Under the open sky

Old man lucky is what I called my dog these days. He's 13 years old going on 14. Today we went to the beach which is one of his favorite places to go. If there are no other dogs, I unhook his leash and shout “Be free, be free!” At that point, he runs off to smell all the places in the sand where other dogs have peed. It makes me cringe every time when I think about him sticking his nose in some other dog’s piss. That is the canine way I suppose. I remember reading an article on the Internet which said that dog markings are like letter they have left. I can't imagine what must be written in that letter, whatever it is, Lucky finds it fascinating.

I can tell that he has gotten old now because just a few years ago he would run like a crazy person up and down the beach. The kids and I used to play a game. We'd stand on opposite ends of the beach and someone would stand in the midpoint of the two ends. That person's job was to try to make it to the end this opposite of lucky before he does. It was impossible because he was way too fast. That made me realize that of all the animals on the planet human beings must be one of the slowest. You always see people running from dogs, lions, wolves or something in the movies but if that were real you should save yourself the trouble and just lie down now and get eaten because there's no way you're going to get away.

When he’s not reading other dog’s letters or digging a hole in the sane, Lucky likes to to go wading. Depending on the season, I don't like for him to get in the water. If it's too cold outside I worry that he may become sick. Sometimes, I don't want to go through the trouble of giving him a bath later so I tell him no. He knows this, but whenever we go to the beach he just has to get in the water at least once. It's funny to watch him slowly inch himself closer to the shore. Every few seconds he looks back to check how far away he is from me. I can see the mischief in his eyes. There is a kind of sparkle before he makes a full bolt towards the sea. It's like watching a child do something he knows he might get in trouble for, but he can't control himself.

Lucky doesn't swim he just stands in the water and walks about until he gets to about the bottom of his ears. Watching him is like watching someone sit in a jacuzzi. He just stands there and lets the foam of the ocean world around him. If a big wave comes and pushes the water above his ears he cannot stand it and gets out immediately. A few years ago I took him to the beach when a group of dogs from the neighborhood were playing. Usually Japanese dog owners don't like it when other dog owners let their pets roam free on the beach or in the park. Japanese people are keen on following the “rule” and expect others to do the same. They always give you a look like you're the one taking your crap in the sand. On this day the dog owners didn't mind that Lucky was free. It seemed that they had gathered at the beach the same time every day for the purpose of allowing the dogs to play with each other. The funny thing was before taking lucky off of his leash he would pull and pull towards the dogs, but when I released him he suddenly became shy. Eventually I got him to play with the ball and chase it with the other dogs but when the ball was thrown in the water he would never go farther than whatever distance would keep the water below his floppy ears.

The other thing that Lucky likes to do at the beach is dig holes in the sand. That's his favorite activity just after he gets out of the water. He digs with doggie gusto and throws sand behind him until he has made nice sized trench to fit into. It's like he's created his own bed. In the summertime, I'm sure digging is useful because the sand below the surface must be a lot cooler. Because lucky is older now I don't take him to the beach when it's really hot because I don't know how it will affect his health. I suppose if he stayed in the water the whole time he might be fine. I don't want to take the risk.

After we were at the beach for about an hour it started to rain lightly. That was the signal that it was time for us to go home. I attached the leash clasp to his harness and he immediately began to resist. Walking with him was like dragging a bag of wet fish. He reminded me of my children when I took them to the park. As soon as I told them it was time to go home they would protest and wriggle their bodies around and lie on the grass. When they eventually stood up and started to move they would walk so slowly it was as if time had begun to slow down around them. I'm sure that the children and Lucky we're both hoping that somehow they could prolong the inevitable, just so they could stay a little bit longer under the open sky.

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