

He decided I was trustworthy enough to lean on after I shared a bite of chicken.

He decided I was trustworthy enough to lean on after I shared a bite of chicken.

If you are interested in meeting Konbu, come to one of the monthly Tokyo adoption events!

Visit ArkBark.net to see more adoptable dogs and cats in Tokyo and Osaka. The site is viewable in both English and Japanese. (As of this writing, Konbu is only viewable on the Japanese version of the site, but he'll be translated to the English site soon!)

Momoe is adopted!

Momoe has been adopted! Tomorrow she will take a plane ride to her new forever home in Osaka, and she will spend her days at the veterinary where her new mom works. So today she cleaned up a bit.

I was struggling to keep things light and positive while trying to give her little teeth a brushing, but she kept trying to bite the toothbrush. I thought it was in protest, but when I finally let her clamp down, she showed me how it is done. She likes this toothbrush way better than any of her toys! We'll miss you, little smartypants.

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Here she is cleaning her own teeth. After I took the video below, I let go of the brush and she kept at it for several minutes. I took the brush away when it started to disintegrate. If you try this at home, don't use human toothpaste, as it can be harmful to dogs. And maybe best not to let them ruin a toothbrush that they could swallow pieces of. You can buy little toys instead that are more durable and have toothbrush-like bristles.

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I just unlocked a secret code to the dog

2017/2/22 Update: Momoe has been adopted!

I got the Japanese dog commands osuwari (sit), ote (hand), and fuse (lay down) from Google, but I just learned the word mawaru (rotate) from the WaniKani kanji learning app, and it totally works on our foster dog. I kept trying magatte (turn a corner), so I'm sure Momoe is thinking "finally you know what you're talking about, dumb human".

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Momoe the Dachshund

2017/2/22 Update: Momoe has been adopted!

Tokyo ARK uses a message board for communication between staff, volunteers, foster families and adoptive families. This is Momoe's welcome announcement. (For those in the USA, the name is pronounced mo-mo-ay, and it doesn't "mean" anything - it is a feminine Japanese given name).

Meet Momoe!

Look at that smile!

Look at that smile!

We started fostering Momoe when she came from the Osaka shelter one week ago. She is 8 years old, 5.5kg, well-behaved in the home, and a super snuggler. She hated being in the carrier on the train, but she got a treat and a nice long walk as soon as we got out of the station, so she took to us quickly.

A stroll by the river

A stroll by the river

I was able to get her to “sit” using English and a hand signal, but she seems to prefer Japanese commands. Osuwari (sit), ote (paw) and fuse (lay down) all work very well. And it seems she can stay, but I think I might be using the wrong command (matte?), and when I use my hand signal for "stay" she usually wants to give a little high five! So that's a work in progress.  

Nosey

Nosey

She gets very anxious when she is alone, so we spent the first 24 hours coddling her while she got used to the new surroundings, and we have spent the rest of the week positively and gently establishing a schedule and clear boundaries to help her relax: Potty in the garden before we go on a walk three times a day, Stay on the rug in the living room when I am in the kitchen, No sitting with us on the couch until she can relax by herself on the floor, Etc.

Playing by herself

Playing by herself

We take care to keep her off the stairs, and it only took an afternoon for her to learn that she should hop into the soft carrier if she wants us to carry her upstairs and down. All in all, she is a delightful and happy little dog, and eager to please. I will post her photos on instagram with hashtag #momoethedachshund

Getting some rest

Getting some rest

Signing up to foster for Tokyo Ark

I always had pets in the house. Growing up, we had cats, dogs, fish, hermit crabs, gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, ducks, a rabbit, a rat, and we pet-sat a few parakeets. Honestly, I'm surprised we never had a goat.

During and after college, I lived with my two cats, Rocky and Dweezil. After marrying, my husband and I moved from Austin to Houston. The cats were, by this point, elderly, and the move was especially traumatizing, leading to a rapid decline in their health. So when we needed to move again six months later, we left them with family to live out their final months.

Rest in peace, biscuit kings.

Rest in peace, biscuit kings.

In Seattle, I started to miss having a pet to greet when I came in the door, or one to follow me around the kitchen, or to snuggle on the couch. But our lease stipulated no pets.

In New Orleans, we signed another lease without pets, but I missed them so much I started to walk dogs at the local animal shelter. 200 volunteer hours later, I got a part time job at the LASPCA so that I could spend even more time with the dogs. My work was in the admin wing, but I still walked dogs on breaks, and brought shy and fearful ones out of the "Encouragement Room" kennels to my cubicle to have an even quieter safe place to relax and learn to trust humans again.

I had by this time lived with multiple sclerosis for a few years, luckily healing from each attack, but always battling the psychological impacts - fear, anxiety and depression. Working with the dogs had such a positive impact on my health that we decided that a pet-friendly lease was the top priority for our next move.

When we found out that next move would be to Japan, I immediately started looking for Tokyo shelters, rescues, advocacy groups and dog cafes - anything to get me started on the process to adopt a dog. But the more I read and considered, the more I realized that fostering might be the best option. My husband's job assignment has no end date, and we'll probably be here for at least 5 or 6 years, but we can't be sure. And we could fly a dog back to the USA easily, but what if that's even more traumatizing than the car ride was for Rocky? (He had a seizure.) And what if the next move turns out to be to a country with even stricter quarantine laws?

After I found Animal Refuge Kansai the choice was clear. Their shelter is in Osaka, but they have a network of foster homes in Tokyo. We attended one of their monthly Tokyo adoption events and learned that the organization covers the costs of food and medical bills for foster pets, and if the animal has a medical emergency, I can call them to translate between me and the veterinarian. It's an all-around excellent fit.

Initially I was worried because they didn't respond to our foster application for a few weeks, so we attended another adoption fair to inquire again. It turns out their website submission forms had some sort of glitch, but they were able to pull up my info very quickly. Lesson: persistence pays off - follow up!

Now we have approval and wait for our new friend.