It happened while I was walking Libby in Aoyama cemetery. I let Libby off leash as I always do in places where there are no people or cars. Suddenly, she rushed ahead tail wagging. Following the direction she was going, I saw a -mix dog standing at the end of a row of tombstones, also off-leash. Libby took an instant liking to the shiba-mix and pranced around him in her play-invitation pose. The other dog seemed a little weary and mostly stayed still. When I got to where both dogs were, I realized something was wrong. There was no owner with the shiba dog. I looked around and called out to see if anyone is around but there was no answer. On a closer look, the shiba dog had on an old leather collar but no tag was attached. He appeared disoriented and a little apprehensive when I reached out to pet him. By the look of white hair on his muzzle and head, he must be around 8 or 9 years old. I decided that I couldn’t leave this Ojichan (old man) in the cemetery all by himself. Luckily, I was walking Libby with a multi-purpose adjustable leash with a hook on each end, so I hooked Ojichan shiba on to the other end of the leash and thought of what I should do next.
Bringing him home is not practical because I have no idea whether he’s house trained or not and I really can’t afford to have stained carpet in my apartment (wouldn’t the landlord just be waiting to pounce on that!). Leaving him in the yard is out of the question too because for one thing it is cold at night and he could bark all night in a strange environment, and if he'd been living on his own for long, he might have caught some disease and might give it to Libby. Thinking quickly, I decided to bring him to the Kouban (police box) at Omotesando crossing. Maybe the owner has reported the missing dog to the police, besides, the J-cops need some real work to do.
I was surprised at how well Libby and Ojichan shiba walked together on the same leash. As if knowing his rescuee status, Ojichan shiba walked two steps behind Libby, and when Libby stopped to sniff something, he waited until she’s done before taking a sniff himself. Thoughts of keeping him for myself crossed my mind, just fleetingly.
The arrival of Libby and Ojichan shiba caused a stir in the tiny police box (I counted seven cops in such a small space). As a standard procedure, I was asked to leave my name and contact information (I know this from a previous kouban experience). We then discussed in length what should be done with Ojichan shiba, since nobody has reported a missing dog. At first they wanted me to take him home with me, but I managed to persuade them that it’s better for them to keep him temporarily. They said they could keep him for two days, but if nobody claims him, they will need to send him to the shelter, but agreed to call me before they do so. While I negotiated with the J-cops, Ojichan shiba sat in a dignified posture outside the Kouban watching the fashionable Omotesando crowds milling about. He even patiently put up with one of the cops’ attempts to find out what tricks he knew. Once in a while, his ears would prick up, as if recognizing something or someone, but he soon went back to his calm observation mode.
Forty minutes after finding Ojichan shiba, I bade him farewell and wished him good luck. Walking home, I started to wonder if I had done the right thing turning him to the police. What if they send him to the shelter without telling me first? I heard animal shelters are extremely short of space and most dogs are only given two to three days before they are put down. Had I inadvertently sentenced Ojichan shiba to death? Will he have a better chance if I had taken him in? As I started making dinner, my agitation grew and I decided that I should put up some flyers in the neighborhood first thing in the morning telling Ojichan shiba’s owner to go to the police box to claim him. I mentally picked out the places where I would post the flyers and counted how many copies I'd need. I even emailed my Japanese friend to come up with a catchy title so people would take notice. (Wouldn’t you know it? The only time I don’t bring my T-1 on walks, something like this happens. It would’ve been so much better if I had a picture. Of course, taking a photo with my phone never crossed my one-track mind.)
Just when my paranoia was running rampant (images of Ojichan shiba pleading for his life with his eyes swirled wildly in my head), the phone rang. It was the police. The owner was found! Five minutes later, the owner called.
The dog actually lives in Roppongi (so the dog detective lady’s theory that says dogs who get lost rarely go out of a half-mile radius did not apply here) and ran away from home. His name is Saab, and the owner is on her way to collect him from the police.
This is what I call a happy ending.