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Bicky's Story


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Devastated. That’s the one single word that can come even close to how I feel after losing the greatest friend I have ever had. After the death of “Bicky”, my dog, the grief that has encapsulated me has been both suffocating and relentless. I walk around like a zombie, and my existence can only be measured by various degrees of helplessness, hopelessness, and distress. It’s frightening because this inescapable depression appears unending and I am really at a loss of what to do. So here I am…

Perhaps writing about Bicky’s passing to those who have experienced such a loss (and understand the magnitude of such a thing) will somehow be therapeutic for me. I feel the only way to convey the devastation of such a loss would be to articulate the depth of the friendship and love I had for him; and the best way to do this is to tell our whole journey together. It is my hope too that this may help others who have also experienced the loss of a beloved pet and can identify with our story. I will add chapters in installments over the following weeks.

Chapter 1-Making Contact

I am a 42-year-old single Canadian male on contract working in Tokyo, Japan. Almost nine years ago, while living in Japan, my girlfriend (Naoko) and I were walking along a small, suburban road when Naoko spotted a little face behind a fence looking back at us. Its eyes were almond colored, bright and hopeful. After further investigation, we could see to our surprise that this adorable face belonged to a mid-sized, white colored dog. A dog that was, for lack of a better expression, on death’s door. It was so thin that its ribs jutted out. One of its legs appeared broken and he was incredibly weak due to lack of food and water. The dog was trapped behind a two meter high, iron fence of a huge tire factory that was closed for the 3-day weekend. It was obvious this dog was a stray. During that particular time in my life, I was always busy, consumed with my work, and absolutely uninterested in helping any creature in need. But even my cold, narcissistic personality couldn’t let this dog die there. So I let his eyes connect with mine and we miraculously managed to find an opening in the fence where he could crawl under and come toward us. I still remember how pungent his odor was; I had never smelled anything so horrid. What were we to do? He couldn’t obviously walk but our apartment was almost half a mile away. The only answer was for me to carry him, meaning that my clothes would be contaminated and I would most likely vomit from the smell. But that’s what I did; I picked him up and quickly (via a brisk jog) brought him to our apartment. I opened the door and delivered him directly to the bathtub, where I gave him a thorough bathing. He stood there stunned as the warm water poured over him; and as the endless amounts of disgusting bugs, hair, and filth washed off of him, the once clear bathwater turned into a dark, dingy brown. After about fifteen minutes of repeated shampoos and rinsing, it was time for a good towel drying. The frightened and overwhelmed little dog just stood there, stiff as a board, waiting for it all to be over…And sure enough, it soon was.

Naoko arrived just as he was out of the bath and walking around the apartment.

“Oh, the smell is awful! Open the windows”. Indeed the dog was clean (and smelled like herbal essence shampoo!) but that foul odor that so stubbornly washed off of him was still lingering (very strongly) in the bathroom and the rest of the apartment (and would for the next day or so). She looked down at the newly bathed dog,

“Oh, he looks so beautiful now”. Indeed he was. His sparkling eyes looked at me with what only could have been only described as a smile; a smile, which in turn could have only been interpreted as a gesture of “thank you”. In tune with my character in that period of my life though, the whole time I was thinking of how I was going to be able to find someone to “take this dog off our hands.”

“This is all we need, a dog to complicate things. I hope the landlord doesn’t find out about this”.

Chapter 2-Tuna Fish

I really had no clue of how to take care of a dog. All I knew is that they needed food and water and to go for walks. “Well, first thing’s first”, I thought, “This poor thing needs to be hydrated.” Indeed that was a priority; it was a mid-summer, sweltering day in Tokyo. I took a bowl from my cupboard, poured some cool tap water into and laid it on the floor. The dog immediately put his face down and started lapping it up, emptying the bowl in under a minute.

“Should I give him some more?” I didn’t want the dog to overdo it. I remembered reading stories of people who were close to starvation or dehydration and dying as a result of suddenly drinking or eating too much.

“You better not Mark”, Naoko wisely advised, so I held back.

Next was to give him some food. I opened up the cupboard door, “Let’s see…potato chips, cookies, cereal…Nothing…Then I eyed a small tin of tuna in the back. “How about tuna?”

“It isn’t a cat Mark”, she responded giggling.

“Well, that’s all we have at the moment, and I have no idea where we can buy pet food on a Sunday anywhere around here.”

Naoko capitulated, “OK, let’s see then.”

I opened up the can, scooped the tuna fish onto plate with a fork and laid it down in front of the dog.

“Here you go.” The dog cautiously approached the plate, smelled it, looked up at me as if to ask me “Is this really mine?”, and started devouring it.

“Bingo! Now we’re rocking.”, I thought to myself.

Naoko knelt down beside the dog and innocently asked, “So what should we call him?”

“Call him?” My voice rose with both agitation and disbelief. “Nothing. He’s here ‘temporarily’…He has an owner somewhere and we’re gonna help reunite them. Giving him a name will only make it harder for you (as in Naoko) to say good bye when that eventuality occurs.”

I was serious. As cute as this dog was, I couldn’t fathom the possibility of having a dog enter my (our) life. The idea of having to divert my ‘valuable’ time and resources made me panic at the mere thought.

“First thing tomorrow, let’s phone the local shelter and see if they’ve got any info on this dog. The sooner this is all taken care, the sooner we can get back to our usual routine.”


Chapter 3- Smiles, Mirrors, and String

The day slowly slipped into twilight, and then into evening.

Our new houseguest was walking around our cramped apartment with a giddy type of nervousness; investigating every little nook and cranny as if it were the first time he had ever been inside any abode-ever. In fact it probably was. This innocent creature was bedazzled by the different rooms and, especially, by the sounds emanating from both the TV and radio…And when he saw his reflection in a full length mirror for the very first time, he looked like he was ‘literally’ going to jump out of his fur. However, the most striking and indelible thing about these seemingly insignificant, yet treasured memories was the expression that this poor stray wore as he encountered all of the newfound wonders. It could only be described as a ‘perpetual smile’. A smile that said to me that he was genuinely happy and relieved that whatever nightmare he had been living through was over. A look that said that he had finally found his home after all this time. A grateful smile; a smile that understood the value of the gift and the second chance he was being given. A smile that he wore until the day he died. Together with that adorable face that harbored that smile, this vision of him will carry through into the perpetuity of my lasting thoughts and memories.

“Do you think I should take him out to go to the toilet”, I asked Naoko.

“Yes, it might be a good idea”

“OK. I guess I don’t need any leash or anything.”, I muttered to myself. Then I reached down, rubbed the dog’s head and said in a childish voice, “You’re not going to run anywhere, are you?” The fact was, the dog definitely had a hurt leg; however, when I first saw him that afternoon, I feared it might have even been broken. But by nightfall, his leg seemed just a bit sprained; he was able to walk, albeit slowly.

Naoko walked into the living room, “While walking outside, why don’t you ask any neighbors or passersby about him. Maybe they’ve heard about someone losing a dog.”

“Good idea Naoko.” I then stopped and thought about it for a bit. “On second thought, I think it would be best if I walked him with some kind of leash. There are laws about having a dog without one and I don’t want the neighbors to be getting upset.”

I knew we didn’t have a leash per se in the house, but being the wonderfully clever person I am, I hit on a great idea. “Maybe I can use some of the string in the closet.”

“String?” Naoko asked with half a laugh and half a ‘you’ve got to be kidding’ gasp.

I became defensive (as par usual). “Hey, we don’t really have a choice at the moment…and even if there were a pet store open this late in our neighborhood, I don’t want to fork over $20.00 on a leash that we won’t need in a few days.

“Well, you’re the one walking him.”, Naoko quipped as she started looking for the string.

I grabbed the collar that we had taken off him (to shower him) but quickly let it drop to the floor. “Yuck”. The collar still reeked of the foul stench that accompanied Bicky earlier in the day.

“Well, we can’t use this collar.” I knelt down, massaged the dog’s head one more time, and then spoke to him as if he were a native English speaker, “I guess we’ll have to use the string bareback mister:”

“Here it is Mark:” Naoko handed me a thick, white colored string and I looped it around the dog’s neck. I opened the door, and we (string and all) were off on what was to be the first of a thousand adventures together.

Chapter 4-The “Something”

It’s funny but sometimes the nights are even hotter than the days in Tokyo…and that was the case this particular evening. The moon was almost full and the stars twinkled in the sky as if to say hello to my new friend and I. I placed the dog down on the ground after navigating the stairwell that brought me from our 2nd floor apartment to the ground level. It was a Sunday evening and that meant there was a relaxed vibe in the neighborhood. If it had been a weekday, there would have been a scene of straggling people returning home from work and a tangible feeling of stress and exhaustion in the air. But because it was a weekend, there was a feeling of lightness and unlimited possibilities. It all seemed a bit surreal, really. Here I was, a 33-year-old Caucasian male in Tokyo, walking with a lame, skin-and-bones dog, with a piece of regular white string tied around its neck (not even a collar).

It wasn’t two minutes into our walk when we encountered our first group of people. It appeared to be a Japanese family of four: a mother, father and two children returning to their home from a local restaurant.

(Japanese) “Good evening. Beautiful weather isn’t it”

“Yes.” The father politely but nervously responded.

I continued, “Say, you wouldn’t happen to know who this dog belongs to?”

“Eeeeeee, I’ve never seen it in my life. Is it a stray dog?”, he cautiously moved his children away as if to protect them.

“Yes…I found him this morning.”

“Well, perhaps you should just let him go and he’ll find his way back home.” I winced and stepped back, digesting what he had just said. Then my blood started to boil and I began searching for a suitable retort.

“Are you ******** stupid? It’s that exact ‘detached’, not-my-responsibility’, ‘pie-in-the-sky’ denial tactic that has made this world the cold shell of what it could be, and in this particular case, a dog’s life a living hell.”, is what I really wanted to say…but all I could muster was, “That’s an idea. Thanks and have a nice evening”.

The dog and I left the party of four and headed towards the most exciting place on a Sunday evening in my neighborhood: the convenient store! I looked down at my new friend and saw (again) that big happy smile of his. It was the smile of someone who had just won the lottery and couldn’t believe his luck. He seemed so proud that we were together and wouldn’t leave my side. I, on the other hand, was on a determined mission to find this dog’s owner and not in the mood to forge a relationship with a dog that would undoubtedly soon be just a memory…an anecdote to fill in those spaces when there is absolutely nothing else to talk about.

I also wanted the dog to go about and do his business (as in toilet) outside…I had no idea if this dog was housetrained and was very nervous that I might end up cleaning the carpets on top of everything else that evening. So far, all he managed to do was “number 1” a few times. “Well, that’s better than nothing”, I thought.

I arrived at the convenient store and approached a group of teenagers who were just hanging around the parking lot. I asked whether they had ever seen the dog before, but they all (politely) said “no.” Then, a group of people started to gather around us: old, young, female, and male. They seemed to have all suddenly come out of the woodwork and a circle of people started to incase the dog and I. The dog started wagging his tail enthusiastically and his little smile grew wider and wider…He undoubtedly was thinking, we (especially him though) were getting loving attention. I unfortunately knew better though. The unusual sight of a foreigner with an emaciated dog (and a simple string for a collar no less) was just too intriguing and exciting for the average Japanese person to resist. “Well at least I can ask everybody at once about the dog”, I thought to myself. Just then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the dog suddenly arch his back; he looked at me as if to ask me for permission for something, and then proceeded to do that ‘something’…A ‘something’ I will never, ever forget. Let’s just say that he fulfilled his toilet duty in a very “big” way. Right there in the middle of the parking lot with everybody watching us! What came out of him can only be described as amazing and disgusting, Or amazingly disgusting...or disgustingly amazing. Whatever the case may be, it was unforgettable and not least of all…mortifying. At least for me it was…not for the dog who seemed very proud of himself. He looked at me with those baby almond eyes of his, beckoning me to reward him in some way. I had bigger fish to fry though; there were about twelve shocked people looking at me, wondering what this strange foreigner was going to next. I knew that my next move should have been to clean the mess up, but I didn’t have any type of bag or tissue for that…and I was panicking. So I tried a different tactic. I struggled for the proper words in Japanese, but they escaped me…so the best I could do was,

“This is not my dog. Do you know whose dog this is?”

This was greeted with a deafening silence from the crowd of people. So, I looked down at my little ‘troublemaker’, scooped him up and just walked away into the night, leaving the dog’s ‘present’ smack where the he deposited it.

As I was carrying him home, I remember thinking how embarrassing it all was and how I wouldn’t be able to show my face in that convenient store again. It was much more than I had really bargained for.

