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Saturday, May 20, 2006

JAPAN LITE

It's a dog's life and I wan it!


The last time I went home to the U.S., my parents told me sternly over the telephone: "This time when you come home, bury your dog. He's been on that shelf in the garage for years now." And they were right. My dog, Dammit, had died while I was in Japan, and the few times I went home, I was either too busy or the ground was still frozen or I just didn't feel like holding a funeral. So my faithful dog sat in a box on a shelf in the garage waiting for that final resting day. Maybe my parents should have brought a tombstone into the garage and called it a done deal. They could turn their garage into a dog mausoleum and make some money off it.

News photo
Dot wan life: So good, you'll ask your dog to invite you to dinner.

When I was home I went out to the garage, located the wooden box that said "Pines Pet Cemetery, 1998" and opened it. Inside was a plastic bag full of ashes. Which got me to thinking, wouldn't it be nice to spread his ashes somewhere? So my family and I spread my dog's ashes on the hills around our house.

When I ask Japanese people why they don't have a dog, they always answer: Because dogs die. Well, of course they do! I wonder if anyone has ever told Japanese people that they are going to die too someday. Many Japanese find the pain of the loss of a dog too much to bear. But I say, better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

On the other hand, Japanese who do have dogs seem to have elevated dog ownership to an art form. They go to dog cafes and dog spas, and there is dog-friendly housing and even dog love hotels. Dogs, along with their owners, are becoming more sophisticated.

Has your dog expressed an interest in balancing his diet lately? No? Perhaps it's time you sat down with him and had a little nutrition education. And to help you out is Dot Wan, a dog food company based in Okayama. Satoru Asanuma, president of Dot Wan, is bringing the best of Japanese food to dogs.

The next time Fido says he wants miso soup, you can say, "Coming right up!" And you no longer need to feel guilty when eating "natto," the healthiest Japanese food, in front of him either. Fido can now join you with Dot Wan's freeze-dried natto just for dogs, rich in vitamin K2, necessary for strong canine bones. "People like it, too," Asanuma claims, explaining that his dog food is made with all natural ingredients such as "okara" (from tofu), wheat and fresh chicken. Nothing is added to the food that is not beneficial to the dog's health.

Dot Wan has certainly brought the art of Japanese cuisine to the dog's bowl, or plate. Food arrangement has been well thought out and planned. Dot Wan recom- mends serving dog food in a natural earthenware bowl, such as those made from Okayama's famous Bizen-yaki pottery. Dot Wan's healthy food can be added on top of regular dog food to enhance aesthetics as well as nutrition. Dressings can be put over dry dog food, and jam can accessorize breads or cakes to give them pooch pizzazz.

Dot Wan cookies and soup are recommended for picnics, and their chips and beef jerky for long walks. And be sure to take along some dog cookies in flavors such as green tea, yogurt, tofu, rice and sesame. If your dog prefers fruits, then try avocado, kiwi or blueberry treats. Yummy. I'm beginning to feel a bit hungry myself.

And of course, Fido will not miss out on the seasonal food here in Japan. Dogs can ring in the autumn season, for example, with pumpkin and sweet potato toppings. It' s up to you, though, to garnish it with a red "momiji" maple leaf. OK, I'm jealous.

One of the Dot Wan staffers took me with her dog to a dog cafe, where I finally got to sample the food myself. I tried the freeze-dried natto, and I have to say it was much better than real thing. And the freeze-dried chicken is to die for. It's a dog's life, and I want it!

It makes you wonder if the real reason they're making healthy food for dogs is so dogs will outlive us. Then we won't have to worry about our dogs dying before we do, nor will they have to worry about being left in the garage for eight years.

Planet Japan: www.planetjapan.org

Animal Tales: amychavez.blogspot.com


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