I first met Uncle earlier this year at the cherry-blossom-viewing party on Shiraishi Island. He seemed kind of young to be an uncle, but his beard made him look a little older. Uncle was passed out under the cherry trees.
I didn’t see him again until Sea Day, or Marine Day as it is sometimes called, when he came to the beach on Shiraishi Island. He came on the car ferry in his car stuffed with accouterments for the long weekend: a parasol, a small child’s swimming pool and a portable bed. All of this was set up next to the Moooo! Bar.
The swimming pool was filled with fresh water and Uncle was soon lying in it under his parasol on the beach, enjoying the view of the sea. “Now this is retirement!” you could almost hear him say, his expression one of contentment.
“The problem is,” the Japanese man sitting next to Uncle was telling me, “the accommodation we are staying at doesn’t allow dogs. So tonight I will sleep outside with Uncle. But I worry it might be too hot for Uncle outside on the beach at night.”
“Oh, it’s quite cool,” I explained to the man, Nakano-san. “Why don’t you sleep on one of the hammocks over there? I said, pointing to our shaded area with hammocks. You can sleep in the hammock and Uncle can lie on the sand next to you.”
Nakano-san considered this for a moment then said, “Are you sure it won’t be too hot for Uncle?”
“Oh, I think he’ll be fine,” I said. “After all, he’s a dog.”
“I could sleep with him in the car with the air conditioning on,” he went on, apparently not hearing the last part of what I had said.
“The car? But where will you sleep then? Curled up on the front seat? Remember there was once a time when there was no air conditioning. Dogs lived through it then. Besides, dogs are smart. Uncle will find the coolest part on the beach way before you do. Dogs will instinctively dig a hole in the ground and sleep in the hole where it is cooler. So don’t worry about Uncle. “He’ll be fine,” I said . “After all, he’s a dog.”
“But,” Nakano-san started, apparently not agreeing with me about the species difference, “He’s just 1 year old now, so I think he’s not so strong yet.”
Later on in the day, I noticed Uncle was gone. He wasn’t in his swimming pool, and he wasn’t sitting in his bed with the cool tatami mat under the parasol. Neither Mr. nor Mrs. Nakano were around. Taking the dog for a walk, I presumed.
Then I noticed a parked car with the motor running and the windows closed. I went over and looked inside. Uncle was inside the car in the air conditioning all by himself.
A little later, I saw Nakano-san with the rather large schnauzer in his arms. ” I’m taking Uncle into the sea. He’s never been in the sea before,” he said excitedly. He carried the dog in his arms into the calm, cool water. But moments later he was running back with the dog still in his arms. “Uncle didn’t like it. He was scared!” he said and put the dog on his tatami mat dog bed.
In the late afternoon, I noticed Uncle was gone again. He wasn’t in his swimming pool and he wasn’t sitting in his bed with the cool tatami mat under the parasol. The car wasn’t around either.
Shortly after, Mr. Nakano came up to the bar and ordered a Tequila Sunrise. “Where’s Uncle?” I asked. “My wife took him driving,” he said with the smile of a proud parent.
After sunset, the day finally cooled down and the locals came around to the Moooo! Bar for a drink. Most of them also have businesses on the beach so we all had a toast to celebrate a day of hard work.
At around 10:30 p.m. everyone went home and I closed down the bar. I noticed a parked car with the motor running and the windows closed. I went over and looked inside. Uncle was inside the car in the air conditioning, but this time he was not alone. Nakano-san was curled up on the seat next to him.
Dog owners often say that their dogs are like family members and that even the dogs themselves think they are human. But Nakano-san’s case is different. I think that with time, Nakano-san will become more and more like his dog.
And who wouldn’t? After all, it’s a dog’s life!