Funny how time can change things. At the time I wanted to be anywhere but in that silly situation with that ‘silly’ dog…But now, I would literally give all that I have to transport back to that magical time and place and hold and kiss him just one more time…

That balmy summer evening, carry that little guy with me. His beautiful white fur, glistening from the reflection of the midsummer night’s moon. His deep, dark eyes looking at me with complete unconditional love and trust. It sounds so hackneyed and clichéd to talk about how a dog rescued me as opposed to me rescuing the dog, but that was exactly what was happening.

Chapter 5- A Rose By Any Other Name…

The dog and I arrived home with his mission ‘very accomplished’. Naoko was inside the kitchen busy making dinner as I gently laid my new friend onto the floor. He walked into the living room, turned his head around to make sure I was behind him, and then gently laid the lower portion of his body, leaving only his head and shoulders arched up.

“So, did he go to the toilet?”, Naoko inquired

“You could say that”, my eyes playfully sending daggers at our new houseguest as I put my keys onto the key rack.

“Number 2?”

“Well it was a bit of a mix, but there was definitely number 2 in there somewhere.”

Naoko was confused but knew enough not to follow this line of questioning and just said,

“Dinner will be in a few minutes. Do you think he will be able to eat chicken?”

“Well, I guess we’ll find out soon enough.”

By this point we had set out food and water dishes for the dog, so Naoko took out a little bit of boiled chicken, chopped it up into tiny pieces, mixed it with a little bit of cooked cabbage and placed it into his bowl. He jumped up like a Jack-in-the-box and went over to the bowl, looked at us as if to say thank-you, and cautiously began to nibble…And then when he discovered that the food was not only palatable but delicious, wolfed it down.

“Wow”, at least we know you’re not a vegetarian”, eh little guy?. I bent down and kissed his forehead. He reciprocated by gazing at me as if I were the center of the universe. What a wonderful place to be.

“Naoko, I think this idea of ‘yours’ not giving the dog a name, although sensible, isn’t very practical. Perhaps we should give him a name temporarily….until we find his owner that is.”

Naoko looked at me, ignoring the fact that indeed it was my idea not to give the dog a name (she was used to it), and replied,

“Well, I think there is a name written on the collar he was wearing.

“Really?” Where is it?”

“In the garbage…wrapped in a plastic bag”. Indeed, that’s where it belonged; that collar was putrid. Not only did it have a stench that was so wretched that it wouldn’t even soften after two times in the wash, but the mere look of it was offensive. You see, the dog was obviously fully grown, but the collar was for a mere puppy. It was as thin as a lace and so tight on him that he would have been choking if not for the fact that he was so emaciated (from near starvation). I didn’t want to see it again because it broke my heart to be reminded of its existence.

Naoko opened the garbage then took out the second plastic bag and untied the knot and plopped out the collar. And there, on the underside of the collar was an inscription-It read, ”Vicky”.

“Vicky?” I was confused. Vicky was a female name and due to my ‘expertise’ in anatomy, I had already ascertained that this dog was indeed a male.

“Well, how about we call him ‘Bicky’. It sounds more masculine (I guess) and it will be much easier for Japanese to pronounce anyway.” And just like that, on the evening of July 23rd, 2002, the name ‘Bicky’ entered into my lexicon for the first time.

Later that evening as Naoko and I got ready for bed, we put a towel down on the area of the living room that Bicky seemed most comfortable, designating where he was to sleep. Not ten minutes later, as I entered the living room, I saw the most endearing sight: “Bicky” was laying down on the towel, steadfast asleep, The smile that so defined him, somehow had morphed into an angelic look of contentment. He knew he was home and had fallen into perhaps what was the first worry-free sleep of his short, sad life.

As I lay falling asleep that night, I gently nudged Naoko and whispered,

“Try not to become attached to him honey, it will just make it harder when he finally has to leave us.”


Side note: I later found out that the Inscription “Vicky” was the brand name of the collar and not his name…but by the time I found it out, he was “Bicky” and there was no turning back.

Chapter 6- Perfect Day

The early morning sun burst through the bedroom curtains, prompting me to roll over and smush my face into my pillow. Oh, how I loved being able to sleep in! I was on holiday and intent on taking full advantage of it. I started drifting back into unconsciousness and bliss when a subtle rustling noise (from the living room) brought me back to lucidity.

“Bicky’s up”, I thought to myself. “Well he better get back to sleep. There’s no way I’m going to interrupt this beautiful slumber.” I started to drift back to sleep….Tick, tock, tick, tock, five minutes past. ‘Rustle, rustle, bang!’

“Oh ****.” I tapped on Naoko’s shoulder and whispered,

“How can you sleep through this?

“Sleep through what?”

“Sleep through what? Bicky’s tearing our living room apart, that’s what.”

“Well, check on him then”, Naoko then instantaneously fell back to sleep, (what a talent!)

My options were very limited; I had to get up. I got out of bed, threw my robe on, and opened the sliding bedroom door. And there Bicky was, sitting proudly with his back straight as a board, in front of the bedroom door, not two feet away wearing his signature smile…What’s more, he was bearing gifts! He indeed had been a busy dog that morning. While I was sleeping (or at least trying to), Bicky was busy gathering various items (from our laundry bag), and placed them in a pile in front of the bedroom door. Now I stood there looking at an assortment of socks, underwear, and hand towels.

“Well, Bicky!”, I knelt down and started chuckling. “You certainly are a charmer. Even if the gifts are not that appropriate; I give you an A+ for effort.” I reached both hands out and gently kissed him on the forehead. With that, Bicky picked up one of the socks he had so kindly offered me and started racing around the living room table, daring me to try to get it away from him. And I did exactly what he was expecting (and hoping) I would do. A desperate chase ensued, climaxing in Bicky’s eventual capture, a ceremonious headlock, and my reclamation of the sock! He was still much too weak to be all that quick, but his playful spirit made up for any handicap.

All this was too much noise for even Naoko to sleep through; I could see her silhouette out of the corner of my eye. “Oh, oh.”

“Oh dear! What’s all this?”, Naoko seemed more amused than troubled.

“Oh, I think Bicky might have a fetish for underwear and socks.”, I joked as I caressed Bicky’s delicate head and looked him straight in the eyes. “Don’t tell me that on top of everything else, you’re a pervert.” Bicky then laid that little head down on my knee and I looked out at the shining morning and declared in a melodramatic (Charlton Heston) voice, “This is going to be a great day.” I then quickly turned to Naoko, “I think we had better get some proper dog food, a collar and a leash today. So…I’ll have to go downtown (by train) for that.

“I think so too.”

So for the next few hours of the early morning, I played with Bicky and held him as he finally drifted off to sleep in my arms.

“So now you want to sleep? I playfully asked. “Three hours too late little man.”

I recall how dead tired I felt making my way to the local department store to pick up ‘Bicky’s ‘stuff’, but at the same time how driven and excited I was. Whatever my feelings though, my life had definitely been turned upside down and inside out…And I was surprisingly loving it.

I returned home to find Bicky waiting exactly where I left him…at the front door entrance.

Naoko greeted with me an astonished, “He’s been waiting there for you since you left honey; he hasn’t moved”. My heart melted. I knelt down, pulled out a red colored collar from my shopping bag, and excitedly said, “How about a walk?”

Indeed, it was a great day...a perfect day.


Chapter 7-Unpleasant Surprises

The following morning I decided to preempt Bicky’s shenanigans by sneaking out of bed before any discernable noise could be heard from the living room. I ever so quietly slid the bedroom door open and spied Bicky as he was fast asleep. From the looks of it, Bicky was having an eventful dream. His eyes were indeed closed but twitching wildly, and his paws were moving in what could only be described as a running motion. “How magnificently adorable.” I quietly knelt down beside him, and then contorted my body so my body encircled his, but without actually touching it. I just couldn’t bring myself to wake him. The warmth of his body and the peculiar noises that emanated from him were plenty entertainment for me. And there we lay together as the sun rose and illuminated the once dark room. I must have dozed off because I was rudely awakened by a paw jutting into my face. Guess who!. Bicky was in the middle of a full morning stretch. My eyes locked on his and I could almost hear his heart race as he positioned his body upright and finally stood up on all fours. With that, possessing the face of a child on Christmas morning, he backed up on his hind legs and ‘shoved me’ with the front ones, as if to say,

“So what wonderful adventures are in store for me today?”

“SSSSShhhh, you don’t want to wake up Naoko this morning; she may not be so forgiving this time.”, I whispered, and gently scooped him up , laying him back down on the towel.” I then reached up onto the table, and dipped my hand into the bag of “dog stuff” and pulled out a purple colored ‘dog brush.

“Now I’ll give you the ’royal’ treatment.” I proceeded to brush his beautiful white fur as he lay completely stretched out. Every stroke of that brush brought him a look of what can only described as ‘pure serenity’. He would even elevate certain areas of that ‘skin and bones’ body of his, as if to say, “Hey Mark, right here…that’s it”.

As I continued to comb his body, to my surprise, I noticed something brown protruding from the skin, buried under the thick fur of the scruff of his neck. Upon further investigation, I found what appeared to be a ‘tick’. It was about as big as a dime. “How disgusting.” I tried removing it with a tissue but it wasn’t budging. I then started scouring his body for more unpleasant surprises…and I found them. Two, three, four…”This is incredible.” I had already given him two baths and somehow these things (ticks) managed to remain undetected. I made a quick search on the Internet to find out the best course of action. The resounding recommendation? Pull them out with tweezers. So I searched the apartment, miraculously found a pair of tweezers, and ever so delicately started pulling the little nasties off. The first one came off with little difficulty…but the second one was much more stubborn. It wasn’t going to let go and I feared that if I pulled too hard, I’d end up leaving half of the thing inside him and make the situation worse. On top of this, Bickly was becoming increasingly uncomfortable and started squirming; I was in over my head. “Mission unaccomplished.”

Discouraged but not defeated, I reached over and carefully put the tweezers on the coffee table centered in the middle of the room, and in a ‘rolling’ motion snuggled up to Bicky, took his little head in my right hand and positioned it so that we were both directly eye to eye.

“How do you feel about going to the vet’s today handsome?”

Please check this thread for following chapters.

Thank you for reading!

Mark and Bicky

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Oh Mark - I'm so sorry. I too love my dogs & dread the day they go.I've lost animals before too, & it is horrendous. This is such a beautiful story of you & Bicky finding each other...you made me cry, smile & kiss the dog next to me. I'm not surprised you're heart broken, & it's such a horrible horrible feeling. Is there someone you can go & talk to as well as writing...I love the writing by the way, I hope it's helping & that there'll be more soon.

With love,



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I even hate to 'interrupt' your story with any reply at all, Mark, not knowing if you'd prefer 'silence' as yet. But I felt compelled to write with my deepest condolences on the transition of your most-beloved Bicky. I certainly understand, through experience, your devastation and all those other emotions, and agree - it's the closest single word that can possibly describe the incredible depth of the feeling(s) of loss. (as others have, I've felt the same myself over my own two ever-cherished furchildren)

I don't visit here that much now, but the utter eloquence of how you're writing yours and Bicky's story simply could not go unnoticed, and so here I am again. It is so poignant and spell-binding, I can't help but wonder if you've considered writing an actual book, or even a mini e-book to share Bicky's legacy with the whole world, whenever you might be ready? Although not even finished here, it's already a most touching testament to how non-human beings can SO powerfully change us, even "overnight" (literally, in your case)...a message of which the world cannot hear enough. You have a very special gift, as did/does Bicky, who, I'm not just guessing, but assuming, has enhanced and helped shift your own innate blessings into something even more beautiful during his earthly time with you. I eagerly await any possible further sharing of the story of your relationship and how that affected and transformed you both.

In the meantime, may your love-inspired and even pain-inducing memories be one of the catalysts to eventual healing of your shattered heart, and indeed prove as cathartic for you as you hope. If you're wondering, yes, reading your story does do my heart much good, too, even a few years after my own sorrowful memoirs. Bless you both - you and Bicky - for the wonderful relationship you created together, as well as for allowing us to experience these treasured pieces of it through your stirring words.

If it may be of any further help to you, I'd like to suggest at least 2 books you may find helpful during your bereavement:

1) Animals and the Afterlife by Kim Sheridan

and possibly also

2) Pieces of My Heart by Jim Willis

Once again, all my sympathies and empathy in your journey through grief, and for the crossing of your beloved boy. May you always, at the least, feel Bicky with you in spirit. Somehow, I can't help but think he'll always be there for, and with, you. :wub:

An excerpt from one of the poems I found the most comforting:

Death is Nothing At All

Death is nothing at all.

