Sunday, June 25, 2017

Daruma Stove

I use a type of 'Daruma Stove' in the cabin. And by type, I mean the cheapest one available. The daruma stove was developed and used widely in Japan from the early 1900's and was originally designed to burn coal, though you can burn just about anything in them. They've been used for heating everything from houses to trains.

When I started renovating the cabin I was cash strapped and needed heating for the second winter. I moved in at the end of winter, so just gutted through the first one. With cracks to let everything from snakes to the cold directly into the house, it was an icebox. Anyway, come November it was time for quick thinking, and instead of spending a huge amount of money buying a traditional cast iron fireplace, I picked up a cheap daruma stove at the hardware shop for around 50 bucks. It has worked beautifully.

I originally just used brick on the wall around it, and laid sand out in a tray under it as fireproofing, but errant puppies were wont to make their way into the sand to do their business (yes, Trey, they must be cats). Tired of having to sort that out, I've just rebuilt the area, and did the end of season chimney clean.

The stove's I use are made of extremely thin metal, so do burn out after a few seasons of use. So far I had the top of one rust out a bit after 2 seasons, but I think that was because I always had a kettle of water sitting on top of it. The first one is now serving as a flowerpot outside, and number 2 is still in use (and I've been here for 4 years 4 months now).
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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Can You Call This Breeder For Me?

So as you would imagine, I get this request a lot. Someone overseas sees a picture of a dog they like online, grabs the name of the breeder, and then asks if I can track them down. A variation of this is people that want to hire me to go to a dog show with them and hit up the breeders there for dogs to import.

I understand what's going on. If you could talk to them yourself, you would (many try... hello google translate). Why do I generally say no to requests like this? I wanted it down in writing, so here goes.

I do help people import/export dogs. I even set up a dedicated website and business for it because it morphed into something that the tax office required me to register I'm a translator, it's one of the many things I do so it would seem I'd be happy to accept more work, right?

Well dogs to me are something else. They are not a money making venture. I've always felt it's important to keep it this way because I don't like what I've seen happen when selling dogs is the way a person makes a living. Dogs are living creatures, no two are the same, and it's not like selling TVs where you have them all sitting on a shelf. There's a much more personal exchange going on between a breeder and potential owner, and each exchange is a custom fit, trying to match up the right dog with the right people. I started sending Nihon Ken overseas to help with their preservation and promotion, and to help people that I felt really appreciated the breeds to find the best possible pup for them. If anything I'm doing doesn't quite add up to this initial goal, I'm not really keen to get involved. When dogs are how you make a living, I feel that it's very easy for money to invade your decision making process. When you're thinking about the bottom line, even if it's only a slight consideration, it can affect the studs you use, the breedings you choose to do, the dogs you keep, the shows you go to, the people you hang out with. The list is endless really.

So for starters, this is the reason I'm not sending oodles of other breeds all over the world. I've had requests for poodles, Japanese spitz, chihuahuas, corgis etc.
Once I start getting into that, this is just a business, I am just a broker. It doesn't have anything to do with preserving the Nihon Ken.

I also generally don't cold call breeders for people. Why not? Because no matter how the conversation or relationship goes with that breeder, to them I am a broker. I'm sure it's important all over the world, but especially here in Japan in the world of dogs, personal relationships and introductions are extremely important. If you've bred dogs, you know how difficult it is to produce quality dogs, and are only going to give them up to the right people. If I just call a breeder out of the blue, they don't know me from Jack Sprat. I usually only work with breeders that I've met personally through some event, or are introduced to by a mutual friend. It's not just being able to get a better quality dog, there is a lot more information that you'd give a person that you're friendly with as opposed to a broker that you only have a business relationship with. Why would you tell someone that is just a dollar sign about how their might be a health issue in your line, or that you didn't like the temperament of a dog you bred in this or that pedigree. I want to have the best, deepest, and most positive relationship I can with everyone I work with. Doesn't mean I always do, but that's what I'm aiming for.

