Just arrived in the mail from Japan: copies of Dog Man, translated into Japanese and published by Odyssey, a small family-run press in the north of Japan. I am so happy to see this amazing life story — which the Sawataishis were courageous to share so honestly with me — making a way back to its home country. At such a difficult and dispirting time for the north of Japan, I hope this story of endurance, personal fortitude and resourcefulness won’t just amuse and entertain readers, but inspire them.
This is the time of year to remember Morie Sawataishi, the man who saved the Akita dog from extinction. The anniversary of his death, October 22, is less than three weeks away. Morie did more than just devote his life to rescuing and restoring the Akita dog in Japan after World War II. He devoted himself to Japan’s snow country — the isolated and forgotten north. He devoted himself to loyalty, inconvenience, hard work. He devoted himself to the forests and woods of Japan, and to a rugged mountain life where he could raise and train his champion dogs. Post your comments of appreciation, photos of your dogs — Akita or otherwise — and your good wishes to the Sawataishi family on the Facebook page, “Dog Man: One Man Saves Japan’s Akita Dogs.” There you will find hundreds of Akita lovers, nature lovers and dog lovers on a page created by Scribe, the Australian publisher of my book, Dog Man: An Uncommon Life on a Faraway Mountain. The Sawataishi family will be looking in . . .
I was recently asked by Patagonia.com to write about a “backyard corridor” experience for its environmentalism campaign. If you don’t know what a backyard corridor is, read on . . .
By Martha Sherrill
He was so huge, the biggest green frog I’d ever seen. And he was sitting – utterly motionless — on a stone step leading down to our front door. He was a long way from the upper pond. Was he okay? Our spaniel was barking at him, barking and barking. But the frog was strangely calm. I wondered if he was sick.
Maybe he’s dying, I thought. He’s so huge. He must be a million years old.
I dragged the dog by the collar to get him into the house. I was afraid he’d pick up the frog and start tossing him in the air, the way he tosses around half-dead mice, chipmunks, the occasional baby skunk. By the time I returned to the stone step — to bend over the big frog, to swoon at him with my human pity, my ideas about his advanced age and imminent death — he began to hop away.
His hops were high and long. His sense of direction seemed flawless. A frog in his prime. He was aiming for the southeast corner of our house. He landed gently on the grass, where he blended in, and then he exploded into the air like a green missile.
He turned the corner, almost hugging the curve in midair. He continued on, down a slope of ground that let to another pond, below our house. I’d come across other frogs in our south garden and figured they were lost hikers. But now I realized there was a frog highway that connected the two ponds.
Later that summer, when ducklings were born in the lower pond, their mother would lead them through the woods on the north side of our house. They’d walk in a row, single-file, like obedient school children, heading toward the upper pond to swim.
So we had two corridors, as far as we could tell. The ducks, before they learned to fly over us, traveled on the north side. The frogs use the south. Had they worked out a traffic flow pattern between them? Our house began to feel like a toll booth, except there’s no toll to pay. They just have to get by our dog. And they always do.