I have only slipped away to the next room.

I am I and you are you.

Whatever we were to each other,

That, we still are.


I am but waiting for you.

For an interval.

Somewhere. Very near.

Just around the corner.

All is well.

Death Poem by Henry Scott Holland ~ 1847-1918

Canon of St. Paul's Cathedral ~ London. UK



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I too want express my loss for your beautiful companion...I am so glad you found each other and got to share those nine years together. I know you miss him, my prayers are with you.

I want to add that your Bicky is beautiful! He looks similar to my dog only smaller and a different color. That beautiful smile!

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Dear Mark,

I am so sorry for your loss. I agree "devistation" is about the only word to encapsulate your loss. I too have experienced this "devistation" so I understand. Mark, you have a wonderful gift with words and I feel compelled to encourage you to think on writing more chapters of your life with your beloved Bicky which may prove healing and cathartic for you.

Thank you for sharing and I offer my understanding and hold you in gentle thought and prayer as you learn to weather this devistating loss.

Blessings and Courage, Carol Ann

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Chapter 8-The Taxi Ride

As mid morning creped up, the ‘rolling thunder’ sound of the bedroom door sliding open cued Bicky to both instantaneously and simultaneously arch his inquisitive head, beam his ‘perpetual’ smile, and ecstatically wag his featherlike tail. Naoko eased into the living room, almost apologetically, afraid she might be infringing on our (Bicky’s and my) bonding time. Bicky jumped up to give her a ‘royal morning greeting’, complete with a strategically placed paw on her foot and a loving nuzzle on her shin. He was certainly playing his cards right if he wanted to get into her good graces; Naoko seemed as taken with Bicky as I was. Although I was still going through the facade of trying to find an owner for Bicky, I knew by this point (at least in my heart) that Bicky belonged with us. Still, I wasn’t completely sure how Naoko felt about us taking Bicky in.

I had to delicately bridge this topic to her…but that was for a later time. At that moment, the priority (for me) was to get him to a veterinarian; I hated the idea of those diseased ticks on him.

I smiled at Naoko, “Good morning beautiful…”

Naoko responded with an enthusiastic “Good morning!” That “Good morning!” though was directed ‘at’ and ‘for’ Bicky…I (for that moment in time) was invisible. She placed both her hands on either side of his torso and asked him, in Japanese, if he had had a good sleep. Bicky responded with more nuzzling, all the while looking back at me (in a kind of guilty way), making sure I wasn’t getting jealous.

“Don’t worry about me little man; you just do what you have to do.” He then compromised by plopping down in the middle of the living room.

“You’d make a great politician”, I proudly said as I rolled over and started rubbing his belly. After a few minutes, I proceeded to scour for the ticks I had found earlier that morning; I was obsessed. In less than 10 seconds I found one of them.

“Can you take a look at this Naoko? ” She picked up her reading glasses from on top of the TV, put them on, and knelt down to get a close look.

“OOOOOh. That’s a tick. Can you get it off?”

“ I tried; I was able to get one off but the others seem to be more stubborn.”


“Yep…at least five more. I’m afraid of making the situation worse though.” I paused, and in a hesitant tone continued, “So, I was thinking of… perhaps taking him to a veterinarian today.”

Naoko responded in a matter-of-fact tone. “I think that’s a very good idea.”

“Really? Great!” Naoko was definitely on board and I felt a great weight off my shoulders.

She then went on to ask, “So where should we take him?’

“Good question! Well, the closest vet I could find (on the Internet), is about 15 minutes from here by taxi.”

“By taxi? You can’t bring a dog into a taxi!”

“Look at him.” I knelt down beside Bicky and wrapped my arms around him, giving him a hug. “He can’t be more than 20 pounds. He’s as a clean as a whistle, ‘san’ the ticks. He can sit on my lap; it will be fine.” I sounded like a door-to-door salesman ; a bad one at that.

“I don’t know, she said in a doubtful tone.” Then smiled at Bicky and started rubbing his forehead. “I guess we can try.”

So we spent the rest of the morning getting ready and I went outside and hailed down a taxi. The taxi driver was a friendly guy (to my relief) and I had him pull in the driveway. After Naoko got into the taxi, I told the ‘smiling’ driver that I had to get ‘something’ in the apartment and that I would only be a minute. I ran into the house and came back carrying Bicky in my arms. That smile the taxi driver was wearing a minute before, morphed into whatever the word for the polar opposite of a smile is. He honestly looked as if I had just ‘flashed’ him; this was not going like I had hoped it would.

“No, No,.: He frantically started waving me back. “No animals in the car.” I pleaded with him, explaining that Bicky was clean and had no odor. But it was futile. So Naoko, Bicky and I found ourselves on our driveway, back to square one…without a ride to the veterinarian’s.

“Here comes another taxi!” Hail it, and wait for me. I’ll be with you in a minute. I ran inside the apartment with Bicky and in under a minute was back out (with Bicky), walking toward the waiting taxi.

Naoko was already sitting in the taxi; and after I climbed in and sat down, I gave the taxi driver directions to the veterinarian’s office and we were off.

So there we were all in the back of the taxi, Naoko, myself and…. Bicky, who was completely swaddled in a beautiful baby blue towel. I was holding him close to my chest lovingly, as if he were a baby, and I had strategically placed the towel’s edges over his face desperately trying to obstruct any direct view the driver had of him. The whole point, of course, was to give the driver the impression that Bicky was in fact a ‘baby’…a ‘human baby’. And so far it seemed to be working! Meanwhile, under the blue towel, I could see Bicky’s face; his eyes looked back at mine with a mix of confusion and fear. Fear from what? Well, being wrapped and covered in a blanket was certainly uncomfortable…but it was the driving part that I think was blowing his mind. He obviously had never been in a vehicle before, and the sheer motion of the car was simply something he had never felt…and this of course was frightening to him. And with that he started to become restless and squirm. The driver started looking back in his rear view mirror at Bicky and I. ”Hmmm, he’s getting suspicious”, I thought as my heart started racing. My next worry was that he was going to ask (perhaps in a friendly way) about the ‘baby’. So I started making small talk with Naoko to ward off any uncomfortable silences in the car and therefore openings for the driver to speak. We spoke in English to further block any attempts he might have at ‘communication’. Finally after a 15-minute drive (but what felt like an hour), we arrived at our destination: The Kumagoro Animal hospital ...I opened the door and we (all three of us) got out of the car. By this point, due to Bicky’s squirming, the towel had half slid off him, revealing the bottom third of his little body…So I headed straight toward the clinic’s entrance without looking back. Naoko paid the driver, and he waved at us kindly as he drove off. No doubt wondering if all foreign babies had white, featherlike tails.





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I enjoy your writing! Your dog is so very beautiful...I have to show you a picture of mine, he looks similar only reddish and lots bigger! It was his smile that won me over too.



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Dear Mark,

Your writing skills are exemplary. I feel like I know Bicky and could reach out and pet him. Thank you for sharing this sacred time with us. I wish you continued healing.

I hold in you in gentle thought and prayer.

Blessings, Carol Ann

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What beautiful dogs in all of these pictures....such amazing companions...one of mine is lying next to me as I watch a TV show called 'Extraordinary Dogs'. First dog sniffed out cancer in his owner & saved her life.

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Chapter 9- The Bombshell

Carrying Bicky under my right arm with my left one as a support, I walked up the stone steps of the aesthetically unremarkable structure and passed through the front sliding door of the veterinarian clinic into the reception area. The cool air from the air conditioning greeted us as I marveled at all the golden little sights to behold. The small room was bustling with people and their pets (the patients), each, no doubt, with their very own magical stories of love and loss & joy and adversity. There was an old man with a young Dalmatian…and a young woman with an aging Golden Retriever. A large black, mixed breed dog was sitting beside a little dark brown, longhaired dachshund. A very serious looking businessman (in a dark blue suit) was cradling an adorable black kitten as he watched the child in front of him feeding a small, gray haired pet rabbit the tip of a glaringly bright orange carrot. I stood there (in front of the door) for at least a full minute holding Bicky, who was still ‘semi’ wrapped in the now infamous baby blue blanket, and then in a loving voice whispered,

“Looks like this is the right place Little Man.” Bicky’s eyes were as wide as saucers and his heart was beating wildly. This was the first time I had actually seen him interact with other animals. His head slowly moved from one side to the other as his eyes methodically took in all there was to be seen, His ‘smile’ was still that-a smile- but one now accompanied with a large dose of trepidation. I took the one remaining seat left empty…the one beside the ‘serious businessman’. All this excitement was too much for Bicky though and he took his little snout and sandwiched it between my hip and elbow, closing his eyes. I could feel his little skin-and-bones body subtly tremble as I gently massaged him in a lovingly reassuring way and said,

“Don’t worry baby...I won’t let anyone hurt you.” I meant it.

The sliding door of the clinic’s front door opened and Naoko, accompanied with a burst of hot air from the sweltering day outside, entered and walked towards me. I waved her over and in a sheepish tone said, “Hey baby. Could you talk to the receptionist and give the necessary info?”

“Sure”, and she spent the next 15 minutes doing the necessary paperwork.

It should be made very clear that Naoko was completely and unconditionally helpful throughout all of this. While I would do the “fun” things like walking and “playing” with Bicky, she was filling out ‘vet” applications, making phone calls to shelters, and keeping Bicky company while he waited at the front every day for ‘me’ to come home from work. She is indeed the unsung hero in this story.

So we sat there waiting. Bicky only occasionally taking his head from out from under my elbow to take a deep breath and make sure I was still there.

Finally the receptionist called “Bicky’s” name and we (all three of us) walked into the examination room. There was an elevated steel table in the center of the room, so I gently laid Bicky down on it and held his head gently against my hip.

A tall, young male veterinarian with glasses, around 26 or 27 years old, walked in with a gentle smile. I politely greeted him and quickly explained to him the circumstances in which we had found Bicky and the highlights of what had transpired since then. I then went on to show him one of the ‘ticks’ that had been the prime motivation for us to bring Bicky there in the first place. He took one quick look at it and assured me that even though the ticks were an ugly sight, they were quite harmless and would be ‘taken care of’ before we left the clinic. He did however wish to give Bicky a general physical before he did anything else. He started with Bicky’s teeth; they were indeed in rough shape. They came in two colors-a lighter shade of brown and a darker shade of yellow. In fact, the doctor was a bit taken aback when he first managed to open Bicky’s stubbornly closed mouth…And after his less than two minute dental examination, spoke to us in an instructional manner,

“These teeth are in poor condition because of an overall lack of proper nutrition; it’s not due to age.”

“How old do you think he is?”, I asked inquisitively…I had been curios about this from the moment I found Bicky.”

“I would guess about six or seven years old”, he replied in a less than sure tone.

“Six or seven years old?” I looked at Bicky with amazement. I then started speaking in that baby voice only reserved for him “You look much younger; have you had any work (as in cosmetic) done?”

Not likely…You see, the veterinarian believed that judging from the condition of Bicky’s teeth, nails and overall health and manner, there was a good possibility that Bicky had never even been to a veterinarian…in his entire life.

“Really doctor? “ I was both surprised and distressed to hear this. It seems that Bicky may have had an even rougher life than I had originally thought.

But the real ‘health’ bombshell was still yet to be dropped.

The doctor picked up a stethoscope that that was lying on an adjacent table, put the earpieces on as he gently laid the chest piece on Bicky’s heart and carefully listened. You could here a pin drop the room was so quiet. The doctor’s face grew more and more concerned the longer he listened. He then abruptly took off the stethoscope, put it back where he found it and let out a sigh.

“I need to run more tests…but it appears Bicky has a heart murmur.”

My ‘heart’ sank. I wasn’t even sure what exactly a heart murmur was but it didn’t sound good. “Is it serious doctor?”

“I’ll know after we do the tests. The clinic will need to keep him for a few hours…Would that be ok?

“Of course.”

And so, they kept Bicky for two hours while Naoko and I (mostly ’I’ though) paced in the waiting room.

At noon, the doctor came back with some disturbing news; Bicky had a disease known as feleria (heartworms). What followed was a very intense lecture about the disease, the causes, symptoms, and prognosis. We were basically informed that Bicky’s ‘feleria’ condition was quite advanced and that if the worms were not removed, Bicky would probably die within the next two years. When I asked about the treatment options, the doctor replied, “surgery.”

My heart sank further.

At the end of the consultation, Bicky was brought back into the room. His eyes exploded with happiness and relief when he saw Naoko and I, and curled up into my chest as the nurse handed him over to me, lovingly nuzzling the underside of my chin.