This all translates into why I don't walk around dogs shows translating for people trying to buy dogs. Because then to everyone that doesn't know me at the show, I will again forever be just a broker. I am a dollar sign outsider as opposed to being an insider.

The Nihon Ken clubs here in Japan are all about amateurism in a sort of Olympic manner. Yes, there are people who make a living breeding Akita and Shiba, but for the most part we're a bunch of amateur dog fanciers having fun preserving/working/showing our dogs. The clubs are non-profits, and try to keep that amateur vibe going. I like it that way as I am not a fan of shows that feel like a big garage sale.

If you want me to translate for you and a breeder in Japan, I'm happy to do it if you've already spoken to them, or tried to speak to them. You've already gotten the ball rolling, and maybe just need some help with the language barrier and export procedures. You're also taking responsibility for importing a dog from this breeder (health/temperament/ethics etc etc). If you just ask me to look for a pup, because there's a limited number of kennels I work with, it usually takes some time.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Shikoku Book Part 7

The following chapters go into how to raise puppies and care for adult dogs.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Trapping Boar

I'm not big on trapping... It's effective, but I don't like the potential hours of stress on wild animals till you arrive to shoot them, and really I just don't have the time to be checking tons of traps every day. But, I do get asked by the local community and the city to control boar in areas where unleashing the hounds is not possible. The neighborhood I live in, well the boar are everywhere now, so I've got a few traps out. The other night boar were all over my nightly walking course, digging up fresh bamboo shoots. It was pretty hairy trying to walk all the dogs without running into them, and believe me there's some pretty big boar in there. I just shot a 92kg male this morning. Anyway, the other night I heard some noise near one of my box traps that's been empty for nearly a year. Well it was no longer empty. 72kg male boar. Went over and shot him at dawn (5am).

Shigeru Katoさん(@katothewalrus)がシェアした投稿 -

Monday, June 12, 2017

Second Gen

Took Karen out solo today. She hunts well enough with Baron, but for me and my style of close quarters hunting, staying focused and in constant (non-verbal) communication between dog and hunter, it's time for her to step up a notch. It's a bit of a pain for me because Baron hunts so well that hunting with the younger dogs is a lot more work with less boars taken. But Baron's not going to be around forever, so I have to put in the work with the other dogs.

Karen's a very easy dog to own. Is just like Baron in that she doesn't bark at home, sleeps 23 hours a day, and is an easy keeper. She gets along with other dogs, and is shy toward strangers. I don't mind that one bit because I'm not trying to raise a Labrador. She's a working dog, and it's actually preferable that she avoids people, other dogs, and houses etc. As long as she's not aggressive toward any of those, it's all good. She's got a good nose, hunts very well with Baron, is still a bit too loose when on boar (gives them too much space, especially after a charge) and she gets the 'zoomies' sometimes especially when first getting out of the car. The energy and excitement get her running, and this really sucks with hunting dogs off leash because it pulls the other dogs into a race and amps up everyone's energy. Then I have to get her and everyone else back and paying attention to me and the hunt which wastes a good amount of time.

Anyway, all that to say the answer is to hunt her solo for a while. It'll create a closer bond and more communication with me, and she'll get more focused on hunting boar as opposed to playing. Plus she'll have to work harder to stop the boar by herself. Today was a good first day where she really started 'talking' to me in the mountains more. We didn't get on any boar, but that will come.

We hunted the afternoon, and then in the evening after we got home, boar were already all over the neighborhood. Their coming in to eat the fresh bamboo, and of course the hillside behind my house is covered in bamboo. The dogs don't like the boar there, and it's tough to get out to walk the dogs because we're basically surrounded. These boar have 'uribou' (piglets) with them, which makes it even gnarlier as the herd are more aggressive in moving toward perceived threats. As it is I just managed to finish walking the dogs, had some fun watching the boar with my high beam flashlights for a while, and then realized it seemed one finally walked into one of my box traps. Sure enough, a big 70kg-ish boar is in one of the traps. Hope it holds alright till morning when I head down to shoot it.

