Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Dog Days

 Yesterday we celebrated Shiro's first birthday, and later this week will mark the three-month anniversary of her coming to live with us. My apologies for not keeping you up to date on how things are going. It turns out our life with a dog is even busier than our life without a dog! 

Happy Birthday, Shiro!

Shiro thought Halloween was pretty great except for the part where we kept wanting her to wear a hat. And, honestly, I don't know why I kept trying with the hat. A hat with the word "soy" on it doesn't make a whole lotta sense for some ebi (shrimp) sushi anyway. The kids were pushing for the avocado costume, which may have been cuter in the end, but we are a Japanese-American family, and somehow sushi made more sense to me. Our community held trick-or-treating on Saturday this year, so that meant even MORE kids for Shiro to smell and try to lick. My arms are still a little sore from our trip around the neighborhood.

Soy sauce dog
Shiro didn't love her costume, but she was a MUCH better sport about it than the cats were with their snail costume. They, at least, have more realistic expectations of us. Somehow we just can't keep ourselves from putting funny things on our pets' heads!

The indignities never stop.

We think that Shiro is being a pretty big help to Stow. Since she came, the number of phone calls from school has been close to zero. He hasn't resisted getting on the bus in the morning, and he is more willing leave the house for non-essential reasons.  We've been able to go shopping, for long drives, and even hikes with much less stress than in the past. When Stow is feeling overwhelmed, he is doing a good job of going to her or calling her to him so they can lie down together and help each other chill. All of these changes are huge. HUGE!

Co-regulation is the goal!

Sure, there are moments when he's hyper and she feeds off that energy so it feels like we have a tornado happening in our midst as we try to step in between or around dog and boy as they make their way through the house. And, sure, it's a bit of a drag to take her on long morning walks (to make sure she gets some of her energy out and does her business before getting on the school bus). Now that it's still dark and cold outside, the early morning outings feel especially challenging. We're still adjusting, though. 

Sunrise walk before school

Sometimes it's hard to get the pants where they need to go.
The cats still view Shiro as Enemy #1. Momo will tolerate her and even be in the same room as her as long as Shiro doesn't get too excited (which is REALLY HARD WHEN SHE JUST WANTS TO PLAY!!). Taro, on the other hand, refuses to even consider a truce. Lately he has taken to moving stealthily around the room like a commando, hiding behind furniture and slinking along the floor boards in an effort not to be noticed by the dog (who is so oblivious that it makes his efforts seem ludicrous). While it's fun to watch him, I do feel a little sorry for Shiro who JUST WANTS TO BE FRIENDS!!! We suspect that as long as Shiro interacts with the cats in all caps, there won't be much progress on their inter-species negotiations.

Three inches and a baby latch are all that separate Shiro from her unwilling partners.

So, that's the update from here. What's up with you guys?

Thursday, September 9, 2021


Some of you have asked how Ren is doing, which made me realize it’s been awhile since I’ve written a proper update. So, now I present to you, ANSWERS TO ALL OF YOUR PRESSING QUESTIONS ABOUT REN: 

Answer #1: First, and most importantly, vacuuming is still Ren’s life source. Or should I say life force?! I guess it’s probably both. The kids know if dad is vacuuming, all is well with the world, and if he’s not, well, something’s off. Some of you may call that an obsession. I call it the world’s easiest way to know if your spouse is feeling ok physically and mentally. And, I can tell you, Ren is feeling fine!

I’m not sure how SHIRO feels about Ren’s vacuuming habit, but I’ve got to admit, I’m a huge fan of the reduction in dog hair around the house. Given the fact that she dutifully comes and lies down next to him when he grabs the vacuum and the bag of dog treats, I’ve got to believe she doesn’t mind it too much!

Have I ever told you how good Ren is at getting animals to do what he wants them to do? Are we the only family with a cat that knows how to beg for food?

Answer #2: The spine is still in one piece. Well, actually, it’s in a lot of pieces, including a not insignificant quantity of extra titanium pieces! But, for now, the pieces are all where they belong. In fact, they’ve been in the right place for TWO WHOLE YEARS, which, trust me, in the world of spine surgeries feels like a blessed eternity. 

X-ray from Ren’s 2-year follow up appointment

We know that one day it is likely that what remains un-fused may go south like the rest of the spine did, but that day is not today. And, Ren is tremendously adept at making things work with the spine he has. The man has more overall flexibility than I do (darn him!), and aside from a few notable (and entertaining) exceptions (like swimming and being able to get himself out of a deep chair…and, oh yeah, the alpine slide), you would never know he’s had seven spine surgeries!

Answer #3: Ren’s playbook of luuuuv, a lifelong go-to source. How do I know he loves me? He makes my tea and picks up the dog poop. When it comes to words, though, his skills are less developed. I’ve been working on a translation guide:
Standard Japanese  /  Ren’s Japanese


Hello? (On the phone) / uhn

Welcome home (when I get home from work) / uhn

How was your day? / (silence)

Yes. (In response to a question, even if it’s not a yes-no question) / uhn
I read somewhere that the average number of words exchanged between a married Japanese couple in a day is well below 100 words. I don’t know if that’s true, and I can’t remember the exact number. I just remember thinking it was shockingly low. But then I started noticing how many words Ren actually says in a day. Many people say that a healthy relationship in Japan is one that requires few words. Lucky for us, then!!