The vet was kind enough to arrange one of his clinic’s vans to drive us home…No taxis and shenanigans this time; we were going back in style!

As the three of us sat in the back of the van on the short ride back to our apartment, I held Bicky on my lap, gently cradling his little tired head as he started to doze off …no doubted exhausted from the long eventful afternoon..

I looked out the window of van, assessing the reality of situation:

First and foremost, I was absolutely crazy about this dog. In only a few short days we had forged a relationship that had offered me a wondrous sense of love happiness, and purpose. For everything (both the tangibles and intangibles) I had given Bicky, I received tenfold in return.

Second, that Bicky needed medical treatment and that I was fully prepared to do whatever it took (financially, time wise, etc) to make sure he had the best care possible.

Third, that the apartment we were currently residing in was woefully insufficient for our needs and that we needed to find something bigger…much bigger.

Fourth, because of Bicky’s precarious health condition and therefore frequent trips to the veterinarian, we would need a car. Bicky wrapped in baby blue blankets in taxis, although daring and cute, wasn’t very practical over the long term.

The van turned off the main road and drove up the little side street our apartment was located on. I tapped Naoko on the shoulder and in a nonchalant manner whispered,

“How about we do some house hunting tomorrow?”

Naoko nodded her head and whispered back, “Great idea Mark.”

Bicky looked up at the both of us with his ‘perpetual smile’, secure in the belief that whatever we were talking about was good.

Chapter 10 will cover the next few weeks of our time together and the unfortunate and lengthy separation that soon followed.

Side Notes.

*Although the veterinarian (at the Kumagoro Animal Clinic) estimated Bicky’s age to be 6 or 7 yrs, old, it was later determined (with more precise testing) that Bicky’s age was most likely about 4 yrs old..

*With a proper diet and cleaning, Bicky’s ‘yellow and brown teeth’ became a healthy pearly white…A shining example of how a dog’s teeth should be.

*Although Naoko and I were very taken with Bicky, basically from the start, we felt it was our responsibility to reunite him with his original owner(s). We made countless phone calls to government and private animal shelters and put up notices around the neighborhood with his picture on it. Not one person knew anything about him. If we had brought him to one of the city shelters, most likely he would have been destroyed within the next 3 days. No one would be eager to adopt a 4-year-old, mixed breed dog with health issues.

*All the ticks were indeed “taken care of” and I never saw one on his body ever again!

Thank you very much for reading!

Mark and Bicky

Please look for all future posts in the 'reply section' down below.

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Mark, You really should write a book about Bicky, you have a gift with the written word. I feel like every time you stop, it's a cliffhanger and I want to know what happens next. I want to say also that I am so glad that it was you that found Bicky, for you gave him a home and family, love and care, something he probably would not have had if not for you. I don't think it was by coincidence that it was you that found him.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...

Chapter 10 Riding Freestyle

Behind the scenes Naoko and I had started the large task of house and car hunting, but we wouldn’t let that prevent us from enjoying our first summer with our new companion. Although we had had him for just under a week, that little dog had quickly become a very welcomed and beloved member of our small family unit. He had captured our hearts (especially mine) in such a way that my priorities had changed and everyday things started revolving around him. Not in a weird, obsessive way, but rather in a healthy, positive one. And in retrospect, I was in definite need of a good shake up in my life, and that ‘shake up’ came in the form of down-on- his-luck stray named ‘Bicky’.

Our apartment was located about a twenty minute drive from a gorgeous, Japanese style park, complete with garden paths, trees, and a huge pond that was home to ducks, turtles, and Koi (beautifully colored carp). I decided that it would be a wonderful idea for me to rent a vehicle and drive all three of us visit this park. So…I rented a mini van. I knew Bicky found the previous taxi and van rides ‘uncomfortable’ experiences but was sure that the more he got used to driving, the better he would start reacting to the experience. I pulled the van up the driveway, opened the door of the van and stepped out, “All right everybody, let’s go. ”Naoko giddily walked out with a small picnic basket in one hand and Bicky in tow on a leash in the other. He was decked out in his new bright red colored collar and a very official looking sterling silver ID tag. It read “Bicky”, with my (now his) address and phone number. ” I yelled out across the driveway, “Such a handsome boy”. Bicky instantly started wagging his tail and his eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. “Mark’s home!”, he undoubtedly was thinking. “I wonder what’s on the menu this afternoon.” This burst of happiness was short lived though once he saw the van and put 2 and 2 together. That bright, happy face of his instantaneously turned into one of concern and apprehension. He knew that the van undoubtedly meant another ‘drive’ and therefore… fear and uncertainty. I was expecting this might be his initial reaction and immediately went into damage control mode. Running up to Bicky, I knelt down, scooped him up, kissed him on the forehead… and as I made my way back to the van, in a reassuring voice half whispered, “Don’t worry little guy, this ride will just be a fun adventure, I promise.” I opened up the sliding door of the van and gently put Bicky inside, onto the backseat. The last two times I held Bicky for the ride, but this time Bicky would be allowed to move around more ‘freestyle’. Perhaps that would help him relax more….Perhaps…

He started ‘panting’ (he did that when he was very nervous) and tip toed cautiously on the soft, plush interior. Naoko, hopped in next to Bicky and we were all set to go…except, that is, for one last thing.

“I forgot the camera Naoko, I’ll be back in a minute.” I darted off and came running back, waving the camera victoriously in the air. I peaked in the back and saw that Bicky was sitting (up straight) in the backseat as Naoko held him gently, making sure he sat still for the relatively short drive…I jumped into the car, fastened my seatbelt in one big swoop, and we were off!

This was actually the first time I had ever driven in Japan and, frankly, was a little nervous about driving on the left side of the road (the opposite side of Canada), so I devoted the majority of my energy concentrating on the road and driving. I would look back (in the rear view mirror) every few minutes to see how Bicky was doing. Naoko was gently petting him and spoke to him reassuringly as I navigated the small and intricate roads that are so characteristic of Japan. Bicky sat there looking directly ahead (almost in a hypnotic state); his back straight as a board, his entire body completely still… “So far, so good.”, I thought to myself.

So there we were, me in the driver’s seat; and Bicky and Naoko sitting in the back. I must have looked like a taxi driver to the other drivers on the road, chauffeuring these two around!

Ten minutes into the drive (and halfway to our destination), I remember feeling a tangible sense of relief. The driving, although a little more challenging than in Canada was going well…and more importantly, Bicky appeared to be handling the drive like a real ‘trooper’.

“I’m so proud of you little man; you are my little brave little co-pilot”. I spoke like a beaming father, “I knew you could do it!”

Boy, did I jinx it.

No sooner had I uttered that last word of what turned out to be an incredibly ironic statement when Bicky suddenly stood up on the seat, exploding in a panic. It was as if all that nervousness, trepidation, and fear he had been bottling up for the first ten minutes of the ride burst out despite all of his most noble efforts. Indeed. Bicky’s ‘bravery” ended with the suddenness and subtlety of a train wreck…and well…he just started ‘freaking out’.

Naoko started screaming, “He’s trying to get into the front seat!”

“Well hold him down ”, my voiced rose with a mixture of agitation and understandable concern.

“I can’t”, her voice trailing off with a mix of desperation and resignation. Indeed, Bicky was squirming and panicking and there only so much she could do. I too had limited options of what I could do…You see, I was on a very crowded main road; cars were all around me-In front, in back, and whizzing by- I couldn’t just pull over (there was no place to)…and I had to keep my eyes on the road. “Bicky…Bicky…relax…relax baby.”

Bicky then upped the ante by clumsily jumping into the front passenger seat, his breathing (rate) escalating with each ‘pant’.

Now Bicky was beside me, his eyes were wide with terror he looked at me as if to ask what he should be doing. With my right hand I was desperately trying to hold him in place, but he would have none of it. He was on a mission; a mission of ‘what’ I had no idea…but a mission nonetheless., And, to my utter horror, he started doing the one thing that was in the back of my mind as the worst case scenario …He started making his way toward my feet (and the brake and accelerator pedals).

Bicky! Bicky!…”No, No!”.

He was now miraculously sandwiched between the brake, accelerator pads & my feet.

The car started swerving and now both Naoko and I were shouting (in two different languages). “Bicky, no, no!” I swerved the car over two lanes of traffic as a cacophony of horns, car tire screeches, and my own voice screaming profanity filled the once tranquil van. It all happened in no more than a few seconds, but when I relive it frame by frame in my mind’s eye, I could easily fill an entire chapter on this one single event.

But for the sake of brevity, I’ll cut to the end…I was miraculously able to pull the van over and stop in a ditch on the side of the (very busy) road. The ditch was on a slope, causing our vehicle (and us along with it) to rest on a 60-degree angle. The van, now so quiet, the only discernable sounds came from the cars continuing to whiz by on the road not a few feet from us. Naoko and I looked at each with looks of bewilderment, terror, relief…and traces of amusement. Bicky remained at my feet with a dissipating look of confusion and fear with sprinkles of contrition and embarrassment thrown in. He always had a remarkable sense of knowing when he ‘blew it’…and this was one of those times.

As the car rested at the side of the road, a wave of relief swept me and I thanked my lucky stars that our little episode hadn’t turned into something tragic; it could have so easily. I smiled at Bicky. Bicky, still at my feet, could sense the tension in the car alleviate and out came his endearing Jokerman smile…

“How is the trip so far?”, I asked in a sincere tone. Naoko broke out in a laugh.

OK…But the warm fuzzy, happy, ending would have to wait until we got out of that still precarious situation…. So I lifted Bicky up , (he was so light) and placed him back in his seat. I quickly tied his leash to a door handle. Problem solved.

I was on a steep learning curve. This incident wasn’t really Bicky’s fault (of course); it was mine. I knew he wasn’t comfortable in cars but I thoughtlessly put him in one without properly thinking it through. Having a pet is like having a child. Sure, there are friends and family with advice, books, educational DVDs, the Internet…a veritable smorgasbord of sources to learn how to properly train and raise a dog. But in the end, it’s the trial and error part that one has to go through that gives you the golden knowledge; the knowledge that really counts.

As I pulled the van out of the ditch and continued on with the journey to the park again, Bicky sat on the seat. Still nervous, but now firmly anchored in the seat; he wasn’t going anywhere. He seemed much more at ease and almost enjoying the ride.

“We’re on a journey Bicky, literally and metaphorically” , and one things for certain, we’re going to have a lot of fun today!”

Indeed this was true. Omiya park was waiting and there was magic waiting for us there

Side note: Bicky did learn to enjoy our car rides. So much so that whenever he would see me pull out my car keys, he would explode with excitement and anticipation. Being tied down (with the leash) in the car was quickly an unnecessary precaution, as Bicky became a seasoned pro. He had two favorite positions in the car. The first would be stand behind me as I drove and rest his chin on my shoulder as we both looked out the front window. The second, and more popular position (for him) was Bicky sitting next to me (riding shotgun) with his little head, jutting out the window (ever so slightly), with the wind blowing across his face. I have calculated we must have clicked on about 30, 000 miles together in the car; enough to go around the entire earth…and then some! Every mile was a treasure (for both of us).



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Hi there, Mark. I have to get to sleep now but I will come back to read the next chapter. Great writing! My sister is a writer. I agree that you are a skilled writer and should share this story with the world. I'm so sorry for your loss. I hope the writing is helping. I lost my dog, Molly. She was 18. One of the greatest loves of my life. I think Bicky is right there with you as you write about your life together. Thank you for sharing it.

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I love the picture of him riding along next to you! He has a beautiful smile!

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi there, Mark. I have to get to sleep now but I will come back to read the next chapter. Great writing! My sister is a writer. I agree that you are a skilled writer and should share this story with the world. I'm so sorry for your loss. I hope the writing is helping. I lost my dog, Molly. She was 18. One of the greatest loves of my life. I think Bicky is right there with you as you write about your life together. Thank you for sharing it.

Thank you very much for reading. I do believe Bicky is always with me; I feel him with me as I make my way through the day (every day). Indeed, writing our story is very therapeutic for me and helps me relive the happiness we shared together. I will be posting Chapter 11 soon…

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Chapter 11 Koi

The picture perfect weather that day meant that not only us, but (unfortunately) also throngs of other people-families mostly-had the ‘unique’ idea of going to the park. So my heart sank when I saw that, as we pulled up to the parking lot of the park, there was actually a line up of about fifteen cars to get in.

“A little bit of a speed bump gang, but this shouldn’t take long.” To my surprise, I was right; after only waiting about fifteen minutes (at the most), our minivan was given entrance to the sprawling (and completely packed) parking lot and graciously escorted by an attendant (the Japanese are so organized and efficient!) to a parking space.

