A view of the temple from the top of the cemetery hill. The dog is likely hiding.
Often when jogging around my neighborhood I pass a house with a dog tied up out front. This is where it lives. It spends its meager life on the end of a rope, which gives it just enough freedom of movement to get from its doghouse to the edge of the driveway. I know this because when I walk by the dog insists on testing the limits of its existence by lunging at me, barking and snapping madly until that cruel yoke suddenly and sharply tenses.
I don’t hate that dog. I’d be cranky and wary of passersby if I lived my life in such bondage too. I don’t understand why people want an animal if that’s the way they’re going to treat it. There are plenty of people in Japan who bring their beasts inside with them and treat them as members of the family but this “living burglar alarm” thing sadly persists.
Recently I’ve been finishing my run on a hill behind a Buddhist temple. The stairs there make for a great workout and the path goes straight up to my neighborhood. It’s a shortcut as much of a workout. I also like running past the temple and through the cemetery. Both are beautiful and inspiring when I’m starting to get tired and thinking about stopping.
The past two times I’ve run past the temple, though, I’ve encountered a much more visceral reason to keep running. Much like the house, this temple has a dog tied up in front of it. It’s not all the time, only when the tending monk is out sweeping the grounds. Perhaps this dog leads a comfortable life inside the house connected to the temple. But when it’s outside, tied to a post under the temple on the edge of the parking lot, it seems that its chief goal in life is to eat my ankles.
The first time I saw it, I didn’t think much of it. I run past animals all the time. Some are more interested in me than others but they seem to be reserved enough to stay out of my way. Not this dog, though. It doesn’t seem to recognize that the temple parking lot is a public place. Public or private, it wants my ankles.
It launched itself at me from the shade next to the building, yipping and snarling as only a small dog can. I expected it to soon reach the end of its tether but it kept coming, its owner having helpfully supplied it with plenty of slack. I mustered a burst of energy and sprinted past it, looking back over my shoulder at the sweeping monk and giving him my best, “What the hell, dude?” look. He, in turn, gave me his best, “Whatever, dude,” look.
This morning I ran through the temple parking lot again. I saw the monk but not the dog. At least, not at first. I was thinking about the coming hill, which I had yet to completely best, and suddenly there it was, a ball of brown fur and teeth streaking towards my exposed shins, its eyelids peeled back in determination. Again I swung wide, avoiding the dog. Again I looked back at the monk, scowling, who was again staring blankly at my foreign face.
The most annoying thing about this incident is that the monk has yet to apologize. Japanese people apologize for the smallest thing. They apologize if you inconvenience them. Half the time you thank someone by apologizing to them. It’s ingrained and automatic, and the fact that I’m foreign has very rarely prevented someone from apologizing to me. If anything, they apologize first and then notice that I’m not Japanese.
It’s doubly surprising because he’s a Buddhist monk. Where’s the compassion? Your shitty dog has twice tried to attack me. That doesn’t merit mentioning? I thought about confronting him and demanding an apology but I don’t know what that would accomplish, plus that’s really not me. It’s easy enough for me to run around the parking lot and still access the cemetery path. Perhaps someday when I’m less emotional I’ll stop and chat with him, and mention the situation.
If that fails I can always kick the dog in its stupid little face.