Shisa Dogs & Lucky Cats

One of the first things I noticed while driving around the island was the omnipresence of the rather creepy looking “lion-dog”, or Shisa. Nearly every business, household, and restaurant has two of each – one on either side of its entrance or rooftop. One, with its mouth open in a vicious snarl, is the male shisa (despite the obnoxious assumptions made by certain males in my company), and the other is the female shisa (with its mouth firmly shut, thank you.) As it turns out, these shisas are protectors based in Okinawan and Chinese mythology, intended to shun evil spirits. The open-mouthed shisa wards off the evil, while the close-mouthed shisa keeps good spirits in (although, according to Wikipedia, these gender roles can be “variously assigned.) I am not superstitious, but in the spirit of cultural immersion, I will definitely have to get a petite pair of these guys for my new home! Besides, who doesn’t want good spirits?

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The other item I’m seeing everywhere I go – though less frequently than the shisa dogs – is the Maneki-neko, or “the beckoning cat.” Usually made of ceramic, these cats are meant to bring luck to the owner. White cats bring general good luck all ’round, black cats bring good health, and gold cats bring financial fortune. There are a series of beautiful (sometimes heartbreaking) Japanese folktales tying the cat to good luck, which – as a crazy cat lady myself – pleases me to no end. In addition to my shisa dogs, I plan on getting a few of these feline talismans in smaller form, since I find the large ones a bit tacky and overwhelming for my taste. Maybe one in each color!

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Yesterday, I lost my not-so-lil’ nephew, Dante, just 5 years young. He recently developed a rare lung condition called spontaneous pneumothorax, which caused a rapid decline in his health. He was the best dog, baby, friend, and “Bear” my sister (or anyone) could ask for. Just a big old ball of fluff and goodness. I am sure many of us can relate to the sadness my sister is going through right now. Losing a family member is truly one of the hardest things. Rest in Peace, Dante.

Puppy Flip-Flopping

I love just about any furry cuddly animal, dogs being a close #2 to my all-time fave, cats (in case you haven’t figured that out.) I’ve always assumed Chuck and I would eventually get a dog, and now is actually a decent time for it, since I’m not working full time and we have a big back yard.

But now I’m getting cold feet and don’t really want one anymore. I’ve been talking to people who are dog owners, and I’m reminded of how much a puppy would overhaul my life. They are cute, and tons of fun, and great companions, but like babies, it’s nicer to hang out with them and then hand them over when the tough parts come along.

I’m also realizing how much I’ll lose control over the look and feel of my home. One of the couples who visited us last weekend brought their massive great dane – which was a total sweetheart and I loved him – but the house smelled after just one night, and it took a little while to get my beach-scented balance back.

Dogs are so much work, and require a lot more logistics and worry when you plan anything – even a night out. They’re also so demanding of attention. I may still be too selfish with my time…

I grew up with an amazing golden retriever named Lacey, and she was a handful. But looking back, it was manageable because my mom, sister, and I were home pretty much all day every day, since we were home schooled. We got through puppyhood a lot quicker and easier than I would now. And, what happens when we move back to a city, and we only have an apartment with no back yard and I’m working 50 hours a week?

I say we just get another kitten. Chuck isn’t quite on board with that yet…