“We’re here!” I exclaimed proudly; my first driving mission completed successfully (except for our near tragic incident not ten minutes before, but let’s not knit-pick). Bicky, realizing the drive was over, burst into a gigantic, sparkling ‘grin’ that extended from ear to ear, while his little ‘featherlike’ tail wagged so vigorously, he could barely stand up straight.

“Now that’s what I call an example of ‘wagging the dog!’ I exclaimed as I jumped out and pulled the side door of the van open…And our little dog (like a seasoned pro), hopped carefully onto the van’s back floor mat…and then, ever so cautiously, out onto the hard concrete of the parking lot below. Meanwhile, Naoko gathered all the stuff: Picnic basket, blanket, parasol, etc…You see, those kinds of duties were hers. What were Mine? Well, the camera for one, the driving another…but most importantly, I was the “Sanpo Man”. What’s a Sanpo Man you might ask? This was a playful term that I often used to refer to myself. A hybrid of Japanese and English, “sanpo” loosely translated as ‘walking” in English…and ‘man’. Yes, I was the “walking man”; this was my duty, and one that I took very seriously. In fact, over the nine following years, there were very few days that I didn’t personally walk Bicky in both the morning and evening, 1.15hrs, and 45 minutes respectively. And on weekends there was the added ‘afternoon park walk’ thrown in as a bonus. But I’ll go into detail about those walks another time, let’s get back to that magical day!

I grabbed the leash that was sandwiched between the two front seats, knelt down and fastened it to Bicky’s ‘brand spanking’ new red collar. And we were off. We slowly made our way up a small winding walkway that would bring us to the opening to the northern entrance of the park. And as we came around the final bend and caught our first glimpses of the exterior, all three of us stood in awe, gazing at the now visible natural wonderland that was beckoning us.

We were ready to enter…and so we did.

I looked down as Bicky walked beside me and admired how beautiful this creature really was. It had been only a week since we found him, but miraculously he had transformed from a mangy, starving stray, with a pronounced limp, into a stunningly attractive, even ‘noble’ looking dog, walking (albeit gingerly) like a…prince. Indeed, Bicky was so beautiful, that as we walked people (from all walks of life) would stare and point at him. Children would literally run up to him screaming “kawaii, Kawaii”, translated as “cute, cute”; adult pedestrians would do double takes and smile; cars would slow down and as the drivers and passengers craned their necks to get one last look at this remarkable specimen of ‘man’s best friend’. It was like walking with a movie star! OK, OK, perhaps there is a little bit of “father’s pride” here, (guilty as charged), but I can honestly say Bicky was a scene-stealer everywhere he went…and he knew it. He would welcome the fawning attention, and reciprocate with a wag of the tail and perhaps a nuzzle on the shin of the ‘fawner’…. Yes, it was on this day at the park that I understood that Bicky not only had the ability to steal the heart of both Naoko’s and mine, but the hearts of most everyone he met. Something about those sparkling eyes and his innate ability to immediately engage and bond with people, no matter who they were. He had this magic; it was innate and it truly defined him.

The park was indeed breathtaking. Massive, ancient trees aligned the countless walkways that crisscrossed the meticulously kept grounds; vendors selling ice cream and soft drinks welcomed passersby with genuinely warm greetings of “irrashjiamase”, roughly translated as “welcome”. Young lovers walked hand-in-hand; while in the distance, teenagers played Frisbee or catch on the expansive lawns that dotted the park. Parents relaxed on picnic blankets as their children played just a few short feet away; and elderly people gathered on park benches, playing cards and board games, while discussing the local gossip. It was the epitome of social bliss...and it all played out with the dream-like serenading of children’s laughter and the chirping and singing of the countless birds that made their homes high in the towering trees.

“Man, if I were reincarnated, I’d love to come back as one of these birds,” I joked ”…eh Bicky? Bicky?” I looked down, but to my chagrin, Bicky’s attention was no longer focused on me (How rude!). But rather, he was preoccupied with trying to process all these wonders that were inundating him. Indeed, they were coming fast and furious and it looked as if his senses were being overloaded. I bent down to get his attention but it was in vain, so instead, I just sat back and watched the “Bicky show”; he did not disappoint. His face was so giddy with excitement and anticipation that it would start to tremble as his saucer sized eyes darted back and forth, unsure of where to focus his attention next. There was so much to choose from! One moment he could be fixated on a child in a stroller (he loved children), but the very next moment, perhaps, he would perhaps be gazing at a chipmunk in the bushes. Then without warning, he would spin around and maybe eye another dog walking in the park that day. But as he made his way to ‘greet’ that dog, he would suddenly ‘freeze’, captivated at the sight of a falling leaf from one of those ancient trees. Like a sponge, Bicky was eager to soak in any new experience that was to come his way. It was as if a whole new world was opening up for him, and Naoko and I were lucky enough to share it with him and go along for the ride.


Perhaps the crowning jewel of this park though was the majestic pond located at the far end of the park. It was huge, almost looking like a small lake. Ducks paddled on its clear, still waters… and if you had a sharp eye, you would undoubtedly spy one of the countless turtles sunning itself on one of the numerous aesthetically perfectly shaped rocks that surrounded this tranquil body of water. But that’s not what made the pond so special; we would still have to wait a little for that grand discovery.


When Bicky laid his eyes on the pond for the first time, he really didn’t know what to make of it. Could it be he had never seen a large body of water before? Whatever it was, he was very circumspect as he approached the pond. Slowly but surely he inched his way…closer and closer…and finally, he was at the very edge of the path, looking down into the water (about a foot below). Bicky was mystified and intrigued as he inspected what lay before him. His little head slowly moving from one side to the other as he analyzed every minute detail of this new wonder he was beholding…But wait! His eyes started to grow a little wider…then wider…Not only his face now, but his entire body started to tremble…His tongue started to hang out, and he motioned toward the water, almost as if he were intent on jumping in. I held tightly onto his leash as he pulled and tugged on it. This sudden and strange turn of events had me puzzled.

“Does he see something in the water?”

“I’m not sure.” Naoko was as perplexed as I was.

So we both stepped to the edge of the pond, standing on either side of Bicky, and glanced down into the water, instantaneously realizing what all the drama was about. You see, perhaps an inch or two below the surface of the water swam a very large, bright orange carp. In Japanese, such a fish is called “Koi”; it was simply magnificent looking. So beautiful and calm as it swam back and forth, it almost had a Zen like aura about it (after all it was Japanese!). Bicky (the antithesis of the Koi) was now almost erupting into convulsions, he was so excited …And by lowering his head over the edge of the pond and stretching his body, he was doing his best to make it toward the water and that magnificent specimen of a fish! I held on tightly to the leash and allowed Bicky to get closer…ever so closer. With his snout now inches from the surface of the water, he then extended his little white paw, stretching every last muscle, inching closer and closer to that ‘prize’. Suddenly, in an almost teasing manner, the majestic fish rose to the surface, lifted its head out of the water and, unbelievably (for a split second), appeared to make eye contact with Bicky, whose paw then, for just ‘less’ than a split second, touched this aquatic creature’s glistening orange skin. Mission accomplished! Bicky jumped back onto the path and looked up at me with a look of unalloyed satisfaction and triumph!

Unbeknownst to Naoko, Bicky, or I, a large crowed of people had gathered and watched this remarkable spectacle unfold; bursting into a rousing applause once it was over.

I knelt down, caressed Bicky’s little prince like head, and proudly kissed him on the forehead.

“Job well down my little ‘fisherman’. Job well done.”



Side Note: Omiya Park would continue to be a favorite place of ours for the rest of Bicky’s life. Almost like clockwork, every Sunday, we would load our car up and head over to the park and enjoy long, adventurous walks together there. Of course, these walks would always culminate with a trip to the pond at the North side, and a little ‘fishing’. The pond was full of those majestic ‘KOI’ which came in an assortment of sizes and colors: Sometimes to attract them to the surface and ‘enhance’ Bicky’s fishing experience, Naoko and I would bring bread crumbs and feed the fish. When we would do this, several of these beautiful fish would race to the surface and Bicky would do what he always would do…bend down and extend his paw out so that perhaps, if he were lucky enough that day, he might be able to touch one of the fish. He never, ever tired of it…and neither did the other people who frequented the park on Sundays. In fact, Bicky became somewhat of an attraction, entertaining people with his peculiar but endearing ‘hobby’.

In tune with Bicky’s gentle nature, Bicky never attempted to bite or injure the fish…ever. And perhaps due to the fact that every Sunday we would show up at the pond at almost exactly the same place and time with bread crumbs, whenever these fish would see Bicky’s white shadow extended over the bank of pond, they would swim toward him, as if to greet him. I could think of no better way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon; for us or the fish.


One last note: In case you’re wondering; over the years, Bicky (accidentally) fell into the pond a total of three times. Each time, except for his pride, he was unhurt…Just a little wet!

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Dog lover that I am, I love hearing your Bicky stories...and really enjoy your pictures of him. He looks so much like my Arlie, except Arlie is larger and has curly hair on his back. I love how they enjoy life! We are the lucky ones, the ones lucky enough to share life with them.

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You are so right; we are so blessed to share our lives with them.

Bicky enriched my life in so many ways… He wandered into my life at a time when I needed him…I just didn't know it at first….He taught me so many things about life…and myself…

I guess it's true that "we get don't necessarily get a dog we want; we get a dog we need." Well, after the first week…I wanted Bicky and needed him…so I guess I was lucky….

BTW, Arlie's a great name for a dog; I am sure he was loving and handsome!.

Thank you so much for your support…

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Chapter 12 The Long Goodbye

The wonderment of that summer was ours and we happily soaked up every morsel of fun and excitement that we possibly could. More significantly though, every ‘precious’ day brought with it a funny and/or touching experience that brought Bicky and I closer and closer together. At that time I was holding down a full time job and was a graduate student to boot, so to say I was extremely busy would be an enormous understatement. Nonetheless, I always found ample time for Bicky. We were inseparable when I was home, and when I wasn’t, he would unfailingly wait for me by the door, carefully listening for the sound of my footsteps trudging up the old, clanging stairwell of our small apartment building, intent on giving me an enthusiastic and loving “fit for a king” welcome home. What a great way to end a tough day at work!

Behind the scenes, Naoko and I got very lucky and found a beautiful house that was to be our next abode. It was two stories with several beautiful rooms and a small front and backyard; it was perfect. Well…almost perfect. The real estate agency informed us after we had excitedly decided to take the house that we wouldn’t be able to move in until the middle of October (six weeks away). This was disappointing to say the least. The apartment we were living in was terribly cramped…especially with a medium sized dog, who was (thankfully) becoming more energetic and rambunctious the healthier he became. What’s more, the apartment contract specifically stated that pets were not allowed. Finally, after factoring in the nosy neighbors who would have no doubt eventually ‘tattled’ on us to the ‘not-so-understanding’ landlord about our ‘nefarious activities’, Naoko and I rightly determined that we were on borrowed time as it was. We couldn’t risk this threat much longer and suddenly find ourselves (Bicky included) thrown out on the street before the lease for the new house was signed and ready to be moved into. So what were we to do? There was a solution: Naoko’s parents could take care of Bicky for the following six weeks. This would not only solve the problem of the apartment, but also give us the badly needed time to get everything in order, including the move itself.

The Temple

Impressively, Naoko’s father was both a revered Buddhist Priest and teacher, and had his own temple about 230 miles north of Tokyo in a small village named Soumonzaki. Located in the northern prefecture of Niigata, at over 700 years old, the temple was one of the oldest and impressive in Japan. This exalted structure was definitely a sight to behold; Ancient wooden pillars, gold colored altars, towering Buddhist statues…It had it all. The temple was strictly for worship and services and primarily utilized by the people of the Soumonzaki and the surrounding townships. Adjacent to the temple was the family’s beautiful (architecturally Japanese) modern home.

Her father (I addressed him as Otoo San) was simply one of the greatest men I have ever known. So well read, disciplined, and at peace with himself; he really did epitomize what a priest (and teacher) should be. He treated me like a son and not only taught me about philosophical/religious matters but everyday practical things as well, such as the Japanese language, social customs and etiquette.

Naoko’s mother (I addressed her as Okaa San) had an all-together different character but was no less wonderful. Beautifully complimenting her husband, she was unpretentious, down-to-earth, and fun. Taking care of the guests and worshippers who visited the temple, one could her argue her duties were in many ways just as important, and hands down more demanding than that of her husband’s. Often running on less than 4 hours of sleep a night, she always had a smile and an encouraging word. She was the definition of ‘salt of the earth’.

