Nao Yokoo, 34, trains and walks dogs in Tokyo. She also provides pet-sitting services, for which she stays at clients’ homes and takes care of their dogs while they are out of town. Nao has never met a pooch she didn’t love immediately and her mission in life is to make more dogs happier.
Prepare for your dogs’ old age while they are still young. Many dogs lose their eyesight and/or hearing as they age, so it makes sense to train them early on for such times. Add body contact to your play and teaching routines. For example, tap their butt twice to ask them to sit down. If you communicate with a mix of verbal commands, hand signs and body contact, you’ll be able to use one of those even if they become deaf, blind, or senile.
If we could become more like dogs, we would come closer to the ideal person we were meant to be. Most people — even those with dogs — don’t fully recognize what magical creatures pooches really are. They teach us how to love unconditionally, how to play with anything, anywhere and with anyone, and to always appreciate the moment, no matter what that moment is. They never complain or hold grudges. Dogs are perfect!
Once you hit on an idea, nail it! If you stop and consider the pros and cons, you will find reasons not to pursue it further. When I visited a dog-training school for the first time, which was after graduating from university, I had no intention of getting a job there. I just wanted to see what kind of place it was. It was great because it was full of dogs, so I didn’t want to leave. Next thing I knew, I was considering when I should start working there.
Don’t listen to anyone — except to dogs. They are always right, whereas people are often wrong.
Live in a way so that when you or your loved ones die, you can say “Thank you,” instead of “Sorry.” Dogs’ lives are too short and too fragile, so make every day especially wonderful for them. I’ve seen many owners whisper “Sorry” into their dying dogs’ ears. These are people who feel guilty for having not spent enough time with their pets or for being unable to protect them from accidents. That’s a tragedy that can be prevented.
School is useless. Just read the books and you’re done. That’s all that teachers do — read the text out loud. You may get a license or diploma if you graduate but you won’t know much.
In Japan, if you walk your dogs during the day in the summer, people consider it animal abuse. When the outside temperature is 30 degrees Celsius — and even at night, Tokyo can reach around 28 degrees — the asphalt heats up to 50 degrees or more. This can cause dog’s paws to get burned and their stomachs to overheat. This is why many people use dog carts till they get to a park, where their dogs can walk on grass, preferably in the shade. If there is a pool, even better.
Don’t quit a job, no matter how tough it is, until you have learned everything there is to know. I worked at a dog-training place for six years. It was a sumikomi arrangement, which means I was living on the premises and I was a deshi (apprentice) of the owners. This is a common system in Japan as we believe that the best way to learn is from an experienced person, not from school.
The days and years went by so fast! I was working six days a week, from early morning till past midnight. On day seven, we studied together and half the day was our free time. I was with dogs, so I was happy, but I was always tired. I got ¥40,000 a month for the first year and every year I received ¥10,000 more per month. It was tough to live that way, but I stayed because I wanted to learn everything the owners knew about dogs. Six years was enough.
Working for almost no money was a good experience. It taught me not to be proud or greedy and to appreciate the Japanese convenience store. I was poor and busy, so I went to the convenience store every day. I still do.
The more laughing dogs there are, the happier the world becomes. It’s easy to entertain a dog, and their happy faces can alleviate all our tiredness and pain. When I see or hold a dog, I get a boost of energy and peace of mind.
Even the worst teachers are great. They educate us not to be like them. If you think this way, you can learn from anyone.
Follow your dog as it will lead you to greener pastures. Dogs will find nature, even in a big city. They take us into bushes and ponds behind high-rises — places we may never see or venture to on our own. They teach us to appreciate nature, even its bugs and worms. All we need to do is to pay attention to dogs and our lives will be full of wonder.
Judit Kawaguchi loves to listen. Learn more at judittokyo.com. Twitter: @judittokyo