Nobuyo Avery regularly took care of animals during her childhood in Manchuria. But she never had a pet until she came to the U.S. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns
By Nobuyo Avery
Before talking about a pet, I must confess why I am afraid of any animals, including dogs, cats, birds, or any creatures.
In elementary school days, all students had assignments to take care of chickens or rabbits. I disliked these duties because I could not stand the smell of the animals and the feeling of the skin or furs. Nor could I stand the chickens attacking me.
At home we never had a pet like a dog or a cat because our parents did not like them. We never learned to appreciate them like most of the people. Our parents raised chickens for eggs, but I managed to be excluded from the duties of feeding them or caring for them.
Adding to this was an incident in our neighborhood when I was eight or so. We were told not to step outside due to a stray dog wandering in the residential area. We were told that the dog had rabies and a child who was bitten had to be carried to a hospital.
Another time I was walking to a store and a barking little dog was chasing me furiously. It was only the size of a small Chihuahua, but I was so scared of the constant high pitch yelping and those mean-looking teeth. I was holding on to the mail post waiting for a rescue. I was afraid of dogs and I did not like them.
My husband, on the other hand, loves dogs, as he grew up with a dog or two as pets. But he was not a cat lover. Our children seemed to love having pets. We went through having fish, hamsters, a cat, and birds while they were young. Unfortunately they never kept their promise to keep the cages or aquariums clean, nor did they feed the animals.
When our oldest son asked to have a puppy for a Christmas gift, I hesitated, but everyone in the family agreed that it was a good idea. I was a minority.
For some reason the first pet we bought from the pet shop died after a few months, and we did not have one until our neighbor, Mrs. Moore, gave us a puppy, a mixture of German shepherd and St. Bernard.
I gave the dog the name Hachi. It was the only name I knew and it was the name of a famous faithful Japanese dog. His statue is at a train station in Tokyo where he waited for his master’s return from work every evening, whether it was raining or snowing. He even waited at the station after his master’s death. With my limited knowledge of dogs, I thought he was a German shepherd.
Our Hachi became the children’s best friend. Our daughter Elizabeth called him her best boyfriend, played and walked to the nearby park. Cliff taught him to do tricks and made him to be obedient to his commands.
Hachi was always playing with one of the children. They ran together, played games, chasing each other, and more. He did attack strangers but never harmed me at all, though I was a bit scared to touch him.
Guess who had to make sure the dog food was sufficient and that the yard would be cleaned after his mess? Having a dog in my own house, my fear of dogs diminished somewhat.
We never forgot the sad evening on the fourth of July when we came home from church and found him almost breathless. The vet told us that he had twisted his intestine and there was nothing he could do at that stage. Poor Hachi died at the age of ten while all of us wept over the poor dog.
I was outside after the fourth of July washing and cleaning spinach from our garden and experienced how awful it was to be out in the yard where the smoke and smells from the fireworks filled the air. I thought about poor Hachi and his sufferings. He was so scared that he was looking for a hiding place in the backyard. If only we had come home early or left him indoors that night, we could have saved our favorite and fun-loving best friend.