Otoo San and Okaa San made a beautiful pair, and ran the temple in a professional but familiar way. One could always feel at ease there, no matter who you were or what your station in life was. It was the perfect place to connect with your spirituality, whether you were a Buddhist or not.

Residing with them was Naoko’ s 100-year-old grandmother (I addressed her as Obaa San). Having lived through two world wars, raised twelve children (yes ‘12’) of her own, and been witness to the complete devastation (WW2) of Japan and its miraculous and meteoritic rise as a modern economic miracle, she had seen it all and nothing seemed to faze her. Strong in both spirit and attitude, she in many ways ruled the house…At least behind the scenes. Luckily, she was crazy about me; in fact, I believe she even had a bit of a crush. Always wearing a kimono she would sit for hours at a time, drink tea and talk about “the old Japan”. Her amazingly descriptive and revealing first-hand stories were always fascinating to me, and something I regret I hadn’t indulged in more and perhaps even documented when I had the chance. There’s nothing that illustrates and illuminates a historically significant time or event like talking to the actual participants themselves.


Otoo San, Okaa San, and Obaa San

Naoko’s Parents were in their seventies but possessed an inexhaustible quantity of drive and vitality. Their children (three daughters including Naoko) had all grown up and moved away. They had had a dog “Shiro”…a dog that had an uncanny resemblance to Bicky…but he had unfortunately passed away the previous December (at the ripe old age of 14 years). Even though, on the outside, Naoko’s father remained very stoic regarding ‘Shiro’s’ passing, the family sensed that he was still quite broken hearted about it, so we all were hoping that having Bicky around might even be therapeutic for him.


Guess who! No, it’s not Bicky; it;s Shiro.

So…we decided that Bicky’s first day at the temple would be the following Sunday.

“Hitting the road had become a regular thing for us on weekends, so Bicky (initially) thought nothing was out of the ordinary when we packed up our newly bought car (a compact Honda) and headed out on the 4-hour-drive to Niigata: Bicky’s new home for the next six weeks. Bicky was looking especially ‘handsome’ that day; we had given him a nice bath and thorough brushing and he now looked like a big white fur ball. As we exited the local roads and crossed onto the highway, Bicky’s ears darted up and his head tilted sideways. Being the observant and sensitive dog he was, he knew something was up. But instead of getting that ‘worried/anxious’ look I would have expected, he broke into that perpetual smile of his, rested his little chin on my shoulder, and gazed at what appeared to be an endless highway opening up ahead of us. The cloudless blue sky and majestic mountains that snaked across the mystical landscape of the Japanese countryside served as a beautiful backdrop for our perfect drive. Almost perfect that is…“There’s one thing missing.”, I thought. So I rifled through my CD case looking for Bicky’s favorite composer…” Yes, got it…Mozart!”, quickly threw it in the stereo and gently raised the volume. You see, with Bicky, it was Mozart or nothing. I tried so many kinds of music, but all of them were soundly given the ‘paws down’ by ‘the Bixter’…Classic Rock (my personal favorite) would leave Bicky agitated. Heavy Metal would stress him out. Country music…well, that would just leave him depressed…And he would just curl up in a ball when the sounds of Beethoven would turn terse or dramatic. Nope, it was Mozart or nothing…And whenever Mozart did play, Bicky’s eyes would magically light up and his ‘featherlike tail resembling a conductor’s baton, would sway back and forth, He was in Heaven…and so was I.


Riding Shotgun with “the Bixter”

So there we were…”The three Amigos” (that was my nickname for us) driving along the highway, on a scorching, late August day, with the air conditioner turned up full blast and the sublime sounds of Mozart filling the air….We had snacks, soda….and I had my “cool Shades” on…Sheer Bliss

The great thing about our brand new car was that it was a hatchback and perfect for our unique family unit. It had the driver and passenger seat of course (for Naoko and I), and the back seats folded down so that Bicky had plenty of space to either lie down in his ‘doggy bed’, stand up, walk around, or look out the side or rear windows …with plenty of room to spare for any baggage. Considering how many trips we ended up taking, this car became our home-away-from-home.

After the ‘long’ but enjoyable four-hour drive, we pulled off the highway at the Niigata exit, and made our way through the local roads that crisscrossed he picturesque rice fields, finally arriving at the tiny village of Soumonzaki in mid-afternoon.

‘Otoo San’,’ Okaa San’, and ‘Obaa San’ were all standing and waiting outside the entrance of the house, ready to greet us.

“Looks like we’re getting ‘The Royal Welcome’ gang”. I peered into the back of the car where Bicky was now pacing about; he was trying to get a good look out the side windows in anticipation for whatever was to come next. Are you ready to make your debut Bicky?” Judging from the sudden trepidation in his face, if he could have spoken, the answer would have been a resounding “no’. So I reached back, stroking the soft fur on the scruff of his neck, and in my ‘baby voice’ (reserved only for Bicky), reassuredly said “Don’t worry little man, you’re going to be a smashing success.” He then miraculously eased up and once again broke into his ‘Jokerman smile’ of his. He always needed a little bit of coaxing and confidence reinforcement with these new experiences.

Naoko and I got out of the car and greeted everybody with smiles and hugs. But (of course) the main event was yet to come.

“Where’s Bicky?” Otoo san was excitedly eyeing the car.

“One moment please”, I announced in my best carnival barker voice, and ceremoniously bowed. I then jogged back to the car, opened the back hatch door, and scooped our little ‘man of the hour’ up into my arms.

”Voila”, raising him triumphantly over my shoulders, high in the air, so that everybody could see. “

“OOOOOOOOOH”, our reception party let out delighted sounds of adoration and excitement. “He’s so cute and beautiful”,

I proudly brought him over to the group that was now eagerly waiting to pet and hold him…Bicky was wagging his tail, bathing in the genuine love and adoring attention. The sun shone down on us, and the laughter that filled the air must have been heard for miles. I truly remember this like it happened yesterday…I can visualize every detail, every comment, joke, and giggle. Now as I look back on that special moment in time, and how most of those present that day have passed away, I realize how important it is to appreciate those happy moments, even if they don’t seem so significant or meaningful at the time. Life is fleeting indeed. The date was Aug. 24th, 2003.

We spent the rest of the afternoon there and, not surprisingly, I spent most of my time with Bicky, taking him around the temple and later on into the village of Soumonzaki itself.

Bicky was enthralled with all their was to be discovered there…little forests, gently flowing stream, rice fields, and welcoming rice farmers who were delighted to see such a beautiful dog.

In fact, because Bicky looked so much like Otto San’s previous dog “Shiro”…and because I had often been spotted walking Shiro by the villagers in the previous years, most of the people we encountered understandably assumed that the dog I was walking (Bicky) was in fact…the ‘late’ Shiro,

“Hello Shiro! You look so young and healthy; the weather must be agreeing with you!” I would try to explain that Shiro had unfortunately passed away and that I was walking a different dog to all the villagers that would approach us, But after explaining this a few times and seeing the joy in their eyes turn to sadness, I chose instead to not say anything and just nod my head. This, of course, made it difficult for me in any future encounters with these people to tell the truth (‘oh the tangle webs we weave’)…and well, after having Bicky for another nine years, and considering Shiro was 14 years old when he passed away, “Shiro” was widely regarded as the oldest (and amazingly still very healthy) dog in Japan by the whole village.

But as the day slid into night, the realization that I would have to relinquish custody of my Bicky for the following six weeks was starting to set in. I sadly walked back to the temple’s house with Bicky walking beside me (of course) and announced to everybody that we would have to be going soon. Bicky’s ‘doggy bed’, blankets, and toys were all set up for him in the kitchen of the house. That is where he was to stay…tied to a five-foot-long red rope. You see, the kitchen is where ‘Shiro’ spent most of his time and I guess Naoko’s mother and father just assumed that would be where Bicky would stay. However, after having full reign of our (albeit small) apartment, Bicky looked very concerned about the ‘tying up’ part. And as Naoko and I started packing up, Bicky’s uncanny intuition kicked in, sensing something was amiss.

He somehow knew that my hug was not just a hug, but a “sayonara’ hug, and he started to get that worried face of his and even began to whine.

I knelt down to Bicky “Now listen baby. I’m leaving you with Otoo San, Okaa San, and Obaa San, and they are going to take very good care of you”. Bicky raised his little paw up as if to plead with me to reconsider. He knew I was leaving and the fear in his eyes was palpable. I caressed his beautiful little head and gave him a kiss…”Stiff upper lip Bicky. I promise to be back in six weeks. I love you very much”.

And then it was time to leave; the sun was setting and Otoo san, Okaa san, and Obaa san, stood at the front door and waved us off.

And then there was just the two of us again. The two Amigos’ didn’t really have the same ring to it but Naoko and I still had each other, and that counted for a lot. I was a very lucky guy. Plus, it was only a temporary separation; at least that was the plan.

Cranking up some heavy metal tunes on the car stereo, I wondered how the next six weeks would go…

Would ‘Niigata life’ agree with Bicky more than Tokyo life? Would Bicky became more attached to Otoo San than he was to me? Would I be forgotten? Yes...some childish thoughts to be sure, but natural I guess…

“Oh well, I won’t accomplish anything by worrying about it, and there’s so much to do in the meantime…I guess I’ll find out in six weeks ”


Chapter 13 will detail my return to Soumonzaki and the big surprise that was waiting for me there.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thank you for sharing Bicky with us, I always look forward to your newest chapter...you leave us with cliffhangers.

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  • 1 month later...

Chapter 13 Six Weeks Later

It was a dark and stormy night…Yes, you see as clichéd and corny as this chapters beginning sounds, it describes perfectly the nightmare I found myself in. Rain was pelting down so hard on my poor little honda that the sizable droplets smashing against the cars frame sounded like stones bouncing off a sheet of tin...All the while, its partner in crime, the howling wind, was swooshing so forcefully and indiscriminately on all sides of the car (even up and under), that the resultant violent bouncing and rocking of the vehicle made me sea sick. Anticipating what this temperamental storm was going to throw at me next was futile as I was indeed at the mercy of the nasty hand Mother Nature dealt me that unforgettable night.

Thunder and lightening served, as a cataclysmic, eerie backdrop as I exited the highway onto the local roads that I could only hope would bring me to my destination. So this is how Im going to die, I wondered out loud, almost resigned to my morbid fate. The one radio station I miraculously was able to tune it into despite the storm and towering mountains surrounding me, was playing Avril Lavignes debut single on the radio, only enhancing the surrealism of this scene with its happy, up tempo melody juxtaposed with the dire situation that presented itself. My window wipers were on full wipe mode, frantically moving back and forth, but they still werent doing the job. I sat hunched over the wheel trying to get a better view of the road, as if that there was a significant difference between having a 5ft visability of the road and a 5ft, 3 inch one. Im going to die...Im going to die, almost like a mantra., I was repeating it to myself...preparing myself for the inevitable event.

The easy part of the drive (meaning highway) was finished and the even more challenging, small, unlighted country roads were waiting for me, almost as if to dare me….So why was I putting myself through this hell you may ask? Simple…I was on a mission; a mission so important to me that I was willing to risk life and limb to carry it out. What mission pray tell? The mission to bring my beloved Bicky back home to Tokyo, where he belonged of course. It was October 12th, 2002, 11pm at night (six weeks after I had dropped Bicky off at the temple), and I unluckily picked the stormiest night of the year (of the decade for that matter) to pick him up. After having exited the highway, my situation continued to become more precarious as the minutes ticked away. The roads were pitch black, and there were very few road signs to keep me in the right direction; there were no convenient stores, or even lights on any of the (few) rural homes I did manage to pass by. It honestly looked like some hackneyed scene out of a horror movie… The kind where it never turns out well for the guy in the car driving along a small country road in the middle of the night (in a storm no less).