Shigeru Katoさん(@katothewalrus)がシェアした投稿 -

Friday, June 9, 2017

Why Don't We Outcross?

A discussion that comes up a lot nowadays when discussing the preservation of 'purebreeds' is the idea of outcrossing, or an open studbook. This is especially true when dealing with rare breeds that have very small gene pools (and genetic issues for instance). So, I thought I'd explain why that is very unlikely to happen here in Japan.

NIPPO, the preservation society, was founded to preserve the breeds and remove the influence of western breeds from the gene pool. The Nihon Ken was interbreeding with the newly imported breeds, so NIPPO is very big on removing any all traits associated with non-Japanese breeds (like tongue spotting which they think was a sign of interbreeding with Chows). So I don't see outcrossing being allowed here in Japan any time soon. It would basically be against the mission statement of NIPPO.

Also the breeds are officially designated as national treasures. The term is actually 'tennen kinenbutsu' which would translate to 'natural monument'. It's a designation given to wildlife and fauna that is native and particularly valuable to Japanese culture. This is something along the lines of say a national bird like the bald eagle in the US. You can imagine the uproar if it was decided to start breeding them with a Chinese eagle to increase genetic diversity. Trump might have something to say about that.

All jokes aside, there is an issue we have here in Chiba prefecture where the native macaques are interbreeding with a non-native introduced species, the rhesus monkey. There's been a lot of discussion about this because they've now reached a wildlife park where the monkeys are 'tennen kinenbutsu'. They've immediately put a cull in effect because basically hybrid offspring are no longer a native species, and so lose their official designation as a national treasure. I believe this same thinking would probably be used in any discussion regarding opening the studbooks for the Japanese breeds. NIPPO works closely with the Japanese government, always has, because of this official designation that the breeds have. The awards given at the grand national for best of breed are from the education minister, and the best in show is from the prime minister.

I realized that from an outside perspective it may seem that there's just a bunch of conservative old dudes shutting down new ideas, and to a certain extent there is that happening, the Japanese breeds have a lot more going on because of their official status.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

One Step Forward, One Step Backward

Breeding dogs is not easy. I take that back. Breeding good dogs is not easy. Every breeder has their own goals and ethical standards, guidelines for their plan. I don't think it's possible to truly appreciate a well bred dog until you've tried breeding yourself. 

Anyway, getting to the reason for my zen paragraph, I present to you my latest Shikoku hip slides. The first is Rin, one of my hunting line Shikoku. She's around 18 months old now. She's a nice red female, very nice structure and movement, quite bold, and extremely high energy. The problems I have with her and her sister (who I placed nearby to cut down on dog numbers) are these: size, and temperament. Shikoku females should be 49cm, with a tolerance of +/- 3cm. Ran is around 44.5cm, and Rin around 43. They were tiny from the day I picked them up from the truck depot. The other issue, and a bit of a kicker, is temperament. Their very high strung, which bleeds into them being very reactive. They're fine with my dogs, they've grown up with them, but anything else that moves is generally met with a whirlwind of Shikoku attitude. That's putting it nicely. Basically their switch just goes on, and they sprint toward and engage all threats. I can't hunt safely with that, so they don't get any off leash time. I had originally hoped to hunt them as a pair, and then breed them in the future. I've kept Rin, the smaller female, because she has the better temperament and conformation. I will most likely breed her once and keep a female, aiming to pick one with some size. Rin's hips look pretty good.

The next hips are Mumu's. Mumu has a fantastic temperament, amazing harsh coat (best I've seen in the breed so far), some pretty nice type, great bones. Her drawbacks are a narrow front, and I noticed a wonky back end. We were really hoping to get some pups out of her, but I was quite disappointed in these hips.

I'll see a lot of breeders 'have a bad day' or get really depressed about losing a good dog, or about unfortunate things that happen to their 'program'. Really though, this is nature, this is the way it goes. Your welcome to get down, but me, I'd prefer to accept and move forward. Way too much going on to have a bad day about a little curveball. Have a nice day everyone!