Yasuhiro & Yumi with Koko and Chozo
We are honored to release this interview as this is the family who kindly adopted one of the dogs we previously introduced. We hope most of you remember Designer Mana Kobayashi who fostered a rescued dog Koko for a year until she found a forever family. Koko was already 13 years old at the time and Ms. Kobayashi was ready to have her till the end. However, in the spring of this year 2015, there was good news dropped into Ms.Kobayashi that there is a warm-hearted Seki family who decided to adopt Koko along with the other rescued dog from the shelter.
We are very happy to share the stories of Seki family and the lucky two dogs, Koko and Chozo.
Koko (Female /Approximately 14 years old)
Chozo (Male / Approximately 9 years old)
Yasuhiro & Yumi Seki
Lives in Setagaya-ward, Tokyo. They are married with 2 children, Utena (girl, Junior High school student) and Kanan (boy, elementary school student). Their previous dogs Bon and Mucho passed away in May 2015. Through this experience of caring elderly dogs, Utena and Kanan hoped to adopt senior dogs. This year (2015) Utena visited「Tierheim Berlin」in Germany and Kanan visited Tokyo Animal Protection Center. They became more aware of these rescued animals and care for them.
Koko was neglected. Chozo was a stray dog
─ Koko looks brighter and happier since the last time I saw her. How has she been doing?
Apparently, she looks like becoming younger. She comes and plays when I swig a bandana. She even begs to play with me. I understand she is 14 years old but it doesn’t feel like it.
─ When I heard about the news you adopted Koko, I also heard that you adopted the other dog at the same time. It was the quite surprising news that two dogs were handed over to the family at once.
Yes, we did. The other one is a male Shiba, approximately 9 years old, named Chozo. He was a rescued stray dog and had stayed in a shelter for a year.
─ What made you decide to adopt two dogs?
Late in March this year 2015, my family and I went to the adoption event held by the animal rescue group, Rencontrer Mignon. We checked their website first and there was a dog we wanted to meet. Apparently, this dog was still cautious and wasn’t used to people yet. We were advised by one of staffs that it could be difficult for a family especially with children to have this dog. We decided to give up on this dog after all and started to look around.
Then, I was gazed at one of the dogs at the end of the place. He looked peaceful yet friendly and made me feel like “Why not? I think I can take care of him”. That was Chozo. As for Koko, I didn’t notice she was in the same event but my daughter found Koko. She was like “I definitely want her. This is it!!”.
─ Did you decide to adopt two dogs right away?
Well, we left the place first and had a family meeting. You know, there are much more responsibilities after adopting animals. I didn’t want to be carried away by a sudden impulse or just by the feeling of “oh, she is so pretty, he looks nice”. Therefore, we had a rational family talk during the lunch. My husband who was very careful slowly said at the end that we can take care if Koko and Chozo. So we decided to go back and adopt them if they were still there.
─ Medium-size dogs are less popular at adoption. On the contrary, you took 2 of them at the same time. It was a very rare case.
We had 2 dogs mixed-breed Shiba and Kai till last year so that we knew it’s not easy to have 2 dogs considering how they are with each other or how much it takes to care 2 dogs. Unfortunately, they passed away last year. We had holes in our hearts for a while as it was such a big damage to lose two of them in the same year. Therefore, we were going to adopt just one dog next time we are to.
However, when we saw Chozo and Koko, what they have in them atmosphere-wise told me that we can care for two if they are Koko and Chozo. We were seeking a different style of having dogs from our previous dogs but good fun memories won and we ended up by adopting two of them.
Not ages but chemistries you have with rescued dogs
─ Did you have any preferences when you choose a dog?
Considering my family routines and schedules, we thought it would be difficult to care of a puppy as I go to work and don’t stay home all the time. Also, my children are getting older which tells that they are getting busier. Therefore we wanted to have an adult dog. And the other preference was to choose the one less popular from the shelter. I never thought of buying from a breeder or a pet shop. If I could say my preference, I would say either Japanese dog or mixed-breed dog.
─ Did you have any concerns about adopting rescued dogs?
We were actually concerned about two things such as medical expense and elderly care for dogs. Older they get, the more they have a chance to see a vet. My husband and I talked about it again and again. Also, our previous dogs got Alzheimer’s when they got older. Then, we kind of saw their true characters.
Mixed-breed Shiba that used to have strong lust for reins of power turned to be peaceful pretty grandma dog. On the other hand, Mixed-breed Kai that used to be calm and friendly became very aggressive and tried to attack something we couldn’t see. I think she was seeing hallucinations. She also became Food Aggressive (obsessed with food). We saw this kind of potentials when they were puppy. It was hidden as they were trained while growing up. However, we don’t know its growth process or how it was at puppies if we adopt senior dogs.
Not knowing their growth process was our concern when adopting rescued adult dogs.
─ Speaking of Koko and Chozo, they are 14 and 9 years old. There are many people who wish to have a dog that can live with for a long time.
Well, I actually had this thought “Maybe I have to say goodbye soon again” but it couldn’t be a reason for us not to adopt elderly dogs. Especially my daughter who looked after our previous dogs very well said “I would like to care for elderly dogs again”. Everyone in my family was very positive about having elderly dogs.
─ You mean dog’s age is not a big matter but good chemistry you have with a dog?