But wait, Ive gotten way ahead of myself. Let me fill you in a little on what had transpired between the time I had dropped Bicky off at the temple (in August) and the predicament I had now found myself in. After having returned to Tokyo (in August), Naoko and I did exactly what we set out to do…which was move out of our old, cramped apartment and into our new, spacious house. No small undertaking, but thats another story altogether. September flew by and before we knew it, October snuck up and fell into our laps. Over the following six weeks, we (Naoko and I) had phoned Naokos family regularly to get updates on Bickys progress with his new temporary home. Judging from the reports, initially (for the first week or two), Bicky was extremely depressed, barely eating, and would just lie down, watching and listening for any sign of our return. A sound of a car engine or a car door opening or closing from outside, or perhaps the far off chattering of a male voice that remotely resembled mine were all cues for Bicky to stand up at attention with enormous anticipation, his perpetual smile at the ready to welcome Naoko and I as we entered the kitchen, running up to him to hug him tightly and smother him with wonderful kisses. The Three Amigos united again! But alas, as the weeks marched on, Bicky slowly began to realize that reunion may never happen and started to adjust (albeit begrudgingly) to his new environment. His optimism and anticipation for our triumphant return had appeared to diminish somewhat. In fact, it looked as if no longer would he stand up at the sound of car door, engine, or a Mark sounding male voice. Just chalk it up to another disappointment in a young dogs life fraught with disappointments and mistreatment. Then again, judging by how we first found Bicky, he was used to being abandoned anyway; in fact he probably expected it.

But just when everyone (at the temple) thought that Bicky had given up all hope of our return, out of the blue, one of those magical sounds would trigger that waiting pose and perpetual smile. His beautiful brown eyes fixated on the kitchen door, absolutely convinced Naoko and I were on the other side, just about to come storming through it. Yes, Bicky never truly gave up. That unstoppable hope and optimism were woven into the tapestry of his very being; they were an intrinsic part of his soul.

But time did trudge on as it always does, and Bicky

started forging relationships with his extended family at the temple…

Busy as Otoo san (the father) was, he fawned over Bicky, continuing to nurse him back to health with special healthy food and daily (morning and evening) walks. He also took him around to the local veterinarian office to get their opinion on Bickys heart condition. On top of everything, he took to attempting to train Bicky to obey basic commands such as sit, stand, and paw. Now, before we go any further, I think now is as good a time as any to confess the fact that Bicky was never the cleverest of dogs. Sure, he had a heart as big as the ocean…and an uncanny intuition …but as I always lovingly Naoko, if he were human, he would never have been a rocket scientist. So suffice to say, Bicky never really became a dog that was very good at doing commands and tricks…They were just not his thing. This was certainly not from my (or Otoo sans) lack of trying though…But truthfully, early on, I could see the embarrassment and shame in Bickys eyes, when he wasnt getting something he knew (or thought) he should be getting. He would look at me as if to say sorry, and try to compensate by putting his paw on my knee or rub his little head against my shin. I was always a softy with the Bixter, so I never really pressed it. Otoo san on the other hand was very old school. Although he had a very gentle nature and clearly adored Bicky, I could see him being a little strict with him when doing any type of training. This was a part of the Japanese teaching method…something Bicky didnt respond well to…and something that would prove to be a sticking point in their relationship later on.

Okaa san (the mother) too had become very attached Bicky…The pair were a team in the kitchen together. Bicky (tied to his red rope) would watch her every day as she maneuvered around the kitchen (her domain), making meals and preparing drinks and snacks for the countless guests dropping by the temple. And when the days were slow and it was just the two of them, she would have long (one sided) conversations with her new confidant. He would sit there listening. His deep caring eyes looking into hers as she talked about the joyful things in her life (her deep love for Otoo san), the not-so-good things (her uncomfortable relationship with Obaa san)… Obaa san, God rest her soul…could be quite domineering and a bit of a bully at times with Okaa san. Yes, Bicky was privy to all those secrets; all the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Bicky even had a (visibly) positive effect on the usually stoic Obaa san (the grandmother). Indeed, she found Bicky a nice distraction to the ho-hum of the days that would intertwine with few changes or distractions. In a slow-as-a-tortoise fashion, she would enter into the kitchen, go directly to Bicky, lower her frail, unsteady hands, and lovingly pat him on the head, repeating the same thing almost every time:

Lucky you werent alive in the war, or you might have been eaten. she meant it (yikes!).

Yes…Bicky was a hit with everyone at the temple. But of course this came as no surprise to me. I knew better than anyone how that white fur ball could steal someones heart.

Now…back to that apocalyptic scenario I found myself in…

The unforgiving storm continued unabated as made I my way along the heart stopping twists and turns of the country roads that so characterized this area of the prefecture. Miraculously though, I started to recognize certain landmarks and farms.

Im not lost!, I proudly exclaimed (in fact I sang it) to myself, Immmmm nnnnnot losssssst!. Yes, that navigational feat was a miracle in itself, but the truly amazing thing was, just as I realized this, the rain that had pouring down so unmercifully for the entire trip, stopped almost all at once, as if God had turned off the rain faucet. Things were definitely looking up!

Now about 10 miles away from village, I figured I would be arriving at the temple about 12:30am…about an hour later than they had been expecting me (due to the storm). At the time, I didnt have a portable phone with me, and trying to find a pay phone (in the countryside) would have been futile, so I had no way of contacting Naokos family about my late arrival.

No doubt they are worried, I thought to myself, especially with the storm. There was also the very real possibility that they may have even gone to bed by the time I arrived. Oh well, better late than never! I tried to remain positive, still on a high from the double boost of actually knowing where I was and the storm subsiding.

Closer and closer, I was zeroing in on the village and temple, cutting through the swaths of darkness. My bright headlights being the only thing between actually seeing the road and seeing absolutely nothing. My heart was starting to race; my baby (Bicky) was so close!

At last…

There it is…Land Ho!Like an island in that sea of darkness, the twinkling lights of Soumonzaki were dancing in the not- too-far-off distance.

Nice work Mark., I sincerely congratulated myself as I turned off from the major artery that was so kind to bring me to the village onto an unpaved side road that served as the shortcut that would bring me directly to the temple….

The loud crackling and crunching sound as my car rolled over the asphalt covering the last 200 meters of this road managed to drown out the comforting sounds of the car radio. The same radio that kept me company throughout my eventful journey. Prompting me to turn it off and thank it for its loyal camaraderie . Job well done my friend.

Now alone with my thoughts, countless ideas raced through my mind. Would Naokos family be worried or even angry about my late arrival? What if they were sleeping and the door were locked? Should I bow when I see them (the Japanese style) or hug them (the western Mark style)…But whos kidding who, what I was really thinking about was how my baby Bicky was going to react as I stepped through that sliding kitchen door. Several possibilities rocketed through my mind ranging from explosions of happiness to complete indifference. I was torturing myself with all those hypotheticals; something I had become very adept at doing over the previous six weeks …No matter what though; one thing was for certain: I was going to have the answer to my question(s) very, very soon.

I rounded the last bend of the gravel road and finally caught my first glimpse of the temple and the temples house. The front light of the house was on, along with the hallway and kitchen ones. Then, no doubt, having heard my car coming up the driveway, both Otoo san and Okaa san popped their heads up, looked out the kitchen window, and started making their way to the front door to (no doubt) give me a big, rousing welcome. I slowly maneuvered my car into my usual parking space and turned off the engine. Though the rain had stopped, the air was still very wet and the strong smell of damp grass and mud filled my nostrils. The sound of crickets in the distance and a slight breeze (a remnant of the storm) served as a comforting reminder of how calm and still the night had so thankfully become.

The small (visitor) parking area was completely flooded under a couple of inches of rain water and I had to hop and skip across to the steps of the homes entrance, trying in vain to keep my shoes from becoming soaking wet. I stood waiting at the front door, no need to ring the doorbell as I could see Otoo san and Okkaa san approaching the door through the glass. I locked eyes with them and gave a short enthusiastic wave as Otoo san unlocked the massive door and slid it open .


Letting out a huge, boisterous laugh, Otoo san grabbed my arm and quickly pulled me inside, into the front entrance, and slid the door back closed behind us, as if to protect us from some immediate danger outside. Okaa san, in the background, was beaming a smile but had visible tears (of relief) in her eyes….

We thought for sure something happened to you! That storm was unbelievable!

Yes, I was going to phone you but I couldnt find a phone, and…

Our dialogue was then abruptly cut off by the sound of a dog barking …Wait no, it was more like yelping…sounding as if the dog in question were injured.

Yelp, yelp, yelp, yelp. The shrieking sound was both deafening and incessant…. and appeared to be coming from the kitchen!

I was genuinely shocked. I (of course) assumed it was Bicky, but what surprised me was that Bicky had never once barked when he was with Naoko and I. In fact he never, ever made a sound. We even though that perhaps he didnt know how to bark…He was the quietest dog I had ever encountered in my life.

But sure enough….Yelp, yelp, yelp, yelp…It was definitely a dog, and it was definitely coming from the kitchen.

Is that Bicky? Could he really hear my voice this far from the kitchen?

Otoo san and Okaa san looked as perplexed as I did.

I guess….but this is the first time he has ever barked. Hes always been so quiet. Otoo san had this distinct look of both wonderment and concern on his face.

Now very worried, I politely asked,

Would it be ok if I went to the kitchen and tried to calm him down?

Otoo san readily nodded, Absolutely.

I then hurriedly took off my sopping wet shoes, put on a dry pair of slippers, and raced down the long hallway to the kitchen door. The same door I closed six weeks previous, officially ending The Three Amigos summer together and beginning our long, sad separation. The same door I imagined so many times opening up, playing out countless scenarios of how our reunion would go.

I never once envisioned it would be like this though. How could I have?

And then…I took a long, deep breath, and slid that rickety wooden kitchen door wide open in one big swoosh, as if taking off a band-aid…revealing a sight I will never, ever forget…

Bicky was standing on his, thin as twigs hind legs. His two front paws, stretched out as far as he absolutely, possibly could, were reaching out toward me..…as if every single centimeter or millimeter would make an immense, colossal, life or death difference. But because he was so forcefully tugging on that very sturdy red rope that anchored him to his little Bicky zone in the kitchen, the rope (fastened to his collar) was pulling his little white head back, while his entire upper body was jutting out in his desperate but futile attempt to break free. Even with all this going on, he was doing everything in his power (and that was amazingly a lot) to make at least eye contact with me…So his snout was pointing upwards, actually pointing towards the ceiling on an angle, but his eyes angled downward, intent on making eye contact with me the instant I opened the door.

And finally….

Yes…eye contact; it lasted merely a split second but it was a moment in time that dangled and lingered as if everything else around us around stood completely still…It was absolutely magical. The relief, joy, and love that danced in those almond eyes of his told me how much he missed and, yes, loved me.

Lightening fast, I leapt into the room, unhinging his collar that was, for lack of a better word, almost strangling him (by this point), and quickly knelt to the ground. Bickys tail started wagging so excitedly and furiously that his entire body was waving back and forth and bouncing up and down (like a Mexican jumping bean), making it impossible for him to stand still. But despite all this, I managed to somehow wrap my arms around his little furry body, and hug him tightly as he alternated between excitedly licking my face and nuzzling his little wet nose into the crevice of my neck. Still light as a feather, I then swooped him up in my arms and stood up, raising his little body in the air, our eyes locked, his perpetual smile glowing in the knowledge that we were together, never to be parted again.


Chapter 14 will detail our triumphant return to Tokyo and the unfortunate surprise that was waiting for us there.

Thank you very much for reading!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thank you very much for writing! The pleasure is all ours to be able to read your adventures with this wonderful companion. We who are reading know all too well the bond between ourselves and our dogs. Once in a lifetime, if you are fortunate, you develop a bond as strong with your dog as with your own child, for they are indeed very much like our own children.

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Chapter 14 The Next Day

“Good Morning…ugh”

I could feel the warmth of the early morning sun nibbling at the back of neck as I lay sprawled out on my cozy Japanese Futon with only a light sheet covering the rest of my exhausted body. Too sleepy to even elevate my head, which incidentally was planted firmly smack dab in the center of an enormous pillow, I lifted my hand up and over my comfy head rest and groped for my watch. “It’s gotta be here somewhere…Oh yes, got it.” I lifted it up and brought it back as I did the cool move of simultaneously turning my face around as I lowered the watch onto my stomach, so that its thin tiny metal edges served as its base. I tried to focus…everything was fuzzy and that mischievous morning sun wasn’t helping any. “5:30am…double ugh”.

I then wrestled my body upward and placed my pillow against the wall and rested my back towards it. I was sitting directly in the line of fire of this piercing sun that was bursting through the flowery, light blue curtains that were a ‘tad’ short for the enormous window it was supposes to be covering. “I hate waking up like this.” I groaned.

