Saturday, 11 February 2012

Hiking with my boss and my dog...



My lovely boss and three other staff from the Board of Education invited my husband and I (I feel like the queen every time I say that) on a hike/mountain climb back in autumn. They very kindly but somewhat awkwardly insisted that we bring Hayate, our one-year-old shiba. Hayate had previously ridden in a car three times. The first time he threw up. The second time a friend drove him to the vet when he was sick and he peed in her car. Her hire car. The third time was when a kind taxi driver took pity on us as we struggled up a mountain to a campsite, and Hayate barked so loudly that the poor guy's ears will probably bleed whenever he looks at a dog for the rest of his life. None of those trips were longer than twenty minutes, and my boss wanted us to take him for a ninety minute ride in  an expensive car with the people who get to decide if I get my job again next year. We were not excited by the idea. We tried to warn them about how bad it would be. They wouldn't listen. I made phone calls and entreaties in person to no avail. We figured we would just prepare as best we could. We packed a bath sheet to protect the (leather) upholstery, towels to mop up vomit, a garbage bag for soiled towels, pee sheets, industrial strength ear plugs for the driver, two leashes, wet wipes, dog cleaning wipes and breakfast so that he could eat after we arrived and hopefully not have much to vomit up. We gave him calming drops and motion sickness medicine. We got up at 5 am to give him a walk and a chance to use the toilet before we left.

It started out ok. N-sensei, our driver and resident hiking enthusiast, picked us up and Hayate had the run of the back seat. Then we stopped to pick up T-sensei. I hadn't realised anyone else would be in the same car, so I was a bit concerned. Hayate let out a huge bark right next to her face and scared her a bit, but it was ok. Then we stopped again and my boss got in the car. The fourth BoE member had canceled, so they decided not to take two cars. There were now five of us and Hayate in the one car. I moved into the front seat with him and wished I had packed more earplugs. I began planning for finding a new job next year. Shockingly, Hayate did really well. Once we let him stick his head out of the window he calmed down a lot. I think the main problem in the taxi must have been that the driver asked me to keep him in the foot-well. Not being able to see what was happening probably freaked Hayate out. He spent most of the drive to our hike with his head out of the window, periodically turning around to check that everyone was still in the car. Hayate adds people to his "pack" incredibly easily. Scratch his ears and you're family. He would be a useless guard dog. We had to make frequent stops to let him out when he began to get agitated, and he freaked out going through tunnels (which is unfortunate, as Oita has more tunnels than any other prefecture. True story). Other than that, he was unbelievably well-behaved (for him). Yay! We had one unfortunate moment when N-sensei absentmindedly closed the window with Hayate's head still outside it, but he wasn't particularly hurt and he wasn't reluctant to put his head out again.
 
The hike (mountain climb?) itself was quite short (only two hours each way). It was quite demanding though. There were long stretches of climbing up/jumping down steep slopes or rocks. Two days later I was still hobbling and groaning every time I had to sit down or stand up. Hayate had a blissful time, but sadly appeared not to be at all tired out by the experience. He made friends with a hiking tour group on the mountain top. The group's leader told us that three months earlier he had been hiking with his shiba on the same mountain and had lost her. He said he'd been there every weekend looking for her, but I can't imagine that the poor little thing is still alive. Hayate liked the guy a lot and got lots of pats from all the hikers. He got quite concerned when his new pack members headed off without him. He hurtled down the mountain and break-neck speed (my neck, as I was clinging onto the other end of his lead with grim determination and badly jarred joints) trying to catch up with them, trying to get me to take short cuts and periodically letting out "marco polo" barks to tell them where he was. Watching him, I wondered how you could lose a shiba even if you were stupid enough to let one off-leash in the forest. I guess she fell and broke a bone; otherwise she surely would have found her way back to him.
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