I would say yes. In fact, we decided to adopt Koko and Chozo after we met at adoption event. This even actually changed my idea. There is difference one dog to another. I thought of our previous dogs at the age of 12 to compare with Koko and Chozo. These 2 dogs are much younger than when our previous dogs were 12 years old. I think that actual age is not always telling us their physical age.
Chozo acquired survival skills and was used to scavenging for food
─ You officially adopted Koko and Chozo. How were they at your place at the beginning?
Both Koko and Chozo were nervous for the first 2 weeks. Chozo is a friendly one and always comes closer to everyone as if to say “I like you～!!” but Koko on the other hand is totally opposite. After they adjusted to their new lives, Koko started to get mad at Chozo as if to say “Don’t !!”. (laugh)
─ Koko has a calm face but she must be strict at some points.
I know. Ms. Kobayashi who was a foster family for Koko advised me that I should get her feel that it is fun to be with Chozo and advised me to give her a treat when she is with Chozo. However, Chozo is kind of obsessed with food. He changes in front of food.
─ Is he so obsessed with food?
I think he learned how to survive when he was a stray dog. It doesn’t matter what it is outside so he tries to eat anything like lizards, dried dead earthworms and even littered chewing gums. Even in the house, if I drop something by accident, he comes at full speed to pick it up. We can prevent him from eating in the house but you never know what’s there outside. It can’t be only dead insects or gums but poisonous vermicide along shrubberies and roadsides. We need to be very careful when taking him for a walk.
─ By the way, I wanted to ask you about Chozo. Who named him Chozo?
He used to be called “SHIBAJII (comes from Shiba+Jiichan (grandfather))” at Mignon. When we were handed over from Ms.Tomomori, the representative at Mignon, she named him Chozo because he was stored (Chozo in Japanese) at Mignon for a year. I know Koko was SHIBA+Baa-chan at Mingon and Ms.Kobayashi her foster family named her Koko.
We already decided to call them whatever they were used to be called. I think names also have histories in it so we adopted not only the dogs but also their names.
Good at peeping?!?!
─ It has been 3 months since they came to your place? How do they adjust to their new lives?
It seems like they are getting to feel here is their home. As we get closer to the house after walking, they speed up as if they know. I also think they are getting to feel us “family”. My daughter and I went to travel for 2 weeks. When we came back home, unexpectedly they looked very happy as if to say “Yeay!! You are finally home!! Yeay!!”
─ Is there anything you care about their health?
We give dried dog food for senior dogs. Chozo’s heart is weaker than usual so we tru not to run fast when we go out with Chozo. He used to itches around his tummy but it’s stopped now. His weight is stable, too. Though they are energetic, we need to understand they are seniors in dog’s age. Therefore we try to take a slowly but longer walk. As for Koko, she stopped scratching her body and her bowel motion is stable now.
─ When I went walking with you today, I noticed that Koko jumped over a puddle.
Yes, she is quite light. I was told that Koko can be deaf and in fact she doesn’t react when we call her. However, it seems like she can feel vibration sounds like doors open and close.
─ As for their characteristics, how would you describe? And what’s their charming point?
Well. They are very different to each other. Koko is strong-willed against with her look. She also likes to keep her own pace but she gets lonely easily and can be spoiled. I can tell she feels comfortable when we hold her. Because she can’t hear, she stares surroundings to see what’s going on. You know , she peeps when something interesting is there. It’s funny and kind of cute. I think that’s her charming point.
Chozo is friendly and easy-going. He waves his tail as if to say “I love you～!!” and he accepts everyone. He is like a good natured middle-aged guy. However, we got to know that he is not only friendly but also barks at strangers. He is like a I’ll-do-it-when-I-have -to kind of guy. He swings a blanket around and sometimes gets grumpy when he is sleepy. You know, he can be like a baby, too.
─ How would you describe if they were human beings?
Chozo would be a freelance worker as he is friendly but is a type of guy who makes sure to get paid (maybe in food) (laugh). Koko on the other hand would be an office lady who works at either personnel department or general affairs department. She wouldn’t show her true characteristics and peeps first. Then once she gets used to the office, she would start showing her talents, the strict woman. (laugh)
Without words, they connected our family heart.
─ Could you tell me what it means for you to live with dogs?
It can’t be any deeper without them. It’s like a dish without stock. (laugh) I love living with them. And more importantly they taught us we need some irrational things in our human lives.
─ What do you mean by this?
At 6 months after our previous dogs passed away, I had some thoughts in my mind that our life became more reasonable without dogs. We didn’t have to take them walk any more. We didn’t have to clean dog’s hair all the time. We didn’t need to worry about their food. We were about getting re-attuned our life without dogs. I also noticed that we try to communicate and understand each other only in verbal especially as my children are getting older, which I think important as well. We all were unconsciously thinking that problems would be solved if we talk. However, there are some emotions that can’t be solved by words. And these emotions were losing a place to go.
─ There are negative aspects while your life becoming reasonable.
I realized that dogs were neutralizing these emotions and they are there for us, too. Koko and Chozo reminded us that we should not depend too much on words and logical thinking. They remembered us that we humans are also animals. My family has a good bond because they are there for us.
─ To end the interview, your family changed since Koko and Chozo came to your family?
We laugh more. I don’t think they are doing anything special to us but they are our connection, bridge and support in my family. We are happy if there are just there.
interview, edit Tomoko Komiyama
photo Jun Takahashi
translation Chiyoko Kimura