But the intrusive sunrise wasn’t the catalyst for me waking from my deep slumber. No, that dubious honor was owed to the 20-pound fur ball that I could hear pacing at the bottom of the stairs (clickity click, clickity click). The night before, ‘Otoo san’ had decided to untie Bicky from the red rope that had restricted him to the kitchen, fearing that Bicky was so excited that I had returned that he might hurt himself trying to get free, Bicky was therefore given the unprecedented freedom of walking around the downstairs of the house freely. A little gate was put in front of the stairs to the 2nd floor to, so we might get a little peace and quiet while we slept. But as soon as the sun rose, I could hear his nervous footsteps tapping against the wooden floor downstairs, fading away and then coming back. Then ‘kerplunk’, I would hear him lie down…then wait a few minutes, get up and start pacing back and forth…Then it would start all over again …A continuous cycle of excitement, nervousness, frustration and then resignation. …

Well, all was forgiven on my side, but I was a little concerned that he might be disturbing the others in the house, so thought it would be best to go downstairs and say good morning to the little guy and calm him down a bit.

As I hurriedly got dressed, my mind reflected on the rollercoaster ride of the previous night. Full of wonderful highs and terrifying lows; no wonder I was so tired. Nonetheless, only four hours of sleep later, I found myself (happily) being thrown back into the fray. The ‘Bixter’ and I were together again and our (much too) long anticipated reunion couldn’t have gone off more splendidly. I slid open my bedroom door, hastily put my (undersized) slippers on, and as quietly as I possibly could, made my way across the beautiful wooden floors of the 2nd floor to the top of the steep staircase that would bring me down below. As anticipated, directly waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs was my little angel, ‘Bicky’. Even before I planted my foot on a single stair, I could hear him revving up for my grand arrival (I guess I wasn’t that quiet after all); no doubt determined to give me a fitting morning greeting…the “royal’ welcome I was used to with him. He didn’t disappoint. As soon as he spotted me (or perhaps even my shadow), a sharp, excited whine erupted from the depths of his little stomach, passing through his noble chiseled chest, finally exiting his half-closed snout…. And as our eyes locked, that confused mix of worry, anticipation, and excitement that occupied his angelic face just a split second before, immediately dissipated , giving way to one of both joy and relief, climaxing with the unveiling of his perpetual smile that extended ‘dog ear to dog ear’. Turning it up a notch, he stood up on his (thin as rails) hind legs, and did a little ‘impromptu‘ jig for me as my tired body made its way down the oak stairs and into the ‘paws’ of my welcoming party. His little ‘dog’ arms extended out but before they could reach me, I scooped him up, held him out above my shoulders as if to say “Let me take a look at this gorgeous dog!”, and gave him a big kiss on the center of his nose. He reciprocated with a big wet, sloppy dog kiss (well I guess I deserved it!).

“Aren’t we bright eyed and bushy tailed (literally)”, I whispered in a loving tone. “Well today is going to be a memorable day!”

We then made our way to the (main) front door, where I picked up his leash, attached it with ‘a better than a professional’ finesse (with one hand no less!), cracked the heavy sliding door open just enough so that the both of us could squeeze through into the prohibitively early, uncomfortably cool, but brilliantly sunny morn. We bounced down the concrete front stairs and I guided Bicky towards the entrance of the driveway (about 50 meters to the right). ‘The Bixter’ unfortunately had other plans. “Oh, oh, I was afraid of this.” He was intent on the same plan he had the previous night, when I took him for very short (toilet) walk, just before I collapsed in bed. You see, as Bicky would exit the house, he would make a ‘bee line’ for my car (about 25 meters to the left). And there was very little I could do, short of picking him up and bringing him to the other side of the house, that could stop him. He was very determined. And once he reached my car, he would jump up on his ‘now nimble’ hind legs and lean against the car as if to see “Ok Mark, let’s get this show on the road”. No doubt the reason he tenaciously went through this little ritual was that he was worried that I would ‘abandon’ him (again) at the temple. I guess in Bicky’s simple way of looking at things, my little car equaled going home…Which if you think about it, was quite true. He was always so clever in an accidental sort of way.


This is a picture of ‘the Bixter’ and ‘yours truly’ on vacation at the temple (in snowy December, 2002), a few months after our triumphant return to Tokyo. Whenever we were up at the temple, Bicky would continue to (for all the years to come) stubbornly make that very same “bee line” to my car whenever we would set out for our early morning walks, making it known that “there was indeed no place like home”. Still, we had countless, wonderful memories up at the temple; I am sure Bicky would wholeheartedly agree!

Well after prying him away from my Honda, we embarked on a lengthy walk, exploring all the nooks and crannies of the small village of “Soumonzaki”, meeting several old (and a few new) friends along the way…All the while, of course, the Bixter went ‘incognito’ as the ‘late, great Shiro’.

And after the near two hour adventure, we returned to the temple very satisfied but worn out. Still only 7:30am, I quietly cracked open the sliding door, so very careful not to disturb anyone who might be still sleeping. I soon found this to be quite unnecessary.

“Good Morning Mark…I was worried; you’ve been gone so long.” It was Okaa san and she said this with a genuine caring and concern that only a mother (an adopted mother in this case) could have. She then looked down at Bicky who was tiptoeing on the smooth wooded floor of the entrance…His nails making that ‘clickity click’ sound that was the telltale sign that ‘The Bixter’ was ‘in da house”.

“How is my Bicky ?” She knelt down and tickled his little black nose with her index finger. “Are you glad Mark has come back to bring your home to Tokyo” Bicky locked eyes with her and wagged his tail. I could see immediately that he and Okaa san had formed a close bond in the relatively short time I had been gone and almost felt jealous.

“Are you hungry Mark?” Okaa san asked in an almost melodramatic tone.

“Well now that you ask…”

Truth be told, both Bicky and I were famished from our long, adventurous walk and wolfed down our breakfasts almost as quickly as they were laid out before us. I was truly amazed by how much stronger and healthier Bicky had become in the six weeks that had passed. He was at least seven pounds heavier, his coat looked fuller and amazingly shiny, and his teeth were becoming noticeably whiter. He could now walk miles at a time and could sprint like a cheetah if the need arose (and it sometimes did). He looked by all accounts a perfect specimen of a young dog and I had Otoo san, OIkaa san, and Obaa san to thank for it. Bicky’s diet was carefully monitored at the temple and consisted of a popular brand (very nutritious) dry dog food, three times a day. This was, however, conservatively enhanced with special additions of delectable seafood, scrumptious chicken, super fresh vegetables. …and the world famous “Kobe beef” (on very special occasions). Bicky had been eating like a prince; a healthy prince at that!

As I stood up washing my plate in the sink, I could hear Otoo san’s distinctive baritone voice outside the kitchen, coming down the stairs. He was greeting Obaa san (his mother), whose bedroom was adjacent the stairs on the ground level. I looked down at the Bixter expecting the same enthusiasm and wag of his tail he displayed for Okaa san.

“Looks like Otoo san’s up Bicky!”

But Bicky was having none of it…His tail instead sank below the puffy hair of his magnificently cute bottom, and he gave me a look that basically said, “Oh, S##t”

Before I could say anything, the wooden kitchen door slid open, and Otoo san let a rousing “Good Morning” that shook the entire house. I reciprocated with an equally enthusiastic “Good morning” and we bowed to each other very formally and smiled. Of course our relationship was way past the polite stage, but in Japanese culture, such formalities are done even at the most informal, familiar level.

Otoo san then went over to Bicky, knelt down and greeted him in the very same jovial manner as he did with me.

“Bicky, good morning. Did you have a good sleep?”

Bicky stubbornly kept his head down and refused to even look at Otoo san.

Otoo san let out a hardy laugh but I could see in his eyes he was a bit hurt by this new development. I swiftly swung into damage control.

“I think he’s all pooped out from his long walk this morning. We definitely overdid it.”

Otoo san, of course, was on to my white lie, playing along with it to save face for both of us.

“Is that so? “. He then rubbed Bicky’s little white head and in the cool, dignified, and even majestic manner that only Otoo san possessed, walked out of the kitchen toward the main temple area to begin another day of religious work.

What was the issue between Bicky and Otoo san? Well, as I alluded to in Chapter 12, there was definitely a conflict of personalities at work here. Otoo san was very fond of Bicky but he definitely displayed it in a different way than Naoko and I (or Okaa san for that matter) did. His strict and disciplined manner with regards to basically everything might very well have rubbed (the all too sensitive) Bicky the wrong way. But truthfully speaking, Bicky’s sudden (apparent) contempt for Otoo san might have stemmed from something even more basic. I believe that on the day we rescued Bicky from the streets, he decided that Naoko and I and I would be his masters. And out of a misguided sense of loyalty, this this was Bicky’s way of making it clear with whom he wanted to stay with and from whom he wanted to take orders. Yes, Bicky had a heart of gold but that’s not to say he was always an angel.

Otoo san of course never let this faze him and even though Bicky would stubbornly play his passive aggressive games (over the following years) with him, Otoo san would unfailingly treat Bicky as if they were the best of friends. And Bicky softened with time. Yes, this has a happy ending too…A tearful and heartfelt reconciliation no less …But that’s for another (a much later) chapter perhaps.

Now mid-morning, I had to start loading the car up for the three-hour trip back to Tokyo. This was the moment Bicky was waiting for; the moment that must have been dancing around his sweet little white ‘noggin’ as he waited patiently for my return to Soumonzaki. He ‘without a doubt’ knew this final preparation meant we were indeed going back home to Tokyo. Yes, after six long weeks, his dream of the ‘Three Amigos’ being reunited once again was finally coming true. In fact, ‘The Bixter’ was absolutely glowing, and so giddy he couldn’t stop himself from running around the grounds of the temple. He would sprint directly at me full hilt (cheetah style), his legs moving so fast that his back legs could barely, ‘just barely’, keep up with the rest of his body, and at the last moment before colliding with me he would miraculously change direction, throwing up the dust from the dirt road onto my white (or now ‘dirty white’) car.

“Bicky, I just washed and waxed the car!”…But ‘the Bixter’ wasn’t listening… In fact, in a display that could only be described as ‘wantonly showing off’, he ran up to the top of the steps of the temple ready for another heroic dash when the giant large sliding door of the temple slowly opened and out appeared the ladies of the temple, Obaa san and Okaa san, dressed in beautiful traditional Kimono. Bicky immediately turned around and greeted both of them with warmth and reverence. And perhaps because he knew there was an impending separation, started giving them extra attention with enthusiastic wags of his ‘featherlike’ tail, adorable nuzzles, and loving eye contact.

Alas, it was time for Bicky and I to hit the road…I hate ‘good-byes’, even when it just might be a short separation. Otoo san , Okaa san, and Obaa san had been so helpful with everything and so supportive…I was indeed indebted to them for all their kindness and hard work. Undoubtedly, Bicky’s speedy recovery would never have been possible without them.

It wasn’t all sad though; I intended to return within the next few weeks with Naoko…and of course Bicky. “The three Amigos would make a triumphant return together! This I promised.

All three of my ‘sendoff party’ stood on the outside steps of the beautiful temple as I ran around making sure I wasn’t forgetting anything. And finally the time came when the only thing left to do was to put Bicky into the car. After opening the hatch of the car, I turned around to lift him the three or four feet into the back. But to both my utter surprise and dismay he wasn’t where he had been just a few seconds before. My eyes quickly darted around the temple grounds, frantically looking for him; he had completely disappeared! Oh no! Where was he? It’s amazing all the worst case scenarios that can be computed by the brain in a split second. Well, I imagined just about all of them…when suddenly I heard my entire sendoff party (Otoo san, Okaa san, and Obaa san) burst out in surprised, boisterous laughter. I looked towards them and shrugged my shoulders as if to say “Where’s Bicky?” and all three of them pointed at me…or should I say ‘behind me’ (as in the car). I turned around and there was Bicky, sitting comfortably on his bed…in the car of course, accompanied by his ‘perpetual smile’. No longer was it necessary for me to lift Bicky up into the car; he was strong enough to jump up himself…Thanks to the tender loving care by the three wonderful souls bidding us farewell that beautiful autumn day.

It was on that funny (albeit tad embarrassing) note that I did a deep bow, got in the car, rolled down the window and said one last thank-you (Arigatou!)… and Bicky and I were headed back to Tokyo. Yes, in just three short hours Bicky would be in his new, spacious home and get to see his beloved Naoko; the next phase of his new life was about to begin! I rolled down the dirt road in my small car with my ‘co-pilot’ Bicky’s soft white chin resting on my shoulder, threw a CD in, and gently turned up the volume. …Mozart of course. Bicky’s eyes lit up; he was in heaven….and I would have been too if it hadn’t been for the grueling long drive ahead of me. But hey, I had great company and great tunes…The day had gone so smoothly and everything was going according to plan. Life was good… No, life was great!

Chapter 15 will detail our triumphant return to Tokyo and Bicky’s first encounter with his ‘arch enemy’… the infamous “Lucky”.

Thank you very much for reading!

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