Friday, September 12, 2008

Like some cat from Japan

Most Japanese breeds of dogs are called inu which translates into the word "dog". They include the Akita inu, Tosa inu, Hokkaido inu, Kishu inu,Kai inu, and Shikoku inu. There is also the Shiba inu ("Shiba" means "brushwood" (kindling) in Japanese, and probably refers to the small size of the breed which is considered the smallest of the Japanese dog breeds. Then, what about the Japanese Chin? They are only 4 - 11 pounds in size, soaking wet. Well, they are not called inus because they are not like other dogs. They are even said to be half cat!

Japanese Chin history dates back to China and the Emperor Ming Ti in the first century AD. They are believed to have descended from the same ancestors as the Pug and the Tibetan Spaniels. Chin used to be called Japanese Spaniels. Their name may have come from the Japanese translation of "order to sit down" or "do tricks" or maybe even Makura Tsin=cushion, suggesing a pampered life sitting on a tassled cushion. They have been called "Lion Dogs", "Sun Dogs", or children of royalty. The Japanese Chin arrived in Japan in about the 10th century and were kept only by Japanese royals. They were greatly prized and carefully guarded. Tortuous deaths were given to those who attempted to steal them from the palaces. They were fed dainty foods: fish and rice, and were pampered, often carried about in silk baskets or hidden in kimono sleeves. They were given as ceremonial gifts to dignitaries and royalty. Commodore Perry brought a pair of them back to Europe as a royal gift to Queen Alexandria of England. Here's a photo of her with a couple of Chin (on the ground) and a Chow puppy.
Chin were developed for their beauty, intelligence and affection. They average 4 to 11 pounds and are built squarely with longer legs than the Pekingese. They have long, silky hair and their tails curl up over their backs. They are generally white with black patches, but can also be white with red or lemon patches. Although they have such long, fine hair, they stay extraordinarily clean. They give themselves baths by licking their front feet and wiping their own faces. They have many cat-like traits. They scoop food and other objects up with their paws. They are dainty high steppers and often climb heights. Buddha loves to lay on the backs and arms of chairs and in window sills.

Chin love snuggling. After all, their sole purpose in life is to be a companion to humans. Chin love to sit quietly at one's side although they have bouts of frantic activity, quick and active romps through the house, including the infamous "chin-spins", and then they happily settle down again.

They are courageous and fearless, or stupid!! (Kenji used to run over to the neighbor's house and bark at the two big dogs in their pen, standing with his two front feet on the chain link fence. Then one day, huge Zoe was free and grabbed him by the neck and shook him. My Mom's Standard Poodle, Pippin, intervened and saved Kenji's life.

Chin are sensitive to their owner's moods. They even cry real tears. When I pack for a trip, my Buddha will climb on top of the bag as if to say, "Take me too". Did you notice that the bag is sitting on an end table? They are very mischievious. Kenji's favorite trick was to quietly watch a game of Monopoly or Scrabble and then, after an hour or so, pounce into the middle of it, scattering pieces everywhere, as if to tell us, "Time's up, game's over!"

Sometimes, if I walk Buddha without a leash, he will wait for the opportunity to run off. He waits until the moment he is out of sight and then he will beeline it through the trees and open fields to the neighbor's house behind us. I'm always worried about coyotes and hawks grabbing him along the way. When I go get him, he hangs his head and tail down and follows me back home as if to say, "I'm sorry!" When I carry him, he will often paddle the air with his front feet as if he were swimming.

Chin are very good with other dog breeds. Nine pound Kiku loved to play with our Great Dane, Max, just as four and a half pound Buddha plays with Gunnar, my seventy pound German Shorthaired Pointer, nowadays. Here is a picture of myself as a teenager with Max, Kiku, and Chen. Kiku is the smaller one of the two. She was such a sweetheart! She used to say "Ow, ow, ow", when we cut her toenails.
It seems like I have always had a Chin or two along with other dog breeds. As a teenager, we had Kiku, Chen, and Takashi. Then I had Kenji until he died at eleven a few years ago. I believe the neighbor's cat got fed up with him and killed him. My current Chin, Buddha, is five years old and at only four and a half pounds, is the smallest Chin I've ever had. He has a faint black smudge on his white forehead which is said to be the kiss of Buddha, hence the name.

My family has nicknamed the breed, "mug-uglies". They have smashed-in faces similar to the other oriental dog breeds like the Pekingese or Pug, but they have a little more nose bridge. As a result, they never snore or snuffle although they do occasionally struggle for air like an asthmatic in what is called a reverse sneeze. To stop this "attack" one should cover the nose holes so they are forced to breathe through their mouth.

Until we got Buddha, my two cats would run from all dogs. Then they realized they are bigger than he is and have totally changed their attitude around the dogs. They no longer run unless they want to be chased. They strut and stroll and Terra even bullies Buddha. She often pushes him away from my lap although they sometimes lay side by side.

Chin are a rather uncommon breed and, except for my own, I have very rarely seen them. They say that rather than owning Chins, they own you. That is so true!

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