Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

The Dog with An Eternal Life hr627

on February 15, 2020

There was a small old cemetery near the house where I grew up. As the Japanese law hadn’t been changed to cremation until I left home, all of my ancestors were buried there when I was a child. A patch of land was allocated to each family in our hamlet of an old city Kyoto, and a family would divide the patch into individual graves for the deceased. Our family’s patch had about ten small graves each of which was marked with a few small insignificant stones. It was a very primitive burial site that young people nowadays wouldn’t believe.
My grandmother used to accompany me when she visited there twice a year. We would bring incense sticks, a box of matches, stale cookies and a tin kettle filled with water. She would stick lighted incense into the ground of each grave, put a cookie beside it and spilled some water from the kettle onto the ground. Since the stones didn’t bear names, who was, or were, under the particular grave depended on my grandmother’s memory and what she was told. After we finished praying to each grave, she always said, “Now, the dog,” sounding like the most important event remained. And she would stick the last incense and spill the rest of water along with the last cookie onto the foot of a weed-grown mound that was beside the narrow trail to our family graves. Under the mound was the place where our family dog had rested in peace.

short coated white dog on green field

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I had never kept a dog but my father had. My grandfather reigned harshly over his family members and never allowed me to keep a dog. But he hadn’t started his hobby of growing chrysanthemums when my father was a child. No chrysanthemums meant an approval for a dog. When my father told me that he had kept a dog, I couldn’t picture that a dog was running freely in the yard of our house.
From time to time, I visited the cemetery with my father. His main purpose there was to pull out the weed that easily gulped up the entire grave patch, rather than to pray. After clearing up the ground of our ancestors’ graves, he would pray to each grave shortly. And in the end, he prayed to the mound, for his dog. Although among our ancestors, there were his brothers who were twins and died shortly after birth, he prayed for his dog longer than for them. Seeing him do that every time, I knew how much he loved his dog. That also explained my grandmother’s ritual for the dog’s grave. He was an important member of the family back then.
According to my father, the family never decided or even talked about keeping the dog. He was a stray dog that showed up one day from nowhere, and kept coming. Soon he stopped leaving and just began to stay in the yard. My father fed him and he slept under the eaves of our house. That was how they got to keep a dog. He was a big dog with long fluffy white fur. My father named him Maru, that means ‘round’ or ‘circle’ in Japanese, because he looked like a big white hairy ball. In those days, keeping a pet was so easy and casual that Maru didn’t wear a collar and wasn’t on a leash. They had never taken him for a walk because it was unnecessary. He was strolling and running around the yard all day. Although he had died long before I was born and I had never seen him, it was one of my customs to pray to Maru on a visit of our family cemetery.
I had wanted to keep a dog all through my childhood but never been allowed because my grandfather filled the yard with his chrysanthemums. When I was a teenager, my first boy friend gave me a big white stuffed-animal dog for my birthday. My father looked at it affectionately and said, “It looked exactly like Maru.” Instead of to a live dog that I couldn’t have, I named that stuffed-animal dog Pon-maru by mixing my nickname ‘Hidepon’ and ‘Maru’. He became my official make-believe pet. A few years later, I left home. My grandparents passed away. The family house was demolished and the site was sold. The rest of my family moved out of Kyoto. The custom to visit the family cemetery was gone. Only, Pon-maru still lives with me in my apartment that is far from my hometown, in a shape of a big, a little-grayish fur ball.


12 responses to “The Dog with An Eternal Life hr627

  1. ceayr says:

    You tell a story with wonderful simplicity.
    Thank you for following Sound Bite Fiction.

  2. colinandray says:

    What a lovely story. Although the details are quite different from my introduction to a dog, I am sure that I will never forget how our dog Ray, introduced himself to me … which is why I wrote my book about him called “Who Said I was up for Adoption? Dogs can weave their way into our hearts so easily can’t they.

  3. cat9984 says:

    What a sweet story!

  4. Hidemi, this is a beautifully written story. I enjoyed reading your prose very much. An intimate history without even a trace of sentimentality.

    You have the gift of placing the reader in the story with clarity of purpose, elegance and a mastery of shape or structure, tone and texture.

    I am reminded of an anecdote where a famed sculptor of horses was asked how he captured perfectly the equine essence and he replied that he started with a flawless block of stone and simply removed all the bits that did not look like horse.

    I’m looking forward to reading many more of your works and I’m curious about your references – hr602 for example.

    Many thanks, kind regards, Therese Trouserzoff.

    • Hidemi Woods says:

      I had never received such an encouraging, stimulating message like yours. I don’t know how to express my gratitude. I will treasure your words for years to come, that’s for sure. Thank you so much.
      Best wishes,
      Hidemi Woods

  5. What a wonderful story of Ponmaru. I had a dog too when I was in school. Very similar to the photo in your post. We loved her a lot too. You’re an excellent story teller. I felt so much a part of it. Thank you

    • Hidemi Woods says:

      I’m so glad that my story could reach up to you. Also, I’m so grateful for your kind words. Nice to know what your dog looked like! Thank you so much for your warm comment!

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